Nightdive Clarify “RPG Stuff” In System Shock Remake

Nightdive’s System Shock [official site] remake will be coming to Mac and Linux, with the project having passed the $1.1m mark on Kickstarter and hitting the relevant stretch goal. In announcing the additional platforms, the developers have also taken the opportunity to alter one of their other stretch goals. The $1.4m target had initially read “RPG elements” and Nightdive have acknowledged that “it was vague and misleading”. Now, they’ll be adding more maps if they reach $1.4m and those RPG elements will be included whatever the final figure. Here’s what that means.

I’m very pleased to see recognition that the original stretch goal was not only vague but “pretty dangerous”. Having core systems be a possibility rather than a fundamental part of the development process seems like a very risky route to take. Everything from the level design to the AI and weapon balancing should be informed by any RPG elements so leaving them uncertain and vague seemed like a way to hold back or disrupt development.

With that said, here’s what the RPG elements involve:

Stats are boring – Instead of letting the player feel stronger with stat boosts and level identification, we’re more in favor of ability and skill depth. As the player progresses, they will get more abilities/weapons, which will take skill to master (player skill, not skill points)

Things should make sense – We want to have vending machines, but they’re mainly for food/drinks that the player can get to help heal themselves or provide a slight boost to their abilities. You won’t hack a vending machine to get a gun, since why would a vending machine on a space station have a gun?

Upgrades are good in moderation – Throughout the game, the player will find upgrades to their abilities and find better weapons. We’re not going to get crazy with this one since the point of the game is to have fun, and not noodle around in your inventory. If something is tedious, don’t expect us to do it.

Multiple ways to solve a problem – We’re going to assume our players are smart and want to find creative solutions to problems/enemies. We’ll provide the tools/weapons/abilities, and the player will decide how they want to solve the problem given their playstyle.

Nightdive say that everything is in the early stages, so these shouldn’t be taken as definite or specific feature-lists. They’re plans rather than promises. They’re all answers to the most important question a developer can ask of themselves though:

At the end of the day, we always ask ourselves “What would Looking Glass do?” and strive to carry on their tradition of innovation and quality while being as faithful as we can be to the original game.

With the Linux and Mac versions confirmed, a demo for OSX will be coming soon as well. There’s no release date but they’re aiming for next week. You can play the pre-alpha demo for Windows and Linux by following the links on the Kickstarter page.

And that $1.4 stretch goal will now focus on the following:

It’s to add content in the form of more maps such as Groves, floors of Citadel Station, and Cyberspace content. This will make it better for us to properly execute on our core vision of the game, while still being able to offer some more awesome content if we hit the stretch goal.

There are six days left on the Kickstarter clock.


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    Oakreef says:

    As one of the people who “RPG elements” set off alarm bells for this is nice to hear, but everything they mention here other than vending machines sounds like what was in the original game already anyway.

    • C0llic says:

      To me that’s a good thing.

    • basilisk says:

      Yes, that’s most peculiar. It’s not as much “clarifying” the issue as saying “oh, we didn’t actually mean anything when we said that”. But I’m not complaining; this is a good thing and I’ll be happy to back the project now.

      And I have to admit I’m amused by people bemoaning the loss of “RPG elements” in the comments in a game that never had them. The “modern games are dumbed down” narrative is far too strong.

  2. Pheeze says:

    Yeah, I am definitely relieved about hearing this. Beforehand, I was actually hoping that the Kickstarter wouldn’t reach that milestone, but now I’m pleased!

  3. LexW1 says:

    Yeah, this all seems fairly reasonable.

    I actually think hacking certain kinds of vending machines to create weapons isn’t necessarily far-fetched in a future where a lot of vending machines might essentially be generic “makers” which just have branding and a limited program-set applied to them. Obviously the materials in any given “maker” might limit what it could make, though.

    Anyway, it sounds basically good, though I hope they err more on the side of System Shock 2 than BioShock.

    • dr.denton says:

      “I hope they err more on the side of System Shock 2 than BioShock.”

      I believe that is the absolute minimum fans of SS expect.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I see what you’re getting at, but then we may as well start calling them 3D printers or replicators, rather than ‘vending machines’, which implies something with stocked goods waiting to be bought.

  4. MajorLag says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic, though I do have to wonder what was wrong with the concept of just remaking the original game in a modern engine. I suppose some gameplay tweaks would be appropriate, given that the industry has 30 more years of experience in what works and what doesn’t.

    My worst fear here is that they just end up making it SS2… and actually, that wouldn’t be so bad.

  5. Unsheep says:

    Figuring things out was one the things I really liked about the previous games, so I’m glad to see they won’t change this a great deal.

    I just hope their measure of ‘smart’ is not ’14-y-o gamer smart’, but ’30-and-above-y-o smart’.

  6. Kefren says:

    It’s always a danger with vaguely-worded features. I didn’t want anything new adding so all the stretch goals put me off. They seem to have now reworded the RPG stuff as mostly being some of what the original game offered, which I expected anyway.

    I noticed this:
    “Scope Features
    → $900k Goal: Modern Inventory Management”

    Again, the wording worries me. Does that mean instead of the “old” inventory management of Deus Ex, System Shock 2 and Morrowind (which I love) they will use the horrible abstracted list systems from more “modern” games like Deus Ex 2, and Oblivion?

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      The whole thing is very puzzling because the “modern” management is a grid inventory, which they have right now, whereas what you describe as “modern,” the list thing, is what the original System Shock did…

  7. Merus says:

    “We’re going to assume our players… want to find creative solutions to problems/enemies.”

    That’s not promising, unless some of the problems they’re planning on are of the ‘my comfortable approach won’t work here’ type. All three BioShocks suffered from this problem to greater or lesser extent; once you developed an approach that worked, everything else was useless.

  8. malkav11 says:

    “(player skill, not skill points)”

    This is the opposite of RPG elements, but okay.

    I mean, System Shock isn’t an RPG in any real sense, so it’s fine that they’re not making it one, but that is a confused-ass list of “RPG elements”.

  9. ZedClampet says:

    Damn, they assume their players will be smart. I’m out.

  10. fish99 says:

    I enjoyed the RPG elements of SS2 which added character builds, gameplay variety and increased replay value, but I would rather see them left out of any SS1 remake for authenticity reasons.

  11. noxohimoy says:

    Giving canned level ups is the wrong way to go.

    Games should train the player into better skills, and then challenge those skills, instead of giving you better weapons/armor stuff, and leveling the enemy the same degree, so you still kill the enemy with the same number of shoots.
    That turns level ups into just a skin change.

    I’m not speaking about this specific game.

  12. Lintire says:

    Well, I’m glad that they’re nixing the RPG crap I dreaded, but now I’m wondering what they actually mean by RPG stuff because this just sounds like stuff that was in the base game.