Watch: System Shock Reboot rebooted in Unreal

Am I being a mad old man or does this look quite different to the bluer, brighter, System Shockier demo put out to publicise Night Dive’s System Shock Reboot [official site] Kickstarter last Summer?

In this matter at least, I am confident my sanity is unaffected. For as well as an apparent shift in its art direction to something more traditionally sci-fi/horror, SSR has hopped from Unity to the Unreal engine, resulting in a very different-looking game. Better in many way, yes, but perhaps less like the 1994 original. Take a look below, and hear Night Dive’s reasoning for the ol’switcheroo.

Writes game director Jason Fader in a backer update, “After listening to everyone during the Kickstarter campaign, it became clear that console support was very important to a lot of you. We took a hard look at what Unity could do on consoles, and what we wanted to achieve for both visual quality and performance. While Unity is a great engine, it was clear that we needed to use an engine that fit our project goals more closely.”

Blame dem grotty consoles, basically. It does like significantly more impressive and more 2017y, but I’ll definitely miss the odd retro/21st century mash-up that characterised the demo. That’s unlikely to purely be down to what’s under the hood, mind you – this has the hallmarks of a rethought aesthetic too.

Fader seeks to assuage worries that there’s trouble at mill by revealing that they actually shifted over to Unreal back in September, just a few months after the Kickstarter. “We didn’t make this decision lightly, and wanted to be sure we could do the game justice with this engine shift.” They only chose to reveal Reboot’s reboot once they’d got “finally to a point we were happy with.” Which is now. Whaddaya think?

58 Comments

  1. Gabriele Svelto says:

    I’m glad I played the original, this looks more like Doom 3 than System Shock. Still, it’s nice that such a great game will be available in a more palatable format for those who didn’t play it back in the day.

    • dr.denton says:

      *edit*Sorry, this was not intended as a direct reply to your post*edit*

      Funny, I thought the thumbnail on the video looked very much like a still out of an FMV sequence ca. 1995. Creature Shock, maybe. Might even have been in the System Schock intro.

      Sadly, nothing else reminds me of System Shock. I get that Nightdive need to make money, but this looks even less like a faithful remake than the original demo.

  2. Treners says:

    Grumble grumble. I too preferred the previous aesthetic, but it would be a bit hypocritical of me to blame it on consoles when I play games on multiple systems anyway.

  3. hughie522 says:

    I am bummed. I really digged the way the demo paid homage to the art style / colour scheme of the original. Now it just looks like a dozen over bland sci-fi FPS’s in Steam Early Access.

    EDIT: Seems a few of the more vocal Kickstarter backers feel the same way.

    • Jalan says:

      I’m slightly curious as to how the numbers of “wants it on console”, “was fine with what they initially believed to be backing” and “ambivalent toward the entire situation” looked like. Just saying “We heard you all wanted this on consoles and now we’re delivering” doesn’t cut it when it comes to something that was that big in terms of its crowdfunding campaign.

  4. Halk says:

    I am confused. Of course I am happy when a technically bad engine gets replaced with something better.

    But are these even the same levels? I don’t recognize ANYTHING from SS1.

    Wasn’t the fact that it was a remake with EXACTLY the same level layout and aesthetic the main selling point of the remake’s Kickstarter?

    EDIT: A closer look at the video shows that in the camera views it says “MEDICAL”. So this IS supposed to be the medical level (not some other level I may have an incomplete memory of). This is NOT what the medical level looked like.

    • Janichsan says:

      Wasn’t the fact that it was a remake with EXACTLY the same level layout and aesthetic the main selling point of the remake’s Kickstarter?

      No, it wasn’t. Quotes from the campaign pages (my emphasis):

      → A modern take on System Shock, a faithful reboot; it’s not Citadel Station as it was, but as you remember it. Many improvements, overhauls and changes are being implemented to capture the spirit of what the original game was trying to convey, and bring it to contemporary gamers.
      Re-imagined enemies, weapons, and locations by original concept artist Robb Waters.

      It was always meant to be more than just a simple update of the old game to a new engine.

      What’s more, the demo they released also came with a disclaimer that apparently no one read:

      Please be aware, this is a proof of concept; the PERFORMANCE, FEATURES, and VISUALS are subject to change.

      That said, I also liked the aesthetics of the demo more. But then again, there is once more the disclaimer in the new video: “All content subject to change.”

      • fish99 says:

        You can bold whichever bits suit your case, but how about the line ‘as you remember it’. Clearly looking at the comments here this isn’t how people remember System Shock.

        • Vesuvius says:

          Agreed, I don’t remember System Shock as so gray and generic. To me the walls were alive, and it was from an era (for good or ill) where everything looks like it could be interactive, where you could believe that the whole level had purpose. This is, to me, very far from taht indeed.

        • wwarnick says:

          Clearly looking at the comments here this isn’t how people remember System Shock.

          Everyone knows that the dissatisfied are always more vocal than the satisfied. In software development, just because 20 customers are upset doesn’t mean that the other 10,000 aren’t happy. You change something for one unhappy customer and you make 20 other people angry. I highly doubt that everyone feels the same way.

          They want to make it nostalgic for the older players, but they also want to attract new players, which is where they’ll probably get the most business. We all wish it didn’t come down to money, but that’s what keeps the studio alive. Kickstarter only brings in enough to “kickstart” a project. If the game doesn’t bring in any more money beyond kickstarter, then it will never break even.

        • jayfear says:

          Wow that was smug. Formatting choices are being used to highlight what was originally said, but I guess snarking about the use of Bold is easier than confronting objective reality.

          Rewriting facts or objecting to things on record for no other reason than dislike seems to be contagious.

      • Halk says:

        Then why was the demo released alongside the Kickstarter at all, if it meant nothing? Clearly they wanted to create a certain expectation in people, to make them shell out their monies.

        Had I backed this (and of course I didn’t — never preorder!) I would now feel completely cheated.

        • Janichsan says:

          Had I backed this (and of course I didn’t — never preorder!) I would now feel completely cheated.

          Why? What makes you think what you are seeing is the final product?

          • Halk says:

            Of course it’s possible that after they went from A to B they will go back to A. But it seems not very plausible.

        • wwarnick says:

          Clearly they wanted to create a certain expectation in people, to make them shell out their monies.

          They definitely did not want you to expect the final product to look exactly like the earlier demo. This is a common problem that all software developers face. They show their customers a prototype and emphasize that the final product will probably look different, but the customer ignores that and still expects the prototype. The developers can’t show you what the final product will look like because they don’t know yet, but they still need to show you something. Hence the difference between the two demos.

      • Halk says:

        Addendum: Let’s also talk about the term “proof of concept” that you cited there. What do you think was the concept to be proven by the demo?

        It was quite reasonable for everyone who played it to assume that that concept was “we can remake SS1 in a way that stays very faithful to old aesthetics and level design and still make it enjoyable for today’s players”, and that it was proven by providing a rough version of the first level of such a remake.

        Now I wonder what was the concept to be proven according to your interpretation. “We Nightdive are a games company and can release something, anything, and call it System Shock”? Because apart from that I don’t see much similarity between the demo and that new video.

  5. icemann says:

    The thing that bugs me is that the original System Shock was VERY cyberpunk (unlike the sequel). This reboot/remake does not have that same feel to it.

    The video has it’s amateur moments as well and the changes to the way SHODAN sounds. I dunno.

    The original was a simulation first with some FPS elements thrown in. This reboot looks and feels like nearly a pure FPS games. I still however hold out hope that this will end up being good, and we always have the original of it’s not.

    • KraiZor says:

      I’m wondering if the the lack of a HUD is because it hasn’t been implemented yet or if that is the direction they are going. I feel like to a certain degree the HUD in SS1 was supposed to be an in universe thing that the hacker with all his implants could actually see.

      • icemann says:

        It very much was. Went with the neutral interface that was installed and took 6 months to heal from.

    • dskzero says:

      >The video has it’s amateur moments as well and the changes to the way SHODAN sounds. I dunno.

      I do agree with everything else but that’s how SHODAN sounds in the first game.

  6. MrLoque says:

    It looks extremely generic with a grey-based color scheme that brings me back to Doom III. If it wasn’t for the voiceover and video title… it could be any kind of indie FPS.

  7. Sleepery says:

    Brilliant, love it! Nostalgia can go and take a running jump, this looks excellent.

  8. Turkey says:

    Consoles? What?

    Get ready for a suck ass UI built for controllers, I guess.

  9. Dinges says:

    Looks like a generic pile of garbage. I know, I know, pre-alpha, whatever. Maybe it’ll turn out fine, but the combat alone made me go “Hey! This is some console-style unoffensive shit!”. And then my coworkers looked at me like I’m an insane person.

  10. aircool says:

    Yep. Looks boring and unimaginative. Doesn’t put me in mind of System Shock in the slightest.

    It’s just Doom 3 and all those other games that looked like Doom 3. Same walls, same blood stains, same vibe, red lights, just… so generic.

  11. gbrading says:

    The original demo had performance issues, so I don’t know if moving engine will help on that front. I also hope that there will be a PC-specific UI available; consolizing the whole thing would be such a damn shame, given System Shock’s history as a groundbreaking PC game.

  12. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I don’t like the new style, either. It’s far too bland. Now of course the visuals of the original System Shock were all over the place and the art direction was wildly uneven, so I don’t really want them to copy that, but bland is one thing the game wasn’t.

    On an unrelated note, dear lord, the rampant PC elitism this game evokes in some people (in the KS comments and here) is so tiresome. And I say that as someone who first played System Shock in the 90s and has never owned a console in his life. It’s so predictable and so noisy. Controllers consoles blah blah dumbed down mouse beats thumbstick blah blah blah. Sometimes makes me feel almost embarrassed that PC is my platform of choice.

    • Halk says:

      There are good reasons for feeling contempt for consoles, but I agree that this isn’t one.

      • Michael Anson says:

        No, there isn’t. If you feel contempt, you feel superior to something, or specifically, to someone. What you’re doing is artificially feeling superior to someone because you enjoy your games differently from them, which is stupid and petty, and people need to knock it off.

        • Halk says:

          >What you’re doing is artificially feeling superior

          Hm, it does come rather naturally to me…

  13. haldolium says:

    The visual change lies entirely within the hands of the involved artists and programmers and has little to nothing to do with the engine they’re using.

    The way it looks now is simply a sign that Nightdive has to put quite the work into developing their skills to remove the “default” UE4 look from shading and lighting.

    It does look unimaginative, but thats not the engines fault.

    • welverin says:

      Yeah, people need to check their console hate and understand the engine change was for console compatibility, the aesthetic change is is a different matter entirely.

  14. Barberetti says:

    So much for that.

  15. Jalan says:

    Glad I opted not to pledge toward this. While I don’t necessarily hate that they apparently had worries before the Kickstarter even ended that the game wasn’t going to move enough copies on PC alone to cover costs/time spent on it, I could see how some people who did back it based around the Unity demo (flaws and merits that it has) would feel like the wind had been taken out of their sails with this news.

  16. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    What I’m thinking is “once again I feel justified in not kickstarting a project”. I liked the aesthetic of the first demo because it very much felt like the original game. I’d understand a few tweaks here and there to update it for modern sensibilities, but as others have said this is just bland, without character.

    Also, where’s the cyberspace? There was cyberspace in the original. Is this a remake or are we just going to make a new game and call it System Shock?

    This trailer has left me with absolutely no sense of excitement.

    • TallerThanTyrion says:

      I’ve to say that cyberspace is the one thing I don’t miss. I always hated it in the original game and turned difficulty down to the lowest for that part. BTW, having this four separate difficulty sliders is something fantastically great that I haven’t seen ever again in that form.

  17. VeritableHero says:

    Is there a video with ViewBobbing=OFF? :)

  18. Vesuvius says:

    What a shame, I was so excited by the early build- it has such a distinct character to it. It’s so disheartening to see they nailed the style and then threw it away.

  19. Drib says:

    What caught me with the early demo was that it was System Shock. It was the opening area of the original.

    This is just some random sci-fi with a system shock theme.

    0/10, glad I didn’t back it.

  20. Doc Revelator says:

    Looking very generic, sadly, and therefore more dated. Does Unreal not do the colour blue?

  21. Alien says:

    The unity engine demo looked so much better!!!

  22. Faults says:

    It looks alright. They’re clearly trying to mix a fair bit of System Shock 2 influence in there, which doesn’t bother me too much. I did prefer the old style though.

  23. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I didn’t kickstart this so I have no skin in the game, but I think the backers are really getting screwed here. I was looking forward to this, but now it looks pretty ho-hum.

  24. kud13 says:

    I don’t remember if I backed this, but I don’t think I did.

    If I did, I’d be disappointed. The aesthetics in the demo were way better.

    This feels too dark, generic, and not really Shock-y.

  25. laggerific says:

    Yup, this looks highly underwhelming compared to the original demo. I was always one who preferred the first SS to the second, and this reminds me of that transition, almost.

    For me, it would have helped, if they had shown the starting room, so I could get my bearings…a location that is etched in my mind, and was one of the highlights of the demo, for me.

    I still have hope that they work it out, but I’m pretty meh right now about this. Still, glad I kickstarted it…eager to see what my corpse looks like.

  26. fuzziest says:

    That sucks. The original demo had an interesting vibe that nicely blended an old crpg feel with more modern technology. Now it just looks pretty bland.

    Isn’t this their first proper game? This kinda feels like a newbie game dev solution. They hit a development pain point and rather than buckle down and solve it they decided to chase something new and exciting like an engine change. 6 months from now their honeymoon with UE will be over and hopefully they don’t go chase something else.

  27. Frank says:

    Yeah, the geometry, lighting, and wall doodads are very boring compared to the demo and the original: link to youtube.com Of course, the fact that their enemies don’t stagger under damage also looks bad. I don’t know why they would release this footage at all, considering how far they still have to go.

    Considering they have Robb Waters, the original concept artist touted in the KS pitch, working on it, I still believe they intend to get it into shape.

    • TheSplund says:

      Agreeed. What would be interesting is a SS2(original):SS2(Unity):SS2(Unreal) side by side by side comparison. I for one thought the Unity demo felt a bit low budget but it definitely did fit with what I remember SS2 played/felt like in my mind and I’m a little less interested now. Maybe using one of the two engines they used for the last two Deus Ex games (Crystal and Dawn?) might have kept that vibe.

      • kalzekdor says:

        This is a remake of the original System Shock, not System Shock 2. I get how the new art style could lead to such confusion, but System Shock is very different from System Shock 2.

  28. manny says:

    I see what they are doing. Truth is there are probably 1000 more people who played system shock 2 than those that played system shock 1. The reason being win95, system shock 1 was released in 1994 on DOS! While system shock 2 was released in 1999, after windows 98 (third best windows ever released after xp and 7 imo)
    First thing I said to myself was “this looks like system shock 2, awesome”, although I personally like and am very intrigued with the aesthetics of the first system shock reboot demo, it’s still unfamiliar, as I never played it, and am on the fence. But if this is a reboot of that but also a successor to system shock 2, then I’m all aboard. This also allows them to release a system shock 3 or separate campaign, that doesn’t break from the aesthetic of system shock 2.
    Also politically speaking europe is a bit hot now, so best to keep things in the U.S just in case. Unreal is partially owned by tencent and china recently made game consoles legal.

    • Halk says:

      >Also politically speaking europe is a bit hot now,
      >so best to keep things in the U.S just in case.

      Errm… Trump!?

      • manny says:

        I mean ‘best not to pissoff china’ U.S is alot more in bed with china than europe, hence things in europe are only going to get worse. Remember when unity tried to sell itself to a u.s company?
        Also forgot that Unreal allows mods and user stuff to be easily added. Huge potential there.

        • manny says:

          Sorry I mean europe is more in bed with china, exporting weapons for example is something they want to do, lol.

          • theblazeuk says:

            Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the geopolitical specialist from FOX News.

  29. hfm says:

    I agree that it definitely looks more like Doom 3 than System Shock. But it has my interest, I’ll play it.

    It’s still super early days so I have faith it’ll turn out good.

  30. Voldenuit says:

    This looks horrible. The environments have that plasticky sheen that plagues too many Unreal engine games, and the art design is terribly dated and unremarkable. It looks like a corridor-fest, which may fit the theme of a space station, but they missed the opportunity to curve it into a torus, which would at least have been something new.

    Really wish a dev team with more focus on game and art design (like, say, Arkane, whose Arx Fatalis was a spiritual successor to Ultima Underworld) had picked this up instead of NightDive.

  31. LogicalDash says:

    In the old demo, the lighting reached everywhere, making every surface gleam weird colors. In the new trailer, the strange neon colors are still there, still oversaturated, but now they don’t reach so far, there are some white lights too, and there are a lot of shadows.

    I’m rubbing my eyes and trying to see any other difference, like the other commenters are talking about. Even the floor textures are the same!