System Shock shows off new old look

The retronauts at Night Dive Studios have shared a look at the latest version of their crowdfunded System Shock, a game which has gone from a straight remake to an expanded reimagining and back down to remake. They had to scale the game down and lay off some staff after some publisher funding fell through, see. Now, yup, it again looks like System Shock but a bit fancier.

But if you want to have your own crack at updating System Shock, hey, they’ve now released some of the game’s original source code – and more’s to come.

“We have been able to re-use the majority of work we’ve done over the past year and we’re making significant progress in a very short amount of time,” Night Dive boss Stephen Kick said in Friday’s Kickstarter post. While the game isn’t due to launch until 2020, they think it will be fully playable (though unfinished) in September, at which point they’ll let mega-bucks Kickstarter backers have a go.

Kick explained more of why they expanded the remake’s scope, and why that went wrong:

“I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.”

Ah, it’s too bad – especially as it led to some people losing their jobs. I liked the look of the reimagined version and the idea of borrowing more from modern immersive sims. Have a look at this video dev diary from November 2017:

That’s more interesting to me than just remaking System Shock – a game I can still buy and play in its old style if I want. But that’s not what the Kickstarter pitched, and apparently popular opinion is against me.

“The vast majority of you agree that we are doing the right thing and that what you want is a high quality game that adheres closely to the vision of the original System Shock rather than the reinterpretation that we were previously working toward,” Kick said.

The vast majority of you are super boring boooooo.

The Kickstarter post has a look at a greybox version of the new layout too, along with some new music to hear.

In original System Shock news, Night Dive have released the Mac version’s source code. This doesn’t include any game data, to be clear, so it’s not like the game is now free. And obviously old Mac source code isn’t immediately useful for most people.

“We have been hard at work updating this code and plan to release a new version of System Shock: Enhanced Edition as well as the code in the near future,” Kick said. That could be a useful foundation for people to update it with new bits and pieces, as folks have done with engines like Doom and Quake for years.

50 Comments

  1. RvLeshrac says:

    We’re not “boring.”

    We want what we backed, period.

    If you want a “modern ‘immersive’ shooter,” you have dozens of options. Why the hell would anyone want to play another cover-shooter with regenerating health and unidirectional levels?

    • dog2 says:

      Missed the Kickstarter update where they converted the game into a Call of Duty mod. I didn’t like the update either but damn, dude, can you stick to discussing what actually happened.

    • woodsey says:

      “I liked the look of the reimagined version and the idea of borrowing more from modern immersive sims.”

    • aldo_14 says:

      I’m sure if Alice wanted a ‘modern immersive shooter’ she’d have written ‘modern immersive shooter’ and not modern immersive sim.

  2. upupup says:

    This is a strange course of events as the point of kickstarter was for developers to no longer be reliant on publishers to create games. Even though they ended up not getting it, it comes across here as if they used the success of the kickstarter as a pitch to drum up publisher interest, which I’m not comfortable with as it goes against the spirit of the platform.

    • kagechikara says:

      This is a pretty common pattern, people using Kickstarter to show interest, then going to seek other investments once they have proven interest….

      Many game Kickstarters aren’t fully funded by Kickstarter (because it takes a ton of money to make games).

      • fish99 says:

        It’s still a little dishonest. If that was always the plan then say so.

      • upupup says:

        It’s common now, which is why I’ve soured on backing projects. This is part of the problem with it as treating crowdfunding as nothing more than a marketing opportunity to show that there’s demand for your product, undermines the trust of backers in the long term whose interest you’re relying on. I’ve worked in the industry for a long time now so I have no illusions about what the real production costs of a videogame are and understand why developers would seek these assurances, yet alienating backers by treating them as a way to offset risk is a good way to kill the chicken that lays the golden eggs.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I thought the point of kickstarter was to ‘kick-start’ things*. YMMV on the precise meaning of kick-start, and certainly projects should be explicit on what their actually intending to use money for, but personally I’d never interpreted as only meaning ‘fund fully to the end’.

      *in a non-games context, funding an initial production run to allow advance orders or make a physical proof of concept or something like that.

      • upupup says:

        Kickstarter as a website is nothing but a tool for crowdfunding, but its role in video game funding and the enthusiasm that surrounded it has had a strong idealistic bent to it ever since the Double Fine Adventure kickstarter set the tone for the ideas behind the videogame kickstarters that would follow, such as Project Eternity, Numenera; bringing closer backer and creator, freeing of developers from the restrictive grip of publishers and letting backers learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. You can see this when looking at older articles on this website.

        I’d say that kickstarters have been resounding success in this regard with numerous great games and the return of more mid-size development studios that are able to pursue their own ideas, plus games by small indie teams that otherwise would never have existed. This idealistic approach was what made this so exciting, both for backers and creators, hence why the current trend of incorporating it into the regular model of industry practices is rather saddening to me.

    • Crafter says:

      Pretty disappointing.

      But at least we will get a reskinned version of the first game.

      Too bad they could not expand the scope.

  3. Danda says:

    I thought the way the fans reacted with Broken Age (being annoyed because they were receiving a longer, more expensive game at no extra cost later) was embarrassing, but this was even worse. “Oh, no, the project is dead, what a scam!” first, and now “you were trying to give us more production values at no extra cost for us, what a stupid idea!”. Seriously, if you are going to back any Kickstarter game you should at least have some basic understanding of the process and its costs or just stop making noise. The NightDive people deserve much more credit than this for what they have already done bringing great games back from the dead.

    • Lumière says:

      “f you are going to back any Kickstarter game you should at least have some basic understanding of the process and its costs or just stop making noise”. The developers should explain the process and its costs in the start of the kickstarter, and who accepts to back it, is accepting just what they sayed they would done, not anything else. If the developers decid to add anything else to the original project, they are adding risks, risks that the original backers should not have to accept. It’s not about making noise because they’re giving more production values, it’s because they’re taking the risk of not giving anything at all to add things that no one asked for, just as almost happened with this System Shock remake.

      • Splyce says:

        But backers are not investors, right? You don’t get a risk prospectus and make an investment based on it. Isn’t the point of kickstarter literally donating funds to someone to pursue their vision? You’re not even guaranteed a product at the end, nor do all backers even get a copy of said game, and have to buy it anyways.

        It seems like people have ascribed their own meaning to crowdfunding beyond what it truly is, and have way outsized the expectations associated with the platform. You’re essentially just giving someone money to do with what they choose, within the very broad scope of their own project.

        Early Access is the same way. Just cause you buy in doesn’t mean you’re going to get what was in the initial trailer. Hell, Subnautica, everyone’s EA indie darling, removed the ability to shape the terrain, a key part of the original pitch.

        • Dave Mongoose says:

          Even if it’s not ‘an investment’ in the legal sense, backers are allowed to feel annoyed or misled if the pitch suggested one direction but the project takes a different one.

          There may not be any legal obligation to produce what was specified in the pitch, either, but failing to do so because of deliberate decisions is almost certainly going to hurt the reputation of the team behind the project (especially if the decision to deviate from the pitch ultimately results in them running out of money and producing nothing).

          • Lumière says:

            Faire. But I’m not talking about financial gains, just that if I backed an idea, is because I want to see that idea became real, the big risk is the idea to stay just as an idea at all.

            Edit: my reply is to the comment before yours

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Kickstarter originally intended to be “microinvestment,” but was stymied by a bunch of legal hurdles (it turns out you have to have certain protections for investors, but don’t as long as you don’t call things “investments” or people “investors”).

          Anyone interested in putting up a Kickstarter would do really well to learn that when someone puts money into your project, they are, in all but name, investors, and if you don’t treat them like you’d treat an investor, it will always come back to bite you.

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        phuzz says:

        If you’re backing a kickstater just assume you have a 90% risk of receiving nothing for your cash.
        That’s the sensible way of dealing with, what is effectively, gambling.

      • Sandepande says:

        Kickstarting still isn’t preordering.

      • Crafter says:

        I mean .. at this point if you put money on Kickstarter and just assume it works like a pre-order, I have a hard time pitying you.

    • Crafter says:

      It seems to me that the issue is that for most people, the pitch video is a set in stone design document/trailer of the completed project and not you know, a ‘pitch’ that sets the tone but is just the starting point.

  4. khamul says:

    If the rest of the remade game is as great as the remade music, it’s going to rock! …though maybe that’s cos I like 90s industrial/electronica a little too much?

    Anyway, the music clip from the backer update is well worth a listen.

    I think concerns about publishers getting control over a game, when that’s the opposite of what kickstarter is about, is valid. However, even the biggest kickstarters fail to generate the kind of capital big games need: what they do is demonstrate the existence of a market. And games have moved on in the last 20 years – the original will not be quite as rosy as you remember it. So probably some amount of rework is justified.

    So… arguments on both sides? The gripping hand is the implementation: *if* the vision of the original is compromised to garner sales or market better, *then* you have a cause for complaint. I think this early on is a bit harsh to make that judgement.

    In any case, a ‘bigger and better’ System Shock when there’s a System Shock 3 in the works already is a bit of a tricky pitch, so it’s not hard to guess why the publisher pulled out.

    • kameradoktorn says:

      Not that I’m against you, and I’m also abit drunk, but to me it feels like if the pitch was “we will make the game like this unless this happens, then we will do it like this” noone would argue. I thought their pitch was super clear with the demo and all, and I don’t want to think longer than that, if they want my trust, the tell me your whole plan. Um, kinda forgot what you wrote but POST!

  5. onodera says:

    I think Shamus Young has the most plausible hypothesis: the team tried to pivot to attract big publisher money and failed. link to shamusyoung.com

    I wonder how they are funding the development now.

    • Veav says:

      According to the source update, the investors ALSO wanted them to just shut up and deliver on the original promise, so after un-pivoting they have cash flow again.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      Thank you for sharing: I’ve not really been following the drama around the remake, but that article makes for a very interesting read and makes a lot of sense.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Thanks for Linking. I love Shamus’s writing but his blog is a confusing mess that I hate navigating. His analysis of the borked quests in Fallout 3 is what drew me to him, he’s very entertaining.

  6. Kefren says:

    Yes!!!!! I loved the early prototype, hated the “reimagining” idea, so am really pleased it’s back on track. I love System Shock, have completed it multiple times, and just want to play it many more but with newer graphics. I don’t necessarily want new systems, new layouts, new anything – just the game I love, looking more realistic. I don’t mind if there are slight visual differences between the same types of mutants and cyborgs (since the humans they were based on would have been slightly different in terms of hair, skin, clothes, injuries), but otherwise keep it the same. This has me very excited again. For years on the TTLG boards I saw people start remakes then disappear. I now feel like it will actually happen.

  7. Scraphound says:

    Any confidence I had in this project disappeared when they decided to abandon the prototype that originally sold me on the game.

    This is a steaming mess from which I believe nothing worth playing will emerge.

    • Sandepande says:

      Yes, but they de-abandoned the prototype. So all is fine, insofar as game development is fine without a billion moneys.

  8. Dave Mongoose says:

    It seems like a monumentally stupid idea to [make] crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope before you have any kind of legally binding contract in place.

  9. Artist says:

    “I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.”

    Ah, the good old blame-game! Pointing fingers at others is always a weird PR stunt. I dont believe a single PR line this developer posts.

  10. Sandepande says:

    Nice. I can easily believe that the promise of extra cash felt sincere enough, especially if a) Kick is a person who by default isn’t terribly cynical and b) they believed in their ability and the strength of their product. Who would screw them over?

    Perhaps there is something else. Perhaps the expanded scope started to scare the moneypersons, and they figured that back to the original was more feasible and financially sound.

    I wouldn’t know. But this is nice.

  11. gabrielonuris says:

    That’s more interesting to me than just remaking System Shock – a game I can still buy and play in its old style if I want.

    But you can still buy one that borrows from modern immersive sims too. It’s called Prey!!!

  12. EthZee says:

    I’m not a backer, but I can live with being called boring if it means getting a faithful, albeit shinier remake of a classic at some point down the line. In fact, I hope this remake retains the mouse driven interface of the original as an option!

    • Sandepande says:

      Oh goodness no.

      • EthZee says:

        Shame. Admittedly I used the mouse look mod as well, but I love how the menus and interfaces work in the original.

  13. ThePuzzler says:

    The original is almost unplayable now for most people due to the old-fashioned control system. A faithful remake with polished graphics and refined controls is what the backers wanted, and were offered. A big-budget modern shooter with lots of new ideas is a less interesting prospect, because it was likely either to change the original design in some fundamental way in search of a wider audience (possibly ruining it; these wasn’t a team with a lot game design cred), or (as actually happened) never come out at all.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      It was almost unplayable then.
      Of course you had to make a boot disk as always but I actually had to contact customer support for the first time in my life to get the game running on DOS. That was pre-ubiquitary-internet.

    • jj2112 says:

      Well the version available now on GOG plays exactly like System Shock 2, I hated the original controls too but it is perfectly playable now.

    • MajorLag says:

      > The original is almost unplayable now for most people due to the old-fashioned control system. A faithful remake with polished graphics and refined controls is what the backers wanted, and were offered.

      And multiplayer. I still play SS2 pretty much only because it’s a pretty good cooperative experience and everyone can just bring whatever they have laying around to the lan party because it was released in 1998. You do have to save before every single bulkhead, then do a lot of praying though.

  14. ResonanceCascade says:

    What’s super boring is the art style of that re-imagining. I’m so glad they’ve gone back to their original look. Making yet ANOTHER System Shock 2-alike, after we already got Bioshock 1 & 2/expansions and Prey would also have been super boring.

    The the classic cyberpunk vibe and heavily sim-oriented design of System Shock 1 seem flat-out refreshing right now, if they stick to them (I’m totally fine with cleaning up rough edges and changing level geometry where necessary, obviously).

    • Replikant says:

      Updating the level-design must keep the balance between faking a more realistic Citadel station and not deviating from the original too much. Some puzzles/tricky situations in the original rely on the level design, e.g. the strange superspeed storage room ramps (where you land directly between the two mark II assault bots, I believe?). Or the labyrinth full of those rolling bomb-bots. The laser-bridge puzzle in the hangar. None of these layouts seem to make much sense, but were certainly fun nonetheless (well, apart from the bloody bombs).

  15. Umberto Bongo says:

    What’s boring about reverting back to a far more eyecatching and less generic looking game?

  16. Marclev says:

    The vast majority of you are super boring boooooo.

    I’ve never played System Shock 1, so have no strong feelings either way, but I assume this site must have a very high number of readers to risk insulting some of them!

  17. icemann says:

    The first game is worthy or praise in it’s own right, to equal levels of the sequel.

    It’s a very different game (the original) with much more of a cyberpunk style, look and plot. You couldn’t switch it’s gameplay over to be more like the sequel without taking away what made the original so awesome.

    What we backed was a 1 to 1 remake. Not a reboot done in the style of the sequel. So no Night Dive. Just no.

    We want what we ordered. No extra pickle, no new way of doing our burger that we did not ask for. Just what we ordered. Oh and do be sure to salt the fries (System Shock 1 in-joke there).

  18. Wormerine says:

    I am not a backer, but i am interested with this remake. I love SystemShock2, but original SystemShock is a bit too ancient for my taste. A remake with nicer graphics and slicker controls is what i am interested in, not a reboot or reimagening.

  19. malkav11 says:

    A couple points:
    1) Just because a Kickstarted project ends up working with a publisher doesn’t mean it hasn’t given them more freedom than the traditional methods of either being directly contracted by a publisher to make a game they’re looking to have made, or coming hat in hand to a publisher with an idea and hoping they’ll bite. When they already have funding from Kickstarter, and a proven audience, they have much more leverage to retain things like rights, creative control, and the ability to make their own schedule. In some cases, the publisher may just provide resources like marketing and distribution without having any direct control over production at all – see for example Obsidian signing with Paradox for Pillars of Eternity. It’s perhaps a little disappointing that Kickstarter can’t readily fund entire development cycles for larger games, but it still helps.

    2) It may be “boring” to want a faithful update of the original, but that original is over two decades old and has a lot of barriers to surmount for a modern audience that a revamp won’t, and that’s what I and most of the other backers were looking for. In my opinion, it’s rather more boring to turn what is still a very unique game into yet another unnecessary reboot that strips much of its identity. I’m all for more immersive sims of the type, but they can be made without replacing this project. And indeed, have been (Prey, arguably Dead Space 1/2) and will be (System Shock 3…probably).

    • RvLeshrac says:

      2) Yup, this is eactly what we wanted: What we backed.

      I don’t know why people think it is somehow “insulting” or “boring” when Kickstarter backers just ask for the project they backed. If we wanted a different project… we wouldn’t have backed this one.

      The same people who want Kickstarter projects to be “exciting” would probably be pretty upset if they paid for a steak at a restaurant and were instead served chicken because the chef “thought it would breathe new life into the concept of beef.”