System Shock Kickstarter update details a return to the 'original vision'

Nightdive's System Shock remake was put on hold in February so the studio could "reassess our path" and return to the vision and goals that were laid out in the 2016 Kickstarter. Rumors of depleted funds led to some nervousness among backers, but CEO Stephen Kick emphasized in the announcement that the studio was "taking a break, but NOT ending the project."   

We spoke with Kick and business development director Larry Kuperman a couple of weeks ago at GDC, where they explained more about the troubles the project had run into and why the decision to pump the brakes was made. The short version, as Kuperman put it, was "feature creep": As more people became involved and the project grew, "it grew in complexity, and it veered away from this original representation."   

A Kickstarter update posted today suggests the same thing, describing the re-envisioned project as "a high quality game that adheres closely to the vision of the original System Shock," rather than the "reinterpretation" that it evolved into. More importantly, it offers insight into the new (actually old) direction the project is taking.

"We had a brief respite, and took the time necessary to make some tough decisions which included saying goodbye to some of the developers that you’ve come to know through past updates," Kick wrote. "What we’re left with is a concentrated team that consists of the original developers who worked on the Unity demo." 

As well as returning to the original art style and "overall direction," the developers are also taking another look at their plans for update audio. Composer Jonathan Peros said the original System Shock music "was very inspired by the electronic and industrial music of the time," which was itself "characterized by its own technological limitations." 

"So I have explored what it would mean if those technological limitations of the '90s (low samplerates and bit-depths, shitty DACs, digital skipping) carried over to today. Or even further - if we could exploit those limitations creatively and define music through it," he wrote. 

"All of the gear that I've acquired for the sake of this project was entirely built around the idea of finding the heart of the SS1 music and intentions and extrapolating that past its MIDI limitations. The original music that I have to work with is far beyond its time, and I'm so happy to be able to take it into a modern - but still OH-SO-90s – light." 

Despite all of that, Kick said the developers aren't starting over. "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," he wrote. And while a release date is still a long way off—early 2020 is the current estimate—he expects that the game will be "fully playable, from start to finish," and ready for high-level testing in September.  

Nightdive also dropped a few new screens to show us how things are going.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.