Nightdive Studios' 2016 Kickstarter campaign to support a "complete remake" of the great 1994 Looking Glass game System Shock was a big success, earning $1.36 million on a $900,000 goal—a tiny slice of which, by the way, came from me. Since then, things seemed to be coming along nicely: We took a look at how it was diverging from the original in October 2017, and just last month the studio released a video showing off the game's updated art style.
But today, Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick announced that the project has been put on hiatus. The Kickstarter update revealing the surprise news doesn't dig into the specifics of why, but it sounds like the project might simply have spiraled out of control.
"Maybe we were too successful. Maybe we lost our focus. The vision began to change," Kick wrote. "We moved from a Remaster to a completely new game. We shifted engines from Unity to Unreal, a choice that we don’t regret and one that has worked out for us. With the switch we began envisioning doing more, but straying from the core concepts of the original title.
"As our concept grew and as our team changed, so did the scope of what we were doing and with that the budget for the game. As the budget grew, we began a long series of conversations with potential publishing partners. The more that we worked on the game, the more that we wanted to do, and the further we got from the original concepts that made System Shock so great."
An anonymous source told Polygon that "mission creep" had "eaten up" the Kickstarter funds—though this has not been officially confirmed. Director of business development Larry Kuperman told Polygon that efforts to pitch the game to publishers in order to secure more funding fell through because the studio's vision didn't align with the market. "A shiny new thing comes along and gets added to the project," he said. "And our developers wanted to add their own ideas. The vision expanded."
The pause will result in the loss of roughly 15 contract employees who were working on the game, but no full-time Nightdive staff will be laid off. Kick and Kuperman both also emphasized that development is paused, not canceled. "We are taking a break, but NOT ending the project," Kick wrote. "Please accept my personal assurance that we will be back and stronger than ever. System Shock is going to be completed and all of our promises fulfilled."
And since it came up on Twitter, we will note it here as well: Refunds to backers will not be offered, as Nightdive still intends to complete the project.
We'll be delivering a finished game. https://t.co/fjtntU5jfMFebruary 16, 2018
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Nightdive confirmed the Kickstarter funds have been "depleted," but it has not officially stated as much.