It's hard to believe 22 years have passed since the release of the original System Shock back in 1994. Now, NightDive Studios is resurrecting this classic by creating a complete remake of the title. The Kickstarter campaign to fund the remake has its base goal at $900,000, and it is already past the half way mark in only a couple of days at the time of writing, demonstrating that people still remember System Shock and desire to have another taste of it.
NightDive Studios are also the people behind the System Shock Enhanced Edition that was released last fall. This project, though, is a few steps above that. We're not talking about a remaster or just a porting of an old game to modern hardware. NightDive wants to reboot the game on the Unity Engine, with radical improvements on the technical aspect, but also on many other features. The goal of NightDive is to take the game not only to modern hardware but to present it to modern gamers while, at the same time, maintaining the spirit and the experience that made System Shock the genre defining title that it is.
For those of you that are too young to remember, or simply didn't have a chance to play it back in the 90s, the reason that System Shock is that big of a deal is that it was one of the first titles to incorporate exploratory and narrative elements in a first person shooter. In this day and age, finding scattered audio logs or just random pieces of lore around a level that fill you in on what happened is something that we take for granted, but at the time these kind of things were a game changer. Developers in the 90s started to experiment with real-time storytelling and System Shock was one of the first to show that there was potential in that.
The team that will make this project a reality is made of industry veterans. We're talking of developers that worked on the original System Shock as well as games in the caliber of Warcraft 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Bioshock. Chris Avell0ne will also be part of the project and will work on the narrative side of the game with the Creative Director Stephen Kick and Project Director Jason Fader. When one of the guys responsible for Planescape: Torment and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, among others, takes part in a project, you know that the lore is not something that NightDive wants to neglect.
The Scope Features described in the Kickstarter page are particularly interesting to look at:
→ $900k Goal: Modern Inventory Management, Modern Controls, New Puzzles, Updated Faithful Levels, Game Difficulty Modes.
→ $1.7m Goal : Enemy limb dismemberment, More puzzles, Ammo types/weapon settings, Vending machines, Basic components/research, RPG progression, Weapon upgrading, Hardcore mode (No respawning), Ironman mode (Only 1 savegame. If you die, the save is deleted)
Judging by the features NightDive is aiming to bring in the remake and the videos so far released, it would look like they are inclined to tone down a bit of the metroidvania/exploratory component of the original System Shock and shift the balance a little towards the direction the game took with the more successful System Shock 2 that had a more FPS-RPG centric feel than its predecessor. It makes sense considering the way the original System Shock played would be considered archaic in this day and age (despite its core concept being solid even today), while the way System Shock 2 set the foundation of many games to come like the Bioshock Series.
The stretch goals of the project include localization, support for Mac and Linux, full orchestral score and a whole bunch of additional features like additional death and dismemberment animation or new game modes. There are also many rewards for backers. The lowest tier ($5) will net you a pack of wallpapers, while you'll have to donate at least $30 to get a digital copy of the game. Going up, we find interesting stuff like physical collector's edition of the game or the possibility to add your corpse in the game. The highest tiers will award you a System Shock customized gaming Razer Blade laptop, and if you donate $10,000, you will be invited to a private party with the System Shock team among the other stuff.
It's good to see that we may soon be able to fight SHODAN and her mutants and robot minions again on the citadel. Between NightDive's remake project and System Shock 3 being developed by OtherSide with Warren Spector and, it looks like that we may witness a rebirth of the System Shock franchise.
If you want to see what NightDive Studios have in mind for System Shock, a downloadable proof of concept demo is available to download. It's, of course, still very far from what NightDive want to achieve for the final title, but it should give you enough of a look and feel to understand where the project is going. The demo is downloadable from Steam, GOG and Humble Store.