Feedback Responses and BackerKit
More info on that video...
Hi everyone, Jason here. Last week, after seeing a lot of feedback regarding the video, I took to Discord and quickly wrote up a response to concerns I was seeing, and thanks to some loyal fans, it was reposted in various places. In case you missed it, here’s what I wrote:
So, the engine change and visual change are unrelated. Things would pretty much look the same in either engine, but the big difference is performance. The visuals are still a work in progress and know that I'm listening. What you see in the video is a rough style we are experimenting with to push crisper visuals. Art direction was a lower priority for the engine change since we wanted to be sure the technology could do what we needed first. Now that we have the pipelines set for getting art into the engine, we'll be iterating on the style and mood.
The other thing I heard was people were worried that the gameplay was becoming stripped down due to the simple combat shown in the video. Gameplay wasn't a priority for assessing the engine since, again, everything we've researched indicates Unreal can offer the same (if not better) foundation for the gameplay systems.
We're only 20% through our vertical slice, and there's still a lot to do. The next steps are getting interesting creature and environment behaviors, while also iterating on the hacking puzzles, cyberspace, weapons, and items. This is a big game, so we're trying to tackle these components in order, starting with a solid tech foundation and an effective the process for getting art into the game. For now, we chose to bring art in we could finish quickly so we can get the other departments (like design) testing their stuff in engine. More elaborate and iconic art is coming, but remember, for this early stage of v slice, it's about establishing a solid foundation to build upon.
Oh, another thing worth mentioning is that the UE4 video represents 1.5 months of direct content creation, whereas the unity demo had about 6 months. That was another reason for the switch, content took too long to get into unity. Not exactly the fault of Unity, but as you can see, it's easier for our team to create content in Unreal.
Jason: Unity is a great engine, as is Unreal. When we started researching engines, Unreal ultimately was the best fit for the content we wanted to make. The team found we were able to get the content into the engine with the visual fidelity and target performance more easily. Basically, for our team and project, Unreal will enable us to be more efficient and aligns better with our goals. Another big draw was its console performance… which I’ll talk about below.
Q: Great, now you are making a console game with a PC port...
Jason: Whoa there! We never said that, and even if we didn’t switch engines, the game would still come out on consoles. Personally, I’m a PC gamer through and through (mainly because I can’t aim well with a controller). System Shock is being made for PC gamers first. It would be a shame if only PC folk could appreciate our game, so we’ll be bringing it to console as well, but PC is the main target for everything we do.
Q: What does “Faithful Reboot” mean? What are you changing from Shock 1?
Jason: When we started working on this game, we had a few choices. Initially we were planning on doing a straight 1:1 remake, but we soon realized this would be our opportunity to introduce the Shock universe to a new generation of gamers that might have missed the opportunity to appreciate Shock. After having numerous meetings with the original Shock 1 devs about the story, levels, etc, it became clear there were a lot of things they would have done differently.
Early in development, we started meeting with those former LGS guys and started asking the question “What would you do differently with today’s technology?” The answers were overwhelming. I think the funniest answer was “Less grenade types for sure”. At that point we realized this needed to be a reboot, but maintain the spirit of Shock 1. Whenever we look at the design, or art, or audio even, we ask ourselves “What would LGS do?”. The answer becomes clear after understanding LGS was about innovation, trying new things and bringing together concepts unheard of in games before them. We see ourselves as maintaining that tradition, and chat with the LGS guys to ensure what we’re doing holds up to their expectations. The mutant frozen shatter stuff is a good example of that.
So what’s different? We’re changing very little of the story other than refining the dialogue and plugging plot holes. Gameplay will be different, but more of an evolution of the original to get combat feeling more reactive and systems with an expected level of depth. Again, a lot of these changes come down to understanding what LGS would do if they were making Shock 1 anew today.
Levels will harken back to the original game thematically, but the layout will see a pretty big change to apply modern level design principles for pacing and exploration. We’re not going to dumb things down, but we also don’t want to ignore the last 20 years of progress level design has made.
Oh, another thing that we’re a big proponent of is to assume the player is intelligent, and not hold their hand every step of the way. We’ll start the game off teaching you the basics, but then you’ll be on your own to figure things out. A big part of the fun from classic games was figuring things out yourself, and we think that’s what most of you would prefer :-)
Q: Things look untextured and bland.
Jason: This was a VERY rapid pass on art stuff and is not final. There’s still a lot more work that will be going into art, as well as bringing in the more iconic nuances of Shock 1. We’ll post more updates on art once things are further along.
Q: Things now look like a generic scifi shooter
Jason: Keep in mind, this video doesn’t really show off the gameplay we’re going for. Combat is a thing you’ll do, but there will be LOTS of other options to take as you play. We know some players will walk to just run and smash a lot of faces, and they’ll be able to do that, but for the thinking player, they’ll have a diverse set of gameplay tools to tackle situations in hackery or stealthy ways. Without getting into too much detail, the station is essentially a living character, and the player can learn how to use aspects of the station to their advantage. I’ll be sure to share more about the gameplay systems as things get further solidified.
Q: Will there be any hud?
Jason: Definitely! Not sure what the HUD will look like currently, and we’re chewing on a few options. We probably won’t have a finalized HUD until the end of v slice or early in the production phase.
Q: Will you still be launching on Linux? Mac?
Jason: Yup! That goal has never changed. When we say “PC”, we mean Windows, OSX, and Linux.
Q: Do you plan on porting to Nintendo Switch?
Jason: Hard to say right now. It depends on what kind of demand there is for it.
Q: Are you planning to reboot SS2?
Jason: Oh boy, one game at a time. Let’s see how this game goes and then board that ship when we get to it ;-)
Q: Why does Shodan sound that way? (girly, smurf, distorted)
Jonathan: To disclose- I can’t speak to the intentions behind the processing, as thus far in the process Terri Brosius has provided her VO with her own processing. But I can speak from an audio direction standpoint, and how we felt that these lines fit in the context of the game…
Terri is unique in that she is SHODAN in a much deeper way than most voiceover artists are their characters. Back in the original Shock days, she wrote her own lines and directed herself. She knows SHODAN’s character better than just about anyone. As such, we have been directing her only as much as we need to and she gives her own take, given how close she is to the character of SHODAN.
From an audio direction standpoint, what I can say is that when we received the SHODAN lines for the latest video, we all got chills. My skin crawled, even hearing the voice outside of the context of the rest of the video elements, and that hit my mark. There are some subtle differences for sure, especially in the quality of the processing of the voice. However, none of these differences felt outside the bounds of what SHODAN is or could be. To speak specifically to her voice raising pitch, historically SHODAN’s voice has always modulated pitch, both low and high. There may be some new inflections that arise, but nothing that we feel is outside the bounds of what SHODAN means, both technically and emotionally.
Q: The music isn't "synthy" enough.
Jonathan: Both because of the history of System Shock and its importance as a sci-fi game, synthesizers are crucial part of its aural soundscape. Because of exactly this reason, when we began work on System Shock, I began accumulating external and analogue synthesizers, modular and otherwise, to build System Shock’s score. They’re my babies! :) Aside from the piano, the music in the trailer is about 90% built out of these synthesizers and processed guitar work. For the trailer, it’s pretty cinematic, so two things about that:
First, before working on this trailer there was a lot of internal discussion about what the goals of this trailer was and what we could best do to achieve these goals. The track that you are hearing are indicative of these goals - nothing more or less. A trailer is a different beast than a game is, and seeks to accomplish different things for a different audience.
Secondly, System Shock is a wide game from a gameplay perspective; just as there is exploration, combat, hacking, storytelling, and creepiness, there is music to match all of it. Some points may call for theme, some for spooky ambience, and some for punchy electronic music. Just like Jason has to do, we are all constantly asking ourselves “What would System Shock be if LGS was making it in 2017?” As such, there will be some necessary alterations that come from 20+ years of innovation and improvement. But if you’re open to a faithful modern interpretation that tries to capture the essence of what defined System Shock in its time, then maybe you’ll find some enjoyment from the more punchy electronic music found in combat in the game. :)
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We hope that this answers a lot of your questions and concerns, but please feel free to leave us a comment about your thoughts.
Signing off with excitement,