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System Shock is a complete remake of the genre defining classic from 1994 built by a team of industry veterans. 

Remember Citadel.
System Shock is a faithful reboot of the genre defining classic from 1994 built by a team of industry veterans. 

Remember Citadel.
System Shock is a faithful reboot of the genre defining classic from 1994 built by a team of industry veterans. Remember Citadel.
21,625 backers pledged $1,350,700 to help bring this project to life.

May Update: Dev Diary Audio Edition

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♪Project Update♪

As a fun little initiative to show you our world of development, we want to introduce Dev Diaries! We will have these from time to time to show different perspectives of what is going on. Without further delay, I give you Jonathan Peros:

Hey guys! 

This is Jonathan Peros, Audio Director on System Shock. I wanted to include a quick update to give some insight into an aspect of the musical direction of System Shock! As you all can probably guess, working on a reboot of a classic game definitely has its own set of unique challenges; we are all tasked with the job of making a good game by today’s standards, but not losing sight of what made the original game great. As such, I’ve gone back to the files for System Shock 1’s soundtrack over and over, spending as much time as I can absorbing what made Greg LoPiccolo’s work on the original music awesome. I thought I would share a few of the great things about System Shock 1’s soundtrack here with you, some of the game’s most dedicated fans. 

System Shock 1’s soundtrack was far ahead of its time in many respects. One of the most obvious ways that this shows itself is in its procedural music system. The original game had a MIDI soundtrack, which would play through various soundcards in order to produce the game’s music. This is different than today’s game music, which is for the most part pre-recorded audio files playing back. Because the music was played back note-by-note through data on the soundcard, this opened many possibilities for how the game dealt with music. The music for each level is not contained in a single file, but instead each level’s music is built procedurally from different musical building blocks, controlled by parameters in the game. The core set of each level’s musical building blocks are named with a gameplay state (“W”alking, “P”eril, “C”ombat) and a section (“A”,”B”,”C”,…). “WA” can play into “WB”, unless the game state changes to peril, at which it may play into “PB”. This kind of interactive system provides both varying intensity, which mirrors the pacing of the gameplay, and linear sections, which give the music a sense of forward momentum and structure. This procedural music system is then made more interactive by having various layers which represent the various enemies that are overlaid on top of the core level music, based on the proximity of enemies of that type. These layers are used to represent these enemies across the entire soundtrack, giving each enemy type a theme of sorts! Very cool, stuff! 

                                                             

Various sections of the level music laid out horizontally (i.e. “WA”, “PB”,...), with the additional enemy type layers laid out vertically below (i.e. Mut, RobG,...)
Various sections of the level music laid out horizontally (i.e. “WA”, “PB”,...), with the additional enemy type layers laid out vertically below (i.e. Mut, RobG,...)

                            

Reactor transitioning from “PB” music to “CA” music:

Mutant enemy type musical layer:

                                                                                                       

Another very noteworthy feature about the System Shock 1 soundtrack is its unique use of timbre (the perceived sound quality of a tone that distinguishes different types of sound and instruments). As I mentioned, the System Shock 1 soundtrack was done through MIDI playback. MIDI files are not audio files; MIDI is a data protocol, which tells another device various musical information, like “Note On”, “Pitch”, “Velocity”, “Tempo”, etc. In this case, the device is a computer’s soundcard. Each soundcard has its own set of sounds that are programmed into it, and MIDI then calls on these various sounds with a “Program Change” message. Then, when “Note On” messages are received (along with pitch and velocity), the soundcard knows what sound to play, at what pitch, and how loud, until a “Note Off” message for that pitch is received. The important part to note in this is that the sounds on each soundcard are preprogrammed. Most soundcards have their own takes on very generic sounds (Overdriven Guitar, String Ensemble 1, Clarinet) as well as some more unique ones (Guitar Fret Noise, “Goblins”). System Shock 1, however, used these sounds in very non-traditional ways! Oftentimes, Guitar Fret Noise is played at a very high pitch at 16th notes in order to get some very non-traditional percussion sounds. You’d be very surprised to know that one of your favorite backing arpeggios in L01 Medical’s music is played back on two Bagpipes tracks, with chords being produced by rapidly playing notes on the Acoustic Guitar (nylon) channel. One of my favorite tracks in the game is the Groves music, because of its very creative use of MIDI controls on all of the various layers which come in and out.

                                          

A layer in the Groves music, a Percussive Organ MIDI instrument with extremely unnatural pitch-bending applied.
A layer in the Groves music, a Percussive Organ MIDI instrument with extremely unnatural pitch-bending applied.

                                             

Guitar Fret Noise MIDI instrument used as a percussive instrument:

Bagpipe and Acoustic Guitar used creatively:

Percussive Organ layer in Groves (pictured above):

 

The last cool bit of musical implementation in System Shock 1’s soundtrack that I want to talk about is its use of delay. Delay is a musical effect, which generally takes an input audio signal, waits for a duration, and then plays that audio signal back on top of the original signal. Because of System Shock 1’s MIDI soundtrack, this effect had to be emulated by manually copying and pasting the MIDI Note On and Note Off messages at some later time in that instrument’s channel. This overlaying is done in System Shock 1’s soundtrack as a musical subdivision of the beat, which gives the music really cool compositional elements! Often you’ll hear the soundtrack doing interesting phrasing, by something like playing an eighth note arpeggio with it delayed on top of itself three sixteenth notes late. This was utilized more than just an effect, as it is used most of the time in popular music; in System Shock 1, these delayed signals playing against the original melody combined to create an entirely new melody, a key part of the musical composition. I love when sound design becomes an integral component of the compositional process, as opposed to an effect or an afterthought!

                   

An Electric Guitar (muted) track in the Exec music. Original melody played in eighth notes in red, delayed signal three sixteenth notes behind in white. Notice variations in the white melody to accommodate harmonic changes in the music!
An Electric Guitar (muted) track in the Exec music. Original melody played in eighth notes in red, delayed signal three sixteenth notes behind in white. Notice variations in the white melody to accommodate harmonic changes in the music!

                                                

Exec’s guitar line playing eighth note line (pictured above):

Exec’s guitar line with delayed signal three sixteenth notes later:

                                        

I hope you found this somewhat technical discussion of System Shock 1's music interesting and informative! While rebooting System Shock’s soundtrack, the lessons taught by the original soundtrack are invaluable to capturing the essence of System Shock 1’s music. With such a forward-thinking musical score in the original game, we aim to keep that spirit alive by pushing the boundaries of interactive music and sound design today. The world of interactive music in video games has only grown more interesting in the past 20-odd years, and I’m very excited to utilize these options to compose the most immersive and interactive score for System Shock possible!

                                                         

Introducing our new Nightdive Studios Shop!

Ever wish you could have a shirt with our awesome logo? Or how about our logo done by another artist? Well you asked for it and here it is! We now have a Nightdive Studios merchandise shop! For a limited time only, we will be offering a 10% discount with code SCUBASTEVE, please check it out:

shop.nightdivestudios.com 

 

Shout Out

If you are interested in any other games to back on Kickstarter, please consider Fort Triumph! Fort Triumph is a tactical RPG featuring interactive environments and epic quests in a world on the brink of destruction. It's basically a fantasy version of XCOM with environment physics. Pretty awesome!

Fort Triumph is open for backing with just 4 days left to go!
Fort Triumph is open for backing with just 4 days left to go!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forttriumph/fort-triumph-tactical-rpg

                          

FAQ

Q: Will System Shock be Mac compatible?  

A: Yes. Mac, Linux, and Windows    

Q: How does the sizing work on the shirts?  

A: We will update the Backerkit entry with a sizing chart for both male and female shirts.  

Q: Can I use PayPal as my payment method on Backerkit?  

A: We're still considering PayPal - hold tight!  

Q: How long do I have until I need to finalize my Backerkit survey?  

A: A few months before launch, we will send out a number of updates before we're ready to finalize orders.  

Q: I pledged at the $75 tier and still have issues with shipping, what gives?  

A: We are so sorry with the delay, we were working hard with Backerkit to resolve this issue. At this time, all backers at that tier should no longer have to worry!

                                                 
If you have any other questions or support needs, please let us know here: 

Support.NightdiveStudios.com

             

See you next time~!

(。・ω・。)ノ♡Karlee Meow

Andy Barker, Kris Kamaruddin, and 106 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Zoltán Sághy on May 27

      Great! I can safely say you understood one aspects that made the music great! :)
      Keep up the good work so I can have the best eargasm inside the Reactor's deepest part! Remember that part? That was the pinnacle of the reactor music. Basically a reward for getting there after all those respawning hoppers.
      Also thanks for this detailed article about the music and I'm looking forward to part 2. ;)

    2. Missing avatar

      John Wellesz on May 24, 2017

      Wow... truly awesome read. I've always wondered how those transition effects were managed in SS1 they seemed so natural that often I thought it was just a coincidence...

      These are the kind of details that go unnoticed (ie: there is no clear pattern to identify) but do act on the subconscious of the players and make things feel more real and more alive !

      With these features the music was more than an ambiant sound it was a projection of the 'emotional track' of the character thus it was never boring and an integral part of the game.

      This is just beutiful

    3. Missing avatar

      Derek Williams on May 24, 2017

      Fantastic read, thanks Jonathan! Just hearing these brief snippits make me nostalgic for the original, and hearing how the soundtrack was developed through the use of Midi and procedural generation was really interesting.

    4. Mat Fleck on May 23, 2017

      I'm with everyone here,... great read! Too bad the original soundtrack stretch goal didn't get funded during the campaign.

    5. Missing avatar

      shodannet on May 19, 2017

      Thankyou for considering putting more information re: tshirt sizes!

    6. Missing avatar

      Chefubero on May 19, 2017

      Woooah this is so nice, i just hear this few chunks of SS1 awesomeness and would want to hear the whole tracks in this style, this is such a unique and fascinating music, and gives me shivers.
      Hope this stays this way true to the original ! keep it up

    7. Missing avatar

      B Stone on May 19, 2017

      This is why people kickstart games.

      Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a certain 'austerity' in games - they ship with one campaign, a menu, a pre-recorded soundtrack, and that's it.

      System Shock had so much more - rich difficulty settings, customization, sophisticated HUD, secrets, and dynamic music.

      I remember certain Lucasarts titles using iMUSE, but this is a whole step further. Now I know what Sysshock's soundtrack was particularly unique.

    8. Missing avatar

      JKay Kickasso on May 19, 2017

      Really glad to see that the electro music will be making a return

      I was worried playing the demo that you might ditch this in favour of the usual atmospheric ambience music found in a lot of horror games

    9. The Silencer on May 19, 2017

      Thank you for these view behind the curtain. I am a very big fan of game music. For me, the music of a game is a key part. And one of the things of my "computer game childhood" that reminds me most is the music of system shock 1. I am very excited how you will bring this to the "modern times" but keep the nostalgic feeling.

      Keep up the good work!

    10. Missing avatar

      Ceeege on May 19, 2017

      The original, still to this day, has the best soundtrack of any game I've played. The interactive music blew me away when I played the game back in the day and it's still regularly on my playlist all these years later.

      Great update that shows how forward thinking the TTLG crew were back then - really pushing the boundaries.

      I know you'll have your musical ideas on what how you want the remake to sound and I appreciate that we are now in 2017 but I'd love to experience the new game with cleaned up, digitised versions of the original soundtrack!

      Keep up the good work while I wipe away my tears of nostalgia and crank up the Exec level mp3 yet again!

    11. Missing avatar

      benv666 on May 19, 2017

      Awesome update! Very interesting to see the way SS1 has it's brilliant soundtrack structured. Looking forward to you guys impressing me even more on the remake :)

    12. Shaun Gupta on May 19, 2017

      Oh wow - love the idea of dev diaries, and Jonathan's was SUPER INTERESTING, especially with the demonstrations to show exactly what he was talking about. I knew System Shock used a dynamic music system, but very little about how it worked, and this kind of blew my mind. Thanks so much, and can't wait to hear more of the music in the future as well as read future dev diaries!

    13. Missing avatar

      Callum Hutchinson on May 19, 2017

      This was a fucking awesome update. I'm a hobbyist composer, and it was fascinating to learn how SS1's dynamic soundtrack was created. That delay effect is utterly mesmerizing.

    14. capt_carl
      Superbacker
      on May 19, 2017

      IBBY IS CREDIT TO TEAM

    15. Luke Dudney on May 18, 2017

      Absolutely fascinating, thanks for the awesome update.

      I've always loved the music in SS1, it felt like much more than a soundtrack and more intertwined with the environment and gameplay elements. For example, the heavy machinery noises in the Reactor soundtrack, almost as if you were in a steam ship's engine room.

      Rather than just a beat and melody, it felt much more layered in a way that I never identified, but now I see why.

      Looking forward to hearing about and experiencing how the music is approached in the reboot.

    16. Missing avatar

      Zaenos on May 18, 2017

      I've always loved System Shock's composition and dynamic changes, but I didn't realize how much creativity was in the core design. This is so cool...

    17. Missing avatar

      Alexander Erben on May 18, 2017

      Oh yes, the great days of innovative, dynamic MIDI programming. This takes me back to iMuse (LucasArts) as well.

      I'd like to add that in those days, not every souncard had a sample bank, many games were heard from OPL synthesizers working with GeneralMidi (GM) instrument banks defined by the game - this meant, ironically, that while the sounds themselves were less 'realistic', the experience was more consistent across different sound cards with that synth.

      An especially great example of OPL synthesis done well in a game was Dune (Cryo, 1992). It featured not simply its own set of General Midi presets, but the composer actually made great use of having a synth and its flexibility at his disposal, resulting in one of the best electronica gaming music done on the OPL chip.

    18. Joseph Elkhorne on May 18, 2017

      Really great info on how bleeding edge the MIDI of the day was. Thanks!

    19. Missing avatar

      LoopTransit on May 18, 2017

      This brings back nostalgic memories of when Looking Glass put out a dev diary for System Shock 2 in 1999. Wayback Machine has a tiny portion of that.

      https://web.archive.org/web/19990422055436/http://www.lglass.com:80/p_info/shock2/sshock.html

    20. Paul Nunes on May 18, 2017

      What a fantastic update. Really thoughtful and innovative use of the technology of the time. I wonder how Nightdive will impress us with innovative use of the tech of today. Push the envelope Nightdive! I'm rooting for you!

    21. Peter Cobcroft on May 18, 2017

      I knew there would good reasons for me to continue listening to the soundtrack every so often, years after playing the game!

    22. jorlinn on Linux on May 18, 2017

      Really nice! I savour these technical deconstructed details.

    23. Igloos on May 18, 2017

      This is cool, I'm always a fan of dev diaries. Getting to see behind the scenes that deeply is just so enlightening.

      But, uh, since the Night Dive store is part of this update, and I took a look through there, I have to ask: why is there a poster for No One Lives Forever on there? Did someone finally crawl through the minefield and figure out the rights issue, or is it just the poster?

    24. Jeremy Hughes on May 18, 2017

      Thanks, that was a cool insight into SS1's musical construction! I hadn't appreciated MIDI's significance in the original game, and as a format, how much control it gave the composer over what came out of your SoundBlaster Pro (or whatever soundcard you happened to have). Cheers, Jonathan.