General Update from Hiatus
Hey everyone, it’s Stephen from Nightdive with the latest update. The last few weeks have been challenging, but at the same time it’s been enlightening. As some of you know I’ve been spending more and more time with the community in Discord answering questions and making reassurances that yes, we are still developing the game. I’ve also been speaking and interacting with many of you one on one so as to better understand how the latest news impacted you and your feelings towards the project. The vast majority of you agree that we are doing the right thing and that what you want is a high quality game that adheres closely to the vision of the original System Shock rather than the reinterpretation that we were previously working toward.
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. What we’re left with is a concentrated team that consists of the original developers who worked on the Unity demo. With that said, let’s take a look at the work we’re doing.
So what does this mean?
It means we’ve gone back to the original vision we shared with you at the start of our Kickstarter campaign - this time with more reliable performance and higher fidelity visuals thanks to the Unreal Engine.
Are we starting over, is this all that’s done?
No, we’re not 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. With that said we’ll be inviting our highest tier backers to privately test the game beginning in September at which point we estimate that the game will be fully playable, from start to finish. The majority of the art won’t be finished, but we’ll be ready to start high-level testing.
What else is changing?
Along with the return to the previous art style and overall direction, the audio department is also re-re-re-examining their priorities, and drawing new conclusions. I’ll let Jon take it from here...
Hey folks. I'm very excited to be able to show off this suite of some of the various pieces of music from the medical deck.
Since the beginning of System Shock, it's been my job to take the music from System Shock 1 and figure out how to capture that in a more modern way. I don't think we hit that in the music for the Kickstarter demo, and since then I've been able to more thoroughly explore what a modernization of System Shock 1's music means without losing the heart of the music. Its music, though limited by the technology of MIDI in its original form, was very inspired by the electronic and industrial music of the time. And 1990s electronic/industrial music was 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. When Stephen told me about the plan for System Shock, he told me to go and grab the essence of what we were trying to do with our Kickstarter build. We decided that I would do a demonstration of Medical's music and base it on the themes from the original SS1 Medical Deck music. I was able to take all of that stylistic definition and apply it back to the original System Shock 1 music. The first half of the track is more 'exploration', using the melodies of the "walking" state of the original game and building a more meandering musical piece from those melodies. And the second half, the original MIDI guitar was changed to a gritty industrial bass synthesizer which is developed and drives the whole 'combat' section.
I'm so excited to be able to apply all of this musical direction back to the System Shock 1 music! 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.
In an effort to remain transparent throughout development we’re going to begin streaming on a regular basis and inviting the backers to join us.
Head on over to: https://www.twitch.tv/nightdivestudios Click “Follow” and receive updates whenever we go live!
April's coming streams:
11th Gaming with Community Manager Karlee Meow
12th Deving System Shock with Chris Mansell
18th Gaming with Community Manager Karlee Meow
25th Gaming with Community Manager Karlee Meow
26th Deving System Shock with Chris Mansell
27th Gaming/Q&A with CEO Stephen Kick
Source Code Release!
This first release is the original, unaltered source code that was discovered by OtherSide Entertainment and graciously shared with us a few months ago. It is Power Mac native so will require an emulation tool which we’ve linked in the repo. We have been hard at work updating this code and plan to release a new version of System Shock: Enhanced Edition as well as the code in the near future.
Here are some interesting facts we dug up while working on the code!
- The game uses fixed point for all the math instead of floating point. However, some blitting functions, after being optimized in the Macintosh version, use floating point registers and operations to speed up copying stuff.
- System Shock uses the rendering-with-unique color trick (similar to http://www.opengl-tutorial.org/miscellaneous/clicking-on-objects/picking-with-an-opengl-hack/) to detect object clicks and shooting targets. This same trick is used to show nearby objects when online help is on.
- In order to draw outline fonts, System Shock draws the same string 10 times. First they are rendered in black with a 1-pixel displacement into each of 9 directions, and then the desired color at the center.
- There are various pieces of code commented out or disabled (using the preprocessor's conditional compilation) meant to deal with a level editor and play testing.
- Internally, the game usually treats the screen resolution as if it were 320x200 in order to achieve resolution-independent code.
- The game is mostly written in C, except for the physics library written by Seamus Blackley (EDMS, the Emetic Dynamics Modeling System) and the
fixed-point library it uses, which are written in C++, and some Assembly modules.
Grab it here: https://github.com/NightDiveStudios/shockmac
Questions & Answers from Discord Community
At this current moment in time, how many things are you planning to change within the game in regards to story, gameplay, and level design?
The story is going to remain unchanged but with the additional logs/emails added in from the backers of the CITADEL CREW MEMBER pledge. Gameplay will be very similar to what you experienced in the original game with the largest difference being the UI which is a hybrid of Shock and Shock 2.
What changes do you think NDS will be making with the remake's direction in terms of its style and feel?
We’re going to be re-visiting the style and feel of the original game. I personally feel as though we hit the mark the first time and by applying what we’ve learned while working in Unreal we can achieve a similar look and feel but with enhanced performance. Our intent with the art direction so far is to bring more of the vibrant colors of the original game while keeping the oppressive atmosphere of a rundown Citadel Station. We’re even incorporating some old school techniques like using sprite sheets for the animated computer screens.
While the remake is certainly getting made, I had the sense that it will be somewhat pared back compared to the original expanded-upon-the-original vision we heard about in earlier updates. Will this mean a game more akin to the original - closer to a 1:1 remake, or will there still be some expansion on the original System Shock's story and concept?
This will be closer to a 1:1 remake with updates to the weapon/character designs but without altering the core gameplay of the original. Expect to see something resembling the direction of the Unity demo.
Has the KS funding pool been toasted, if it has, can you sustain the investment required to get to the end 2019 timeline from your residual revenues (or will this potentially mean the project takes longer as funds have to trickle in)?
We still have the funds necessary to complete the game, but the timeline will inevitably move back with our shift in direction.
Is there prospectively more risk of slippage past 2019 (if so, best brace for it nice and early)? What is the exit plan if the project becomes non-viable?
Yes, at this stage the game could slip past 2019. Our only plan is to finish the game and deliver on the promise we made to our Kickstarter backers.
Which people still work on the SS1 reboot, as of now?
I’ve personally taken over as game director and I am now leading a team of developers, some of who worked on the original System Shock and the Unity demo.
Are you willing to share some details on why/how no successful publishing deal has been achieved yet, and how do you guys think you will still be able to get a publishing deal going in the future?
I am, but those details will be part of an exhaustive Post Mortem I’ll share once the game has shipped.
At what point in time, roughly, had NDS realized scope creep had hit the project?
It was soon after the Kickstarter when the team offered many suggestions that seemed great on their own, but in aggregate represented too much of a departure. However, I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.
My question is whether you have considered or looked into doing physical releases of any of your re-released PC games? If you have considered it, is there anything that made it not worth doing or prohibitively difficult to do? My understanding is it's a real pain to get physical games published on Xbox, but are physical console releases something you have considered or would consider for future console game releases? I'm guessing most of this is stuff you probably don't want to discuss publicly until it happens, but it would be very cool to see some physical Nightdive releases one day.
We’ve considered it! We have to find the right partner to help us achieve that goal, but for some of our PC-Only releases I’d love to have classic “Big-Box” copies re-issued. We’re currently looking into releasing physical editions of Turok & Turok 2 for Xbox One.
Japanese System Shock Poster - Now Available!
Thanks to our friend @MickeyWilsonSFX we’ve been able to clean up and create posters based on the original box art from the Japanese release of System Shock. For a limited time if you purchase more than one item from our store you’ll receive a 10% discount.
Please join us on Discord, we’re in there every day answering questions! It a great place to engage in the community as well as have active conversations with our devs:
Shout Out Corner⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Finally we shave a shout out to our friends at Three Flip Studios!
Armed and Gelatinous only has a few days left and is close to being funded!
Meanwhile, in the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy, an alien race of gelatinous space blobs has just been spotted blasting the hell out of each other in an all out war of epic proportions! Armed and Gelatinous is an online AND local multiplayer fast-paced bullet-hell space-shooter coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam later this year! With 4 years of development behind them Three Flip Studios has taken to Kickstarter to ask for help on the home stretch in hopes of creating the best-possible classic arcade throwback that the world has ever seen!
See you next time~!
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