Nightdive Studios won the support of 21,625 backers with their Kickstarter campaign for a new System Shock. Promising a “complete remake of the genre defining classic,” the campaign quickly amassed $1,350,700 in funding. Initially the developers planned to use the Unity Engine to bring Citadel Station back to life. This week at GDC, they announced their official switch to Unreal Engine 4. A move which has a number of their backers concerned.
They posted a Kickstarter update for backers, providing a detailed timeline of the decision. Nightdive explained that during the campaign, people expressed interested in console support. After reevaluating their project goals, they determined that Unity couldn’t provide the visual quality and performance they needed across platforms.
Over the next few months, Nightdive worked at migrating content over to Unreal. By October they had decided the new engine would meet their needs, but held off on making an official announcement. “…we didn’t want to announce the change just yet, since we wanted to prove to our backers (and ourselves) that we could deliver a slice of the game in Unreal with the updated visual direction.”
For Better Or Worse?
The updated visual direction has finally been revealed in the form of a new pre-alpha trailer. Sadly, many backers aren’t feeling the new look.
The update also shared the new main title theme (as heard in the background of the trailer). Jonathan Peros, the Audio Director for System Shock chimed in to explain that the music was meant to capture what was great about 90s sci-fi, but in a modern context. Some backers commented that the new theme music didn’t have the same hard techno/synth feel that has become synonymous with the series.
Overall, Nightdive didn’t win many fans with the “vertical slice” showcased in the new trailer. Even so, it’s important to note that the footage was all pre-alpha and not necessarily indicative of the final product. Switching engines is no small feat, so it’s understandable that the new trailer isn’t as polished as the original Unity demo.
It’s never easy to live up a game that garnered a cult following, particularly when that cult is looking over your shoulder every step of the way. Hopefully Nightdive will find their way back to the ‘old meets new’ style that had System Shock faithful so enamored during the campaign.