System Shock Backers Uncertain About Unreal Change

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.

Redrum… uh red room.

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.

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Joanna Mueller
Joanna Mueller is a lifelong gamer who used to insist on having the Super Mario Bros manual read to her as a bedtime story. Now she's reading Minecraft books to her own kiddo while finally making use of her degree to write about games.
Joanna Mueller

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Writer, wannabe author, creator of things, and more than a bit nerdy. Let's be socially awkward together! Games Writer at; Cliqist, New Normative
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  • Hate to say but they really should have stuck to the original engine as would have had more chance to keep within budget.

    This type of thing is why budgets can spiral out of control

    • BiffChadwell

      Yeah. There was that game – I believe it was called “Little Devil” or “Little Devil Inside”? It was some sort of action-adventure or action-RPG where everything looked like it was made in miniatures; it looked cool as heck. But they too decided to switch engines and the entire campaign, seemingly, went silent. I suppose I should look up the status myself instead of count on Kickstarter updates before I say that, as most devs decide to avoid the Kickstarter for whatever reason after real development began. But still, it was clear their engine switch was resulting in massively slowed down development and its always hard to feel like they aren’t burning through money without actually making the game.