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After a period of relative silence, October brings us a new Kickstarter update for Nightdive Studios' System Shock reboot. The update shows off a couple of new screenshots and in-game animations, and recounts the time Nightdive's Jason Fader met Warren Spector at PAX and the two of them talked Shock. An excerpt:
Fader and Spector
Hi everyone, Jason here! Last month at PAX, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Warren for a bit. We’ve spoken before, but this was the first time we actually got to relax and just chat about everything. While I’d love to go into all of the neat Shock stuff we were bouncing around, a lot of it is super hush hush.
I’ll be honest, no matter how long I’ve been in the game industry, I still fanboy at my idols. Warren was no exception. As he would recall tales of his early days in the industry, I couldn’t help but feel honored that I am a part of a legacy that he helped start with System Shock. Most of our time chatting was spent on books, movies, and TV shows we gravitated towards. I would bring up my passion about recent TV shows that cover stories around artificial intelligence, and he would discuss amazing books that inspired him. Eventually we discovered we both had cats waiting for us at home and proceeded to exchange cat pictures.
As for specific Shock stuff we discussed, I can’t say much. I can say SHODAN is a character very special to both of us, and was the topic of several conversations. If you can picture us around a cocktail table with drinks in our hands as we delightfully discuss the finer points of System Shock and everything else, it was basically like that. I eagerly look forward to more times when we can unwind and share a drink. :-)
Additionally, the update offers a link to a recent PC Gamer interview where Jason Fader talks about Nightdive's attempts at adapting the original System Shock into a modern game. A few paragraphs:
"I kind of got this from working on Fallout: New Vegas," says game director Jason Fader. "Start with how things looked pre-war, as far as Fallout context goes, and then after we understand how things started, mess it up."
Of course, System Shock already has levels, but this reboot isn't an exact replica of the Warren Spector-led 1994 shooter which inspired so many immersive sims that came after it, most recently Prey. The spirit of the original's space station remains, or it will if Nightdive gets 'em right, but the decks are being rebuilt for the Unreal Engine with modern design ideas.
"Our level philosophy is essentially to take the original levels and the decks of Shock 1, and assess what still works and what may be too frustrating for players," says Fader, "and basically chisel away or overhaul certain sections so that it basically aligns with player expectations for a modern game today. I mean, we're still going to have labyrinthine and mazelike areas."
Fader points to the maintenance deck—see a comparison between the original and concept art for the new System Shock above—as an example. The slanted walls remain, and because the new team's takeaway was that "the original developers wanted the player to feel lost in this," it'll be a labyrinth here, too.
"Level design itself I wouldn't say is a complete do-over," says Fader. "It's more looking at the original and seeing what works, and what could be better, and revamping the levels."
A lot more can be rendered now than could be in 1994, too. Above is a not quite pristine, not totally wrecked concept for the medical deck. Nightdive's designers are thinking about what would be in a real corporate medical facility of the future. There's a pediatrics waiting room with a perhaps well-intentioned but creepy teddy bear hologram. There's a holographic fish tank. There's an oppressiveness to the uncomfortable-looking chairs in the waiting area.
In the medical deck bathroom concept above, the stalls are made private with holograms instead of actual doors, "kind of selling the idea that you don't have any privacy in this future, the corporation pretty much owns everything." There's a sensible decontamination shower, as well.
"One of the things that we kind of joked about in the project is not enough care or attention really goes into bathrooms for videogames," says Fader, "so we had our artist sit down and figure out, 'What would a bathroom of the future look like,' but still be something that's cyberpunk, semi-dystopian."
As new and shiny as it all appears (and remember, these concepts don't necessarily represent the final, dilapidated state of the space station), it all looks System Shock-ey. The engineering deck concept above, for instance, emphasizes the orange and teal contrasts from the original level.