System Shock is a complete remake of the genre defining classic from 1994 built by a team of industry veterans. Remember Citadel.
Latest Updates from Our Project:
over 1 year ago
– Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 01:20:18 AM
Hey there hackers,
Wow it has been a long time since I have been able to write to you, but I have so much to share! Starting with our most recent interview with PCGamer talking about how we are approaching the reboot, plus lots of new concept pieces:
Now a little something from Game Director Jason Fader...
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. :-)
Art & Animation
As you may have seen from the PCGamer article, we have shared quite a few new pieces of concept art! Right now, I would like to focus on this one piece in particular.
Here we have a concept of the new Maintenance Level done by artist Robert Simon side by side with the original. With this we can easily show you our direction of preserving the old while still keeping things fresh! What do you think?
Moving on to something a little different, our animators wanted to share something we find really cool and spooky for the month of October. Please enjoy our in-game footage of a mutant!
The time has come, we are opening up our Discord to the Public! So please feel free to invite your friends to join in the community:
July Update: Dev Diary by James Henley
almost 2 years ago
– Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 11:52:02 PM
This is James Henley, Lead Level Designer on the System Shock reboot. We thought that we’d give a little bit of insight into the level design process this month! Being a creative process, there’s a lot of variation from person to person but what follows is my personal approach. I’m going to speak in generals so try not to read too much into game content specifics from this.
First off, however, let’s address the elephant in the room...
System Shock’s levels are already designed, aren’t they?
This update is about process rather than intent, so I’ll keep this brief! The purpose of a reboot is to leverage an existing foundation while still allowing the freedom to re-envision, clarify, or otherwise expand upon a work. You could view it as building a new body to house an old soul.
The answer to the question is both “yes” and “no.” The original levels were designed under specific philosophies and restrictions that have grown or otherwise evolved in the years since. To that end, much of my work involves translating old intentions and bringing them forward to work in tandem with the technology and principles we have today. My goal is to create a believable world space that retains System Shock’s original sense of exploration and freedom.
I won’t get into the specifics of my design philosophies at the moment but let’s just be clear that I’m not talking about the modern trend of corridor-shooter level design; I’m an advocate of choices, exploration, and the freedom to tackle challenges in a variety of ways. My job is to develop a believable world space for the player to explore, not a cinematic corridor to be raced through.
Before we can place so much as a single piece of flooring, we must first consider the goals and themes of an area, addressing questions such as:
What section of the station does this level occur on?
What are the major narrative beats it must cover?(General objectives, Key events & interactions)
Is it a new tileset / major set of assets?
This information is compiled in a short document to provide material for the larger discussion meeting that comes next.
A level designer’s work can often be viewed as the end product of an assembly line, loosely speaking. Everything in the game feeds into it and much of what we rely on are the fruits of another department’s labors; creatures, tiles and art assets, hackable objects, etc. Accordingly, stakeholders meet to hash out some of the more detailed points of the level, such as:
What kind of artistic themes and points of interest can we leverage?
What is the player’s toolbox? (Abilities or powers, Weapons and other possible gear)
What is the designer’s toolbox? (New and returning creatures, Mechanics to introduce, Gating mechanisms, Features of the area itself, thematically or geometrically)
Even in the digital age, I’m still a fan of working with paper first and foremost! I have a small notebook that I cram full of bullet point notes to clarify thoughts, sketch out room designs, etc. There’s just something about not being bound to my computer that lets me feel more creative at this stage.
I like to start by establishing the overall gameplay beats -- the pacing and flow of both narrative and game elements within a level’s critical* path. This means determining what the major objectives are at a more granular level. Where do you go? How do you get there? What affects your ability to get there and what options do you have for solving that?
* The specific events, be they branching or linear, that must be encountered in order to progress from beginning to end of a level
I write the major events, objective updates, etc. on cue cards. Yes, cue cards. I spread them around on the floor and start grouping, ordering, and reordering them to get a feel for strengths and weaknesses in the flow of events. I enjoy this approach because iteration is simple, rapid, and I can sort through and make adjustments anywhere from my office to a coffee shop -- though the latter is less appreciative about the whole “spreading them out on the floor” thing.
While the cue cards have helped hash out a lot of information at the high level, that doesn’t necessarily tell a lot about the physical layout. I have one more step before I dive into the in-engine side of the process: conceptual mapping. It’s a fancy term for a pretty simple thing; a flow-chart mapping out the spatial relation of level locations and events, as shown below. It gives an opportunity to identify potential for shortcuts, space requirements, and helps clarify a few other bits and pieces.
Even in a sci-fi setting, there are still a number of equivalent locations that we already have ingrained context for in the world around us, such as factories, hospitals, department stores, etc. During this stage, I do a lot of research into floor plans and layouts to determine what existing contexts can be leveraged in order to help make the space more believable. Would this kind of room really be near that kind? Are these features logical or are we placing them this way strictly “because plot?”
There is a point where you have to draw the line in favor of the “it’s a game” argument but there’s little reason to abandon environmental believability prior to that. Ultimately, it’s a balancing act of realism vs. intended player experience.
The Gray Box
To be honest, all the doc preparation in the world doesn’t change the fact that level design is ultimately an organic process once you get into the engine itself; it’s strictly a set of guidelines to help propel the work along. Planning for the space isn’t quite the same as working within it. New ideas form, plans change, and feedback is taken into account. That’s just the way things go.
So why all the initial work on paper? I think Eisenhower said it best:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Personally, I build much faster and more effectively with a handful of guidelines established.
The first stage of actual level creation is known as the gray box. Temporary assets are used to block out the various rooms and corridors, stub out points of interest, and ultimately create the framework for a playable area. It’s not pretty, but it’s the bone structure of the game world’s physical space. A designer’s job is to make it functional and effective; an artist will make it look damn good later!
Gray boxing is a critical phase in the life of a level. Iterations can be performed fairly quickly at this point without as much risk of the changes impacting other departments. We play through the level frequently to feel out travel times, sight lines, room designs, verticality, and all manner of minutiae. Side paths, alternate routes, and the like are implemented and tested.
Gray box sections can even be provided to art as reference for more accurate concepting of props and space purposes.
Feedback is taken and adjustments are made accordingly. As a general rule, I assume that nothing is right the first time; iteration is the key to a polished design.
Stubbing in the Gameplay
Once the gray box geometry begins to stabilize, encounters and event markers can be stubbed in. Even if the correct creatures aren’t available, something can always be placed as an approximation. This allows us to:
Plan encounter locations
Plot patrol paths
Arrange stealth routes or alternative solutions to combat
Test the overall pacing in a variety of playstyles
From a non-combat perspective, we can also start plotting the specifics of:
Key item placement (Weapons,
Progression items or stand-ins, Information provisions critical to narrative)
Event areas for scripting
Polish and Iteration and Iteration and Iteration and...
As you’d expect, all of this is run through another round of feedback and iterations! This cycle of adjustments continues until design signs off and hands the level over to the artists so that they can work their own magic. While they do that, we can continue to iterate on and polish the non-geometry gameplay elements -- though the occasional change to geo may still be necessary. Nature of the beast, and all.
Throughout the entire level design process, communication lines are kept open with the Art department and ideas are shared about the look, shapes, or visual goals. It’s not enough to just pass them a box and say “make this pretty.” They have their own goals to meet and intentions to express, so a strong dialogue between level designers and artists is critical to making sure that everyone is getting what they need out of the world that’s being built.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek under the hood at how a level initially takes shape. I’m sure Art’s side of the process would have cooler things to show but, hey, a level’s gotta start somewhere!
CS:GO "Oceanic Ordinance"
Calling all CS:GO players! Come vote for the "Oceanic Ordinance", a custom P90 with the Nightdive Studios logo paint job.
Join the Nightdive Discord!
almost 2 years ago
– Sat, Jul 08, 2017 at 11:34:32 PM
This post is for backers only. Please visit Kickstarter.com and log in to read.
almost 2 years ago
– Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 12:02:44 AM
Hi everyone! Jason here to share how E3 went for me and the team. We didn’t have an official presence at E3 this year, but a few of us attended.
The biggest thing we noticed was all of the new attendees this year with the public badges. The E3 folks assigned bright neon yellow/green badges to them, so they stood out amidst the clear-plastic dev badges. This turned into an interesting social study for myself. E3’s of the past were filled with devs walking around the show floor, looking tired and apathetic to their surroundings. This year, however, over half of the faces I saw (ie, the public attendees) were filled with excitement and enthusiasm. I know other devs have bemoaned the very crowded show floor, but to me, I was delighted to see so much appreciation for the game industry.
It reminded me of the first time I went to E3 over 15 years ago and how I felt seeing all of the games being presented directly by their developers. Everything was fresh and new. Over time, devs get used to all of that and the luster tends to fade. Seeing a bunch of new faces at E3 this year excited to see everything was truly inspiring. Sure it was more crowded, but I’d rather see crowds of people with amazed looks on their faces than tired devs any day!
Another thing that happened at E3 was running into some amazing Shock fans. It warms my heart whenever someone recognizes us and lets us know how much the Shock series has meant to them, and how much they’re looking forward to our reboot. In general, as you folks have noticed through Discord, I love talking to the community and hearing everyone’s thoughts, and experiencing that in person is even more of a treat :-D
Oh, another thing some of you may have noticed is that I did a few interviews during E3. The interview with NVIDIA and my shiny head has been posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj52BqZVG-c I did another interview with Epic for Unreal stuff which should be posted soon. In every interview I do, I always do my best to acknowledge our loyal backers and how awesome all of you are :-)
Steam Summer Sale!
It is finally that time of the year again, the Steam Summer Sale! Lots of Nightdive Studios titles discounted up to 85%! https://goo.gl/EnEM8t
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:
May Update: Dev Diary Audio Edition
about 2 years ago
– Thu, May 18, 2017 at 11:55:40 PM
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:
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!
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.
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!
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:
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!