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Re: System Shock - The Remake

And I have already played through it, and dumped a massive wall of notes on the devs. :D

I'm actually impressed with how much of the "feel" of the original System Shock this very early demo of the first level was able to deliver, considering they rebuilt the whole thing from scratch in Unreal. (Maybe that's as much a testament to the amazing design of the original as it is to the skill of the NightDive team.)

The only thing I really dislike is how horribly dark they've made the whole level -- we're talking DOOM 3 dark here. And there's no flashlight. It's really unnecessary; the geometry of the levels makes it easy for hostiles to hide and get the drop on you if you're not careful, deliberate, and leeeeeeeeeeaning around corners. Instead, the first level in the remake demo is just pitch black nearly everywhere, lit only by the occasional spotlight and the vast quantity of day-glo neon wall lights covering every wall and ceiling and floor (but which barely emit any area light). This makes it darn near impossible to really explore the game world -- the only way to know if an interactible object is nearby is if the cursor changes because you were close enough to such an object and accidentally put the cursor over it.

The original game does include a head-mounted lamp. So theoretically the remake could drop a lamp hardware on some other level somewhere, then let you backtrack to roam around the dark first level again (with respawning enemies to steal some of your ammo). But that really doesn't seem to me to be a good way of maintaining the game's intensity. So I've "explained" all this to the devs. Again. At length. That will surely make them change their minds, right? :lol:

Anyway, lighting aside, it's fantastic just how much of the original game's goodness is in this remake demo, while it still improves dramatically on that game's graphics. (Puzzles are getting a much-deserved update, too. That's one of the few parts of the original game I thought hasn't held up well.)

There's even... but I won't spoil it. If you get some time today -- while the demo is still available to non-backers -- you might try it. I'd be interested in hearing what folks here think.

(Notes: If you change the display mode to Fullscreen, the game will crash on you unless you go into /Users/[user]/AppData/Local/SystemReShock/Saved/Config/WindowsNoEditor/GameUserSettings.ini and set the value of FullscreenMode to "1". [Unless they've already fixed this in their first hotfix patch.] Also, you can reload the Magnum by pressing "T" the first time to cycle through ammo, then "R".)

Re: System Shock - The Remake

So it turns out, according to one of the Remake's programmers, that the super-dark thing isn't a design choice (whew!).

It's just an artifact of the Med level just not getting much polish -- including lighting passes -- before the demo was carved off from the main game. (They were trying to hit the deadline of dropping a demo in time for a game awards show.)

I really am very impressed with what the NightDive team have done. After their hiatus and refocus following the initial severe feature creep, it looks like they're keeping most of the original level geometry intact (which IMO is vital for keeping the deliberate pacing that the original game encouraged, which is part of what delivers the memorable "feel" of the original), and limiting themselves to adding on a few areas and inserting plausible small new features into some of the unused or strangely empty areas of the original game. (Working bathrooms, for example, as seen below. Also let me direct your attention to the cylindrically-mapped HUD interface -- look familiar?)

Toilet Shock
487390_20191212171557_1.jpg (153.28 KiB) Viewed 2681 times

The demo shows a good number of the basics of a first-person 3D game: geometry, textures, baked lighting, character movement, three pathfinding enemies, three weapons, UI, Even if some of these come with Unreal, all the specific content still has to be built. But I'm particularly impressed with the amount of world-dynamics special to System Shock that the team have created: level security rating connected to cameras and CPU nodes (both of which can be destroyed to lower the level's security), doors that can't be opened until the level's security is reduced below a certain number, two different (new) working puzzle types, force bridges (!), health/stamina/berserk patches, energy charging stations and batteries, and even the story-critical audio logs and emails. (Cyberspace wasn't part of the demo, but NightDive tell us "it'll be in there.")

There are still a lot of core features to implement, and to add across multiple levels, and a massive amount of polishing and testing needed. First half of 2021 would be my guess for this one... but unless NightDive have a collective brain fart and decide to transmogrify the primary play experience into a run-n-gun Action Game, it's looking like the wait will be worth it for this one.

I'm a bit more than cautiously optimistic that today's gamers are finally going to get to see why geezers like me have raved about System Shock for 25 years.

Re: System Shock - The Remake

Dinosawer wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 3:29 pm
The demo is available again (and updated, presumably).

It is indeed, and from both GOG and Steam -- but only for a limited time:

I've played through it -- the NightDive team are really doing a great job with it. There are some things that bug me about it, but of course there are. :D Mostly I'm impressed with how well they've kept much of the original feel while building new graphics that actually do improve on the spirit of the original. Robb Waters, who did the art for the original game, is doing the art design for this remake, so it's not entirely crazy that the new art works. But you never know; and in this case, the look of the Remake really is outstanding.


Re: System Shock - The Remake

I had a very short stab at it (went on until I died, and it doesn't seem to do saving yet so I went to bed after that)
Thoughts so far:
+The aesthetic is fantastic - I really dig the whole high fidelity yet pixelated texture thing
+It's as tense as the original was
+Getting attacked from behind while rummaging through a crate is scary
+You can still lean left and right
-The first rerouting puzzle is confusing - there are two visually identical lights you have to connect, but one of them is the beginning and one is the end. Light only flows into the circuit from the beginning, but there is absolutely no visual clue to this. I may be mistaken, but I also think it flows out of one specific side of the light, which is also not indicated. I started trying to solve the puzzle from the other light and couldn't figure out why nothing was happening.
Aside from that, there's a bunch of endnodes you can interact with that have absolutely no purpose in the puzzle, but I thought they did because as mentioned before, nothing was happening.
(I thought for a brief stint I was supposed to link all of those up to eachother, until that turned out to be impossible)
All in all, this made it feel not like solving a puzzle but like accidentally clicking the right thing to be able to find the solution.
Which is odd because this could be easily fixed by simply having the first element in the puzzle be correctly aligned and thus lit up already, or making the endpoint an unlit lightbulb.
-While the extra environmental clutter is nice, the distinction between 'stuff you can pick up' and 'stuff that is glued to the environment' is unclear.
-Some tutorial prompts seem to be missing cause I didn't figure out how to turn on the minimap or open my inventory (it's quite likely I'm stupid, however)
Warning: do not ask about physics unless you really want to know about physics.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

On the one hand, while I've been pretty much a hardline purist about NightDive Studios (NDS) not tampering with the mechanics/gameplay of the original System Shock, one area where I think some improvement is appropriate is the puzzles -- the originals just weren't that interesting. So I give credit to NDS for at least trying a few new ideas for puzzles. The two types showed off so far aren't perfect, but they're maybe an OK starting point.

For the "connect the two lights" puzzle, the key is that you're drawing a connected line from the light that's not blinking to the light that is (slowly) blinking. Some time in the past I suggested to NDS that they needed to do more to highlight the Source and (especially) Target light aspects, which I think is when they made the Target light start blinking... but I agree more could be done to make that relationship more obvious so that players immediately understand what they're being asked to do. The other kind of puzzle shown so far is about connecting colored plugs to combiners and splitters to create several lines of the same target color. This is actually a clever puzzle concept, but there's been some question about accessibility for players with certain kinds of color-blindness. More to come on that one, too, I suspect.

The interactible vs. non-interactible object reaction is one that a fair few people (including me) have brought up to NDS. It's definitely annoying that everything looks like something you can grab but some things are just scenery and you can't know until you waste time trying to grab it.

Finally, for the interface bits I don't know if you're using a mouse & keyboard (morally correct) or a controller (bad and wrong and shameful :D ), but on the keyboard at least you can click "I" to bring up the Inventory screen of the full in-game UI (as opposed to the Options UI). The Inventory screen is one of the five screens of the in-game interface; the others (and Inventory) can also be popped on-screen by pressing Tab, then you can switch between them. (The full-size Map is actually pretty handy to find the little orange lights that correspond to level security devices such as cameras that you might not have destroyed yet.)

My biggest concern is the changes they're making to weapons. Not only do I disagree with changing the flechette weapons into machine pistols (ugh) in order to add a boring shotgun, it's what these changes imply to the emphasis of the game that I find most disturbing. There was clearly lots of combat in original System Shock, but (using the default gameplay options) I always felt the fights were secondary to the pleasure of exploring an amazing world, including finding the audiologs and emails that told the story of the doomed Citadel Station. (And remember that System Shock was what pioneered this story-through-audiologs thing, which Ken Levine then re-used in System Shock 2 and Bioshock 1 & 2.) When I see NightDive spending so much time focusing on changing weapons, and presumably enemy weaknesses/strengths, I worry that it's because their team are made of people who think this game is mostly about Adrenaline-Pumping Epic Excitement! (in a pretty world), which is the Bioshock Infinite style rather than cautious, thoughtful exploration (gated by some relatively simple combat challenges) which is what Looking Glass was all about.

I REALLY don't want them messing that up because they think it's OK to change original System Shock into a game that has more of the light tactical sim or DOOM (or -- ugh -- Dark Souls) shooter kind of gameplay they may personally enjoy most. Maybe that concern is not well-founded. I hope that's the case, and the final game winds up keeping the original's emphasis on letting players explore a complex, dynamic world in their preferred pacing. So far I'm not throwing up my hands and howling, "Game over, man, game over!" I'm just watching. Allllwaaays watchinnnnng....

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