System Shock - The Remake

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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Flatfingers » Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:59 pm

Dinosawer wrote:Having played System Shock for the first time last year, I disagree with the notion that the gameplay is lacking by modern standards - the only thing it's missing is a decent UI and a graphics overhaul.

Did you try playing it using the original controls, where both movement and "use/attack" are done through the mouse?

...for when you want that REAL old-school "why am I doing this to myself?" experience. :lol:

Happily, mods -- including the NightDive-endorsed version available on GOG -- provided a kind of WASD-mouselook control scheme, but I still found it a little clunky as one spends a lot of time switching between the world and the inventory. System Shock 2 did this a bit better -- that's a change that would make sense for the System Shock "reboot," I think.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Damocles » Mon Mar 06, 2017 12:42 am

System Shock 1 was designed a lot around the point and click exploration style that was popular back then (Lucasfilm games style).
Where you had to actively find object in the world and interact witch them. Nowerdays people would bite their keyboard if you would ask them to actively pick up any item and manage then
inventory by jumping out of the "movement" mode, and use the mouse to hover over objects.

But by using the modern approach to pickup object actively or pop up a "use this" marker by being close (elevator door etc), you also take out a lot of the exploration of the environment.
Things cant be hidden in the same way (secret button).
This would make is necessary to change the puzzles, and make item use more simple.
Also the player would not read item descriptions if they are completely working automatically. Back then a lot was done with text.

Another thing is the AI. Back then it was emergent enough to have an enemy stand there, walk towards you and shoot. Usually in a narrow corridor, as the play wasnt able to quickly turn with this control scheme.
Enemies in a modern game would have to have a more complex behavior. Wich also makes in necessary to change to level layout to allow for different AI behaviors.
(sneaky stealth AI, AI taking cover, AI jumping out of air vent, AI shooting from long distance, many small suicidal critter AI charging you, AI flanking you - trying to surround you)
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Dinosawer » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:06 am

Er, yeah, I did use the WASD+mouselook which is in the enhanced edition by default. I'm not quite that old-school :ghost:
The whole "stop using mouselook to drag stuff in and out of your inventory is one of the things that need an overhaul indeed.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Flatfingers » Mon Mar 06, 2017 2:30 am

Damocles, there are a few places where our perspectives are imperfectly aligned. ;)

Damocles wrote:System Shock 1 was designed a lot around the point and click exploration style that was popular back then (Lucasfilm games style). Where you had to actively find object in the world and interact witch them. Nowerdays people would bite their keyboard if you would ask them to actively pick up any item and manage then inventory by jumping out of the "movement" mode, and use the mouse to hover over objects.

I don't think I've ever read any interviews or post-mortems where Looking Glass developers cited graphical adventure games as an influence in their UI. If they did, could you point me to a source for that? (I'm not saying "you're wrong!" if there's no such source; I'm just curious if there is.)

My perspective is that System Shock was the next game that Looking Glass did after their first title (as Blue Sky Productions), Ultima Underworld, and both of these games shared the same mouse control scheme. So UU (released in 1992) would have to have been the game whose interface was somehow inspired by click-to-get-a-description from graphical adventure games. I'm not saying this is impossible; I'm saying it's actually a pretty interesting theory.

But I don't think I'm ready to agree that clicking on a thing in the world to show information about it would upset today's gamers. For one thing, System Shock is a cyberpunk game, where the very first thing that happens is a cutscene where you're told you had a "military-grade neural interface" attached. So when you click on a wall and the text "industrial-grade tiling" is displayed in a line at the bottom of your in-world screen, why would that upset any gamer today? It makes perfect sense within the world of System Shock, where your character, a hacker, wears a neural interface between you and the world.

To the question of whether a pop-up inventory would freak out today's gamers, I'm not sure about that, either. System Shock 2's players don't seem to mind it. It worked fine for Deus Ex. More recently, the gamers who made the two very latest Deus Ex games big sellers don't appear to have had any problem playing "inventory Tetris." And you might even say that Skyrim is worse; instead of a graphical inventory grid it uses words! Yet it sold like hotcakes.

On balance, I don't think most people who'd play a System Shock remake would have any problem with an in-world inventory screen, whether textual like the original System Shock or gridded like System Shock 2. There's a question as to whether action in the world should pause while one is shuffling through goodies, but it didn't in the original System Shock (whether in the mouse-only mode it started with or the modded WASD+mouselook mode), so no change needed there.

Damocles wrote:But by using the modern approach to pickup object actively or pop up a "use this" marker by being close (elevator door etc), you also take out a lot of the exploration of the environment. Things cant be hidden in the same way (secret button). This would make is necessary to change the puzzles, and make item use more simple.

Er... so don't do that, then?

Damocles wrote:Also the player would not read item descriptions if they are completely working automatically. Back then a lot was done with text.

As per above, nearly all item descriptions in the original -- both in-world and the extended descriptions in the overlays -- were optional. There were a few exceptions, such as needing to find the right interface panel for the interface module on the Maintenance level. But that was part of the fun; you'd click on a panel and be told it was "relay 101" or the "soylant [sic] green filtration control". Why is that bad design, which needs to be changed in some way, just because it's text?

Damocles wrote:Another thing is the AI. Back then it was emergent enough to have an enemy stand there, walk towards you and shoot. Usually in a narrow corridor, as the play wasnt able to quickly turn with this control scheme. Enemies in a modern game would have to have a more complex behavior. Wich also makes in necessary to change to level layout to allow for different AI behaviors. (sneaky stealth AI, AI taking cover, AI jumping out of air vent, AI shooting from long distance, many small suicidal critter AI charging you, AI flanking you - trying to surround you)

Here I think we agree a little... but just a little. :)

I like smart AI opponents too, in certain games. Did you play the original F.E.A.R. by Monolith (the folks who made the awesome No One Lives Forever games)? The enemies in F.E.A.R. could work with each other so that some of them wound pin you behind cover while others tried to flank you. Fortunately you had the "bullet-time" ability, which evened the odds, and made for a really distinctive and enjoyable tactical shooter experience.

But what was appropriate for F.E.A.R., because every part of it was designed to support that kind of gameplay, is not appropriate for other games. If you try to impose that kind of play on System Shock, you risk completely breaking what gave System Shock its own distinctive kind of fun.

I replayed parts of System Shock tonight, and confirmed my recollection that the level layouts of System Shock are extremely complex. Nearly every level (Security is an exception) is crammed with lots of corners. A lot of levels also effectively use verticality (which Security has in spades!) to hide opponents that will take you out if you just run around with guns blazing. Many levels even have a few DOOM-like "monster boxes" where crossing a line or activating something will open up a door out of which pop irritated cyborgs or sec-bots, further encouraging caution.

And that's the critical feature that System Shock's original level design delivered: deliberate pacing. The most important point to make about changing the level design for "smarter" enemies is that it would speed up the pacing. I think doing that would break the kind of game that System Shock was, turning it into an unrecognizably different game. At that point, how is calling it "System Shock" truthful?

There is an enormous difference between the deliberate, "you'd better be careful" pacing of System Shock and the pace of play in a run-n-gun shooter like DOOM, whose developers literally tell you that you must always be in motion. If you played the original System Shock like you play DOOM or similar twitch-shooters, you would not only die a lot from hidden enemies, you would miss an enormous amount of cool things to discover through exploration.

Furthermore, as you yourself point out, System Shock had puzzles. Not "find the key" puzzles, but actual STOP, look for patterns, think about things carefully, form hypotheses, imagine creative solutions, and test those possible solutions gameplay. This was also a major part of the pacing of System Shock. Could you get rid of those puzzles, maybe because you have to because you've simplified the level design and made enemies a lot more mobile? Sure. And now you've taken away another key feature that made System Shock so unlike other games.

If that's the kind of game NightDive wants, why even bother starting with System Shock as a base?

Certainly they could make a version of System Shock that, by streamlining all the level geometry and eliminating all the puzzles, supports a more DOOM-like (you might even say Metroid-like) pacing where the player must constantly be in motion to avoid numbers of roaming and tactically-aware enemies. That might be an interesting game. But it would no longer be recognizable as System Shock.

The story and levels and opponents and objects by themselves are not (with the exception of SHODAN) what distinguishes System Shock from other games -- it is the pacing, which emerges naturally due to complex level geometry, thought-rewarding puzzles (and I don't mean just the wire-connecting ones), careful placement of and gating to ever-more-powerful weapons, and relatively static enemies. All of these key design features together encourage slower and more deliberate exploration. Streamline the levels and mechanics from the original System Shock's design, whether to try to produce more tactically-energetic enemies or for any other reason, and that "System Shock" will be just another twitch-action shooter instead of the thoughtful action-exploration game that the original was, not by accident or because of clunky controls, but by design.

So I will continue to think, and say, that there are plenty of twitch-action shooters available, and it's perfectly fine that there are... but there have never been enough thoughtful action-exploration games. And therefore it will IMO be an inexplicable and unnecessary mistake for NightDive to destroy the rare intelligent game that the original System Shock was consciously designed to be by "streamlining" any aspect of its design to make a reboot instead of a proper remake.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Damocles » Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:28 am

I don't think I've ever read any interviews or post-mortems where Looking Glass developers cited graphical adventure games as an influence in their UI. If they did, could you point me to a source for that? (I'm not saying "you're wrong!" if there's no such source; I'm just curious if there is.)

Ok, maybe the Lucasart games are not the right comparison.
Closer would be games like "Eye of the Beholder" or "Ultima Underworld", that are quite similar in pacing and use of the world as in System Shock 1.
(minus using a 4 team party)

A modern interpretation of this style is "Legend of Grimrock".

In those kind of "Dungeon Explorer" games, the player will play slower than in a Quake like game, and be more observant of the environment and hints hidden in it.

System Shock strikes me as a game, that was designed in this manner, just with the new possibility to use realtime textured 3D rendering (and not just 2D sprite perspective projection/combination "faking" 3D as in the older games).
But using a very similar "flow" of the game, having a slower, more observant pacing.
The realtime 3D rendering gave the gamedesigners the option for a more varied level layout than the classic block-tile style.

Anyhow, have not played System Shock 1 for many years.

System Shock 2 would transfer much easier by just updating the graphics, it fits much closer with the modern expectations on a first person "action" game.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Cornflakes_91 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:38 am

Flatfingers wrote:I like smart AI opponents too, in certain games. Did you play the original F.E.A.R. by Monolith (the folks who made the awesome No One Lives Forever games)? The enemies in F.E.A.R. could work with each other so that some of them wound pin you behind cover while others tried to flank you. Fortunately you had the "bullet-time" ability, which evened the odds, and made for a really distinctive and enjoyable tactical shooter experience.

But what was appropriate for F.E.A.R., because every part of it was designed to support that kind of gameplay, is not appropriate for other games. If you try to impose that kind of play on System Shock, you risk completely breaking what gave System Shock its own distinctive kind of fun.

I replayed parts of System Shock tonight, and confirmed my recollection that the level layouts of System Shock are extremely complex. Nearly every level (Security is an exception) is crammed with lots of corners. A lot of levels also effectively use verticality (which Security has in spades!) to hide opponents that will take you out if you just run around with guns blazing. Many levels even have a few DOOM-like "monster boxes" where crossing a line or activating something will open up a door out of which pop irritated cyborgs or sec-bots, further encouraging caution.

And that's the critical feature that System Shock's original level design delivered: deliberate pacing. The most important point to make about changing the level design for "smarter" enemies is that it would speed up the pacing. I think doing that would break the kind of game that System Shock was, turning it into an unrecognizably different game. At that point, how is calling it "System Shock" truthful?

There is an enormous difference between the deliberate, "you'd better be careful" pacing of System Shock and the pace of play in a run-n-gun shooter like DOOM, whose developers literally tell you that you must always be in motion. If you played the original System Shock like you play DOOM or similar twitch-shooters, you would not only die a lot from hidden enemies, you would miss an enormous amount of cool things to discover through exploration.

Furthermore, as you yourself point out, System Shock had puzzles. Not "find the key" puzzles, but actual STOP, look for patterns, think about things carefully, form hypotheses, imagine creative solutions, and test those possible solutions gameplay. This was also a major part of the pacing of System Shock. Could you get rid of those puzzles, maybe because you have to because you've simplified the level design and made enemies a lot more mobile? Sure. And now you've taken away another key feature that made System Shock so unlike other games.

If that's the kind of game NightDive wants, why even bother starting with System Shock as a base?

Certainly they could make a version of System Shock that, by streamlining all the level geometry and eliminating all the puzzles, supports a more DOOM-like (you might even say Metroid-like) pacing where the player must constantly be in motion to avoid numbers of roaming and tactically-aware enemies. That might be an interesting game. But it would no longer be recognizable as System Shock.
.


I'd like to argue that you need smarter enemies to enable slower pacing.
A dumb enemy doesnt need me to stop and think about what to do, if i can predict what its going to do with high certainity i can just walz through and dont think about it beyond the actual kinematics.
The enemy also doesnt slow down or stop to improve his tactical situation, they just walk their path and/or charge me (with varying degrees of kinematic refinement).

With smart AI i have to think about what to do and solve the puzzle that is the tactical situation
(Like i did in the deus ex games with lots of fun, despite their still relatively simple AI).
the pieces need to interact and work with/against each other to provide interesting gameplay.

(Analogy: my new pyraminix. The tip pieces rotate on their own without influencing any other parts, i dont even bother with scrambling them because its pointless)
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Scytale » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:31 am

I guess that because of the level design, the AI may not need an overhaul; if we need to overhaul the AI to slow down the pacing because we changed the level design to speed up the pacing, then we're just trying to solve a problem we made for no reason. More to the point, at that point we're not dealing with System Shock anymore but another game that we just give the same name.

Having to update the AI without changing the level design (which is probably what you meant cf) would be nice I guess, but why fix what ain't broke? Development resources could be applied to other things.

A crucial point about Flat's argument is that the comparisons he draws are not between games of that era and games of this era, which looks to be the basis of Damocles's argument, but between different games of the same era. There will have been gamers who wouldn't have liked System Shock in '94 because they were the demographic targeted by Doom, and vice versa. In this framework, all that is needed is new graphics and maybe the UI.

To say that gamers today wouldn't have the patience to deal with the kinds of inventory, UI etc of the original game is a slight to gamers today.

I say all this as one who's only played System Shock 2, and that only a little bit.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Cornflakes_91 » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:45 am

Scy, i ment mostly to argue against Flat's statement of "smart AI quicken the pacing"
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Scytale » Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:47 am

Cornflakes_91 wrote:Scy, i ment mostly to argue against Flat's statement of "smart AI quicken the pacing"


Oh I see, yes I misunderstood Flat's original statement. Gotta work on my reading comprehension these days. Sorry!
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System Shock - The "Faithful Reboot"

Postby Flatfingers » Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:25 am

NightDive's Jason Fader has posted some responses to the many questions asked after discussing the Unreal'ed System Shock reboot trailer.

You can find his comments (and those of the audio lead) in this Kickstarter update. But here's what I consider to be the most important excerpt:

Q: What does “Faithful Reboot” mean? What are you changing from Shock 1?

Jason Fader: ... After having numerous meetings with the original Shock 1 devs about the story, levels, etc, it became clear there were a lot of things they would have done differently.

Early in development, we started meeting with those former LGS guys and started asking the question “What would you do differently with today’s technology?” The answers were overwhelming. I think the funniest answer was “Less grenade types for sure”. At that point we realized this needed to be a reboot, but maintain the spirit of Shock 1. Whenever we look at the design, or art, or audio even, we ask ourselves “What would LGS do?”. The answer becomes clear after understanding LGS was about innovation, trying new things and bringing together concepts unheard of in games before them. We see ourselves as maintaining that tradition, and chat with the LGS guys to ensure what we’re doing holds up to their expectations. ...

So what’s different? We’re changing very little of the story other than refining the dialogue and plugging plot holes. Gameplay will be different, but more of an evolution of the original to get combat feeling more reactive and systems with an expected level of depth. Again, a lot of these changes come down to understanding what LGS would do if they were making Shock 1 anew today.

Levels will harken back to the original game thematically, but the layout will see a pretty big change to apply modern level design principles for pacing and exploration. We’re not going to dumb things down, but we also don’t want to ignore the last 20 years of progress level design has made.

I would like to know specifically what they think these "modern level design principles" are that are so different today that the original levels must be radically altered.

That said, this partially responds to some of the questions I asked, and I respect the NightDive team for making that effort to communicate.
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Re: System Shock - The Remake

Postby Flatfingers » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:13 am

On the other hand, there is this, from a great conversation PC Gamer had with Warren Spector, Harvey Smith, Steve Gaynor, and others about what makes an "immersive sim":

Steve Gaynor: I replayed System Shock 1, and it was sort of a surprise to me to realize there is no skill tree. There is no economy. This is about a place, and you as a character with a role in it. It has enemies in it, different ways you can address problems, but there's so much that we think of as being part of what an immersive sim is that is really just the version of it that we've arrived at.

Warren Spector: In some sense, actually, System Shock is actually the purest expression of what an immersive sim can and should be. All the character stats, upgradeable this and economy that, all that stuff you were talking about, it kind of turns things into a hybrid RPG-immersive sim thing that I love, I absolutely adore that kind of game, but in a sense if you're talking about the absolute purest form of the genre, for me it's going to be System Shock.
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