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.