GOG Interview: learn more about System Shock’s remake straight from its creators

Only 8 days left before the release of 2023’s System Shock – the fully fledged remake of the groundbreaking original from the 1994. The excitement and anticipation is absolutely through the roof!
To ease our wait and learn more about the upcoming Night Dive Studios’ title, we had the absolute pleasure of talking to Stephen Kick, Founder and CEO of Night Dive Studios.
We asked him about how the idea of the remake was born, what was the development process like, what changes can we expect, and more! Hope you’ll enjoy the read as much as we enjoyed talking to Stephen.
System Shock games are one of the most beloved and iconic titles of all time. Working on a remake of 1994’s original must have been quite an endeavor. Could you shed more light about how it came to be?
When we first released the Enhanced Edition of System Shock with the addition of mouse look we saw a whole new audience discovering the game for the first time. With that one simple update the game suddenly became much more accessible and it sparked our curiosity. What else can we do to make System Shock more enjoyable? From there we were fortunate enough to access the original source code which enabled us to add a number of additional features thanks to our KEX engine. Again, we saw a substantial influx of players and again we thought, “how can we push this even further?”
At this time I was browsing a game art forum and I discovered the work of Howie Day. Howie was working on fan art of Star Wars: Dark Forces and it captured my imagination. The art style appeared modern but seamlessly blended the throwback aesthetic of chunky pixels and retro graphics. I reached out and hired him to help create a prototype of what would become the demo we offered potential backers on Kickstarter. The campaign was a success and after we raised $1.35 million the development of the System Shock Remake officially began.
What was the overall approach when you started working on the project, any principles that you were guided by?
As with all our games at Nightdive we wanted to stay true to the original vision. We didn’t want to tamper with what made the games special but simply to enhance enough of what was there to bring something new for longtime fans. It was important that the story remained the same and that the overall structure of the levels remained intact, but we certainly took liberties with the design and layout. From the very beginning we worked with the original artist behind System Shock, Robb Waters to ensure that everything felt uniquely Shock.
What was the most challenging part about the development process of the remake?
One of the most challenging aspects of development was truly understanding the legacy of System Shock. Shock is one of the most influential games of all time and is responsible for spawning an entire genre of games. It took a while to sink in but at one point we had to make the heart wrenching decision to scrap years of work because it didn’t do justice to that legacy. We sacrificed our entire budget and tens of thousands of hours of work because what we were making wasn’t Shock. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but the System Shock we have today is something we’re genuinely proud of and it’s our hope it lives up to the expectations of our backers and longtime fans.
And what was the most fun part about it?
The most fun part about developing System Shock has been watching the project evolve over the years into what we have now. It went from a prototype built in Unity that featured a few rooms and enemies, into a Unreal powered “beautiful corner,” and finally a completely re-imagined playable game built by an extremely talented, passionate team of developers who poured their hearts and souls into it. It’s truly a miracle that System Shock is in your hands today.
To touch more about the “remake” part – the original game was known for its iconic and, at the time, ground-breaking features. Could you tell us what can we expect in terms of changes? Are there any elements that were completely changed? Anything that remained the same?
We made some pretty substantial changes to a number of systems. The User Interface has been completely re-designed to be more accessible and is more akin to System Shock 2 than the original. The weapons have all been overhauled and re-designed and include upgrades you can discover. There is also a recycling system, vending machines, and most importantly Cyberspace is now a fun, intuitive game within a game that offers its own unique challenges. It’s safe to say that everything has seen some level of change but I believe it all feels like it belongs in the Shock universe.
As for things that stayed the same, players can expect to find all the original levels, and the same cast of characters and enemies, although they’ve all been expanded upon to add some new surprises to discover.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our community before they’ll discover or rediscover the amazing world of System Shock?
The original System Shock is truly a classic and it’s my hope our efforts do justice to the legacy forged by both Origin Systems & LookingGlass Technologies. Shock has been in development for nearly 7 years and it’s honestly a miracle the game is finally here - I sincerely hope you enjoy your time aboard Citadel Station, just don’t forget to salt the fries :)
We’d like to thank Stephen and the whole crew of Night Dive Studios very much for the ability to speak to them and learn more about System Shock. We absolutely cannot wait for the release and to once again sink our teeth into one of the best video game franchises of all time.
Be sure to pre-order the game, as everyone who purchases it will receive System Shock 2: Enhanced Edition as a gift once it's released!