Nightdive Studios’ remake of System Shock has been put on hiatus, according to a company statement obtained by Polygon and due to be sent to Kickstarter backers today. The game had been funded by a $1.35 million Kickstarter campaign that attracted 21,625 backers.
In the statement from Nightdive, CEO Stephen Kick wrote, “I have put the team on a hiatus while we reassess our path so that we can return to our vision. We are taking a break, but not ending the project. System Shock is going to be completed and all of our promises fulfilled.”
The Kickstarter campaign took place in the summer of 2016. Nightdive was giving progress updates to backers as recently as January, when the studio posted a concept art video. The game was originally scheduled to be released at the end of 2017.
A source familiar with the project, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Polygon that “mission creep” and unrealistic ambitions had eaten up the Kickstarter funds, something that Nightdive largely confirmed. In an interview with Polygon, director of business development Larry Kuperman said that a strategy to pitch the game to publishers, in order to secure more funding, had not been successful. He added that around 15 contract workers will no longer be working on the game, but that Nightdive is not laying off any full-time staff.
Kuperman said that he had been speaking with various publishers about funding development, but that Nightdive’s vision and ambition did not match with market expectations. “A shiny new thing comes along and gets added to the project,” he said. “And our developers wanted to add their own ideas. The vision expanded.”
After the hiatus, said Kuperman, development will begin again, with some creators of the original demo — which attracted so much interest on Kickstarter — likely returning to work on the project. When pressed for a timeline, he estimated the game’s release at “18 to 24 months” from now.
The game was pitched as a faithful recreation of System Shock, the much-admired 1994 sci-fi first-person action adventure, to be released for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Nightdive’s hiatus announcement does not affect Otherside Entertainment’s work on a new game in the series, System Shock 3.
Nightdive originally created its remake in the Unity engine, but switched to the Unreal Engine last year. The company announced the project in 2015, shortly after releasing an enhanced edition of System Shock. Kuperman said that Nightdive will continue to use the Unreal Engine, and will incorporate many of the assets that the studio has already created.
Kuperman said that “mistakes were made,” but added that the company is determined to honor its Kickstarter commitments, using funds from sales of other classic games updated and re-released by the company.
In his prepared statement, Kick acknowledged that the project had gone awry. “Maybe we lost our focus,” he wrote. “The vision began to change. We moved from a Remaster to a completely new game. We ... strayed from the core concepts of the original title.
“As the budget grew, we began a long series of conversations with potential publishing partners. The more that we worked on the game, the more that we wanted to do, and the further we got from the original concepts that made System Shock so great.”
He added, “Ultimately the responsibility for the decisions rests with me. As the CEO and founder of Nightdive Studios ... I let things get out of control. I can tell you that I did it for all the right reasons, that I was totally committed to making a great game, but it has become clear to me that we took the wrong path, that we turned our backs on the very people who made this possible, our Kickstarter backers.”