About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier
Forums
"Music"



Nightdive is Still Alive

By Shamus
on Sunday May 6, 2018
Filed under:
Video Games

 
 

You might remember a few months ago I wrote about the sad story of Nightdive Studios. They got to rights to remake the 1994 classic System Shock. They made a dynamite demo and raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter. And then six months into development they threw away the demo and started over with a new graphics engine. A year later they (apparently) ran out of money and shut the project down. In the process, they laid off 15 people.

I predicted the project was dead at this point, but it looks like I was wrong. They’ve gone back to a design that matches the original demo and begun work on the low-tech version of the game they started with.

I don’t have much to say about what they’re doing, but after writing that very negative column back in February I thought I should at least acknowledge this change in direction. I don’t know what money they’re living on at this pointThey worked on the game for 18 months and employed 15 people. Even if everyone was talking a very modest salary and the company didn’t have a lot of operating expenses, the initial Kickstarter money ought to be long gone by now., but I’m glad work has resumed on the project.

While I still strongly disagree with their previous decisions, I think this new direction is the best possible response. I can’t think of anything the team could do at this point that would placate meWhich is OBVIOUSLY their priority at this point, right? more than what they’re doing now.

I wouldn’t say I’m feeling “hopeful” about the project at this point, but I’m no longer assuming the entire enterprise is doomed. And that’s sort of like being hopeful. I guess.

Best of luck to the team.

Footnotes:

[1] They worked on the game for 18 months and employed 15 people. Even if everyone was talking a very modest salary and the company didn’t have a lot of operating expenses, the initial Kickstarter money ought to be long gone by now.

[2] Which is OBVIOUSLY their priority at this point, right?


 
 
Comments (42)

  1. Liessa says:

    It sounds like they got external funding from somewhere. Which does seem to make the original Kickstarter rather pointless, but heigh-ho. Let’s hope they manage to deliver what they originally promised without too many compromises.

    • TheJungerLudendorff says:

      Shamus did note in his original post that they seemed to be courting publishers and such, so maybe they were succesful in that after all.

      • turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

        I don’t know about that, and they haven’t given any indication that is the case. They did say that a big reason for the original change to Unreal and the scope creep was a verbal agreement from a publisher to publish the game if they made those changes. Obviously, this “refocusing” happened when that deal failed to materialize.

        • ElementalAlchemist says:

          Per business development director Larry Kuperman:

          We’ve also had renewed interest from some publishing partners, for whom the more complex and costly game was something of a challenge for them, that this is what they were hoping we would provide.

          https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-03-23-system-shock-remake-is-still-happening-says-nightdive-studios-now-due-in-2020

          From CEO Stephen Kick (madness, never do anything without a formal written agreement):

          At what point in time, roughly, had NDS realized scope creep had hit the project?

          It was soon after the Kickstarter when the team offered many suggestions that seemed great on their own, but in aggregate represented too much of a departure. However, I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.

          https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598858095/system-shock/posts/2135868

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I don’t have much to say about what they’re doing

    You arent kidding.This is the shortest entry you wrote in months.

    As for them,yeah its nice that they want back to basics.Its a shame the whole fiasco had to happen,but whats done is done.

  3. Droid says:

    Despite the brevity, this typo managed to sneak in through the back door:

    I’m felling “hopeful”

  4. James says:

    they ran out of money and shut the project down

    You said that last time too. Where is this from? I can’t find anything about them running out of money.

    They’ve gone back to the original demo and begun work on the low-tech version of the game they started with.

    The demo was on Unity. The current version is on Unreal Engine 4.

    • Methermeneus says:

      In reverse order:

      I haven’t been paying attention to Nightdive, so I don’t know what engine they’re doing their demo in, but in his last article on the subject, Shamus talked about how they redesigned all of their assets such that what formerly looked like a modern System Shock remake (the stated goal) now looked like a generic corridor shooter. If they’re reversing that artistic decision, that sounds like a good idea. His only issue with the engine migration was that it seemed stupid to switch at that point in the project and that, combined with other factors, made it look like Nightdive was shopping for publisher backing. If they’re sticking with Unreal, that’s probably actually good, given all the resources they’ve poured into that platform at this point; I think “low tech” refers to an art style over graphical effects approach, regardless of engine.

      As for money, Nightdive never said they ran out. However, they had a staff list, they were working on the game for an amount of time, and their Kickstarter funding is a matter of public record; if the staff at Nightdive were making anything approaching a reasonable wage for their work, the only possibilities are that they got private or corporate backing (unlikely, given the nature of the project) or they ran out of money. You don’t always have to rely on press releases; sometimes you can think and figure stuff out. And Shamus did explain last time, in some detail, why he came to the conclusion that the studio ran out of money.

      • James says:

        made it look like Nightdive was shopping for publisher backing

        They were. In fact they had a verbal agreement with a publisher which is apparently why they brought on more staff and increased the scope of the game. Then the publisher pulled out after 7 months. Detailed in https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598858095/system-shock/posts/2135868

        • Methermeneus says:

          In that case, they suck at business. A verbal agreement is worthless when money is involved (and I knew that when I was ten), and they more than ran through the Kickstarter money. I kinda forgive the feature creep, though: Anyone who pays any attention to the business side of games (even just as much as reading Shamus’ blog or watching Extra Credits) would know to watch out for that, but if they relied on a verbal agreement for funds of a level that would keep a game studio open, obviously they never even considered the business side of things. So, the problem is apparently that they suck at planning and finance.

          As the saying goes, “Never attribute to malice [or greed] that which can be attributed to stupidity [or incompetence].”

    • Shamus says:

      “You said that last time too. Where is this from? I can’t find anything about them running out of money.”

      They never said so, but like I said in the post it’s a pretty straightforward extrapolation. If You give me $100 and you witness me spending $20 a week then in 5 weeks the money is gone. Maybe I got other money from somewhere else, but I’ve still spent the $100.

      If Nightdive wants to explain their financials then we can talk about real numbers, but until then all we have is extrapolation. Yes, they might have other money from somewhere. But then again, they ought to make info like that public when asking for backing, and they REALLY ought to make it public when shutting the project down.

      “The demo was on Unity. The current version is on Unreal Engine 4.”

      Ah. The new demo looks so much like the Unity version I thought they’d reverted. I’ll amend the post.

      • James says:

        Only thing I can find about money is this https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598858095/system-shock/posts/2135868

        We still have the funds necessary to complete the game, but the timeline will inevitably move back with our shift in direction.

        • Wolf says:

          You guys seem to be working from entirely different perspectives here.
          You seem to be looking for a quote by Nightdive about their money spendings,
          while Shamus deeply distrusts their public statements and is looking at the other available information instead. And that data indicates they used the kickstarter money (or other money of equal amount) to pay developers they employed.

          • James says:

            If I had understood it as speculation, then I wouldn’t have gone looking to find the source.

          • Matt Downie says:

            These days I tend to assume that any big Kickstarter project has a separate line of finance (for example, the money that was spent on making the Unity demo must have come from somewhere). This is usually kept secret from the KS backers, because it would make them feel unimportant if they knew.

      • Jabberwok says:

        Is this Nightdive’s only project? I thought they did a good bit of work porting older games. I know I’ve played a number of games with the Nightdive logo at start up. Maybe they’re using the company’s money from outside of the KS…

        • Ranneko says:

          That seems pretty likely, and it was pointed out that they likely have other sources of money last time too.

          Shamus seems to have assumed that the kickstarter funds was the entirely of the development budget, which isn’t a very good assumption.

  5. Decius says:

    One of the great things about Kickstarter is that you can point at post-KS sales of similar games and tell potential investors “This is market research that you don’t have to pay for that is also literally impossible to fake.”

  6. groboclown says:

    A little while ago, Nightdrive also released the original System Shock source code

    https://github.com/NightDiveStudios/shockmac

    So an enterprising individual could remap keys, redo the controls, and modify the UI layout.

  7. Knut says:

    So now they can disappoint us twice…
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Yay!

  8. Christopher Wolf says:

    I knew as soon as I saw the news on Gamebanshee (PC RPG gaming site) that it would come up here. Not disappointed. Hopefully the original vision of the game will come through.

  9. Galad says:

    Oh good, maybe I’ll even manage to finish Prey sometime before SystemShock 3 comes out.

    ..

    No, I don’t have a large baclog, why’d you ask?

  10. Drathnoxis says:

    At what point in time, roughly, had NDS realized scope creep had hit the project?

    It was soon after the Kickstarter when the team offered many suggestions that seemed great on their own, but in aggregate represented too much of a departure. However, I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.

    Frankly, it serves them right that the deal fell through. They betrayed their 21 000 backers to try and get that deal, and stopped working on the game they promised they were going to make. They got what they deserved.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Even if they got what they deserved, who else is working on something like the original System Shocks? The fans are suffering lack of new games in some niches, because of management shenanigans.

  11. Syal says:

    I’m making a note here: huge success.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>