The long-pending dream of a new sequel in the storied System Shock series may be well and truly dead, according to a new report from Video Games Chronicle.
The fate of the new sequel—the first in the series since 1999—started to look questionable last February, when struggling publisher Starbreeze was forced to sell the rights to the game back to developer OtherSide Entertainment to recoup costs. In the wake of that move, though, OtherSide managed to put together a GDC demo and was optimistic about potential publishing options, including self-publishing. OtherSide also put out a new “pre-alpha” gameplay trailer as recently as November, suggesting things were moving along predictably.
The development seems to have taken a turn for the worse in recent months, though, with former community manager Sam Luangkhot confirming in December that a number of high-profile members of the OtherSide team had been laid off. That list of departures included the game’s writer & director, senior designer, lead programmer, QA lead, and senior environment artist, according to publicly available LinkedIn profiles posted by those affected.
More recently, an anonymous OtherSide developer (whose authenticity has been confirmed by Luangkhot) suggested on the RPG Codex forums that the entire OtherSide team is “no longer employed there.” The developer went on to say that while the game’s core systems were “nearly done,” the team was still “way behind on… content” years after the game was first announced.
“The only reason I’m posting is because I saw so much confusion about the state of the company and the project I thought some first person information would be welcome,” the anonymous developer wrote in a separate post. “If Starbreeze hadn’t gone into crisis I think we would’ve delivered something interesting with some fresh and innovative gameplay, but a much smaller game than what people were expecting and inevitably disappointing for a sequel to such a beloved franchise.”
“Those high expectations drove a lot of expensive experimentation,” the developer continued. “We were a small team and knew we couldn’t compete with current immersive sims in production quality and breadth, so we had to be creative and clever and weird. And we were on our way to make something unique and possibly fun, but probably not what the audience was hungry for.”
The reports would suggest an anticlimactic conclusion to a project that started over four years ago as a wild idea from a handful of System Shock development veterans. The potential of the project was enough to drag storied game maker (and original System Shock producer) Warren Spector out of academia and back into a studio director position with OtherSide.
Spector said as recently as May that he and the team were having difficulty balancing the audience’s perceived desire for gore with the kind of survival-horror tension the series is known for. “There are expectations with a game like System Shock that I’m going to go a little bit further [with violence] than I normally would,” he said at the time. “So what I’m trying to do is listen to my team, listen to the audience, and adjust my beliefs, or work within my beliefs, appropriately.”
The fate of System Shock 3 shouldn’t impact a separate System Shock reboot effort being undertaken by Nightdive Studios. That project continues to make apparent progress after a $1.35 million Kickstarter campaign and a delay to a planned 2020 release a few years ago.
Listing image by Electronic Arts