In an era where nostalgia has become big business, it’s no surprise that video games have become part of that trend.
Websites like GOG.com appear to be doing a brisk business selling old games (many of which were once considered “abandonware”—discontinued by publishers and unavailable from any store) and a whole genre of indie games that reference nostalgic contentions has emerged.
But video game nostalgia is a bit of a weird thing. It’s different than the nostalgia of revisiting a favorite book or movie.
Books remain books. The music you listened to as a teenager can sound, objectively, just as good as it did back then, whether you’re listening to an MP3 or a CD. You might not like it now, but that’s a matter of taste not technology.
Movies and TV are a bit of a different story. Special effects can get old but, if everything else is good, they become part of the background. If everything else is bad (enough), they become funny, another element of the nostalgic appeal.
Videogames are different.
Graphics are rarely so bad that they’re good. They’re just bad, pixelated, ugly, unclear. They rarely look as good as you remember them.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter.
But, particularly with games that use a first-person view, old, bad, graphics actively take away from the player’s enjoyment. They make games harder to play for modern eyes that have become accustomed to crisper visuals.
Now, one classic game is poised to get a modern update that might make it more palatable to nostalgia fans as well as a whole new audience. A group of developers want to remake the genre-defining action role-player System Shock, keeping it’s story and tone while updating the mechanics and visuals for the modern world.
It’s a team that includes some of the same people who worked on the 1994 original.
System Shock, like so many influential pieces of popular culture, was more influential than commercially successful. It was one of the first games to combine action and roleplaying, with a first-person view and a science fiction setting.
In the years since it came out , games like it – sometimes directly influenced, other times made by some of the same people – have become more common and more popular.
The team behind the System Shock remake, Nightdive Studios, is currently raising money to develop the game through a Kickstarter campaign. It’s looking to raise $900,000. With over three weeks left to go, it was already at over $800,000.
That’s a lot of money for a crowdfunding campaign, but not a lot for a video game. Even System Shock’s sequel, which came out in 1999, had a budget $1.7 million.
Still, a small dedicated team, especially a highly experienced one, might be able to do more with less. Especially, when the game they’re making will need less paid marketing than the average AAA title.
While there’s undoubtably a lot of work left to be done, a playable demo has been released, one that combines contemporary graphics with a bit of a retro sensibility.