A game swapping engines mid-development is — to put it mildly — a risky proposition. Assets have to be redone, code ported or even cooked from scratch and developers have to acquaint themselves with new tools and workflows. However, in the case of Nightdive Studios and its System Shock remake and its surprise shift from Unity to Unreal, game director Jason Fader believes they've "mitigated [the] risk by switching early".
Going by the latest Kickstarter update from Fader, Nightdive began contemplating the switch in August last year. Driven by the desire to provide proper "console support", Nightdive looked into a number of alternative technologies, including Amazon's Lumberyard (an offshoot of CryEngine) and of course, Unreal:
After listening to everyone during the Kickstarter campaign, it became clear that console support was very important to a lot of you. We took a hard look at what Unity could do on consoles, and what we wanted to achieve for both visual quality and performance. While Unity is a great engine, it was clear that we needed to use an engine that fit our project goals more closely.
By September, Nightdive had settled on Unreal and for the rest of the year, started work on a "vertical slice" to figure out the "nuts and bolts" of moving the studio's work from Unity. Finally, in February, it felt comfortable enough to show its progress publicly, which you can check out in the video above.
Whether the change works out for Nightdive remains to be seen, but it does explain why the developer decided to push back the release to 2018.