The Dig wasn't LucasArts' most critically acclaimed point-and-click puzzler, but it's still one of their most iconic. And since it came out almost 24 years ago, it's due for a touch up. Enter stage right, fans who know how to use AI.
Game upscaling is in a pretty fascinating place, with all sorts of different algorithms for different purposes. As people come up with new models and new implementations, fans have found that different algorithms work better in different scenarios.
This video from Raúl Sangonzalo on YouTube is a perfect example. They've taken the ESRGAN machine learning upscale tool to apply different models to various retro games, like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Secret of Monkey Island, and Curse of Monkey Island.
Their latest video looks at The Dig and what different scenes look like with seven different upscaling implementations, along with the basic nearest neighbour for comparison. Some models have a really nice effect on the characters; others look good on the backgrounds, but really jarring on the the text. Some have a good look across the board, but apply a soft, almost pastel effect to the characters and certain textures.
The deviantMangaFatality adds a nice vibrance to the whole image without warping the text, but it's also possible to combine different elements of the models. Upscaling all of The Dig is still a huge challenge, because there's a lot of super compressed videos and low-quality assets that require manual processing — they're just too low-res for the algorithm to train on — but the video description says that the ERSGAN community isn't that far away from having the capability to fully remaster The Dig.
"At least, over a half of the frames would need to be cleaned manually, as the artifacts are far too big to be 'understood' and processed by the models," Sangonzalo wrote. "But in any case, I'd love to say that we shouldn't be too far to see a remastered version of this game, especially with the amount of tools (such as these models) available freely on the internet."
I'd happily play a remastered The Dig. I don't know that I'd enjoy it as much as I did when I was younger, having discovered the game at a random inner West bazaar for $2, but nostalgia works in strange ways. Maybe I wouldn't hate those puzzles as much now.