Blade Runner Is Proving Supremely Difficult To Remaster

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Blade Runner Is Proving Supremely Difficult To Remaster
Image: Blade Runner

If you were hoping for a remastered Blade Runner by the end of the year, bad news. Night Dive Studios won’t be able to get the classic point-and-click adventure out the door by 2020, and in a new interview they explained why Blade Runner is proving so tricky.

In a new interview with Eurogamer, Night Dive’s chief executive officer Stephen Kick explained that the game’s 2020 release date is now a blank “to be decided”. The studio has hit several speed bumps trying to bring the Westwood classic back to life, partially thanks to a lack of help from the original publisher, EA.

“We’ve had some discussions with EA about what else is in the vault they found regarding Blade Runner, and we haven’t been able to get a clear answer,” Kick told Eurogamer.  “And even if there was something, it’s very unlikely they would release it to us for legal reasons, mostly, which is a bit of a disappointment, because we were hoping to at least get the original audio recordings. So we’re basically working off what was in the original game at this point and not having access to any original stuff.”

Given how much work and support EA gave to Petroglyph for Command & Conquer: Remastered — even going as far to re-record some of the original VO with the original cast — it’s disappointing to hear that Night Dive aren’t getting the same love. Blade Runner is still an incredible cyberpunk adventure today, partially because of its unusual design for a ’90s puzzler but also for how well it brought the Blade Runner environments to life. Few licensed games do such a good job with the original source material.

Blade Runner‘s 3D engine was also world class for its time, but without access to the original source code, that’s also become a huge hurdle. The original 3D character models all have individual models for every single animation, rather than a single rigged character with animations. This means Night Dive has to rebuild a new model for each frame of a character’s animation, which is an enormous task. It’d undoubtedly make more sense to just rebuild the code from scratch, but unfortunately that amount of work was outside of scope.

“We had to invent new pipelines to extract the data and to modify it in a way that would present it in even a slightly higher resolution or higher fidelity,” Kick explained.

To make matters worse, the work done for the Blade Runner re-release on the ScummVM engine — the one that shipped late last year — can’t be used. The ScummVM open source agreement prevents Night Dive from using it in the remaster, and negotiations broke down trying to acquire a license from the ScummVM team.

It’s a bit of a nightmare for what’s supposed to be a regular, ordinary remaster. So in that sense I’m grateful that Night Dive are pursuing nonetheless, particularly with their efforts to bring the remaster to all platforms including the Switch. (If Night Dive hadn’t, Eurogamer explains, they might have been able to come to an agreement with ScummVM — ScummVM’s terms require that a copy of ScummVM and the code can be supplied on request, something that simply wouldn’t be permissible on consoles.)

So the Blade Runner remake is still coming, but it’s far more difficult than expected. Even the ScummVM project had to basically disassemble the original game to make it work, which was how some secret endings were finally discovered for the first time.

For now, if you want to enjoy Blade Runner the ScummVM version released through GOG is the way to go. It’ll be fascinating to see the differences between the two releases. More importantly, it’s just nice that people will be able to appreciate Blade Runner in multiple ways and platforms. It’s still brilliant, one everyone should play at least once.

Comments

  • EA always seems to be involved when the notion of gaming stops being fun. This is a sad development. I have little hope for the final product now. The legal fuckery behind the scenes destroys fun and integrity.

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