The Nightdive Studios website says it’s about “Bringing Back Lost and Forgotten Game Treasures from the Deep.” By restoring video games for new hardware, the developer is doing a noble service to an industry that often struggles with its own conservation. Its back-catalog already includes successful puzzle game resurrections The 7th guestshooter earthquake, and an improved edition of the revered action-adventure game System shock.
However, as the developer learns with another of his latest projects, an attempt to save Westwood Studios’ acclaimed point-and-click adventure of 1997 Blade runner, some riches are more deeply buried than others. That said, that the Blade runner remaster is successful, it’s still a big business.
Why the Blade Runner remaster matters
Blade runner is a 1982 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, based on the 1968 novel by Philip K Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It is considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and one of the founding texts of the cyberpunk genre; therefore a massive influence on games like CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077.
Less well known is the related video game released in 1997 by Virgin Interactive, which has resisted the trend of video games related to mediocre video game movies by creating a commercially successful and award-winning reimagining of the film. Rather than presenting players with a simple adaptation, Blade runner is a “sidequel”, describing events that unfold in parallel and sometimes overlap with the plot of the film.
This approach allowed developer Westwood Studios to incorporate familiar characters, using the talent of the original actors to enhance the authenticity of his acting. Sean Young reprizes his role as Rachael, James Hong appears as Hannibal Chew and William Sanderson is at new genetic designer JF Sebastian. However, rather than playing the role of the film’s main protagonist, Rick Deckard, the Blade runner In the video game, players take on the role of rookie blade runner Ray McCoy, tasked with hunting down a group of renegade replicants.
Its gameplay has been praised for focusing on detective work rather than derivative shooting mechanics, with players analyzing evidence, questioning suspects, and even applying the film’s Voight-Kampff test; designed to identify replicants posing as humans. Its graphics were also praised, as it used state-of-the-art voxels and unprecedented amounts of motion capture to create fluid 3D models considered state-of-the-art.
However, the game has been mired in intellectual property issues and legal rights wrangling for years, which means it couldn’t make it into modern digital storefronts until it appeared on GOG.com. in 2019. It is only through the remastering efforts of studios like Nightdive that many of these games can become accessible to a larger modern audience, and it is crucial that a piece of gaming history like Blade runner is not lost forever.
Why the video game industry needs to improve on preservation
Nightdive announced delays for Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition After it emerged that the original developer had lost the source code for the game, Nightdive had to reverse engineer it from the existing versions. This problem is compounded by the fact that the innovative techniques used to create the in-game graphics involved each animation frame being a separate 3D model (as opposed to using a single animated model), with some of that data. removed from final versions so that they can be compressed to CD for distribution. Nightdive must therefore revive models while filling these gaps.
Blade runner is not the first game whose preservation has been neglected. Infamous Konami lost source code for psychological horror classic Silent Hill 2, which means that the version published as part of the Silent Hill: HD Collection has been recreated from a beta version. As a result, various issues, bugs, and omissions were introduced that were not present in the original version, leading many to consider the Silent Hill: HD Collection as a suboptimal way to read the originals.
Digital-only game distribution also presents a problem for the preservation of video games, as games published through digital platforms can suddenly be deleted. This is the fate that happened TP after Hideo Kojima’s cancellation Silent hills project, but there are plenty of other examples. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game was pulled from digital stores in 2014 when its franchise license expired, despite being a cult hit among fans. Fortunately, he has since been resurrected.
Hard copies of games on CDs or cartridges should also be carefully stored, given the inevitable deterioration of both these storage methods and the equipment needed to play them. Some rare video games, especially those that have only received limited production runs due to commercial failure or other issues, are worth extraordinary sums of money given the few copies that still exist today.
This problem is exacerbated by the approach of some video game giants to backward compatibility, as older games can no longer be played on their newer consoles. The situation is improving, with developers like Electronic Arts implementing extended systems to preserve games at the end of their development cycle.
There are other ways to play old games as well, with emulators being a popular solution among nostalgic gamers and fan communities who work together to develop fixes and mods to supplement missing content or modernize classics. The success of Mesa black, a fan made a remake of the first Half-life fully endorsed by Valve Corporation, is an indicator of a more positive future for the preservation of video games. Whatever the broader challenges historians face, fans remain optimistic that Nightdive can complete its work on Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition and bring the title to new fans in the months to come.
Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition is in development for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One.
MORE: Harrison Ford Reads Brutal Studio Notes On ‘Blade Runner’ During Oscars
A cosplayer recreates the look of the giant animatronic doll, which spots people’s movements in the first Squid Game contest.
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