viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2011 , Posted by admin at 23:02
The Rise of Great HD Remakes
Play it again for the first time (or don't bother)
When we're not playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker or Resident Evil 4 on our Xbox 360, it seems we're hearing about prettier PlayStation 2 games in the pipeline. Devil May Cry, Silent Hill, Zone of the Enders, and Jak & Daxter are getting high-definition re-releases next year, and Final Fantasy X is getting a Vita port. Like it or not, the rampant release of HD remakes isn't going away any time soon.
These games are a standard in the contemporary market, and they're starting to make up an impressive portion of it. Publishers are beginning to understand and capitalize on the value of nostalgia. It isn't always malicious, though. Some developers upscale, improve, or outright rebuild old games with more than money in mind -- some of them actually care about their audiences' interests.
These are the most important studios working on remakes. Without them, we'd have nothing but half-assed rehashes. The studios bothering to do something special with a beloved oldie make a strong case not only for the continued existence of this subset of game releases, but the forward advancement of them too.
Final Fantasy X
"We didn't want to do the thing a lot of people do with HD remakes where you make the PS2 or Xbox game run on the PS3 and then publish," says Stewart Gilray, CEO of Just Add Water and Development Director for Oddworld Inhabitants.
With Stranger's Wrath HD, Gilray wanted to do the Xbox original justice. If JAW took the easy way out, "we'd be screwing Oddworld and we'd be screwing ourselves." Instead of wasting their effort on a crummy Stranger port, the Just Add Water folks created Easter Eggs, excised old bugs, and added never-before-seen cinematics. This is in addition to re-modeling characters, repairing janky geometry, and applying high-res textures to everything in Oddworld.
Gilray is confident in Stranger as a property, but he thinks it deserves a high level of attention. This is his firm belief with any HD remake, really -- such an effort is only considered abnormal because most HD remakes smooth out their rough edges and ship to retail. Just Add Water isn't remaking Stranger to prey on our nostalgia -- this game exists to give a "game that deserved to do better" a second chance to reach a wider audience.
Of course, money is one of the factors behind Stranger's Wrath HD. The games business is a business, after all. "For a small company you don't want to have to do nickel and dime stuff for the rest of your life, you want to do something that makes you some money," Gilray says, "[because] you struggle." Why Oddworld, then? This is a franchise that took off in the mid 90s on PlayStation, but floundered and died on the original Xbox. Again, it comes down to business. Gilray explains that Stranger "gives us an existing brand to work with. We thought, 'If we do Stranger really well, we can reboot Oddworld...and hopefully bring in some revenue that'll allow us to do new stuff.'"
Ready at Dawn took a similar mental approach to its God of War: Origins Collection. The PS3 port packed both Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, the God of War PSP games, onto one blu-ray. "The PSP was on its last legs when Ghost of Sparta came out, and Vita was right on the horizon," says Mark Turndorf, Origins' Director of Production. He suspects a lot of people missed out on it altogether, which sucks for us as much as him -- Ghost of Sparta was rad. Remaking a game that's less than a year old is risky -- will people want to see the same game again so soon? Bundled with the first PSP title and cleaned up a bit, however, Turndorf knew his team had a solid successor to the God of War HD Collection.
At the start, the plan was as basic as they come: up-res the textures, increase the polygon count, move on. The games each looked great as the developer buffed up Kratos' character model and cleaned up textures around the worlds. It dawned on Turndorf early in development that this wasn't going to be enough. The frame rate in the PSP games would dip below 30 frames per second. The untouched cinematics looked grainy and gross stretched out to 1080p. Most importantly, though, Ready at Dawn wanted to add to the games. Hey, why not? They're in a unique position to remake their own work anyway.
Origins had, relative to creating something scratch, a relatively laid back dev cycle. "In pre-production, we have to design the levels, and concept everything out, and design the road map of the game we're gonna make," Turndorf explains, "but [with Origins] the roadmap's already there. A lot of the guesswork is gone."
This was good -- the schedule was tight and the studio didn't have much room to change stuff around, much as they wanted to. Still, somewhere along the way, when ambition struck, Ready at Dawn made time they didn't have. (It made for a lot of late nights.) No more than 10 team members worked on Origin at the project's peak, and yet the small team of programmers and artists brought the frame counts up to a solid, smooth 60. They rendered the cinematics at an appropriate resolution so they'd match the look of the gameplay. They added surround sound, Trophies, bonus content, costumes, and arenas. Most significantly, Ready at Dawn added 3D -- something it didn't even want to do.
"When it was pitched from Sony that we should add 3D to this game, [we thought], 'What's it really going to add?' It's a bullet point for the box," says Turndorf. "Some of our programmers were very interested in the 3D process, they just grabbed it and ran with it." Ready at Dawn ended up ecstatic with what they'd done, and the developer has since started "looking at new 3D processes and discussing how we could use it for future things," Turndorf says. "I was not expecting that."
Many remakes come about when sequels are on our mind. With new Silent Hill and Devil May Cry games hitting in 2012, it makes sense for Konami and Capcom to release their respective trilogy bundles. Even if their only features are the sort that bothers Gilray -- cleaned up, cranked out -- there's an undeniable value to these particular releases.
The overall philosophy with HD remakes is presenting a past experience. Packaging numerous games presents younger people a window into the importance of the past while modernizing it just enough to disguise glaring blemishes.
It's a great business model, too, and it helps fuel additional creative efforts from developers. They just need to make sure they do it right. Gamers have high standards for new games, and these are precious memories devs are meddling with. If we end up with poor versions of great games, we're going to start rejecting the idea of HD reduxes altogether.
As some publishers are probably learning the hard way, the existence of an old game isn't enough to justify buying it again. Gilray, Turndorf, and others out there are doing their best to ensure we get a refreshing experience along with our money's worth when buying a game again. Their HD remake philosophy drives 'em to make us relive our memories rather than simply replaying an old game. It's the same thought process that brought us killer remakes like Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (great new look with optional original graphics, new multiplayer maps), Bionic Commando Rearmed (Great music and visuals update, new abilities, and co-op), and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (best versions of each game, transfarring, plus online co-op for Peace Walker on console).
This principle is going to draw a line between the good HD remakes and the great ones from here on out -- and it's going to create a new minimum expectation that'll cut bad remakes out of the picture altogether.
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