Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Era of Enhanced Game Re-Releases

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 21, 2015

MI2SpecialCompareI remember in the “good old days” (which were neither that good nor that old…) how we’d wish that somebody would remake an old classic game with no changes except improved technology for modern (at the time) systems. Of course, nobody ever did that. If you got a “remake,” it was a complete reboot. There were a handful of exceptions, such as a version of Wing Commander 1-3 redone for Windows 95, or a spiffed-up version of X-Wing or TIE Fighter.

But now, in the middle of the twenty-teens, it’s a Thing. We just had a massive overhaul of the original Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers released.  The first two Monkey Island games got a very nice high-resolution makeover with the addition of voice-overs and commentaries not too long ago. Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 have gotten “enhanced editions” that run much better on modern systems and higher resolutions, and have some added content of somewhat reasonable quality, and Icewind Dale 1 just had a similar update.  I can frequently be found playing the new Rise of Nations Extended Edition, which is exactly the same as the original game and its expansion which I already own, but with some minor graphical improvements and Steam integration – and built-in functionality for live streaming of a game via Twitch TV. We’re getting lots of “HD” games enhanced for modern screen resolutions and mobile platforms, tiny machines that are far more powerful than the original platforms the games were intended.

I’m already dreading my loss of productivity I know I’ll experience when Heroes of Might & Magic III: HD releases for Android in a few days.

On the indie front (although a lot of these remakes / modern enhanced re-releases are being done by smaller, indie studios), Spiderweb Software is on its second “remake” of the Avernum / Exile series. I haven’t played the newest updates, but from the sounds of it they are quite a bit more than a graphics upgrade.

So here’s the question: That’s what I remember asking for all those years ago. “Just give me <Game X> with modern graphics, no other changes!” And now that’s what we’re being given. Is this a good thing? I lament how Hollywood has gotten itself stuck in a rut of sequels and reboots – how it’s becoming a creative wasteland in that respect. Are games going the same direction? Is it a problem at all?

I dunno. I’m getting what I asked for, so that’s nice. I’ve enjoyed the remakes I’ve played, even if I am replaying almost exactly the same game I played several years ago (then again, whenever I play a “new” FPS, I often feel the same…) I don’t see them limiting the flow of brand-new titles. At least not yet. And I felt my daughter got to enjoy the full impact and awesomeness of the Monkey Island games just fine.

I guess I could worry that we’re taking a step back in gameplay – losing 15+ years of experience in making better games – but let’s get real, here. While I won’t quite all rose-colored-glasses and say that games were all better prior to 2000, but I will certainly say that things haven’t universally improved in that time.

So what’s your take? Are we enhancing the past and providing classics in new packaging that can finally be considered timeless, or are we exposing how creatively bankrupt we’ve become as an industry with these enhanced editions?


Filed Under: Biz, Retro - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Xian said,

    I think you may have alluded to one of the reasons for some of the remakes when you mentioned HoMM3 for Android. Tablets may be one of the prime factors. Take the example you used, Spiderweb. Exile was a 16 bit program on the PC – it would no longer run on anything later than Windows XP, so why not do a remake but make it playable on both a modern OS and tablets while you are at it?

  • Tesh said,

    I’m keenly interested in making old games function on new platforms. I think it’s critical to understand what has been done in the past to see what can be done in the future.

    …but I’m ambivalent on remakes. They almost always mess with the original in some way, and rarely for the better. Older doesn’t mean better, newer doesn’t mean better. I’d rather just be able to play a game on whatever platform I have handy and take it on its own design merits… or lack thereof.

  • corwin said,

    You forgot to mention the excellent remakes of Ultima 5 and 6 using the Dungeon Siege engine. I was involved with both of those. 🙂 Some games like those and Monkey Island, were well worth doing, but while I enjoyed Icewind Dale, I have no wish to replay it in any form. I’d love a total remake of both U7’s though!!

  • Felix said,

    Oh I don’t know… aren’t most of these enhanced editions more like the 1997 release of Star Wars rather than remakes? And that had good things as well as bad things — a more believable Cloud City, but also Greedo shooting first. As always, it’s not the tech but how you use it. As for the industry being creatively bankrupt… I dunno. Sometimes it does seem like all the new games are either shooters or platformers — apart from the new crop of RPGs churned out by old-timers. But then, Hollywood is a lot worse in this regard. Yet people spend ever more money at the movies. And if that’s what the public wants…

  • Praelat said,

    I love the idea of remaking games like this. Monkey Island is a particularly good example, with the chance to switch between old and new at the press of a button. I sometimes find that I loved the way old games played, but their appearance can be painful to look at these days, if they run at all. So – please, more of these.

  • FallenAngel said,

    I guess I’m kinda weird in this regard, seeing how I consider the original graphics often to be superior to those of the remake(well, except in those cases where they just adjust for higher resolutions, not much difference there). I really don’t like the look of early and or “cheap” 3D graphics. I much prefer some well drawn sprites or a decently pixeled background to the rampant low quality “just because” 3D graphics that have plagued remakes for over a decade(as an example of what I mean, Final Fantasy III remake on the 3DS with its stubby, blurry, jagged characters can’t beat the sprites of, say, the PSP remake of Final Fantasy II). As technology advances and decent 3D graphics don’t cost a fortune anymore(and become more viable on mobile devices as well), we’ve been seeing less of “those” kinds of remakes, but they’re still out there.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    I think the main difference between remakes of old games and remakes of old movies is ease of access.

    Old movies remain easily viewable to modern audiences. I don’t have to jump through hoops to watch Wizard of Oz – I can just stream it, put in a VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, or flip to a TV channel.

    If I want to play an old game, it is often EXTREMELY difficult and time-consuming, or impossible. It can take upwards of an entire afternoon to get a much older game to work on a modern PC, and the experience might still be flawed.

    The resolution of graphics is the other thing that bothers me. When you have a 2K pixel monitor, you need a magnifying glass to play some games at their original resolutions, and upscaling doesn’t always solve the problem. Those beautiful pixels can become blurry, or stretched, etc.

    Remakes of games in HD serve to preserve the ease of access. Can’t wait for the HD Day of the Tentacle.