Editorials, Featured

Creating the Perfect Remastered Game: Part One – Deconstruct, Analyze, Rebuild

by on April 3, 2014 1:46 PM 13

I’ll admit it. I was the guy responsible for there being so many HD remastered games last generation.

Okay, I wasn’t DIRECTLY responsible, but I and many like me who bought every single HD remaster/remix/remake/whatever did contribute to the popularity of these titles. They not only provided us with the opportunity to revisit games that we loved but to do so with shiny graphics that made them feel like new experiences.

Taking games from the PlayStation 2 era of gaming and bringing them over to HD was something that made sense. Most of theses games were unplayable on (then) current gen consoles and the graphical facelift to 720p or 1080p brought them up to the visual standards of the day. The problem is that, aside from nicer graphics, they offered the exact same experience from when they were originally released. Granted, that isn’t really a problem in and of itself, but nothing was actually changed in the gameplay and level design department.

Nowadays we’re seeing some games from the previous generation getting re-released on current gen consoles. We already have the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider and there are rumors about the Mass Effect Trilogy being remade. Let’s not forget about The Last of Us which has been all but confirmed to be coming to the PlayStation 4 this summer. There is an argument that could be made about the validity of these last gen games being remastered so soon after they were released but that’s something  to be discussed for another day.

The-Last-of-Us

What I want to do with this editorial is to come up with an ideal way of how I would like these new HD remaster games to be handled. I strongly emphasize the word ideal since studios rarely go back and remake games from scratch; mostly due to budgetary and time constraints.

So how would I go about crafting the perfect remaster? First off, whatever game is getting remade needs to be treated as a brand new game. While the original should be used as a basis, it shouldn’t just be taken and dressed up with spiffier graphics. These games need to be redone from the ground up. Let’s face it, graphical enhancements can only do so much for a game and game mechanics age badly. HD remasters NEED to be completely redone.

So when building a game back up, what’s needed? If it is part of a series, the controls of whatever is the latest game in the franchise should be used. Controls improve with each iteration in a series so having the most up-to-date mechanics just makes logical sense. For example, if a Mass Effect HD remaster trilogy was to be released, the controls from the third one should be used for all three games.

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Level design in games is something else that has improved over the years and is something that should be redone as well, but only to a certain point. You don’t want the game’s world to be TOO different from the original. I say, redesign the environment to remove anything that was redundant or didn’t quite work in order to make it more streamlined. This could eliminate dead end areas and provide something new while still maintaining the familiar design.

The story could also be redone as well but a developer has to make sure not to go too far off from the original. Like the level design, redone stories should weed out any elements that weren’t necessary and strengthen whatever material already existed or that needed to be strengthened. This way we’d get the same story that we’ve come to expect and love but presented in a new light.

That last paragraph leads me to the most important part about remastered titles: It is very important to keep the original spirit of the game when creating them. The people who bought these games want to re-experience their favorites with enhancements but they want the core of that game to remain untouched. At the same time, the game needs to have just the right amount of new material so that people who have played the originals will have something fresh to experience.

Tomb Raider Anniversary

We’ve seen examples of my ideal remasters before such as Tomb Raider Anniversary and the GameCube version of Resident Evil. Both of these games took all of the elements from the originals and modernized them. Though the environments, gameplay and stories were reinterpreted and even outright changed, they still felt familiar. If you were a fan of the originals you would remember things from those games while playing but at the same time it would be like a new experience. These two games are a perfect example of what I’d like to see from remastered games.

To sum it up: If a developer is going to take an HD remaster seriously they should deconstruct the game, analyze what made it work and what could be improved or discarded, and finally rebuild it and treat it as a brand new title. Like I said before, I don’t actually expect companies to do this stuff when it’s so much simpler to give the graphics a good spit and polish and call it a day. Although games have been remade in the way that I’ve outlined, they are very rare. However, In my ideal world, this is how all remastered games should be created.

For the next part, I’ll focus on a few games that I would personally like to see remastered.

Join the Discussion

  • Matt Dickinson

    I don’t think you’ll see the same quality when a new team of amateurs are hired to rebuild an old game. It won’t have the special qualities that the original artists brought to it, who are surely working on new projects by then. If they aren’t working on new projects, and they’re hired to spruce up older titles, that must be really dull work (since they just finished the project a few years ago and spent years working on it).

    It’s much better if the game is kept the same, if it’s going to be ported up (or emulated), or if the staff just works on new games. There’s already so few new triple_A games coming out as it is.

    • Tony Polanco

      Resident Evil on GameCube was made by the same people who worked on the original and look how that turned out.

  • Bankai

    “If a developer is going to take an HD remaster seriously they should deconstruct the game, analyze what made it work and what could be improved or discarded, and finally rebuild it and treat it as a brand new title.”

    Long story short: Creating the perfect remastered game requires alchemy. Hold on while I give Ed and Al a call.

    • Redinferno124

      Ed gave up his ability to use Alchemy remember?

      • Bankai

        Oh yeah, I always forget about that.

  • Delsin Row

    man , i wish i were in tony”s place :D . he plays and wright about games alot :D.
    in this article, i really like to try tomb rider definitive edition one more time. but the price point is not worth it. if a game is remaster , it should release at a low price point.

    • Tony Polanco

      It’s bee at a lower price eventually, man. By the summer I imagine it being 30 bucks new.

  • askjiir

    Completely unrealistic expectations.

    • Tony Polanco

      LOL I said as much in the actual editorial dude. Although it has been done before. #justsaying

      • Shajita

        Using Tomb Raider Annivesary and Resident Evil as examples doesn’t really hold up though. They were made in a time where development cost was much smaller, released on consoles with userbases much larger (Well… Tomb Raider was, long live the Gamecube), and they were both remakes of early PS1 games, which would’ve looked terrible no matter how you upscale it.

        I agree, it’s a nice dream, but it is simply, as askjiir says, an unrealistic expectation in today’s world.

  • DemonFenton

    Depends on the devs who’s working on the remakes/remasters. Take The American McGee Alice for the consoles, they just did an fast job. Didn’t mess with the gameplay and such but it looks almost like it’s original. Now take FFX HD and they did a great job of that. Same goes for the God of War HD collection. It’s up to the devs that can put out an great HD remake or an lazy remake.

  • Cameron Standring

    I think straight ports with better resolution and framerate (and improved textures/models if they have them, some devs overbuild those in the original creation process) are largely fine, they should just be priced accordingly. The prices for HD ports last generation ($20 each, $40 for a port that had more work go into it like Halo Anniversary, $40 for a 2-3 game collection) would be fine. The stuff you’re talking about with TR Anniversary and the GameCube RE aren’t even the same type of thing – they’re true remakes, rebuilt from the ground up using the same basic idea/design/story as the original.

    I think there are some games where doing an all-out remake just isn’t considered worth the risk (I mean, the two examples you chose are legendary classics that were almost guaranteed to sell well), and in those cases I think HD ports make for a less risky option that’s still an improvement. And games like TLOU, I think, are examples of titles that were somewhat held back by the consoles they were on. Not to mention all the late-Gen7 games that absolutely chugged on the PS3/360, running in sub-HD at sub-30fps. Those games really could be greatly improved with a mere port. Think about stuff like the confirmed Metro Redux, a Bioshock Infinite GOTY Edition with all DLC, Max Payne 3 (throw in ports of the first 2 games for the hell of it), DXHR Director’s Cut, The Elder Scrolls games, etc. Basically, give console-only gamers the chance to play the maxed-out PC versions of a bunch of those titles at a low price.

    • Tony Polanco

      I’m glad you bring up The Last of Us.

      If you’ve heard the latest ShockCast then you know I’m not exactly excited about it unless it has some significant changes. We know for a fact that ND wanted to have enemies fight each other in the main game but couldn’t due to memory issues.

      Same goes for the companion A.I. If you remember the original E3 demo, Ellie was doing a lot more stuff such as throwing objects. In the main game this never really happened. Again. due to memory restrictions.

      If a port is being made for the PS4, I don’t see the point of having it if things like this aren’t put into the game. The game has been out less than one year so it needs to be just more than just an HD remaster with 1080p graphics and running at 60fps. While that game doesn’t need much of a graphical overhaul (it was beautiful even on the PS3) the A.I could stand to use a significant boost. If ND can manage to do that, THEN it’s worth it.

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