In June 2022 Nightdive Studios, a videogame developer known for publishing remasters and ports of classic PC games such as System Shock, Doom 64, and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, released an Enhanced Edition of the classic Westwood adventure game Blade Runner to disastrous results.
It’s been suggested by some that the game’s release date was set to coincide with the 40th anniversary release date of the 1982 classic – and that the game was not ready for release by that point in time. Despite some well-received trailers depicting upscaled cutscenes and full compatibility with modern operating systems, what players received in June 2022 fell quite short of expectations.
Lacking access to the game’s source code, Nightdive Studios utilised a remastering process that was designed to remove compression artefacts from the game’s pixels and textures, but instead resulted in numerous details being removed or looking smeared – be it posters hung on walls, carpets, or even the city’s perpetual rainfall. A further outcry was had over a highly simplified UI that removed the game’s original KIA interface.
A few days after the game hit digital storefronts, Nightdive Studios organised to have the original version of the game included alongside the enhanced edition for free, with the original being playable through the use of a SCUMMVM DOS shell.
But by then, the harm had already been done, with thousands of players requesting reimbursements across both Steam and Good Old Games (GOG). To date, the enhanced edition has sold an estimated 5,700 units and earned the studio nearly $45,000 in revenue, no doubt far less than initially hoped.
In the months that followed, Nightdive Studios knuckled down and produced several patches, which resolved numerous bugs and issues flagged by players. Even the most recent patch, Update 1.2.1075, released on 11 February 2023, which introduced many significant quality of life updates, has not been enough to fix the game.
In part, this is due to the limitations of what can be done when a studio lacks access to a game’s source code, and in part due to the “voxel plus” technology utilised by Westwood Studios back in 1997. In theory, a reshade patch could tweak the contrast and vibrancy levels, but barring a full-blown remake of the original game, there’s simply no getting around the limitations of the game’s engine.
Nightdive Studios has managed to earn back some good will over the course of the last year through its patches and the free inclusion of the original, unenhanced game, alongside visually compelling previews for their upcoming System Shock remake.
But one can’t help but wonder if the woes they experienced following last year’s debacle is what led to the current Atari acquisition, which, as stated by Yahoo Finance, will involve “an initial consideration of US$10 million,” with “an earn-out of up to US$10 million, payable in cash over the next three years based on the future performance of Nightdive”.