Blade Runner Enhanced Edition, the point-and-click neo-noir title directly based on the 1997 cult game is being delayed by Nightdive Studios due to some unexpected difficulties in refreshing older parts of its cutscenes and graphics engine.
According to Eurogamer, developers originally promised Blade Runner would be released in 2020 until they couldn’t access the game’s source code and other elements. This was due to a 1998 acquisition by EA when they acquired original studio Westwood, losing much of the game’s key resources in the process. Despite reaching out to EA about their archives, they were unable to give Nightdive Studios “a clear answer” over Blade Runner‘s source files.
“I’ve been led to believe that there’s some stuff but no-one will ever know,” Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick told Eurogamer, adding EA would be less likely to share source files to them if it existed. The studio also hoped to get the original game’s audio recordings and other raw data from 1997 for the remaster, but only have the base game to work with. This suggests Nightdive Studios would have to build Blade Runner Remastered backwards and extract much of the game’s resources before enhancing it. For Nightdive, it’s a different challenge from their experiences of remastering previous games including Turok and System Shock.
The studio released a comparison video over the 1997 game and its upscaled 2020 version, complete with support for 4K and high frame rates. The newer engine also adds improvements with anti-aliasing and smoother textures – something fans were quick to spot while it dampened some details on surfaces. Its CG cutscenes were the first to get updates and no footage of its UI and core gameplay were shown. Fans might be pleased to re-experience a canon piece of the franchise which follows Blade Runner Ray McCoy as he hunts down additional replicants – android imposters dangerous to humans. The story also runs parallel to the original movie as McCoy’s mission connects with Rick Deckard’s.
Nightdive also faces challenges with Blade Runner‘s unusual format when it came out for PCs almost 25 years ago. It was released in a multi-disc set which was also compressed, making it harder for the studio to extract raw data. This also leaves gaps that the studio needs to fill as they build a 4K version of the full-length adventure. Kick further revealed the game’s cutscenes weren’t made in-engine and it meant the team had to find ways to reanimate every character, item and location individually. According to Kick, it gave the team a “difficult middle ground” which means taking the original Blade Runner apart and putting it back together.
Fortunately, Nightdive’s latest remaster is backed by Alcon Entertainment who currently own the Blade Runner franchise rights. They were also a major producer behind the sequel, Blade Runner 2049 and have their own studio responsible for VR games Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab, Replicant Pursuit and Revelations in a limited marketing campaign. It’s unclear if Alcon has the cult game’s 1997 files or other resources.
Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is currently set to a TBA release date. It was previously announced in March 2020 by Nightdive and Alcon Entertainment as an official release for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. The original game is currently playable on PC and is being redistributed on GOG.