Bluepoint on HD remakes: “You make one mistake and it kills it”
Bluepoint Games, the Austin, Texas-based developer which is fast carving out a reputation as the master of the HD remaster, has told us the process is far from as simple as it seems, saying: "You make one mistake and it kills it."
The developer cut its teeth on the first God Of War Collection for Sony, has produced the imminent Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus remakes, and is now busy with Konami's Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which is set for release later this year. In an interview, president Andy O'Neil tells us just how much work goes in to remaking the classics.
"The problem with source asset drops is that you don't know if it's the final shipped data," O'Neil explains. "People will go and make last-minute changes…So what we do is take the retail disc and reverse-engineer it. With God Of War, we actually got a big virtual knife and chopped off their entire renderer and replaced it with ours."
It doesn't stop there, either, with the team encountering a host of technical issues, caused by the differences in PS3 and PS2 architecture, which all posed unique problems. This, O'Neil explains, "takes loads of low-level skills," with the average team member having 15 to 16 years of experience. "We've got two technical directors working on [the Metal Gear collection]," he tells us. "They're all technical directors from big places with years of experience in Assembler.
"Because if you don't do that, you're going to get in a big mess. You make one mistake and it kills it."
Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus brought their own unique problems – fill rates, transparency handling, and Japanese developers' preference for Linux. When the team finally had Shadow Of The Colossus running at 30 frames per second, Sony asked for 3D support.
Nintendo's recent The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D was a warts-and-all conversion, with the original's bugs retained. The temptation must be there to iron out the kinks, but O'Neil says Bluepoint doesn't change a thing without approval from the original developer.
"We'll say: 'We've found this problem – do you want us to fix it?'," he says. Because there are a few bugs and cheats in the original PAL version [of Shadow Of The Colossus] that we fixed, and that will upset a few people, possibly.
"But it was a deliberate decision: this can break the game. But we won't change anything without talking to the original developers."
The full interview, which also features input from chief technical officer Marco Thrush, examines in more detail the unique challenges that each of Bluepoint's HD remasters has posed, and is in our next issue. E233 should be with subscribers any day now, and will be on shelves on September 27.