Grim Fandango remaster will feature live orchestra soundtrack, original art assets

Ian Birnbaum at

Tim Schafer and Double Fine blew the doors off of E3 this summer with the announcement that Grim Fandango would be being remastered and re-released. After a horrifying few hours where it was rumored that the release would be exclusive to the PS4, we now know that Grim Fandango will be returning home to the PC. At a special panel at PAX Prime 2014, artists who worked on the original talked about their efforts to overhaul the classic.

“This is about making Grim Fandango, the original, the way it was intended to be seen,” Tim Schafer said. “Making the game run the way it was supposed to. We built it on 386s and a week after we released it, 486s came out and broke a bunch of the puzzles. So it became very hard for people to keep playing it within a few years.” One developer likened the process to getting a Blu Ray edition of Casablanca—you want to make everything about it superficially better, but you wouldn’t dare change a line of dialog or a bar of music.

The team also showed off touch controls working with the point-and-click interface, which would make the game playable on tablets. For PC, the game will be working at 1080p and will feature per-pixel lighting effects. Even better, the original art assets will be available, a nostalgic touch seen in previously remastered games like Curse of Monkey Island.

The original concept artist, Peter Chan, is back to work at the new project. The character of Grim was designed on San Juan island in Seattle, Chan said, because he had quit LucasArts and gone freelance. Every Thursday he would ship his drawings down to Schafer in California so they could use them in the Friday pitch meetings.

The music is also being redone by Peter McConnell, the composer of the original soundtrack. Though Grim Fandango featured a lot of live swing music, but the game’s less-famous orchestral score was synthesized. For the remaster, that will be changing: “We never really conceived of the possibility that the orchestral tracks might be done by a live orchestra,” McConnell said. “But I’m happy to say that we’re going to be able to do a lot of those tracks with a live orchestra.” The Melbourne Symphony, which recorded the Broken Age soundtrack for Double Fine, will come back to do the orchestral pieces in Grim Fandango.

In response to an audience question, Schafer wasn’t able to confirm that the game would include developer commentary, but he did give a little hint and a wink. “We want to have a lot of special features, and we do love to talk. So those are two facts that exist.”

The original game was built at a different time in software development, and in many ways it’s miraculous that it came out as well as it did. Chan told a story that because of the intense deadline pressure, his concept art for every room in the game was his first draft—he didn’t have time for revisions. “When we made that game we put everything we had into it,” Schafer agreed. “The day we signed off on that game and said it was ready to ship, we sent it out the door and I went home and took three months off. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone.”

The original Grim Fandango was released by LucasArts in 1998, but we don’t know when the remastered version will be launching on PC. For all of our team’s coverage of PAX Prime, check out this page.