Nightdive Studios' ambitious remastering of the 1997 point-and-click Blade Runner adventure, originally due out this year, has been delayed as the developer runs into a mountain of technical hurdles. A new release date hasn't been settled on.
The System Shock remake developer had promised an Enhanced Edition of the venerable adventure game—one that would upscale pre-rendered cutscenes, enhance models and animations, and generally make the finicky classic easier to play in 2020. Unfortunately, Nightdive this week told Eurogamer that the project's release date is now "TBD", following substantial problems accessing the original game's assets.
"There have been some obstacles we've had to overcome in terms of the old technology the game uses," Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick told the outlet, "and our hunt for the original source code and assets have come up empty."
While Nightdive secured the rights for a Blade Runner remaster back in December 2019, it seems the team has been unable to get their hands on the game's source code. Much of the original code was lost following Westwood's acquisition by EA back in '98, and even if some files showed up in a closet somewhere, Kick isn't confident EA would be happy releasing it.
"Even if there was something, it's very unlikely they would release it to us for legal reasons, mostly, which is a bit of a disappointment, because we were hoping to at least get the original audio recordings. So we're basically working off what was in the original game at this point and not having access to any original stuff."
Without access to Westwood's original files, and remaking the game from scratch a no-go, Nightdive has been forced to try and reverse-engineer the game with their own tools. This is made all the more awkward by the stubbornness of Blade Runner's underlying structure, which uses extremely compressed video footage and an odd quirk where, rather than rigging and animating single characters, each frame of animation is its own bespoke 3D model.
These are problems that the creators of fan-made emulation tool ScummVM have been butting their heads against for years, mind. It's even their work that's behind GOG's own 2019 re-release of Blade Runner. But talks to use this work as a jumping-off point for Enhanced Edition fell through over Nightdive's desire for a multi-platform release, something expressly forbidden by ScummVM's open-source agreement.
It's a frustrating situation, but Nightdive isn't giving up just yet. The developer reckons it'll still get Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition out the door, eventually. Kick believes most of the code work is done, and right now the team is experimenting with seeing how far they can push the rest of the game. Last month's cinematic opening is likely to drop the 60fps target for a more film-like 30 with added grain, while the team prepare to work the in-game engine into a presentable state.
"We should probably be showing that next, but I can't tell you when that's going to be."