In a lot of ways, Westwood's 1997 Blade Runner adventure game was ahead of its time, which made the long period of time where it was difficult to track down and play a real bummer. Nowadays you can simply go buy an improved version of the original, but the particular nuances of Westwood's work are making things difficult for remaster masters at Nightdive Studio-as such, the upcoming Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition is being delayed.
Over at our sister site Eurogamer, Wesley Yin-Poole spoke with Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick and members of the Blade Runner ScummVM fan team about the difficulties of updating Westwood's work for modern systems. Kick says that the Enhanced Edition, originally slated for a PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch release this year, is now being pushed out to a to-be-determined date.
Nightdive's work on the Enhanced Edition sounds like no easy task. The team is going about reverse engineering the 1997 original and making it work with its proprietary KEX Engine, the same tech used across other Nightdive remasters including this year's stellar Doom 64 ports. It sounds like the animations in particular are a lot to handle, as Westwood's voxel rendering tech and the limitations of 1997 PCs meant that instead of simply animating 3D models, each frame of animation essentially features a different model posed in that exact position. Kick says those bespoke models are also missing "basically half the information" you'd expect since Westwood optimized them by trimming away certain elements.
Nightdive can't simply use the reverse engineering work done by the ScummVM team that led to Blade Runner's rerelease last year on GOG because of ScummVM's open source licensing agreement. Neither team has access to Westwood's original source code, and Kick says if any Blade Runner material exists in the Westwood treasure trove Electronic Arts discovered last year, it's unlikely it'll make its way to Nightdive. It took the ScummVM developers the better part of a decade to get Blade Runner running in a satisfactory state, so perhaps it's not too surprising that Nightdive, talented as its team is, needs some more time.
An in-progress clip of Nightdive's cutscene remastering work was posted last month, and Kick also says that it's not representative of what the final Enhanced Edition scenes will look like. Rather than bumping everything up to 60 FPS as seen in the in-progress clip, Kick thinks Nightdive will likely half the framerate and restore some characteristic film grain.
Nightdive is certainly no stranger to difficult, arduous projects. It's still working on it's full-fledged remake of the original System Shock, and earlier this year Kick went on record saying that Nightdive is still trying to bring back No One Lives Forever even though Monolith's classic FPS is caught up in a licensing nightmare.