— Drewby’s preferred title was “Drewby Might be Right, but I Wish the World Were Different”. I thought that title sucked—
Last night (8-19-2014) we recorded the normal weekly “On the Topic of Video Games” podcast and I brought up a topic that ended up being a bit controversial on the show. Being as I was tired and not the best at forming rational thought on the fly, I thought I should try and clarify what I was trying to say on that show. I’m sure that some of what I said is incorrect and I would like to set the record straight here, as well as sort out the issue in my mind. Judging by what I remember from a late night, my opinion sounded (At least to Drewby) that I was against all remakes, remastered, and ports with a very blurry line of distinction between them. I will attempt to define these terms as best as I can from my mind, and then try and express my thoughts on each of them accurately and individually.
The first term that came up is “remake”. I would define a video game “remake” as a complete overhaul with a new engine and potential additions to a game. A true remake would include things like Golden Eye 007: Reloaded for last generation consoles. That game actually was a complete overhaul of a game that ended up being different than the original in many ways. Dota 2 probably fits here, with a new engine external from the mod scene is started with. Final Fantasy III and IV fit here as well via their 3DS redesigns with a completely new engine. Using the definition I defined, this is the term most incorrectly applied to video games out of these three categories.
In order to correctly understand the term “remaster”, I think I need to establish the term “port” as the majority of remasters are also ports of some kind. A port is a video game previously available on one platform, being designed to be functionally playable on another platform.The majority of games hitting the Playstation Vita are good examples of ports. Games like Fez, Hotline Miami, and Spelunky all released exclusively on PC and have now been made available on the Vita with very little or no functional changes. The graphics quality and controls will very likely remain the same.
In my mind, a remaster is a port of a video game that probably includes a graphical update, uprezzing, or minor gameplay tweaks to improve the quality of the game. Also, more recent remasters include all the DLC of the original video game. “Remaster” is the most vague of the three terms in mind as they vary in the quality of the graphical updates they provide. An example of a remaster includes things like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, The Last of Us: Remastered, and the upcoming Sleeping Dogs Rebuilt. Remasters are the actual category that I tend to sometimes have a problem with in regards to timing and quality.
I think one of my mistakes was overemphasizing how problematic many of the recent remasters are. Eventually in the podcast I had stepped away from logic and skipped straight to “No new videogames will ever be made” which was clearly a straw man to the discussion Drewby and I were having. We have not even gotten close to reaching a point where this is a possibility as of yet. My original argument, that some of the money and time spent on certain remakes could be better spent elsewhere is a better choice.
A developer that is spending resources in one area, could be spending them in another area. This is my premise. The Last of Us: Remastered (which seems to be slightly more than a port) may have been relatively inexpensive in both resources and time and been a great way for a company to make a little bit of profit to use elsewhere. Likely, there are financial reasons that Naughty Dog deemed this remaster to be worth their salt and if that is a necessary element for them to remain in business and continue functioning the way they do, then I suppose it was a good choice.
If I were able to describe what I would prefer as a consumer however, I would rather the company take the same amount of funds it takes to remake this one year old game and hold an internal “game jam” like event. Let developers who probably have creative desires and ideas get a chance to get some of those ideas into a demo for a game. Smaller companies like Double Fine have this idea nailed down, and lots of ideas come out of it. On top of new ideas, it gives developers who are used to following a set path of remastering a game a chance to solve new challenges for themselves, increasing their future productivity and creation skills. Imagine a world where instead of The Last of Us: Remastered and Sleeping Dogs Rebuilt, we got four different $15 smaller games made by creative people with potentially new ideas. These smaller games could be made quickly with fewer resources and help bridge the gap we are currently seeing as we await 2015 where all of the coolest games are hiding.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with remasters as a whole. I have talked on the podcast about loving certain remasters. However, as I did state on the podcast, remasters gain a lot of their value in my eyes and either being nostalgic, or a modern way to play an old classic. I love playing good looking version of N64 games on my 3DS, and have even mentioned multiple times on the podcast that I would absolutely love a remaster of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I have tweeted that I would love a remastered version of Wind Jammers and probably other games that have fallen out of recent memory. I just think remastering a game has a time and place, and I don’t think The Last of Us Remastered or Sleeping Dogs Rebuilt are utilizing the strengths of the medium as well as older games do.
The thing I struggle with in my own head, is that I don’t have a problem with straight ports even though the process for making them is probably extremely similar to remastering a last generation game. A developer who could be using resources on new projects would rather spend that making sure they have their game available on more platforms. I appreciate ports. I literally just bought the Dark Souls 2 PC port. Maybe part of my struggle is when a game that is a glorified port is advertised as a remaster. Maybe it is the timing of the port. The DS2 PC port came out 3 months after the regular DS2 street date, but they had been working on that version of the game the entire time. I don’t have problems with these most recent Vita ports of indy games that are coming out a couple of years after their original release either though.
It is entirely probable and maybe even likely that I am judging the entire community of game remasters by the value they present to myself. As Drewby has mentioned, it does present another opportunity for someone who didn’t have previous access to a game, to possibly have a better version of that game. That is a good thing. I am a huge proponent of getting more people into the hobbies I find incredibly appealing. I don’t want people to misunderstand my position on THAT issue.
Either way, I can vote with my money on the games I want as can anyone else. I don’t wish these developers bad for making the decisions they do, and I am probably being an idealist with my utopian future of video game design, but I hope by explaining my position in a more reasonable manner that I have shed some light on my position. What do you guys think about this stuff?