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A Reproductive System

You are invited to come on a unique exploration of the art of the videogame remake. Featuring a unique line-up of remakers and remakees including Martin Hollis (Goldeneye 64), Paul Carruthers (Xor) this promises to be a fascinating journey through the art of the facsimile.

Guaranteed NO bad cover versions.

Tom Wooley, Martin Hollis, Rob Fearon, Paul Carruthers, James Newman.

My Thoughts

Very interesting; from the perspective of the remakers and the people who have had games remade. Questions about what exactly is a remake, demakes, and other aspects are all covered. It was also nice to chat to Rob Fearon ever so briefly since I comment on his wonderful blog. :) He writes some extra words which couldn’t be said in the panel itself too.

One additional thing post-talk was it wasn’t at all that interesting for people who had no idea what a demake was, and so the talk really needed to have a better explanation and in fact examples of demakes (the Halo Atari 2600 game would have been an awesome one).

Notes

James Newman’s introduction: What is a remake?

  • Not a copy (although those are interesting)
  • Mot emulation
  • Re-imagines an original game; creating a new thing inspired by an original

Think a cover version of a song. Also thinking about if it is better then the original; or not? etc.

Introductions

Paul: Have worked on remakes (Archipelagos, on the Amiga, remade into a 3d version) and have had a game remade (Zoor on the BBC Micro, remade by Ovine). Done the Sega versions of Mortal Combat and something else.

Rob Fearon: Runs Retroremakes, dedicated as a community hub, archiving and showing news about the stuff.

Martin Hollis: Have played a lot of remakes of coin-ops on the BBC micro. Was producer/director on Goldeneye, which has been remade twice.

Tom Woolley: Work on the National Videogame Archive.

Starting…

James: Should remakes be faithful?

Martin: A remake needs to be an interesting change to the original. Play with the design decisions.

Rob: Some of the original games might be fundamentally broken – might be the controls, such as Tempest, and ending up on G-Force on the ZX Spectrum, which is a great 2d remake. There was also Space Giraffe and so forth, which are remakes which also fix mistakes and bring it up to date.

James: When does it stop being a remake and start becoming a sequel?

Rob: That’s a hard one, isn’t it up to the publishers to decide?

James: How do you select a candidate for remake?

Rob: “Can you do anything with it?” Such as G-Force which had terrible controls. It also means finding the essence of the game so picking this out and run with that. Also a bit of “I think I can do better” as well, even if you can’t. There is plenty which is left fine as it is.

James: You’re making your own game, Paul, want to explain how you felt?

Paul: It was weird finding it. Someone pointed it out to me online. Never thought someone liked it so much that it would be remade. In fact it was remade for several different platforms, from Gameboy to PC. Kind of felt burgled, would have felt better if asked in the first place. Kind of feels your child has been taken from you. There is also a nice feeling, that there is something you’ve made that other people would like to play.

James: Have you contacted them?

Paul: Somewhat, invited a few down to this but couldn’t make it. As for why it was taken so much, aside from the game being absolutely brilliant, it is quite an easy game to write. It has all the maps in cyberspace somewhere. From a programmers point of view, to learn a new piece of hardware or doing it for the first time it is a good small project.

James: Are there any differences?

Paul: They are all the same except one version where an original was made, but a second personal edition was created by the same person with different aspects. It is a puzzle game, so making new maps or new elements is about all you can change.

James: Do you have some reverse engineering needed if you don’t have access to all the source code or maps?

Paul: It is, yes. Fire and Ice (or was it Ice and Fire?) by Techmo, had to engineer it through assembly code reverse engineering. If you didn’t make everything move in the right order you found it didn’t work. A big and horrible job.

James: Is that a similar process for remakes, Rob?

Rob: Sometimes there is. It is, without permission, awfully rude to rummage through peoples code. Many people just play an awful lot. Some games can be done in a week, some might be a nightmare to work out how it works.

James: Remakes can be quite personal then?

Rob: Chatting with Jeff Minter a bit about a remake about Tempest 2000, he was rightfully possessive about it. A bit of a war for a while over it. He’s allow to get antsy over it, it is his game! Good to get permission first and glorious when that happens.

James: Do you ever use fan community walkthroughs?

Rob: Oh God no, it is like being inside someone elses head. Different people see different things in games.

James: Tell us a bit about Goldeneye then Martin.

Martin: I’ve got a slight confession to make. I’ve not played either remakes. I can tell you how I feel about them though. It is inevitable when you put your own artistic view and emotions into something it becomes an extension of your personality. You feel instinctively a right to control that for ever and ever. Not surprised about the story about Jeff Minter. The most you invest and care in making a game, the more you care when it is remade. There is a great deal of anxiety and sense of loss from that – it is your baby, the same feeling when your kids leave home, that it becomes a free agent. In EU law it is enshrined they have moral rights to get permission to reuse work. You need to support people making the original things and their wishes in the future. My view on Goldeneye is best of luck to them. I wouldn’t choose to press a button to remove those games. There is some turmoil inside; I wouldn’t want to be irrational, so if they rummage through my old code.

Rob: It is polite to ask however.

Martin: It is, and it is not that hard to find people.

Rob: I was going to remake a specie game, by Dave Jones (not DMA one) and was easy to find.

Paul: It is easy to find thus is one aspect I am annoyed about when it was easy to find people and say “We’re going to steal your game”.

Rob: Running a competition and having to get entries saying “Have you asked? Have you asked?” is hard (Google them!), so hard to keep running. It’s a respect thing mainly.

James: Do you think Goldeneye needs to be remade?

Martin: I’ve been asked to be involved and it is a really tough project and I don’t think I’m up for it. If you’re not taking a financial view, the audience we’re talking to, it is going to be something you enjoy playing. Making clones in my teens, learn how to construct and build games. There is a great amount of luck on making the best games; so do you think the remakers will have that and the skill too? As John Cleese, he always wished the other pythons the best of luck and hoped they did well, but not too well.

James: What about archiving them Tom?

Tom: Seeing the remakes like multiplayer Jet Set Willy, it is important to keep track of and not to be ignored at all. Arguably running it on a modern system rather then emulation is perhaps good.

Rob: A game called (something) 3D was almost impossible to play, in 48K, whereas a remake made it actually playable.

Tom: If that unlocks something it is important and perhaps preserve them side by side.

Questions

Audience: Is the audience for the games the original people who enjoyed the game, or new people who come to it?

Paul: Obviously it is both. Even new players to the old games can immediately pick them up. The original incarnation is enough, and is good enough. Maybe it is just me, I’m a bit old fashioned.

Rob: Also the intent of the remake. Factions who do it for love, some for money – Goldeneye is stellar IP currency. A lot of the time you are going for both audiences. For me it is selfish and entirely for myself.

Audience: Do you know about Demakes?

Martin: Halo 2600 is still in my bookmarks list!

Rob: VVV…too many V’s is like that too. Horace and the Mystic Woods too; originally for one brand of phone and now back on the spectrum.

Martin: When you primitive hardware, you really concentrate on what makes it a brilliant game. On modern hardware you can easily do some things better. Old hardware is like old media (painting etc.) limiting the design. Remake like Goldeneye Source, good look too them. (Audience mentions a 2d shooter version) I didn’t know about that version.

James: There are some interesting reinterpretations like a Gameboy version of Half Life 2.

Audience: Just as a cycle, when you talk of remakes do you mean open source projects which have the code and upgrade it?

Rob: We’ve always counted them. Not entirely legitimate but Open Transport Tycoon for instance.

James: Talked a bit about coin op conversions. Are they remakes?

Paul: It depends, if you are moving a game onto equivalent hardware, even though you are emulating it, it is as close as emulation because every nuance of the game is exactly translated. More interesting taking original hardware which is much more capable and moving it into lower spec hardware and still retaining the essence of the game – it might be the graphics, controls, the internals if you like. Mortal Combat success was from the graphics – photographic sprites – and the controls. Was able to talk to Ed Boon to see the source code and see how it was worked and was sent all the original graphics. Was a really interesting project to move the essence of the game onto a much smaller platform.

Rob: A lot of them were made without any kind of access to the sort of things Paul had, so classed to me as remake. Not in a bent of doing “This is a remake and this is not a remake”.

Remakes can be a really good way to evolve systems.

Paul: If you take influences from a game you’re making a brand new game. You always take bits and bobs which is absolutely the right thing to do. It isn’t a remake, it is a brand new game.

Martin: Space Giraffe is very different to Tempest 2000; controls and so forth. Even if Jeff Minter claimed it was the same people would contradict him! More a spiritual successor.

Audience: When does a remake become a clone?

Martin: Derogatory to call things clone; like “Why did you bother?”.

James: So a clone is a mechanical remake?

Martin: Yes, a remake needs to have something different.

Rob: Never seen the point to it to me. Mechanically cloning something and replacing the graphics, you ask what’s the point?

Audience: What about the nostalgia of playing a new game like Sonic 4 that takes you back?

Tom: That can be fantastic. The danger is bastardising it somehow that is not true to the original memory. That can when it can be come derogative.

Rob: Nostalgia is shit, sorry.

Martin: You need to keep the past in mind to a degree; but you need to focus on the future.

Rob: Time to evolve things some way. A fan remake which people goes “That is how you should do it!” then you think at least the new games try something different. Don’t just rely on people say “Oh yeah that was great when I was 12”. Star Raiders being remade for IP’s sake only for instance; why bother? Seems odd from a site called retro remakes though, sorry!

Paul: It’s how the market goes, would be nice to see sales figures.

Rob: It was featured game for a week, so even at a fiver it probably sold enough.

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