Blade Runner – In RETROspect (1997 PC Game Retrospective)

Blade Runner – In RETROspect (1997 PC Game Retrospective)


Hello everyone and welcome to the first episode
of Suggestive Gaming’s ‘In RETRO-spect’, where we examine a game or franchise that
you may have missed, and take a deeper look at it’s development, key individuals involved,
and its impact on the video game landscape. Today, we’re going to look at the 1997 PC
game Blade Runner, but to do that, we have to take a step or two back… In 1968, science fiction writer Phillip K
Dick released his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep, a post-apocalyptic story
of a bounty-hunter named Rick Deckard who is tasked with eliminating, or “retiring”
a group of escaped androids, called Nexus-6 models. The novel later made its way around Hollywood,
catching the interest of directors such as Martin Scorsese, before an adaptation written
by Hampton Fancer came across producer Michael Deeley, who then took it to Alien director
Ridley Scott. Scott was reluctant to take the project, as
he just fell out of a very lengthy and daunting process of adapting another novel, Dune, which
was scrapped and later picked up by director David Lynch. Scott eventually agreed, wanting to work on
something to take his mind off of mourning the unfortunate passing of his older brother. Scott brought his own changes to the script,
including changing the title to Blade Runner, borrowing it from an unrelated film adaptation
of an Alan E. Nourse novel. The title was chosen simply because the production
team liked the way it sounded, and Scott incorporated it into the film by calling the main character,
Deckard’s group of android hunters: Blade Runners. The film was released in 1982 with Star Wars
and Indiana Jones star Harrison Ford portraying the main character, Rick Deckard. Despite the big names attached to it, the
film underperformed at the box office, and critics were mixed on it. The film’s studio, Warner Bros., stepped
in after filming completed, and demanded changes that both Scott and Ford felt damaged the
final product. Because of this, the studio took Scott’s
notes on the project, and nearly ten years later, released Blade Runner: The Director’s
Cut, on home video in 1991. Staying more true to the director’s original
vision, the Director’s Cut sold fairly well, and reinvigorated audience interest in the
film, causing it to achieve cult classic status. Perhaps due to this slight re-surge in popularity,
the company that had obtained the rights to the film and it’s intellectual property,
called The Blade Runner partnership (composed of producers Bud Yorkin, and Jerry Perenchio),
began to pitch the idea of a Blade Runner video game adaptation to several companies. After being denied by EA, Sierra, and Activision,
the project was eventually taken by Virgin Interactive, and after several years of skirting
around copyright issues, the game was given to the developer of the Command and Conquer
series: Westwood Studios to begin work. Because of the aforementioned copyright issues,
the developer was not able to strictly adapt the story of the original film. Instead, the game’s director Louis Castle
opted to create a new story that took place along-side the plot of the film, with characters
and events overlapping to give the player an alternate view of the film’s events. This move was slightly unorthodox for movie
games of the time, as most video game adaptations of movie franchises generally took their plot
and setpieces directly from their source material, often using clips from them as cutscenes in-between
the games’ stages. Virgin and the Blade Runner Partnership were
thrilled by this idea, as well as early cutscenes that were pitched to them, since they could
still release a game with the Blade Runner aesthetic and atmosphere, without using any
copywritten story, audio, or visuals. With this plan in motion, the team set out
to create an adventure game, akin to Sierra and LucasArts games, such as Space Quest,
and the Indiana Jones games, respectively. To greater encapsulate the Blade Runner look
and feel, the team decided to create the game in full 3D, unlike other adventure games of
the time that were 2D and used sprite art. Unlike nearly every 3D game, which used polygonal
models rendered in real-time, Westwood instead created their own engine which rendered character
models using “voxels”, or pixels with height, width, and depth. To go into more detail on the differences
between these styles, polygonal rendering sees models that are made up by connected
points in 3D space, with each point connected by a line. This means that polygons can take on many
different shapes and sizes, and when combined together, can make up many detailed models,
especially when the number of polygons is very high. Most every 3D rendered game, or film, you
see today uses polygonal models. The voxel engine by Westwood followed a similar
concept, but instead of using polygons in 3D space that could consist of any shape,
they simply used cubes of differing sizes and color. This means that every model in the Blade Runner
game was created by stacking a bunch of blocks on top of each other. Think of every character or object in the
game being created in Minecraft, and you’ll have a good idea of how the system works. These models were then placed over pre-rendered
3D backgrounds, to give the environments more detail without taking more processing power. Despite using this unorthodox rendering style,
the game’s animations were still motion-captured by actors, and the game had around 20,000
motion captured animations, an unprecedented number at the time. The game’s story, while not being a straight
adaptation of the film, still follows a very similar plot of a Blade Runner, this time
named Ray McCoy, following an investigation involving Nexus-6 replicants. Like intended by director Louis Castle, the
story runs parallel to the film, with several characters and plot points crossing over into
the game. Most characters who appear from the film are
even played by their live-action counterparts, such as Sean Young as Rachel and Joe Turkel
as Dr. Eldon Tyrell. The game also featured a very unique and interesting
aspect to it’s storytelling: random events, encounters, and outcomes to situations, making
every playthrough potentially different, and, along with the game’s thirteen different
endings, gives the player many reasons for replaying. The game’s story also runs in real-time,
with other characters playing out their investigations and side-stories as the player does theirs. These aspects of the game also made it very
ahead of its time in the adventure-game landscape, with many games even today not taking that
level of flexibility to their story-telling. Blade Runner was released October 31, 1997,
head-to-head with a new installment in the acclaimed LucasArts adventure series, Monkey
Island. Despite the competition of The Curse of Monkey
Island, Blade Runner was very successful, selling over 1 million copies. It was also well received by gaming critics,
being nominated for several “Best Adventure Game” awards, and winning the Interactive
Achievement Award for “Computer Adventure Game of the Year”. Despite selling well, Westwood saw little
profits from the game, due to its high development cost. The game was also expensive to produce, since
it’s size caused it to span across four discs. In addition, the Blade Runner Partnership
took a large portion of the sales as part of their development deal. Virgin Interactive and Westwood were interested
in making a sequel to the game, but the Blade Runner Partnership agreed only on the condition
that their licensing fee was increased even more. Virgin and Westwood predicted that the sequel
would have to sell double or more what the original did to turn a profit, so the decision
was to walk away from the Blade Runner franchise, as it was now financially unfeasable to work
on. In August, 1998, less than a year after Blade
Runner’s release, Westwood studios was sold by Virgin Interactive to Electronic Arts,
with all of the rights of Westwood’s games transferring to the new parent company. Westwood continued to develop games, namely
under the Command and Conquer series, until EA folded the company in 2003 to consolidate
the studio into its other branches. Director Louis Castle went on to work on EA
projects such as the Steven Spielberg designed “Boom Blox” series, until 2009, when he
left to work in other areas in the industry. Like many PC games of it’s time, Blade Runner
later became what’s known as “abandonware”, or software that became ignored and unsupported
by its manufacturer. While EA owns the rights to the game, it has
not seen a digital release on any platform, presumably due to licensing issues. As such, playing the game today requires you
to have the original discs, either by purchasing them or by more nefarious means. Finding the game may be difficult, but playing
it on a modern PC is even more-so. Because the game’s installer was written
for 16-bit Windows operating systems, it is incompatible with most modern PC’s running
64-bit Windows or Macintosh. Therefore, playing the game requires either
a virtual machine, or a fan-made installer by “replaying.de” which allows you to
use the original discs to install the game, as well as provides necessary patches to play
the game without issue. This solution still isn’t perfect, however,
as some bugs do exist, such as cutscenes not playing. In 2015, Louis Castle explained that when
Westwood was disbanded by EA, the original source code and assets for the game were lost,
making a proper re-release of the game nearly impossible, unless it was rebuilt from the
ground up, costing an estimated tens of millions of dollars. Much like the film it is based on, the Blade
Runner video game went on to become a cult classic, with many of its players remembering
it fondly, but without an easy way to play it today. Despite this, you can still see it’s impact
in the video game industry today. The 3D adventure game style it ushered in
is still in use today by companies such as Sierra and Telltale games. The concept of creating a video game that
expands on a film’s story instead of directly adapting it was also used later in such games
as Enter the Matrix and Tron: Evolution, among others. While many have likely never heard of the
game, upon playing it, it’s easy to see how it’s seeds were planted in the adventure
game landscape, and despite it’s visuals, the game has stood the test of time and still
feels modern despite being over twenty years old. While today, the Blade Runner video game doesn’t
get as much recognition as other adventure games of it’s time, it is hard to ignore
the sheer ambitiousness and long-lasting effects of the project. With 2017’s sequel to the original film,
Blade Runner 2049, interest in the franchise rose once again, so maybe, someday, we’ll
see another video game in the universe. As late as 2009, The Blade Runner Partnership
was shopping around a new game to companies such as Borderlands creator Gearbox, so the
idea isn’t out of the question. Still though, as software preservation becomes
harder and harder with growing technology, this game is not one that will soon be forgotten…or
should I say, retired. Thanks for watching the first episode of Suggestive
Gaming’s In RETRO-spect. We hope you learned something, and if you
liked the video, please click the like button below, and go ahead and leave a comment suggesting
a game you’d like us to cover on the show. Also, make sure you click that subscribe button
to see more of these videos as well as our other series. See you next time!

39 thoughts on “Blade Runner – In RETROspect (1997 PC Game Retrospective)”

  1. So glad to have found this channel and to watch the first of this series; what a treat! Not sure how critically acclaimed this game was, but Return to Krondor is an old favorite of mine.

    But I'm sure whatever game you decide next, it will make for an awesome video.

  2. Outstanding quality!
    I love the picture you choose for Ridley lol
    I truly miss Westwood as I love command and conquer! I hope they take another crack at blade runner for a game! Maybe the Deus ex guys could do it

  3. Man i didn't know a blade runner game existed.. not only that but was a commercial and a critical success.. i wish I could play it

  4. I used to have this game, I loved it and wish I would have kept better track and care of it, it's a collectors item now

  5. My father played this when I was a child, it got me deeply into the sci-fi genre, though I could never beat this game.

    Even as an adult.

  6. So if some random game developer were to make it and release under a different name for free it wouldn't harm anyone now would it ?

  7. What I liked best about this game was that they captured the feel of the original movie very well. It was stark, and dark, and wet, and had plenty of cyberpunk mystery. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, I don't remember exactly what happened, or what was said, but I remember how it made me feel. I believe I still have the original disks (easy, when you never throw anything away!) I hope I can get this game playing again, somehow! I want to live in that world.

  8. I never really played this a kid but a friend had it and was very positive toward it. I also remember photographs from magazines. I'd love to see a updated version of it. I'd buy it!

  9. This was my first PC game, and I hadnt thought about it for years until now. I remember it being lightyears ahead of it's time when I got it.

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