Remastering old games: do more resolution and colors make the graphics better?

I wonder why this keeps being a point of discussion mostly in adventure games. In other genres there is no question about it. A few years ago a remake of the arcade game Turtles In Time was released and people hated it. Then I discovered that there is a HD Remake of Street Fighter 2 and mostly people making a bunch of jokes about it refering to it looking like a bad flash game.

Really the only remake that I can think of that is universially liked is Super Mario AllStars for the SNES (using techniques from Super Mario World on the first three Super Mario Bros. Games).

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I don’t think you’ll find too many complaints about the remake of Half-Life, aside from it not being complete yet. The part they released is great. For a game developed by what was originally a mod team, it rivals Valve’s own quality.

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As I wasn’t talking just about colors and resolutions, I have to disagree with your last statement. In 1998 Lucasarts graphic artists had a choice between 2D technology and 3D technology. They chose 3D for Grim Fandango. Ten years before, choosing 3D for their adventure games would have resulted in not-so-aesthetically-pleasing games and probably the decision to use 2D wasn’t exclusively driven by artistic decisions but also by technical limitations.

Today artists could use technologies like the following one to completely remake “Monkey Island 2”. Regardless of how much the players would like the result, my point is that the artists are today more free to define the graphic style of the game without bothering too much about the hardware limitations:


I’ve been talking about 2D adventure games this whole time. Once 3D is introduced, all bets are off. Going 3D opens up a lot of options, but also comes with its own problems. And I think remaking a 2D game in 3D is going to be more work than is practical for a remake.

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I’d like to play a P&C that is 3D free roaming which has Ron Gilbert-esque (or at least LucasArts-esque) gameplay. Do any exist?

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If you want full 3D:

  • TellTale’s Sam & Max series
  • TellTale’s Tales of Monkey Island

If you also want to accept 3D characters on 2D backgrounds:

  • Grim Fandango
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3D with free roaming, such as with remastered (I think) Myst, or the way one roams the island in The Witness, although I’d accept if the game runs through a third person perspective. From what I can see, the games listed above don’t come close to approaching this (played some Grim Fandango).

In the case of that MI2 Cryengine production, the player can roam the lands in a free way.

I think I’m thinking of realMYST.

looking better, I can see a worsening in the mood (atmosphere), but only because they changed the blue rocks to normal rocks. This results in a less magical and mystique mood. But it’s not a flaw of adding color in general, only in the way they colored. (I mean: if we colorize the rocks with photoshop giving them a blue shade I don’t see how the result could be worse than the original :))

About details: by detail I mean the kind of thing that can only be added by increasing resolution. If you add stuff at the same resolution, this cannot create the problems I am concerned about , because they will still be fuzzy, so won’t block your brain from adding even more details.

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I’m basically against remakes and remasterings. Heck, we can play the original game.

Remastering something is basically saying “look, the story and the gameplay don’t count, you want better graphics and sound”. And that’s just PLAIN WRONG. Would you watch a colorized version of Chaplin’s movies? Would you read a re-issue of The Picture of Dorian Gray where the old-timey wording has been “remastered” to fit today’s way of speaking?

If the story and gameplay don’t count, then why would someone want to play a remastered game instead of playing something brand new? It’s possible for someone to appreciate story, gameplay, graphics, and sound in equal measure. In some cases, the remastering makes it possible to play a game that otherwise would be difficult or impossible to play. Grim Fandango is a prime example of that. It was the last of the adventure games from LucasArts’ “golden era”, and I didn’t have the opportunity to buy it when it was new. I eventually acquired it several years later, but couldn’t get it to run reliably–even on a legacy machine I’d built specifically for that sort of thing. Thanks to the Double Fine remaster of the game, I was finally able to play it on a modern OS without show-stopping crashes.

When it comes to remastered movies, people often do want them. Having dirt and damage cleaned from a negative, lossless audio created from the original recordings, and then put together in a 4K release with surround sound is something people often appreciate when it’s done well. Just because I originally enjoyed a movie with blurry visuals and muddy monaural sound doesn’t mean I’m going to be upset if that movie is re-released with better than theatrical print quality and crystal clear surround sound.

For a far more extreme example, Peter Jackson went so far as to add graphics and sound to a story that had neither, and people seemed to like that well enough. Stories aren’t so sacred that a person is becomes a filthy heathen simply for wanting to see them brought to life. If that were the case, then William Shakespeare is quite possibly the father of all heathens, for he took classic literature and had people act it out in front of the (quite possibly) illiterate masses. The nerve of him, adding graphics and sound in the form of a live performance (practically the forerunner to FMV, the monster!).

If anything, I consider it to be a badge of honor when a game gets remastered. It’s generally a sign that a game is so well loved that experiencing it just one way isn’t enough. You don’t see people remastering the forgettable games like Escape From Monkey Island.

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I have noticed that color helps a lot in making sense of messy backgrounds. It makes them easier to parse for the brain. For this reason, personally I would. OTOH, I suppose the backgrounds of black and white movies are designed so as to be understandable without color. But I assume they would be even more understandable with added color. I can see this would remove part of the atmosphere, though. So it’s a tradeoff.

That’s a real remake of the game, using most of the available technologies of this time.
I think I would play a Monkey Island 2 made in this way.
… except for the FPS part! :smile:

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Yeah, I liked it. The 3D is not a defection, the story and humor are good!

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They changed the background too, look at the dawn: The new scene is much “brighter” and less “dark”.

I agree - in most cases. But for example in a game with black and white graphics, I won’t add color at all. :slight_smile:

With (extreme) low resolutions, sometimes you can’t add more details, especially if the system has hardware limitations (a good example is the C64).

More important: Would you watch the director’s cut of Star Wars IV - VI? :slight_smile:

I think you mix here two different things: You can modify the code of the old game to make it run on a new machine. With this you only change the program, not the game. But we are talking about changing the graphics. And this is a complete different thing.

Grim Fandango isn’t a good example because they used the old backgrounds. So it still looks (mostly) like the original version.

This is the same thing: In this case they don’t change the graphics and the content. It’s like running the C64 version of Zak McKracken on a modern 4K display. But here we are not talking about scaling up the old graphics up to 4K, we are talking about changing the graphics. Like George Lucas did with his remastered versions of Star Wars.

Yes. :slight_smile: Sometimes they used “odd” colors at the set, that won’t fit together, just to get the right look in the black and white movie. :slight_smile:

make this experiment: take any black and white comic and add color in a rough way, just flat very light tint, barely different from white. it becomes much more understandable. (especially if you are seeing a forest) You would presume the backgrounds of the comic to be designed so as to be perfectly understandable without color. But in practice, you’ll see that color makes them much easier for the brain to parse, anyway. (in the forest, telling the green of the leaves from the brown of the wood and the blue of the sky makes the difference)

It’s true they didn’t have the luxury of changing the backgrounds, but they did remaster the audio. The entire sound track was re-recorded using the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. They also remastered textures on the 3D models and added real-time lighting effects. It may not be a profound difference, but the difference is there.

And yes, remastering is different from updating the code, but were it not for the effort to remaster the game, the code would probably never have been updated. It sure hadn’t been prior to the remaster. By putting a new coat of polish on a game, it becomes easier to justify updating the game to appeal to people who missed it the first time around.

I must be too used to following film restoration forums, because I’ve seen plenty of heated arguments over whether it’s acceptable to fix flaws in the original negative. For a lot of film buffs, even just editing out dirt and scratches on the original negative constitutes an unacceptable revision of film history. They treat it as being on the same level as George Lucas’ alterations in the special editions, since those scratches and dirt are considered part of the film, for better or worse. The fact that they were unintentional doesn’t matter. They’re considered part of the film process at the time and thus should be preserved.

And often with these remasters, graphics DO get changed. For instance, when Aliens got its remaster, a particularly glaring special-effect good was repaired. It’s a minor change, but a change nonetheless. The upcoming Terminator 2 re-release is also fixing a few effects flaws in the film.

And remastered movies don’t simply upscale the movie to higher resolution. They go back to the original negative and do a whole new transfer. A movie originally transferred to DVD simply does not have all the detail of the original. Doing a new transfer means producing a native high-resolution image that will alter how the film looks, even if the original source material never changed. For a hypothetical example, it would be like if the Monkey Island 2 special edition used the original artwork that was drawn for the backgrounds. Sure, it’s the exact same imagery used to make the original game, but there’s still going to be a very noticeable difference between the high-res art and the low-res art seen in the original MS-DOS version of the game. Reducing the artwork to 320x200 makes the art look quite different from the original.

I’ll acknowledge that film remasters aren’t done for precisely the same reason as a game remaster, but they are still changes–sometimes quite controversial changes.

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Here’s my personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth.

In my mind there are two kinds of motivations for remastering a game:

  • The game was made during a time when technological limitations severely constrained its implementation, and all aspects of its design – including visual style, audio and video direction, game-mechanics, etc. were necessarily affected as a consequence.

    Even though such a game is decidedly a product of it’s time, if it was popular and beloved enough, it becomes attractive to want to re-produce it farther into the future for a newer audience to enjoy.

  • The game was made during a time of technological transition, when the specific technology employed (or the techniques to utilize it) was either just being introduced or on its way to becoming obsolete.

    In such cases, there is usually a very clear sense of the trade-offs made in the design, and there is a tacit understanding that some facets of the game could have been improved or done better (not differently), had the constraints not been there.

The motivations for remastering the first case usually involve a desire to alter the visual and mechanical aspects of the game in order to adapt it to a new audience.

Consider for example the remastered version of Loom or Day Of The Tentacle, which either change the mood or the entire mode of interaction of the game.

In contrast, the motivations for remastering the second case usually involve just correcting or reversing the specific trade-offs once their limiting factors are no longer at play.

An example of this is the remastered version of Shadow Of The Colossus, which merely upgrades the graphics resolution – the one severe limitation for which the original developers struggled to compensate – and essentially leaves the game intact.

It’s the difference between, say, colorizing The Wizard Of Oz, and just restoring an original print to its pristine condition and digitizing it onto a high-resolution medium.



That’s only half true. :slight_smile: For example the developers at are changing (only) the code to be able to re-release the old games. Another example is ScummVM, that tries to run the old games on modern hardware.

That’s interesting, because each copy has other flaws, scratches, dirt, etc. So from this point of view everyone has seen a different version of the film. :slight_smile:

Yes, I know. :slight_smile: It depends on the remake and the film if I would like the result. For example if you can see the difference between the new effects and the old effects.

But in games you have “perfect pixel”. No dirt or scratches. So you have only the options to scale them 1:1, scale them with a clever algorithm (like in ScummVM) or to redraw them.

But is Peter Chan or Steve Purcell the author of this legendary picture?


because I read it’s signed “peter chan”. The others too. (they can be viewed here)


There’s also the commercial side of things. We’ve heard about how remasters are selling better than new and original titles. There’s also the possibility that seeing new opportunities causes temptation to update even a satisfactorily produced original which was not compromised.

Myst is an interesting case. Later versions clearly improve and “fix” the original vision for the game, which they couldn’t quite achieve at the time through technological limitations – at least within a practical timeframe and budget. Myst becoming fully 3D with free movement and exploration probably just turned the game into what was wanted in a best case scenario in the first place.

I always found there to be a disconnect between the artistic vision of DotT and its initial realisation and a remaster of S&MHTR would be similarly satisfying for me for the same reasons.

I don’t see these remasters as a badge of honour as was earlier stated in this thread, but a badge of sorrowful pastiche. The DotT remaster is outselling TWP, no?

Sad. Very sad.

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