Everything Old is New Again: Remakes & Remasters

I know this is an old discussion – and to be honest – I’m not sure how much (if any) value I’ll be adding to it. All I know is that it interests me, and that I want to talk about it.

I started playing video games at around six years old with a neon green Gameboy Color and Pokemon Blue. I slowly made my way up the Nintendo Handheld food chain over the years, eventually landing on my DS lite. By then, without even knowing it, I had already played two remakes; and they were in the Pokemon Franchise alone.

The purpose of this piece is to dive into my own thoughts about Remaking / Remastering video games, the differences I find between them, and what effects I see them having in the industry. Everything you’ll read here is purely my opinion, maybe with a couple facts sprinkled here and there.

The Circle of Life

Usually everybody agrees that only one thing in life is certain: death. Albeit morbid, the same principle can almost be applied to Video Games. No matter how hyped a game is, or how critically it is received, it’s fan base will eventually slowly leave or die off entirely.

This brutal cycle can be seen especially in games with yearly or nearly yearly release schedules. One of the prime examples is Call of Duty. The game is supported by the community and developers only until next November, with most of the fans moving on and ready for the next installment by the time a beta launches in September or October. This type of release schedule barely allows the game to enjoy a year of being on its own.

The other end of this spectrum can be seen in games with major communities surrounding them, like Animal Crossing. People play these installments for years and years, waiting for the next one. Eventually however, the newest game is released and most – if not all – of it’s players transition over. It’s just the way things have always been.

Remakes and Remasters change things.

Remakes vs. Remasters

I feel like to continue discussing this, we should define some of these terms. Remakes are inherently considered to be the retelling of an older game’s story but with a completely new game engine; usually the entire game is built new from the ground up. The latest example of this is the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I mean, the entire game is absolutely breathtaking.

I mean do I need to say more? Remakes are always usually regarded in a very positive connotation, and developers do their best to pay their respects to the original source material.

Now Remasters are where things get tricky. Remasters, in my opinion, are usually the same game ported over to a newer console and lightly reworked – usually with some HD textures slapped on for added freshness. In no way does this make Remaster’s inferior to a Remake. To most fans, just being able to play some of their favorite older games on their newer consoles is amazing itself. Increased visual quality and all DLC rolled into one purchase? Sign me up!

Assassin’s Creed 3 is a good example of a Remaster of an old game brought onto the current generation.

This is the best example I could think of a Remaster in recent memory -partially because I’m playing it currently. The textures and lighting are redone entirely, but you can still tell this game is 100% a last gen game. Just pretty enough to run on the current consoles without giving you a headache.

Questionable Content

Where issues begin to arise is when developers recycle old games, increase the resolution and nothing else, slap a Remaster on the cover, and feed it to us at a $60 price tag. While I’m playing AC3 Remastered on PS4, I can definitely defend it and say that lighting effects and textures have definitely been updated, along with a higher framerate. On the other hand, AC3 Remastered on the switch is a piss poor Remaster. On almost every level, it is a direct port from the last generation onto the Switch. In some cases, the game performs worse on Switch than it did Originally. From frame rate drops to severe pop-in issues, the Switch version of AC3 Remastered is dismal.

This trend continues however, on multiple platforms across varying games. I’m not trying to discourage Developers from Remastering their games, I just wish there was a standard of quality all Remasters should adhere to. Where the line begins to become blurred is when a game is directly ported, “Remastered” thrown into the title, and given a full game price tag. That’s where the more negative image of Remasters has begun to grow from.

The Silver Lining

Remasters are far from all being bad. They give the opportunities for Developers to bring their games to new audiences, to people who never got a chance to play them in their original form, to fans who love the games and are glad to play them again. Remakes are old favorites in a brand new art form, ready to be re-consumed by all.

I honestly believe these types of games are good for our industry. They bring back past nostalgia and hype that those games had originally brought back in the day. MW2: Remastered dropped out of nowhere a few weeks back and I dropped everything I was doing to play one of my favorite Campaigns of all time. I’d even argue that this game is more of a Remake than a Remaster, because many cut scenes and animations are changed entirely, and the game seems to run on the same engine that Modern Warfare (2019) is on. My friends and I texted each other memes back and forth of the game, even friends I hadn’t known yet when I played the original game. Friends who never played it before watched my stream and joined in my excitement in playing it again.

This industry is always changing and always on the move, and every now and then, there is nothing wrong with having a blast from the past here and there. Remakes and Remasters are just great reminders that because something is old doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I hope this trend continues in the video game industry, and as long as we continue voicing our praise for Remakes and Remasters done right, I believe developers will continue to give us our favorite games all over again.

A Year Without E3: Side Effects May Vary

E3 is, to many of us I’m sure, a literal Christmas in June. I can’t pin exactly when I started watching these conferences; all I do know is that I was instantly hooked. Much like the week leading up to actual Christmas, E3’s week long conference is a buzz of nervous excitement that just occupies our lives. Companies try to outdo each other on a giant stage for all the world to see – our very own Roman Colosseum of Gaming.

Although I’ll admit that, just like Christmas, the excitement E3 brings every year has gone down considerably since I was a teenager. This isn’t to say I’m not glued watching these conferences or trying to watch them while I’m at work. The point remains the same: E3 is a valuable time where information in the industry is put on a theatrical scale. Most, if not all, major reveals for games and hardware happens at E3. Except this year.

I do want to take a moment and say that I’m not berating E3 for deciding to cancel this year’s convention. COVID-19 is a pandemic that has quite literally shut down our world. I’m glad they decided to protect the safety of the attendees and industry workers alike, and I hope everyone is staying safe in these troubling times. Because of this, the question popped into my head and into the heads of many others. What is it going to be like without E3?

A Page out of Nintendo’s Playbook

Now I just want to admit that I am a bit of a Nintendo fanboy. I’ve always enjoyed their products; since childhood and an even more renewed interest these last few years. So naturally, I’m a huge fan of their Directs. For those who don’t know, a Nintendo Direct is a pre-recorded informational video that can range anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour long. Nintendo uses this style of presentation to quickly and efficiently showcase their first-party announcements (usually as the more beefier segments of the video) and then pepper in all third party game announcements as well. Major hardware and software announcements are also thrown into these Directs.

These presentations generally try to be entertaining and consumer friendly (similar to the current E3 presentations) instead of a Company just rambling off numbers and information. Nintendo Directs are notorious for holding a significantly huge piece of information until the very last moment, as a sort of Holy Shit moment for the audience. A fantastic example of this is actually Nintendo’s E3 Direct from last year – where at the very end they announced the development of a sequel to Breath of the Wild – a highly anticipated direct sequel to a beloved game.

Many have speculated that the the companies attending E3 should prepare such a Nintendo-like presentation to broadcast as part of a virtual E3. This would allow the companies and the convention itself to keep their original dates, which I could only imagine would be a relief in the face of a constantly moving industry. Entire project timelines are based on E3 presentations; from their launch dates to general reception. As a developer / publisher, this is critical data that could completely change the course of your project. Switching to “Directs” could turn E3 into a nice week of virtual presentations – which is how the majority of viewers participate in it, via a stream online.

Go your own way

As much as I want E3 to be like what I just described above, Companies could very well throw the E3 timetable right out the window and do whatever they’d like. With the convention announcing it’s cancellation, these major publishers have most likely been scrambling to find alternative forms of announcing their information. Some could hold just general press conferences and list off their announcements much like the night-time news. Others could just decided to announce information on social media posts whenever they feel like it, much like PlayStation’s reveal of their new DualSense Controller from yesterday.

Speaking of Sony, they have their very own conference called the PlayStation Experience (PSX). If they wanted to give their console a summer time reveal (much like what they could’ve done at E3), they could just announce a new PSX conference and do it all in-house, showcasing whatever IP’s they chose to. Microsoft is definitely capable of hosting their own conference as well, putting on an E3-like show. Unlike Nintendo Directs, these would be presentations given on a stage with a most likely small or nonexistent crowd.

In the End

The truth is, to some, E3 is on its last legs. Last year Sony decided they had nothing to showcase at E3 and skipped the conference entirely, leading many to the speculation that 2020 would be the year that the PS5 launched (which was correct). However, due to the fact that they missed E3 2019, I believed they would have come to E3 2020 with some major announcements to stun the crowds. But so no such luck. A Sony spokesperson alluded to the fact that they would not be participating in E3 2020 either, and now with the cancellation of the conference, it brings an uncomfortable thought to mind.

Is this a trend that Companies are going to start adopting? Just like Sony, are they going to pull their presentations in favor of controlling their announcements at their own pace? Does this spell the end for E3 as a convention? I certainly hope not, and with the exception of this years cancellation – it seemed like every other Company still intended to commit to attending E3. However, this year’s E3 is cancelled; and like I previously stated, these companies are being left to find their own means of presentation. This makes me wonder if they will ever return to E3 after this, or learn to prefer their own conferences. Or will they come crawling back next year to go about business as usual?

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and I’ve certainly posed more questions than I have provided any answers to. I just find the idea super interesting, because this cancellation could introduce a major shift in the Video Gaming Industry as a whole. As much as I like the idea of Publishers having complete control over their information / presentations, I have to argue E3’s significance. It is a time where the entire community comes together to watch news on our favorite hobby. It is a time where people flock to their computers to be excited about the things they love with like minded people. I honestly think it’s a valuable tradition that should be kept alive and well.

UPDATE: (4-8-2020, 4:30 AM) As I saved the draft for this piece after it’s final revision, I hopped over to Twitter and saw that IGN announced that Microsoft would be switching to Digital Only events until the end of 2020, possibly until July of 2021. I’m quoting from IGN’s video tweet here:

“An email to attendees of the Microsoft MVP Summit said ‘external and internal events will be digital-first until July 2021’.”

This starts to fall in line with the idea that these Major Publishers will be holding their own press conferences that will be on their own timelines.

A PC Gamer’s Confession: The Beauty of Console Gaming

At the end of my senior year I was still playing on my Xbox 360; several years after the next console generation had launched. It was only a matter of time before I had saved up enough to finally get my hands on an Xbox One and join my friends. However, something unbelievable came out of left field. A friend of a friend came to my rescue much like a knight saving a damsel in distress: together they brought me into the world of PC gaming.

After a disastrous budget build involving hand me down parts and quite literally tearing a hard drive out of my laptop, my PC was built. Sure it got up to 90 degrees Celsius on the most demanding games and sounded like a Boeing 777 was making an emergency landing in my room – but what really mattered was that I was officially a PC gamer.

I was hooked instantly. It was like a visual hit of adrenaline. Games I had played before on 360, and games that my other friends were playing on their current consoles; it didn’t matter – my PC outshone them all. I slowly began buying new parts and fixing up my budget build, turning the machine into something more respectable. With each new upgrade came a new standard I held my games to. I didn’t see it then, but this ultimately became a downfall for my taste in games.

It didn’t matter what game we were playing; the newest Battlefield or Stardew Valley – the game needed to run perfectly. I was obsessed with my rig’s performance. If a game was slightly un-optimized or had a bug with my GPU’s drivers, it would make me not want to play that game. I would constantly compare my settings to my friends settings, diving into the properties of games and my GPU to make the game run seamlessly. It’s easy to get caught up in the obsession when PC is all about having the best hardware to run the games at max settings. It was very much gaming elitism.

I carried on like this for several years, avoiding games entirely if I knew my computer couldn’t run them properly, lying about my performance to my friends so I wouldn’t get roasted for not being able to play a game past 60 FPS. I didn’t even realize how much it was just turning me off to playing games entirely. That is, until I got myself a Nintendo Switch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Nintendo solved all my problems and made a better human being. On the other hand, I cannot tell you how fucking satisfying it was being able to just pop Breath of the Wild into my switch and just play. Not worrying about my framerate or my texture settings, just enjoying the game for what an amazing experience it was itself. Sure I noticed I wasn’t playing at 60 fps, or if there was considerable slowdown in an area, but it didn’t matter at all. It didn’t matter because everybody who had a switch, no matter what, got the exact same experience I did.

This tiny self realization continued as I continued to buy more and more games on my Switch, even all the indies I would normally get on steam and most of the major AAA games that released on the little Nintendo Powerhouse. I can confidently say I put at least 75% of my gaming hours into the Nintendo Switch last year alone, not touching my PC for days or weeks at a time. This only intensified as last year’s holiday came around. Sony hit Black Friday with an amazing deal, a 1 TB PS4 Slim with three amazing games for only $200 USD. I scooped one up immediately and got to work on playing the most critically acclaimed games of that console generation.

I fell in love – it was so simple. You just popped the game in and played. No benchmark tests first, no game-specific driver updates, just pure enjoyment for what it was – a game. Since then, I jump back and forth from my PS4 and Switch mostly, playing games here and there to each consoles strengths. I still play on my PC here and there, but mostly for games I’ve had for a long time and never got around to, or multiplayer games that are cross-platform.

I didn’t make this piece to shit on PC Gaming, I still think it’s absolutely one of the best ways to enjoy video games. I guess I wrote this more as a forewarning to anyone joining the PC culture; or even as a piece of advice for people who already primarily play on PC. Don’t get obsessed with performance and numbers. Games are some of our most wonderful forms of art, and they are made to be enjoyed and experienced. Play games because you want to and they make you a feel a certain way; not because you can run it at 144HZ at 1440p.

-R

Welcome to Possibly Patched

Well this is a thing now.

This website has been an idea floating around in my head for a little while now. I’ve really been on the fence about it, but I figured, why the hell not? Video Games have been a major part of my life for a while now, and I’ve been looking for a platform to share my thoughts on them. So, Possibly Patched was created. I want to share opinions, reviews on games, thoughts on the industry, etc. here so feel free to stick around if you enjoy anything you read.

Of course, with the statement I just made above, I need to clarify that everything I write about will be my personal opinion. I’m not an industry specialist, or a game developer, just your average run of the mill video game consumer. So take everything I write about with a grain of salt, and I think we’ll be okay.

As for any goals, I want to be publishing pieces regularly, that is my top priority. Good quality posts at least a few times a week – if I can achieve that, I’d be more than happy. Maybe later on I can find others who have similar tastes who would want to write their own pieces, and that would be fantastic. For now, however, it’s just gonna be me and my dumb thoughts. Hope you enjoy,

-R