Understanding the value in remastering old games

If you already played The Last of Us on the Playstation 3, why would you want to play The Last of Us Remastered on the Playstation 4? Before you cast these remakes off to the wayside, it would be good you understand the value old games have after they have been remastered. Not only do they often get new gameplay modes, the artistry that goes into redesigning many aspects of the game is undeniable and should be appreciated.

USgamer is here with a a feature discussing the art of the HD Remaster. A number of developers are revisiting past works with HD remasters, but the process of bringing an old game to a new platform is anything but easy.

Heading into the holiday season, it feels like half of the games coming out on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are remastered titles. We've already had Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and The Last of Us: Remastered, and there's still Grand Theft Auto V, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, Metro Redux, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Kingdom Hearts 2.5, Resident Evil HD Remaster, and new versions of Journey and Unfinished Swan. That's just on the immediate horizon.

The general belief is that HD remaster process is easy, especially for titles that released on PC or towards the end of the previous generation. Consumers think that it takes a bit of coding, a quick polish of art assets, and then a speedy release. In reality, porting a game over to another platform is a process that's more art than science. Assassin's Creed's PC ports have been fraught with problems due to poor optimization and I just finished reviewing Dead Rising 3 for PC, which had similar issues.

I reached out to the developers behind some of the recent and upcoming HD remasters to understand the process. The Last of Us: Remastered designer Anthony Newman and Crystal Dynamics executive producer Scot Amos were willing to talk about remaster development and how their respective studios handled the process.

A great HD remaster requires bringing the original game to a new platform, utilizing that new platform's abilities to the fullest. It's not just about the technical aspect; you also have to manage fan expectations. This means better character models, more environmental effects, improved resolution, and addition of small features like improved foliage, weather, or water. Great HD remasters allow fans to revisit some amazing games on their shiny new consoles, but they also allow new consumers to play many of these games for the first time. If you missed Tomb Raider on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is your window into the franchise. Getting the game onto that new platform takes time.

"I've had the privilege of making games on almost every platform of one flavor or another – some original, some ports, and there's never anything easy about changing a game that's been honed to exist and show off one platform to custom-fitting it to another," says Crystal Dynamics' Amos. "From controllers, to specific features, to platform holder requirements, to fans' expectations; all of these factors must be taken into consideration as we're delivering an experience and it has to be great no matter what platform it's on. Having a multi-studio, global team effort is what it takes to make a great experience and we're lucky we have that privilege."

"I think the thing consumers don't understand about the remaster process is that it really isn't easy," says Naughty Dog's Newman. "We actually worked very, very hard to get the remaster out the door. The Last of Us is an unthinkably complicated game: we had people losing sleep on issues as diverse as water refraction and on what part of the frame to deal melee damage. That said, I'm really proud of all the work the team put in, and as someone who loves TLOU, I'm so glad to be able to play the remaster: it's definitely the way the game was meant to be played."

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