Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

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sev
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Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by sev »

We are thrilled to announce that the Blade Runner point and click adventure game, developed by Westwood Studios and originally released in 1997, is now available again for purchase, thanks to the efforts of GOG.com. This new digitally distributed version includes the officially dubbed versions of the game (English, French, Italian, Spanish and German).

Of course, it runs on top of ScummVM, which means it contains various bug fixes and quality of life improvements (like mouse-scrolling in KIA and fan made subtitles support) over the original 1997 version of the game.

You will find subtitles for the English and French versions of the game on the Games section of the ScummVM website.

We still have plans to complete the restored content version for the game, which is built from content and code segments that are already in the game’s resources but left unused or untriggered.

PS. If you use the link above we will get a commission from your purchase.

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pykman
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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by pykman »

Damn it! If I only read this first... Sorry no commission from me :( I was to eager to buy this.

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by miracle.flame »

Thanks to you I actually found out such brilliant game exists!

However seeing it for the first time these days I find the graphics quite blocky. I am aware how praised the graphics are using the revolutionary technology and looking all quite cinematic however the heavy blockyness is undeniable. Would there be some enhancing filter available to smooth the blocks a bit? There are some impressive techniques already available for some previous hi-res titles, wondering if any of that could be usable for Blade Runner.

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by Praetorian »

miracle.flame wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:20 am
Thanks to you I actually found out such brilliant game exists!

However seeing it for the first time these days I find the graphics quite blocky. I am aware how praised the graphics are using the revolutionary technology and looking all quite cinematic however the heavy blockyness is undeniable. Would there be some enhancing filter available to smooth the blocks a bit? There are some impressive techniques already available for some previous hi-res titles, wondering if any of that could be usable for Blade Runner.
For me, the most noticeable change is when enabling or disabling the "filtering" checkbox option for the game. In GOG's installation, it is disabled by default, so you either have to edit the configuration file for the game to change it, or run the game via ScummVM directly and change the option in the Graphics tab for the Blade Runner game.

I think it looks smoother that way, and I kind of prefer it like that.
Your mileage may vary, of course.

Other than that, I should note that even at the time of the original release, back in 1997, most of the character models did look block-y and left something to be desired. Apparently, this was due to the compression that the developers had to apply on the models, which they didn't have the time to optimize.

I don't think that modern filtering / upscaling (like the neural network variety) techniques can "reverse" or improve that significantly, and it would be too much work for a doubtful result. It also probably wouldn't work in real-time with today's hardware...

For me, the only chance to get a proper high res looking Blade Runner would be for the lost Westwood assets to resurface -- one can hope. From the few material that has been shared in the previous years, they had quite high resolution versions of everything to work with:
http://deadendthrills.com/future-imperf ... de-runner/
http://deadendthrills.com/gallery/?gid=105

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by miracle.flame »

I actually found out HQ2x scaler does some work in deblocking this to extend which is acceptable, just stopped by to make this obvious for anyone interested.

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by JohnnyW »

Praetorian wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:43 pm
Other than that, I should note that even at the time of the original release, back in 1997, most of the character models did look block-y and left something to be desired. Apparently, this was due to the compression that the developers had to apply on the models, which they didn't have the time to optimize.
Um. They used voxels (or simplified voxels) which is why the characters look this way. It was the only way at the time to have that level of texture and model detail animated in 3D. The game was optimised within an inch of its life, I believe, and the models (although looking blocky) were advanced for their time.

Louis Castle explains here:
Fun! Yeah, we stored our data as slices for space and restricted rotation to the Y axis. Both were optimization since each frame of an animation was a full model there was no need to rotate them. The renderer could render them from any angle though so I still consider them voxels. More like voxels lite then voxel plus. We also used a lot of sprite cards with zdepth and a quick normal hack for lighting. You had to cut corners where you could back then!!
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17171287

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by Praetorian »

JohnnyW wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 7:21 pm
Um. They used voxels (or simplified voxels) which is why the characters look this way. It was the only way at the time to have that level of texture and model detail animated in 3D. The game was optimised within an inch of its life, I believe, and the models (although looking blocky) were advanced for their time.
Indeed they used their own iteration/ variation upon voxel tech, what Louis calls "voxel plus".

However, that is not why most of the models look blotchy/blocky. They also applied compression to the models (edit: and reduction of "polygons") on top of that to reduce their size.

I think you can actually find some rare (I believe) screenshots of the game, where McCoy looks even better. And McCoy is one of the models that got the most optimization too.

These quotes are relevant to what I am talking about:
(David Leary interview on Adventure Gamers)
David: Thanks! The interesting thing about that is that if we did have the code for it, and somebody were able to do a remaster, you could crank up the technology for the character models. It actually supported a much higher resolution, and a higher fidelity look. With today's computers, you could pretty easily crank that tech up to take the original source assets, which were much more detailed, and really make the characters look as if they fit into the scenes a lot better. I think that would be something that would be great to see in a remaster as, really, the only limits at the time were that we were trying to make it meet minimum specs, and run that technology.
And this Louis Castle youtube interview (timestamp at 14:08) where he speaks more clearly about the issue --- how they ran out of time and also mentions it as the first thing he would have optimized more if he was given the chance.
https://youtu.be/D623rBiAVX0?t=848

I do remember reading this in another interview (or listening to a lecture / presentation from Louis Castle about it). I'll try to find that resource too.

Edit: Here's another quote from an interview with Castle, apparently from February 1998!
What was the technology used in the development of the game?

Castle: The technology used in Blade Runner for the characters allows for many small single color polygons to be rendered by a standard (non-3D) video card. The result is that we can "render" 20,000 polygons for our main character on a P90. Although compression allows these characters to take up a minimal amount of memory per frame the sheer number of frames of animation, at motion capture rates of 15 frames per second, caused us to exceed our CD space again and again. To keep the players from having to swap CDs in and out of the drive we had to reduce the polygon count to less that 3000 polygons on many of the less important characters. Since these are flat shaded polygons the characters did not do the technology justice.
https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/ ... about_.php

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by JohnnyW »

Thanks for sharing all that. Not sure if you read my whole post or not? (Castle said two years ago that it wasn't really "voxel plus" but rather "voxel lite".)

However, I also think we might be talking at cross purposes. I assumed miracle.flame was talking about ALL the characters, including McCoy. However you took them to be referring to the secondary characters (which often look much blockier than McCoy). If you're right, then I don't disagree with what you're saying. So maybe I misunderstood.

As Castle says in the video you shared, they ran out of time to fine tune the secondary characters to the level they did for McCoy. Nobody in the game was ever going to look better than McCoy does (including McCoy) and still have it run on a Pentium 90.

So I was trying to say that McCoy's appearance was the result of voxel technology of the time, but you may be right and miracle.flame was mainly referring to the blockier secondary characters, and they could have indeed looked much better.

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by Praetorian »

JohnnyW wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:54 pm
Thanks for sharing all that. Not sure if you read my whole post or not? (Castle said two years ago that it wasn't really "voxel plus" but rather "voxel lite".)

However, I also think we might be talking at cross purposes. I assumed miracle.flame was talking about ALL the characters, including McCoy. However you took them to be referring to the secondary characters (which often look much blockier than McCoy). If you're right, then I don't disagree with what you're saying. So maybe I misunderstood.

As Castle says in the video you shared, they ran out of time to fine tune the secondary characters to the level they did for McCoy. Nobody in the game was ever going to look better than McCoy does (including McCoy) and still have it run on a Pentium 90.

So I was trying to say that McCoy's appearance was the result of voxel technology of the time, but you may be right and miracle.flame was mainly referring to the blockier secondary characters, and they could have indeed looked much better.
To me it seems that even McCoy's model and other primary characters (Steele, Clovis are definitely some of the others, maybe Lucy and Sadik) would have benefited by a more optimized pipeline or, for nowadays hardware, no "optimization" at all. Because you can see models in the Dead End Thrills article, and some early promotional material that are actually a lot better defined. Maybe not great looking by today's standards but way better than what made it into the final game.

I am also sure there's interviews and talks making more clear that all models could have looked better, but it's hard to go through everything I have read or listened too to give more links.

So, you know, nowadays and given time, money and the original assets, they could have put additional effort in their pipeline and might have even ended up with a sliding scale setting to select quality of models in the UI options.

Sure, the secondary models looked really bad even at the time. For example, Bullet Bob, Mia & Murray, CrazyLegs Larry, or Eisenduller's body, are specifically extra bad looking. Others are too, especially since you are expected to do investigative work and notice appearance traits -- like in the case of Izo, where instead of seeing a blond guy with glasses and ponytail you see a random dark dressed guy.

Also note that *all* models were not optimized for looking good when standing close to the "foreground"/screen, like zoomed in, and Castle mentions that too as something that needed further work. Because a lot of the characters *will* come too close to the screen for one reason or another, on many occasions. (This is mentioned in the Dead End Thrills article also, by a core programmer, about McCoy's model)

At the time however, given the limitations of the CD Rom disc medium, the tech back then and their timeframe limitations, the 640x480 fixed resolution, and the minimum hardware denominator they wanted the game to play on, they did the best they could, I am sure of it.

I am not arguing with you. I've read your message. I do know they did all optimization they could given the circumstances, but I am just clarifying my point of view of the situation. That the optimization could have been better even for the main character models, and certainly for all other models. This is based on stuff I've read and listened by the creators (some of which are linked above). And stuff I've seen in the engine code and the model viewer.

PS. As far as I know "voxel lite" or "plus" are just Castle's own terms about the same thing -- their own iteration of making the voxel tech performance friendly to the hardware (and the minimum requirements for it) at the time using the slices approach. I just seem to have read/listened to him using the "plus" version more. I believe no one used this "lite" or "plus" voxel tech again since the industry moved on to proper hardware accelerated 3d or software rendered 3d very soon after. It was those transition years.

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Re: Westwood’s Blade Runner (1997) is finally available for purchase as a digital copy

Post by WarpedTrekker »

This is great! Going to purchase a copy today as I just saw it along with the other Westwood Studios games! I used to have all of Westwood Studios and other classic boxed games, but sold them all a few years ago. I just didn't want to keep the boxes filling up room anymore. I just purchased Lands of Lore and Kyrandia series. Blade Runner next!

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