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The making of PS4 remaster Rogue Trooper Redux, out 17th October

Rebellion on how it rebuilt the classic for the modern era

Today we revealed Rogue Trooper Redux is coming to PlayStation 4 on 17th October!

Exciting news, no doubt, but as someone who worked on the original, it’s staggering. Here’s this great 2000 AD game we released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006, remastered for PlayStation 4. It is a bit surreal if I’m honest, but I’m thrilled to see how far the original has come. Our new side-by-side comparison trailer really underlines the difference!

So, how did we and our friends at TickTock Games do it?

You might think it’s straight-forward to get old games up-and-running on modern hardware, but this isn’t always the case. The PlayStation 4 is vastly different in architecture to its forebears and the landscape of online gaming on PlayStation is unrecognisable to that which existed a decade ago.

What’s really required is a version of the game built especially for modern hardware, something that integrates properly with all the lovely stuff we’ve come to know and love – trophies, invitations, high-definition textures, 1080p, dynamic lighting & shadows. The list goes on.

Rogue Trooper Redux

So, where to start?

Hopefully you still have the source code and assets for your original game somewhere. It’s going to be a long day if you have to build everything again from scratch! Recreating gameplay is notoriously difficult to do well – if you don’t know exactly how it was worked originally, how can you hope to recreate the exact feel of that classic game?

Fortunately, for Rogue Trooper Redux, Rebellion‘s pack rat mentality of saving everything (and we mean everything – our warehouse is a treasure trove filled with 25 years of gaming history!) paid dividends. So we were able to take the original source code and recompile it for modern hardware. It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing – these things never are – but it was much easier than starting from scratch.

So far, so good! Now it’s just a case of getting online play to work, integrating all those lovely things I mentioned before, and re-packaging the game for the modern consoles, right?

Rogue Trooper Redux

It’s time for a makeover!

But if you’re going to do all that, why not make the game look as lovely as it plays? To really make the best use of the power available, you need to completely rewrite the rendering code to use all the lovely toys available to us now. Then, to make use of those new renders, you need new assets – new textures, specular maps, high-poly meshwork.

Fortunately, armed with the original assets and the tools we used to make them, we were able to completely re-skin the game with all-new character meshes, vehicles, textures and a whole bunch of set dressing. After all that the game was looking better than ever, but there were still a few stumbling blocks to conquer. The FMV cutscenes, for example, had to be completely re-rendered at modern resolutions.

Rogue Trooper Redux

New conventions, new features

Great gameplay doesn’t age – at least not as much as graphics do! But things do change – conventions develop, players come to expect a particular button to do a particular thing because that’s how other games do it.

Rogue Trooper is one of the earliest cover-based shooters, but since its release certain “genre conventions” have developed. In order to bring the game to as wide an audience as possible, we felt it was best to tweak the original controls to match these.

In the original, you switched to cover mode with a button press. This worked well at the time but most modern cover shooters use an automatic binding system where pressing against cover switches into cover mode. In comparison, the original mechanism can feel a bit clunky and dated.

So for Rogue Trooper Redux, we’ve modified the cover system to use the automatic method and, unless you’d played the original, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t always like that.

Rogue Trooper Redux

Losing the manual control freed up a button that we could use for another feature that wasn’t in the original but is more-or-less expected now: aim mode. Aim mode pulls the camera in tight over Rogue’s shoulder, allowing you to line up your shots much more easily without switching to sniper mode. It’s slick, useful and it feels like it’s always been there. If you’ve played any recent third-person cover shooter, it’ll be instantly familiar.

Creating Rogue Trooper Redux has been a fascinating experience. Revisiting the old stomping grounds of Nu-Earth has, at times, felt like digging through dusty attics, rooting through old boxes, each new discovery bringing back fond (and not so fond) memories. Ultimately though, it’s been great to see something that means a lot to us being played again. A decade is a long time and memory is a funny thing. With the rosy-tinged gaze of nostalgia, Rogue Trooper always looked this good. Now it really does.

4 Comments
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What do I think about this story ? I think the “New conventions, new features” part is a blatant example of how immature and cynical the video game industry can be. A majority of people working there don’t seem to understand that greatness comes from shaking the conventions, not following them. If Rogue Trooper ever was a classic (which I doubt), it’s not because it followed conventions ; the text says it itself, it was one of the first cover-based shooter, so it certainly took risks at its time. Think of any memorable game in the past, you’ll find that absolutely none of them could have been designed with such a poor, timid, bland, uninspired, industrial state of mind.

I for one would have been thrilled to play a cover-based shooter that actually doesn’t play like 99.9% of the rest. But with that blog post and that frankly insulting paragraph ? Yeah, I think I’ll pass.

Carnivius_Prime 22 July, 2017 @ 07:44
1.1

So you don’t find it annoying when you’re playing a game that has similar mechanics to another you’ve played but has different controls and your muscle memory keeps going for the buttons of the other game rather than the one you’re playing now making you make a lot of mistakes and get killed in the game? That’s kinda what the point of that paragraph is. To make the game feel more intuitive. That’s a good thing. I get the point about trying to push boundaries and conventions and such but in remastering an old game (which was a decent game that deserves a second chance at finding a wider audience) refinements like this are in my opinion a good thing.

No I don’t find it annoying, because I expect to be challenged when I start a new game. Plus, I feel there’s an aspect that is greatly overlooked here : how each button of the controller can describe an action, and how a whole setup has a unique way of making us feel the character’s actions.

Beyond the ergonomy, I feel like two different gamepad configurations will somehow tell you a different story. Not in terms of dialogue and twists and turns, no, but in terms of sensations. The controller configuration should be designed with a certain idea of how the character’s actions are to be performed and “felt” by the player, controller-in-hands.

That is why when I read a dev post telling how it’s super cool for their remake that they “followed the new genre conventions”, I find it deplorable and disappointing.

It really feels like a missed opportunity to play something fresh, a new depiction of action within a overexplored genre.

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