Over the years we’ve seen many classic games appear on our favourite platforms. They’ve fitted into all kinds of gaming genres, various backdrops and at appropriate times in the world’s history. Looking back at some of these games, they tend the all fall into three categories.

    1. The game itself is as great as ever but looks dated
    2. Streets ahead for its day but is now old hat after a replay
    3. What on earth did I play that load of rubbish for?

Whatever the reasons are that we liked a particular game, we decide to remake it so we can reminisce about ‘the good ole days’, to add or improve the original to how we’d like to see it, to enhance the whole game experience for the 21st century or just because we can! But what exactly makes a good remake?

The announcement of the new XCom game by 2K Games has been met with both excitement and disappointment. This is for many different reasons but what I feel is the biggest reason people are a little disappointed is that it seems as if the development company are breaking the golden rule of a much-loved mythos, that being DON’T MESS WITH THE HISTORY!

There are great examples of where the Mythos has been messed around with and actually improved the whole thing. “Battlestar Galactica” is something I was totally against when the ‘re-imagining’ was announced a few years ago. It is now one of my all-time favourite shows. Why? They improved it! Gave it more of an edge. Fleshed out the stories, added depth to the characters and made it very tense and exciting. Saying that, there are other examples where messing with the mythos actually made things worse. My example being Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” movie remake. Yes, it is interesting to know the background to Michael Myers and what happened to send him over the edge. The thing is… you just removed a major ‘fear factor’ from the movie. That being the fact that you don’t know what happened or why he is doing this. Is there a pattern to his killing or is it totally random? Random or a hidden agenda is far more scary than knowing he won’t kill character x because of a well known reason. So there are arguments both for and against. Personally, I prefer to keep the mythos unchanged – espeically one so well established and loved as you’re effectively alienating your core market.

So, back to gaming and the question at the top of the page. What makes a good remake? In all honesty there is no definite answer. One man’s passion is another man’s hate. Remaking a game with retro-style graphics is something someone may love but is probably a pet hate of someone else. Making a perfect one-to-one remake of an original game may be job done for some but a missed opportunity for others.

This means there are no hard and fast rules but I think I have come up with a general set of guidelines to follow to maximise your audience:

    1. Keep what made the game fun in the first place!
    2. Remember it is YOUR remake and YOU have final say in what is implemented.
    3. Feedback is important, listen to it!
    4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or suggestions.
    5. Set reachable targets and meet them.

Confused? Don’t be. Let’s summarise each point:

1. Keep what made the game fun in the first place!

When all is said and done, you loved a particular game because it gave you hours of entertainment. “Head Over Heels” was an isometric game, would making it 3D add, detract or keep the same level of fun? Would adding more enemies in “Space Invaders” improve the experience? Why did you keep coming back to the game time and time again? Don’t implement features for the sake of it. Change or add something ONLY if it will add something to the gaming experience.

2. Remember it is YOUR remake and YOU have final say in what is implemented.

YOU are remaking this game. If you get help, you’re part of a team remaking this game. This means that you are going to have to fulfil every promise you make. If you think the ghosts in Pac Man being resurrected before the pill timer ran out was unfair, don’t implement it. If you think that once eaten, resurrecting the ghosts where they stand 3 seconds later would add something to the game, implement it. (as a side note, I think they are lousy suggestions, I’m just giving examples). This leads back to point 1 – the game must be fun or you wouldn’t play it!!

3. Feedback is important, listen to it!

There was a recent debate on RR regarding feedback. If you don’t want to hear negative comments about your remake, don’t ask for feedback. At the same time, don’t expect many people to want to keep playing your game either. The people on RR are gaming veterans of 20+ years. They know what is enjoyable and what isn’t. A subset of them have remade games too and know what the pitfalls are and can make great suggestions regarding what to fix or add to your game. Their suggestions could mean the difference between having an average game and a classic remake! Of course we don’t like being criticised but if we don’t embrace and learn from our mistakes, we don’t move forward and keep making the same mistakes time and time again. Again, this points back to the previous point, it is up to you as it’s YOUR remake but these guys want to help you. Let them!

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or suggestions.

This is an extension of the previous point. As well as asking what you can fix, you can also ask people what they’d like to see in the game too. Personally, I know I just can’t draw to save my life. I asked for help with Monty and got the talented LoBo pumping out sprites and screens at will. I still need to come back to that project but his work allowed me to concentrate on what I am good at – coding! Admittedly, people won’t just pop out with offers of help if they think their efforts will be wasted. Put together some code. Rip the original sprites and sound effects and knock together a small demo. It only needs to be a room with some of the gaming features working. If people see things are progressing, they’ll be more inclined to offer their help. I also got many suggestions for new features and fun things to add to the game. Things I just didn’t think of. It may be YOUR remake but it doesn’t mean you have exclusive access to all the best ideas out there.

5. Set reachable targets and meet them.

When writing any application, you need to plan and set targets. More importantly they need to be realistic. While building Monty, I set the main objectives to be things like:

    – Implement collision detection with Monty and enemy
    – Animate Monty
    – Make screen drawing routine more generic
    – Add sound effect when Monty jumps

These are simple things you can probably implement in a few lines of code in most cases. Sitting down and achieving 3 or 4 of your objectives in one sitting is a great ego boost and encourages you to do more. You can then set more objectives for next time. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to write a room/level editor and throwing out a small demo for the community to try out, review and give feedback on.

I hope I’ve allowed a few of you to think more about what is involved with remaking games and given you all a few ideas as to how to make the most of your time.

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