Almost four decades after its premiere on the big screen, Blade Runner It continues to be one of the most influential films in history and the greatest reference in cinema neo-black. A groundbreaking production freely inspired by Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and universally recognized as cult film.
Of course, what was achieved by Blade Runner It has double merit, since -to date- seven versions with relevant changes have been published. And the most interesting of all: ten years before the director Ridley Scott launch his final montage, the legendary Westwood dared to expand the original story through a new protagonist and a different perspective.
Westwood It closed its doors in 2003, but it hardly needs an introduction: however many years pass, its legacy lives on. DUNE revolutionized the way of making real-time strategy games and the saga Command & Conquer it is far from being forgotten. Not to mention the relevance of the role-playing saga Eye of the Beholder.
With Blade Runner, Westwood knew how to live up to the legendary LucasArts and Sierra
That Las Vegas studio established itself in a multitude of genres, and despite the fact that Blade Runner it was not his first graphic adventure (remember the series The Legend of Kyrandia) knew how to live up to LucasArts and Sierra, and even catch up with Scott’s own movie. Major words duly accompanied by the necessary ambition to correspond to them.
In fact, to understand the achievement of Blade Runner As a video game, it is necessary to look beyond the playable experience itself: the standardization of the distribution on CDs, added to the maturity reached by technology when creating video games, made Westwood dare to develop a cinematic experience in form of point and click and, at the same time, be very experimental in terms of narratives.
Which does not mean that the development of Blade Runner, the video game It was an odyssey in which talent – with extra inspiration – had to correspond to high expectations, the responsibility of expanding the film of the same name and, in the process, pooling rights to the film divided into three different entities.
Because, as we will see, shaping the Blade Runner video game was also a true lineup of stars.
Blade Runner: A PC Blockbuster Without Rick Deckard
Develop a video game about Blade Runner It might seem like a safe bet, but the truth is that it took too long to come true. The reason? Basically the chaotic outcome of the film’s production.
Just like counted Westwood co-founder Louis Castle to Edge in 2013, Scott made tons of grants in order to obtain the resources to complete Blade Runner, diversifying investors and generating new commitments.
Ridley had to sign many deals with actors for residual rights. That created a lot of complications in the sense that different people had different agreements. Worse yet, the production ended on a sour note and many of the records were lost.
The Blade Runner Partnership I was very interested in the game being made and, in fact, had proposed to develop an adaptation to the big developers of the moment such as EA, Sierra or Activision without good results. Fortunately, Virgin Interactive’s predisposition was differentalthough he had to deal with the real problem.
The unstable copyright balance is poorly summed up and early on when a company owned the exploitation rights in the United States (The Ladd Company) another their own internationally (Run Run Shaw) and, finally, the referrals The Blade Runner Partnership those who had domestic marketing. How to make a video game under these conditions?
No one knows who could claim ownership of the film, or even specific parts of it. So, we were prohibited from using any footage or audio because we would never know what rights we might be trampling on.
Fortunately, the responsibility for shaping it fell on a Westwood on a roll and especially inspired. Enough to dare to explore a new story that runs parallel to the film. Sin Rick Deckard, but with several members of the original cast returning to their roles fifteen years later.
Now comes the real challenge: create a video game that lives up to the expectations generated without the immortal character of Harrison Ford. And the truth is that the Vegas guys put all the meat on the grill: They completely turned to the creative, they were transgressors in the narrative and even dared to use cutting-edge technology and techniques for the time.
- On the one hand, the visuals were simply groundbreaking. In addition to spectacular cinematics made in digital that were among the best of 1997, Blade runner pulled out muscle through brand-new characters made with voxels and very high-quality backgrounds.
- On the other hand, Rick Deckard’s character had practically been eliminated from the experience. Throughout the adventure we would see references to him and that both stories -the game and the movie- will run in parallel sooner or later the player will end up recognizing and relating situations and walking through common places.
- Yes, the Golden rule during production is that at no time could you contradict what was shown in the movies
- And even though they couldn’t make use of the footage, Westwood had the technology to recreate various shots and scenarios in 3D and implement them in the story itself. Which you can see in more detail in the video on these lines.
- To which we must add that everything related to the characters that reappeared in the game had been created for the occasion. A genius, what it required an extra effort and ingenuity.
However, the biggest milestone of Blade Runner It was their way of offering a truly immersive experience: although Westwood rejected the idea of directly adapting the film or its script, they wanted to replicate its spirit through its new protagonist. Offering the player a true research experience with a very high replayability.
Blade Runner is a flawless investigative experience designed to not deliver two games the same
So, although we can use weapons at certain times, everything is outstandingly tied to the detective work designed to not offering two equal games.
The way to achieve this is a genius in itself: as a Blade Runner novice, our mission would be to conduct complex research and hunt down two replicants, human-like androids. However, the interesting thing is that Westwood developed a system in which in each new game any of the fifteen suspects could be our target: the game determined the true nature of these randomly.
To the above we must add details such as an election system that led to twelve possible endings (crazy for the time) and best of all: getting the player to constantly question whether Ray McCoy, the protagonist of the game, is also a replicant.
Blade Runner, one of the best and most transgressive adventure adventure games ever made
The movie of Blade Runner was one of Mike Pondsmith’s confessed inspirations when it came to creating Cyberpunk. And, directly or indirectly, the milestone achieved by Westwood with his video game still resonates among current great releases
He Blade Runner Westwood was not only a technical prodigy presented on four CDs and with especially demanding requirements for 1997, it was also years ahead of games that sought to fuse the purely cinematic experience with the purest essence of the video game.
Which does not mean that, as a graphic adventure, it was also outstanding. With tons of cutting-edge dialogue and cutscenes, an exceptional location (with voices entirely in Spanish) and a very minimalist game interface in which we only had to pay attention to the color and animation of the cursor to know what kind of interaction we could have.
Blade Runner fused the cinematic experience with the purest essence of the video game
Despite what it may seem, using our pistol will be the exception and not the rule. And the same applies to traditional puzzles and others very aptly inspired by the film, including el test Voight-Kampff or the photo scanning system Esper.
But the game is also aware that not all Deckard fans are used to adventure games, so a very practical system of records and hints was implemented within the interface. It can be said that all were hits.
For its part, Virgin was fully aware of what he was up to. Both as a license and in terms of his gaming experience, and corresponded with Westwood by tucking in Blade Runner in the media and with regard to its promotion in a very generous way.
Translating the above into a commercial success what reached 800,000 copies sold in 2002. And although that figure today would seem derisory cases if we put it in perspective, things change: for each copy of The curse of Monkey Island -a titan of the adventure game genre- were sold three copies of Blade Runner.
Which made it incomprehensible for years that this bit of adventure adventure history had not been rescued. Staying in the awkward limbo of distributorless video games for decades. Until an unexpected and highly celebrated return 2019 and GOG, the video game platform of CD Projekt.
And what is even more interesting: as he did with other great unforgettable classics like System Shock, Nightdive Studios is involved in the development of an upgraded and updated version of Blade Runner, whose improvements you can see below.
It cannot be said that the video game of Blade Runner have managed to cause a high impact within the genre of adventure games. In fact, it didn’t even match the depth of the rest of Westwood’s own sagas. But that did not overshadow his stupendous reception, the success of his transgressive ideas and how his narrative ambitions they found new ways to come true in video games.
Blade Runner It was never a conversion to video games from the movie it worships, but it is an unbeatable adaptation of its essence to mouse and keyboard. An essential graphic adventure that, on its own merits, lives up to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece.