Forsaken, the landmark 1998 console and PC shooter, will be the latest remaster from Nightdive Studios, launching on July 31 for Windows PC on both Steam and GOG.com, and Xbox One, the studio announced today.
Nightdive is taking care to remaster the work in a way that will remind fans of the game, more than just give it a modern-day makeover, said Nightdive’s founder and chief executive Stephen Kick. The original polygon counts of objects in the game will be preserved, he said, but thanks to the Kex remastering engine Nightdive has used in dozens of projects, it will all perform at 60 frames per second. Original versions of the game struggled to hit half as many fps.
“This is how the developers saw themselves,” Kick told Polygon, “this is the goal they had in mind, they just didn’t have the hardware at the time. I feel like it’s the ultimate experience for Forsaken.”
Forsaken was a first-person shooter offering six degrees of motion and perspective, building on the tradition and appeal of titles like Descent. It launched on Nintendo 64, Windows PC and PlayStation in April and May of 1998. Probe Entertainment and Iguana Entertainment were the original developers; Acclaim was the original publisher.
Acclaim went bankrupt in 2004. A big part of the challenge in what Nightdive does is tracking down who now owns the rights to classic games that are long out of print. “The toughest part of our job is doing the detective work in finding out who has the rights now,” Larry Kuperman, the studio’s director of business development, told Polygon.
Sometimes, Kuperman explained, those who own an IP aren’t necessarily developers or those with experience in publishing, so it can take a lot of conversation to put together this kind of a deal.
“We were successful with Forsaken, but it took quite a bit of time to get the folks involved with it to recognize there is an opportunity,” he said.
Nightdive Studios, founded in 2012, is well known for taking beloved PC gaming titles from the 1990s and updating or re-releasing them for play on modern platforms. (Its first title was System Shock 2). It recently relaunched Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, which were both Iguana-made titles. Kick said that shared pedigree is one reason Nightdive was eager to get its hands on the title.
“It was one of the first games I remember playing after getting my first 3D accelerator [card],” Kick said. “It did an exceptional job of introducing people to things like dynamic lighting. I want to say it was the first console title to do the whole six-degrees-of-movement [concept], which people had been enjoying on PC with games like Descent. I think that’s why it became kind of a classic, the first of its kind on Nintendo 64 and then PS One.”
Kick said the same team behind the Turok remasters built the Forsaken remaster. The development team is “completely distributed,” he said, meaning they work from all over the world — New Zealand to Oklahoma — and can field multiple projects at the same time. Those at work on the Forsaken remaster have also put in time on the highly anticipated System Shock remaster — although that will be done in the Unreal Engine, not Nightdive’s proprietary Kex. That project, funded with $1.35 million in Kickstarter donations, paused back in February while Kick and Nightdive reassessed their approach. Delivery for it is now estimated at sometime in late 2019 or 2020. Those interested in the progress on System Shock can follow Nightdive’s Twitch stream for progress updates.
Forsaken Remastered will feature all the original modes of play — both single-player and multiplayer. That means the snarky in-game announcer for both modes will be back as well. “The goal was not necessarily to provide the game the way it looked back then but the way you remember it looking,” Kuperman explained, “with the kind of good fidelity you can get on today’s modern systems. We want the visuals to be as good as we can make them.”
That said, “We want the experience to be what people remember,” Kick said, mentioning that polygon count was not enhanced 20 years later simply because the technology could support it. “We did that not just to show restraint, but also because we believe the art style lended itself to the experience. It has a distinct look to it, and we realized if we changed those assets it would lose its identity.” Nightdive took the same approach with the Turok remasters, he said.
Forsaken Remastered will launch at $19.99 on Steam and GOG (“We knew it was important to fans that there was a Steam and DRM-free build,” Kick said) and Xbox One. Pre-orders are being taken now. The game will support widescreen and 4K monitors, as well as OpenGL 3.2 and DirectX 11. The levels and enemies unique to the Nintendo 64 version will also be included. Online multiplayer will support up to 16 players across all original modes (Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, One Flag CTF, Bounty Hunt and Team Bounty Hunt).