Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition launched this week, upping the resolution and increasing the framerate of Westwood's ancient adventure game in ways that make it look consistently worse than the original. If you bought the game on GOG, you could at least switch over to the superior ScummVM release, but not on Steam... Until earlier today, when Blade Runner Classic was added to the Steam version, too.
"The free update will be downloaded automatically and when you start Blade Runner through Steam, you'll be given a choice of launching the Enhanced Edition, or the Classic version," Nightdive Studios posted on the Steam news feed. They also say they're "looking at all your feedback for the game, and we're still working on our first official patch for the game which will be coming as soon as we can."
That's a good thing, because Alice O has looked at the remaster and says it's a mess. There are several side-by-side comparisons in that article that show the way the "enhancement" has wiped away detail, atmosphere, or simply introduced glitches to Blade Runner.
The 2019 ScummVM edition was created by volunteers and previously available as a standalone purchase through GOG, but it was removed from the store and is now only available as part of the Enhanced Edition.
Thomas Fach-Pedersen, a developer on the ScummVM release, is none too pleased about that. "Over a number of years, I, along with friends, lovingly reverse engineered Westwood's Blade Runner for @ScummVM, reviving the game and helping @GOGcom to release the game for sale once again. For this we have asked for and received nothing but the honor of the work," he tweeted on the 23rd. "Now @NightdiveStudio has released their 'Enhanced' version. It is, by all accounts, ugly and buggy, and offers no tangible benefits over ScummVM aside from very poor console support. They even forgot to credit me for the subtitles we let them use."
He returned to the thread after the ScummVM version was included on Steam. "While I slept it looks like @NightdiveStudio has decided to resolve the extremely poor reception of their work on Steam by... copying and directly selling our work. Absolutely shameless. Technically legal, morally decrepit," Fach-Pedersen tweeted.
As Fach-Pedersen notes, including the ScummVM version with the Enhanced Edition is completely legal; Nightdive own the rights to sell Blade Runner, and the ScummVM work is available under a GPL license, which Fach-Pedersen says Nightdive comply with. From a player's perspective, it's also better that the ScummVM version is included, given it is currently the superior version of the game.
Fach-Pedersen has also since deleted these tweets, saying that people had been using his "airing of grievances to harass Nightdive employees." Fach-Pedersen calls the harassment "completely unacceptable", which of course it is.
All of the above is a real shame. Westwood's Blade Runner was first released in 1997 and was successful in capturing the look and feel of its source material in a way few licensed games have managed before or since. It was still worth vibing with in 2014, and it's still worth vibing with (the ScummVM version) now. Hopefully Nightdive release that mentioned patch soon.