The story behind Blade Runner, the adventure that did the impossible

Though Blade runner is successful game why there is no more development of it. Known for creating the Command & Conquer saga, the Westwood Studios team also made their mark on the video game world with a fantastic Blade Runner graphic adventure that was a technological marvel. His detective story, his cyberpunk universe and the feeling that anyone could be a replicant made him a classic, and in this special Retro Memories we honor him.

I have always considered the closure of Westwood Studios one of the video game industry’s greatest tragedies. From his hands, classics were born that have completely changed the way of understanding electronic entertainment; And although when talking about them, one usually thinks immediately about real-time strategy, since they are the parents of the mythical Dune and the Command and Conquer series, their genius knew no limits, also leaving its mark on great action and role-playing video games, and even, in graphic adventures of the likes of Blade Runner. I understand that more than one, right off the bat, think that a game based on a cult movie like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is doomed to fail, to be nothing short of an insult to the history of this classic, and I don’t blame you for that. However, Westwood managed to create a game that lives up to the myth by writing his own story in that fascinating cyberpunk universe that still dazzles and amazes us today. And true to their drive to innovate, they did so with some gameplay mechanics that are surprisingly unique even today.

It may not be an impeccable graphic adventure, its puzzles or the story it tells itself are not particularly original, but it has something that makes it unique and special. This is what someone tells you who at the time did not have the opportunity to play Blade Runner and now, more than 20 years later, has been delighted with the detective experience that Westwood Studios proposes. In the end it goes from that; of playing a detective in the decadent but incredibly beautiful city of Los Angeles from the Blade Runner universe. So more than solving convoluted puzzles, which there are none, the exploration and the search for clues is more important., because without them you run out of tests necessary to solve the increasingly dangerous situations in which you will find yourself involved. All this with a certain air of randomness, since with each new game a series of conditions are established that affect the investigation and the protagonist’s own personal life. And it catches you.

Without realizing it I was totally involved in the investigation; I wanted to know more, I wanted to explore new scenarios and continue to marvel at its marvelous setting, with its intrigues, tragedies and moral debates. But above all, he wanted to be part of that great enigma that is itself the essence of Blade Runner. Replicator or human? At Technoeager we get nostalgic to talk about a video game that marked thousands of players around the world. Is it your case? Let us know! And if it is your first time, make yourself comfortable because the one that comes is an exciting story.

The story behind Blade Runner

Story behind blade runner

Release Date: November 3, 1997
Platform: PC
Sales: More than 1 million games as of 2006
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Developer: Westwood Studios (Command & Conquer, Nox, Lands of Lore, etc.)
Key personnel in its production: Louis Castle, David Yorkin, David Leary, Jim Walls, Frank Klepacki.
Graphics Engine: Bladerunner (owned by Westworld Studios)

Although technically Westwood Studios could be considered one of the greats in the video game industry for having created classics like Dune and Command & Conquer, in a way the story behind Blade Runner reminds me of David’s fight against Goliath. They, in their own way small and without the renown or fame of their competitors, ready to create the ultimate graphic adventure, the most successful of all! And in front of a particular Goliath incarnated by two titans of the stature of LucasArts and Sierra Entertainment. Today this duel may seem like a trifle, but in the 90s it was nothing short of an epic battle, precisely because of “going up against” two companies that relentlessly dominated the adventure game market with their Indiana Jones games, King’s Quest, Monkey Island and so many other names that would go down as “the greatest of the greats.” Let it not be said that Westwood did not aim high.

The studio founded by Brett Sperry and Louis Castle had already given life to a series of graphic adventures known as The Legend of Kyrandia so they weren’t exactly newbies, but what they wanted to do with Blade Runner was very different, infinitely more ambitious … and also dangerous, as they had to not only satisfy fans of point & click adventures, but also deal with fans of the original novel and, especially, fans of the Ridley Scott film. “What terrified me the most of all was that the Blade Runner fans would chase me and want to kill me for doing something terrible with this brand,” said veteran Louis Castle with laughter in an interview with Ars Technica. “I think that motivated me more than anything else,” he adds humorously. But really, there was that pressure to satisfy the fans. “I would be mortified if I had done something that looked like a Blade Runner parody to them, that they felt that I belittled or detracted from the brand. And that motivated me more than anything.”

With such a challenge ahead Westwood Studios had to deal with licensing issues as well., and the interests of many people with very different ideas about what the game of Blade Runner should be. One company had exploitation rights in the United States, another had international rights, and in between was The Blade Runner Partnership, which, according to Louis Castle himself, “did not get along very well with Ridley Scott,” which he left out. from the project to the filmmaker. There were also tons of agreements and clauses with actors and investors who led to the film, making it even more difficult for their work to be recreated in the video game. “No one knew who could claim ownership of the film or even specific parts of it. So we were banned from using any footage or audio because we would never know what rights we might be infringing.”A real madness that would give to create a film on the sidelines, but being as they were great fans of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner game, that the team at Westwood Studios were able to create a game that lived up to the myth made all this hard work worth the pain. “I understand from interviews and later things that Ridley Scott was quite happy with what we had done.”

Murders, corruption and the work of a detective

The robbery of a pet store in a world where real animals have practically disappeared from the face of the Earth is a crime that cannot go unpunished, but what at first seemed like a routine mission for Agent Ray McCoy He ends up getting more and more complicated until his own life is at stake. Not that it sounds very original, but Westwood Studios’ Blade Runner builds a great detective story that grabs you from practically the first minute, as you delve into its decaying cyberpunk universe and meet its diverse characters. The story unfolds in parallel to that of the movieby Ridley Scott, and in many ways, it tries to replicate the incredible emotions of the original film … although not always successfully, as is the case with the main villain, who does not have anywhere near the charisma and presence of the memorable Roy Batty. But if something made this graphic adventure special, it was that there were certain random elements that enhanced another of the great questions of the Blade Runner universe: human or replicant? It is up to you to find out.

Best of Blade Runner game

  • Its settings, which perfectly recreate the aesthetics of the film
  • The idea of ​​not knowing who is human and replicant with each new game
  • His detective story, which is not original but it does get you
  • A great soundtrack that takes you to Los Angeles from Blade Runner
  • The risk of losing a vital track or even dying if you are careless
  • Multiple endings depending on your actions

The Blade Runner game, a dream come true?

I don’t even want to imagine the pressure the creatives at Westwood Studios had to endure when they started discussing the first ideas after Blade Runner. What kind of adventure should it be? How do you compete with the story and characters of the Ridley Scott movie? Could typical adventure puzzles fit into a game like this? What was always clear to them is that the soul of Blade Runner was that of a detective story. “We decided that we had to create an emotional experienceand a story that made you feel like you were a detective”, says Louis Castle.” And to achieve this we had to bet on something that was different from the shooting games that were available at that time, or even the adventures in which ‘ if you go the wrong way, you die. ‘”You could lose your life in the game, but failing didn’t always end the game.

You could miss out on clues that would have made your mission easier, miss out on a chance to catch a glimpse of a witness, or even win enemies who would later be reluctant to help you. The important thing is that whatever you did, the story kept going, rarely stopped, thus creating new paths, new opportunities that would end up leading to one of the many outcomes of Blade Runner. There’s still more. Westwood Studios was not satisfied only with adding decisions to the story, it also introduced randomness to determine who would be replicants, and who would be human, which when it came down to it, made you play as many times as you played always find the surprising mode; may he never lose that point of intrigue that suited him so well.

Unlike other adventure games, Blade Runner left puzzles aside as such, turning completely to exploration and the search for clues. Even when talking to other characters, we didn’t even have a traditional dialogue system that gave us the option to choose what we wanted to say. All you had to do was click on any character for Ray McCoy to ask something or make a specific comment. Already? Well yes … and no, since we could insist to continue the conversation and thus obtain the desired response. But nothing especially complex. “In general, people either love the game or dismiss it because, well, it was a bit simple.. It wasn’t as deep as I wanted, “veteran Louis Castle went on to say. But there were plenty of other details that caught his eye and made him stand out from other adventure games.

The idea that anyone could be a replicant had an important role in the action as this could condition their way of acting, how they would respond to our presence, and the only way to find out if they were or not was by using the iconic Voight test. -Kampff. The grace is that if you passed the minigame and determined that who was in front of you was a skinnyyou were free to go after him and hunt him down. Or you could not do it and let him go free. Or you could also make a mistake, kill a person, and end up in prison. “One of the things I value the most is that you could play as if you were Rambo, that’s what we called it [laughs Louis Castle], Rambo and Gandhi. You could play running and shooting, or you could be calmer and try to save everyone.” . 47 variations of the outcome of the adventure were raised, with 13 different endings based on the decisions we made, on our successes and mistakes during the police investigations.

I find it incredible even today that while you were playing the game, the characters went ahead with their plans.

Westwood Studios’ Blade Runner replicated some ideas from the original film and novels very well, also including the ESPER computer equipment, with which we could analyze photos and review our clues. But what seems incredible to me even today is that while you were playing, the characters of this virtual universe went ahead with their plans, with their objectives, transmitting the feeling of being in a real world. Which also had repercussions on the story, since you could take advantage of the investigation of other policemen to find new clues, or stop sharing your progress due to distrust of some of them, or for your own safety! I think it’s a brilliant idea that makes you enjoy the experience even more in a game that also includedAction sequences , quite simple, but that contributed to build that detective story that the parents of Command & Conquer bet from the beginning.

Blade Runner technology

Blade runner technology

It’s not perfect, no; precisely the simplicity of many of its game mechanics detract from its charm, but it is a special game that knows how to catch you from the first minute. And it also achieves this with its powerful setting. Its settings are incredible and perfectly capture the spirit of the film, giving you the opportunity to even explore some of the locations seen in the Ridley Scott film. I had heard good words from my fellow writers, but I did not imagine that even 20 years later the Westwood Studios game would surprise me with its graphics.

“The game itself did not allow exploration of three-dimensional environments, but the pre-rendered settings allowed to play with lights and volume in a way that I had never seen in a graphic adventure.” Now I understand that it would impact you so much at the time. Westwood opted for innovative techniques to recreate the city of Los Angeles and its inhabitants in this graphic adventure with a fantastic result. While I was playing, I was amazed by many of the transitions and camera movements with which the game followed the action, changing scenarios in a spectacular, dynamic way, so that you really felt inside a movie. Instead of resorting to traditional polygons, it was decided to create the characters with voxel technology and motion capture, seeking to give them great realism. Certainly his movements feel natural, but over the years, they have lost definition and it is the part that has aged the worst. Still, what Westwood accomplished is commendable, as he captured like no one else the gloomy, melancholic tone of that not-too-distant future that we enjoy in the Ridley Scott film.

“I remember the color of the neon lights in the noodle bar, the rooftops with the huge fans and Tyrell’s office,” Chema Mansilla told me when recalling this mythical graphic adventure. “It was a strange fusion of Spanish baroque painting with that concept of cyberpunk coined in 1984 and the classic film adaptations of Hammett or Chandler.” All this also without a visible interface, so that all the prominence fell on the scene and the characters.

If it was a success, why wasn’t there Blade Runner 2?

At a time when adventure games were selling less and less, Blade Runner enjoyed great sales success. Louis Castle himself once confirmed that more than 800,000 games had been sold as of February 2002, surpassing one million copies in 2006.. To give you an idea of ​​the success it achieved at its premiere, it is said that for each game of The Curse of Monkey Island, three Blade Runners were sold. If it was so successful, why wasn’t there a sequel? When you talk to fans of the game, they often say that they would have loved to enjoy a sequel that exploited the virtues of the original, Westwood Studios itself wanted to do it, but the high development costs, plus the license fee for using the Blade brand. Runner (which became more expensive after the success of the game), ended up moving the study away from this project, since the profit margins were minimal even after having such extraordinary sales.

The game has incredible potential with details that even two decades later continue to surprise

Now that I have enjoyed Blade Runner I can add myself to the comments of so many others: it is a shame. The game has incredible potential with details that even two decades later continue to surprise. I love, for example, that pulling out the gun like that at the outset changes the perception of the people around us; that making a mistake does not lead to the end of the game, but to new paths to explore; that there is randomness in the role that the characters play or that even while you play, the world around you goes ahead as if everything were real. I was shocked not to find traditional puzzles, yes, but once you get into the detective story of Blade Runner it is difficult to get out of it, even when its action becomes somewhat tedious when facing a series of shootings without much grace that, seen now,

All in all, it has been a fascinating experience discovering Blade Runner. I have enjoyed like a child losing myself in his recreation of Los Angeles, and I have ended the story with a feeling of infinite sadness, remembering that Westwood Studios, with all its greatness and genius, is no more. How much they are missed.

Blade Runner trivia

Blade runner trivia
  • Although Rick Deckard does not appear in the Westwood Studios adventure, there are some nods and references to the protagonist of the Ridley Scott film.
  • Much of the team behind Blade Runner worked on the graphic adventures The Legend of Kyrandia and, surprisingly, also on Westwood Studios’ Monopoly game.
  • Blade Runner is Louis Castle’s favorite movie and Dune, Brett
  • Sperry’s favorite book. The founders of Westwood Studios were able to make video games of both.
  • Electronic Arts, Activision or Sierra were some of the companies that were proposed to create the Blade Runner video game.
  • In 2009, Gearbox was offered the rights to Blade Runner for $ 35 million. The offer was rejected as excessively expensive.
  • 249 GB of content were created that had to be adapted to fit only 4 CD-ROMS, whose capacity was 700 MBs each.
  • There was a Blade Runner video game that was directly based on the Ridley Scott movie. It premiered on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 in 1985.
  • The video game’s soundtrack was composed and performed by Frank Klepacki, also author of the music for Command & Conquer, and not by the film’s composer, Vangelis. Despite this, there are versions of some of his best songs such as Blade Runner Blues or Love Theme.
  • Blade Runner occupied 4CD, but Packard Bell also released a DVD version of the game to demonstrate the greater capacity of this, at that time, novel format.
  • Westwood Studios was bought by Electronic Arts just one year after the game’s release in 1998, and would close its doors in 2003.

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