Battlezone 98 fans... it's nearly here!
As we get closer and closer to the launch of Battlezone 98 Redux ,we're excited to share with you a brand new dev blog series that will delve deep into the remaster's development. Here, courtesy of producer Mike Arkin, is the very first post. Further posts will go into even more detail, but to kick us off, here's a guide for what to expect from Battlezone 98 Redux!
Hi, my name is Mike Arkin and I’m the producer of Battlezone 98: Redux. By strange coincidence, I was also a member of the original team that launched Battlezone in 1998.
Since announcing Battlezone 98 Redux I’ve often been asked what a remaster means. While there is no one definition of a game remaster, I thought I’d use this first dev diary to explain what this remaster is.
Our high concept when we planned this project was to preserve the original gameplay, but enhance and augment the game in every way we could. Keep in mind that we constantly struggle with the idea that we want to make the game as modern as possible, but we also need to service the fans that have been playing Battlezone for so many years and have kept the community alive. It’s hard to please everyone, but I’m pretty sure that most people will be happy with what we’ve done.
Out with the old, in with the new...
So what did we do? Well, the short version is that we’re still working with the old engine, but we have ripped pieces out and replaced them with modern features. Also, we’ve replaced most if not all of the art in the game with modern versions. Some of the art looks similar to the original since we used all of the old art as reference, but when you put the two side by side the difference is clear.
We’ve not redesigned the game, though. Instead, we’ve strived to make the game we would have made in 1998 if PCs were 100 times more powerful back then, like they are now. In fact, based on some quick math, maybe perhaps 1000 is a better number (our minimum spec back in 1998 was a Pentium 90!).
Let there be light...
The longer version? For starters, we introduced a shader-based DirectX 9 renderer which allowed us to use an all new shader/material system throughout the game. All vehicles and buildings were remodeled and retextured in high resolution and high polygon meshes. We also used advanced shader techniques to add a little glow and shine to the new models.
And what’s the point of shine if we don’t have lights? So of course we added headlights to all the tanks and adapted the system to allow for real-time lighting.
Speaking of lighting, we now have a real lighting system, and all game objects like vehicles and buildings cast shadows and self-shadow! You might be thinking that Battlezone had shadows in 1998, but really it just had blobs, not actual projected shadows with soft edges like Battlezone 98 Redux has.
The in-game heads-up display (HUD) was also completely redesigned. And we’ve made it scalable so at higher resolutions it looks nice and sharp. This also means that if you have a giant monitor you can now have your HUD scale up way high, or dial it back down if you’d prefer! Oh, and the Russian vehicles now have their own HUD, as do the mysterious Furies!
Here is the stock HUD at 4x resolution (click for the full image)
One of the most interesting changes we made (and the subject of one of my next blogs) is the terrain. Since Battlezone 98 Redux takes place in space on various barren planets, the terrain is really important since for many levels it’s most of what’s on screen. Also, it makes up a very large percentage of a user generated level, so it was vital to make the new terrain compatible with old maps.
So we rewrote the terrain system, cranked up the mesh to four times the current resolution, did a little shader magic to eliminate seams, added specular and normal maps to keep things interesting, and we added a detail texture to all the terrain tiles. The end result is terrain that is the same size and shape of the original terrain, but so much better looking.
Check out that terrain! (click for full image)
Back to the future
And, since we retained compatibility with all of the old file formats, all the user generated maps created over the years can go through a five-minute conversion process and run in Battlezone 98 Redux with upgraded assets. When an old map is loaded Battlezone 98 Redux takes care of upscaling and smoothing automatically, so it’s easy and quick to convert and modernize any map.
Speaking of which, back in 1998 we shipped the game with the tools we used to make the game. Crude tools, sure, but they were good enough that a healthy map and mod community grew over 17 years!
Well, Battlezone 98: Redux goes one step further by adding Steam Workshop support and a host of in-game options for pulling your new content into the game and running it. No longer do you need to edit text files to add a MP map; now the map is recognized and will be displayed in-game, ready to play! No longer do you need to load Instant Action missions from the command line; now all of your IA missions are displayed in a menu ready to load with a few mouse clicks! And for game mods, there is now a Mod menu where you can activate and deactivate mods simply and easily.
Here is the Mod selection screen with four mods loaded and active (click for full image)
In fact, there’s a dedicated group of map makers that have already converted maps and loaded them onto Steam Workshop so they are ready to go! So yes, when we launch Battlezone 98 Redux there will be plenty of content available on Steam Workshop, day 1.
These are the highlights of what’s new in Battlezone 98 Redux, but there are a host of other changes and improvements to the game which I’ll cover in future blog posts. Things like multiplayer, bug and AI fixes, menus and fonts. I’ll also get into some of the more detailed specifics of the vehicles, terrains and so on. Until then, thanks for reading and for your continued support of Battlezone 98 Redux. We can’t wait to finally show you the finished game very soon. If you have questions or want more info, feel free to post on the Steam forums – I’d love to respond to you!
Battlezone 98 Redux is coming to Steam this spring...