Demakes are an interesting slice of video games. If you’re unfamiliar with them, game demakes are when someone (or multiple someones) takes a popular video game and essentially remakes the game to appear like a title for an earlier console generation. Oftentimes these are merely to showcase what a game could have been had it been made in days past, but for some of these projects, something playable exists for people to try out.
Of these demakes, the ones made by 98DEMAKE are arguably the most famous. Having given this retro-infused spin to games like Uncharted, Bioshock, and numerous other titles, he’s shown the world a look into a possible past where gaming greats exist in fuzzy, lo-fi aesthetics.
Most recently, he’s given this treatment to a short, but incredibly well put together rendition of Hideo Kojima’s P.T.
However, he’s not the only person in the scene, and recently a look at another demake has drawn a lot of attention for its ambitious goal: Demaking From Software’s horror-action RPG, Bloodborne.
More Than Just Lo-Fi Graphics
The process of demaking a game is more than just low poly counts and jittering textures. It’s the sounds, the styles, and the way things animate. For a lot of people creating demakes of any scope, there is a desire to replicate the limitations of past console generations for a sense of authenticity.
That is part of what makes Lilith Walther’s Bloodborne PSX demake so impressive. Posting updates on her twitter, she has documented the process by which she is demaking and developing the game via twitter.
In it, she shows the evolution of her efforts, as the game goes from default textured arenas with just the player hunter, to increasingly realized arenas with functioning enemies and mechanics. Even the game’s sounds are present, in crunchy, low quality form that is a perfect compliment to the game’s visuals.
The presentation there is stunning not just because of its dedication to its source material, but also in how it genuinely looks like a game from the Playstation era.
There are obvious giveaways, like the controllable camera, enemy lock-on, and the crispness of the dodge that are staples of Bloodborne and not staples of games of the mid to late 90’s, but Walther manages beautifully to split the difference between what is needed to keep the game’s experience authentic, while stripping away and dialing down everything else that can be.
Where this can especially be seen is in the game’s visuals. Though the only monsters that have been shown are the werewolf-styled scourge beasts, Walther manages to capture their silhouette, massive fangs, and leering pale eyes with minimal detail that has them appear almost as though they are made of ink or shadow. Meanwhile the Hunter keeps all the trademark details of the original game, featuring the saw cleaver, pistol, and that rough-worn victorian gothic fashion that made Bloodborne so striking in the first place.
The full scope of the project has yet to be revealed, but through her tweets she’s shown off loading screens, talked about character customization, and other features that hint at a grander scale than what we have seen so far.
Why Demake A Game?
The whole process of a demake can seem confusing to some people. While the static pixel art images and shorter videos are interesting artistic exercises the effort required to put mechanics and interactivity into these goes above and beyond expectations. After all, making games is hard work, something that any developer will tell you. Why bother putting in all that effort?
There isn’t really one answer. In an article published by Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell dives into the subject, discussing several demakes and the developers that make them. Each person has their own reasons for demaking games, but there is a throughline all of them possess.
By taking these familiar games, and stripping down to be something akin to a Playstation game, or even older hardware, a demade game is left with only its barest essentials. Its themes, the core of its visuals, even it’s gameplay are able to be examined and looked at through a different perspective.
The developers are able to examine and explore what makes those games tick and work well, and in the cases of interactive demakes, players are able to as well. Many demakers are game developers themselves, and so there is a usefulness in trying to recreate something within such tight limitations and constraints that can help in their future work.
Fear The Old Blood
As of writing, Walther is still hammering the Bloodborne PSX demake into shape, and the more that is shown of it, the more impressive her interpretation looks.
No matter how far she takes the project though, it no doubt will be an interesting end result, and a bloody good time to experience.