May 29, 2023

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Out of all of the information that got here out of this 12 months’s bumper GDC, there was one story that stood out to me personally: Nightdive being acquired by Atari.

As an individual of a sure age, I’m very keen on Nightdive. They’ve made a plethora of fantastic remasters of Nineties video video games. These embody well-known names resembling Quake, Doom, and Turok, and a few lesser-known gems, resembling Powerslave and Shadow-Man.

Nightdive’s observe file is not flawless, however it will get issues proper more often than not, and I used to be a little bit involved to listen to it had hitched itself to Atari. The enduring video games model is not precisely held in excessive regard as we speak. Lately, it is principally been within the headlines for blockchain and Web3 initiatives, or for motels. It has scaled again a variety of that stuff now, however it has a repute for continuously shifting its technique and never truly releasing something vital.

“My preliminary response was: ‘Oh actually, Atari?’,” admits Evelyn Mansell, who is likely one of the leads on Nightdive’s upcoming System Shock remake.

“I’m much more comfy with it now. Every little thing that Wade [Rosen, Atari CEO] and Atari have mentioned thus far has been on the cash. I’m not apprehensive about it.”

“There’s this false impression that we have chained ourselves to a sinking ship, however it could not be farther from the reality”

Stephen Kick, Nightdive

Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick provides: “Wade is recent blood within the Atari vein. And he brings with him an unparalleled data and love for traditional video games, which is never seen within the business. It should sound cliché, however he will get it. He understands why Atari was so essential to so many individuals, and he understands what he must do to raise it again as much as that stage that it beforehand loved.

“There’s this false impression when this acquisition [happened] that we had mainly chained ourselves to a sinking ship, however it could not be farther from the reality. They’re on the rise right here once more, and we needed to be part of that. Wade is the X issue right here and we’re going to see some wonderful issues come from this firm. It’s overdue.”

Rosen has labored with Nightdive for some time as an outdoor investor, serving to the corporate purchase IP and increase its workforce.

“After he had grow to be the Atari CEO, and began altering the underlying basis of Atari in direction of one thing extra game-centric… that is once we grew to become all for becoming a member of forces. We needed to assist them attain that prominence of being the identify in terms of retro video games, remasters and that sort of factor. It was an ideal match for us.”

Kick says that the deal would not change what Nightdive will likely be engaged on. They’ve not been introduced in purely to resurrect outdated Atari IP.

“We’re going to work on the issues that curiosity us… Shooters, principally, from the Nineties and early 2000s. It isn’t going to restrict who we work with, both. A part of what we needed to do was go to all of the licensors and companions that we work with, to allow them to know forward of time in regards to the acquisition. And everybody was simply very enthusiastic and supportive.”

Uncommon remasters like Powerslave:Exhumed will proceed underneath Atari, Kick says

Nightdive has some large companions, resembling Bethesda, however it additionally works on some a lot smaller initiatives, too. Kick likes to select up obscure titles, mud them off, and introduce them to a brand new viewers. Final 12 months’s Powerslave: Exhumed is a remaster of a largely forgotten Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation sport, for instance. Now with an enormous guardian firm concerned, does that imply an finish to those extra uncommon releases?

“Positively not,” Kick responds emphatically. “We’ve got some bulletins arising, truly… I want I might share them with you, however that may put that query to relaxation. There is a bunch of actually obscure Nineties FPS video games that we’re engaged on, which is able to shock lots of people. One particularly that may make folks go ‘what the hell is that?’ [laughs].”

Nightdive is evolving past its function as a remaster specialist. Its subsequent sport, out later this month, is a remake of the traditional System Shock. The sport has gone by a number of iterations, and it has been a painful journey for the workforce, however the venture is now in its very ultimate levels. Remakes are a unique ability to a remaster, and Kick says the success of System Shock will decide whether or not it retains investing on this space.

“We spent appreciable time on System Shock, and with it got here a excessive price that is put Nightdive in a troublesome scenario”

Stephen Kick, Nightdive

“The Atari acquisition would not have something to do with our total course,” Kick explains. “What is going to decide that, greater than something, would be the success of System Shock. We spent a substantial period of time growing this sport, and with it got here a excessive price that has put Nightdive in a troublesome scenario during the last couple of years. Relying on how effectively that does, will decide whether or not we determined to do one other remake on this scale.

“That is not to say that if we’ll do one other one which it will take simply as lengthy, or it will price as a lot. I feel we have realized quite a bit, and we have labored laborious on vetting our personnel and ensuring they’re the fitting folks for the job transferring ahead. Say, hypothetically, we had been to do one other one… it will take in all probability 1 / 4 of the time of what we spent on System Shock. And hopefully 1 / 4 of the finances.

Mansell provides: “It was our first large sport venture, so there was an enormous studying course of on the tech facet… discovering pipelines and finest practices and all that stuff. We will certainly take that basis onto no matter we do subsequent, whether or not it is a large remake or a smaller replace of an older sport…. or our personal IP. It relies upon what Steve needs to do.”

Kick provides: “It is probably not as much as me anymore. There are lots of people that may have a voice in what we do subsequent, particularly with the Shock workforce ending up.”

The System Shock remake has had a troubled growth, however the pre-launch reception has been optimistic

Even when the workforce does determine to concentrate on remasters after System Shock, that does not imply the corporate is scaling again its ambitions. One of many large causes behind the choice to promote to Atari is the potential of attracting larger companions, and totally different video games, than it might as an unbiased. Regardless of its important success, there are nonetheless initiatives that Nightdive misses out on. Actually, the corporate publicly admitted its pitch to develop a GoldenEye remaster was rejected.

“Generally, with a bigger firm like Nintendo, you want to get your foot within the door on the event facet,” Kick says. “And usually you’d begin with one thing a lot smaller than, say, GoldenEye. We labored actually laborious to drag collectively a compelling pitch for Nintendo and Microsoft with GoldenEye. There have been some contractual obligations, I imagine, that prevented them from going that route.”

Usually the explanation why Nightdive cannot do a venture is because of monetary restrictions, or licensing complexity. And Kick says that is one thing Atari may also help with.

“We now have the monetary backing to unfold our wings, so to talk, and realise the complete potential of what Nightdive can do,” he says. “And that is probably the most thrilling factor for us, as a result of pretty much as good as our video games have been, there may be at all times room to make them higher. Particularly with the varieties of video games that we sort out.

“There are some well-known video games from our historical past which have simply been prohibitive for quite a lot of causes, whether or not that is been licensing complexity or monetary that may hopefully be cleared up. Possibly we’ll lastly see No One Lives Perpetually on account of this, that is my hope. It will be a dream come true, not just for us, however any one of many followers who’ve been following Nightdive for this lengthy.”

Kick says that Atari will proceed to make funds out there to Nightdive so it will possibly increase the workforce, and thus tackle extra initiatives.

“Possibly we’ll lastly see [a remaster of] No One Lives Perpetually on account of this, that is my hope”

Stephen Kick, Nightdive

“That was one in every of our main objectives, to continue to grow the workforce. As we’ve got carried out our Quakes and Dooms… we’ve got grow to be the go-to in terms of remasters of this sort, and it is good to not need to exit and promote Nightdive anymore. The work is coming to us, which is what we have at all times needed. However with that comes the stress of… how will we tackle all these initiatives? Atari goes to play an integral function in increase our groups and ensuring we’ve got the personnel to do as many as we will.”

Any considerations I had about Nightdive’s new house earlier than this interview had been largely passed by the tip. Mansell talks positively in regards to the early reception from backers to System Shock, calling it a “big morale enhance for the workforce”. And Kick clearly has no intention of stopping what Nightdive has been doing all alongside.

“The advantageous a part of our enterprise mannequin is that there are at all times video games which are going to wish that remastering remedy, or are going to should be remade… as a result of time is linear,” he concludes. “After we began up, Resident Evil 4 was solely a few years outdated, and now we have had quite a lot of remasters and a remake. There’s work to be carried out.”

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