WayForward is a studio that's no stranger to looking back, whether towards its own games — with re-releases of the Shantae series, for example — or revamping other developers' past work — as is the case with the team's upcoming remake of Nintendo's Advance Wars GBA duo, Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp, coming to Switch in December.
Before that, though, the WayForward team is revisiting one from its own back catalogue with BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites, an enhanced re-release of its 2011 2D side-scrolling hack-and-slasher starring the titular dhampir, a game which originally came to Wii and other platforms courtesy of publisher Majesco.
With new IP holders Ziggurat Interactive on publishing duties now, we recently caught up with Adam Tierney, Director of BizDev and Publishing at WayForward, to discuss the upcoming game, the origins of this remaster, and what it's like to revisit your own work from a decade ago...
Nintendo Life: Can you tell us about how the idea to remaster BloodRayne Betrayal came about?
Adam Tierney, WayForward: Ziggurat acquired the rights to the BloodRayne IP and her previous games, and of course WayForward developed the third game in the series (Betrayal). They reached out to us to ask if WayForward would be interested in porting the game to modern consoles, and also exploring what (if any) upgrades or additions we could tackle as we ported the game. BloodRayne Betrayal is a game we’ve always been very proud of, so we were excited at the prospect of diving back into that world again.
How did you decide on the exact parameters of this remaster project and what tweaks/improvements to make (and what to leave alone)?
Ziggurat and WayForward discussed this together over a few phone calls. What we decided on tended to be features and additions that had good ‘bang for the buck,’ meaning they were feasible to pull off but also made a noticeable difference in the gameplay.
Laura Bailey and Troy Baker are some of the biggest name in the voice acting business these days – was their return to the franchise planned from the start or did they come onboard later?
I think we might’ve discussed the possibility of recording them during the original production, as we happened to be working with both of them on another project around the same time (Silent Hill: Book of Memories). But back in 2011, WayForward was still figuring out how to do VO in game effectively, so the decision was made to mostly skip VO for the game.
bringing Laura and Troy back made a ton of sense, because Betrayal was the only BloodRayne game without full VO
As we discussed possible improvements for Fresh Bites with Ziggurat, bringing Laura and Troy back made a ton of sense, because Betrayal was the only BloodRayne game without full VO, and it also had a lot of text dialog in it, just waiting to be voiced.
In terms of the art and assets, did you have to rebuild or redraw anything from scratch? Tell us a little about that ‘transfer’ process.
First, we looked at what source materials existed from the original production, and what resolution those existed at. Oftentimes, we’ll illustrate and animate assets in a project at a much higher resolution and then shrink them based on the needs of the current project. When BloodRayne Betrayal came out a decade ago, it was a 720p resolution game. Now, PS5 and Xbox Series X both allow 4K resolutions. So we needed to bring the art up to that level of detail.
For the character animation, we also used an intelligent form of automated upscaling that looked for patterns and curves within the existing art then enlarged it. The results were pretty amazing, far crisper and more detailed than I would’ve expected from any sort of automated process.
For veterans of the original game, what would you say are the most notable changes in terms of gameplay? Are there any tweaks to level design or any new content?
We identified a few areas in the original game where players either frequently got stuck, or tended to stop playing due to a sudden increase in challenge. Then we made minor adjustments there to make the game a little more fair and balanced than it might’ve been upon its initial release.
We identified a few areas in the original game where players either frequently got stuck, or tended to stop playing due to a sudden increase in challenge. Then we made minor adjustments there to make the game a little more fair and balanced
We also tweaked Rayne’s health and damage values a bit. But all of this was put on a toggle in-game, so as much as we feel this subtly refined version is the best version to play, gamers who want to play the original version without these gameplay adjustments still have that option.
How many titles did you consider before settling on ‘Fresh Bites’?
Hahaha, I can’t even remember, it was so many. Probably over 50, maybe even over 100.
You’re launching across all console platforms, so how will the Switch version’s resolution/frame rate compare?
Well obviously the Switch version can’t do 4K resolution. It outputs at 1080p on a TV screen or 720p in handheld mode. But otherwise, the Switch version should look and play identically to how it does on the other systems.
Is it cathartic to get another pass at a game you’d put to bed a decade ago? How did you feel revisiting your work from that time?
It was fun, yeah! This was always one of our favorite games, so getting invited to help reintroduce it to a new generation of gamers was appreciated, and I’m glad Ziggurat gave us that opportunity. And the added character VO feels like such a natural addition, it’s hard to remember the game working without it.
Our thanks to Adam for speaking with us. BloodRayne Betrayal: Fresh Bites is out on Switch on 9th September — keep an eye out for our review soon.