Upon its release in 1991, Gods was hailed as a classic that would go on to become one of the defining games of its generation. This state of affairs would continue as it also became one of the very best games that The Bitmap Brothers ever produced. Now, and under the guiding supervision of original founder Mike Montgomery, Gods Remastered has been released in a state that modernises Gods‘s art and sound, whilst also taking efforts to preserve its original gameplay.
Developed by a single developer, Nils Hammerich looked to recreate the game as a fan, and was supported only by Sound of Games for the audio. There are drawbacks however, as whilst there’s no physical release for Gods Remastered currently planned, the remaster also doesn’t feature the original “Into The Wonderful” soundtrack due to licensing issues. Still, as a solo project, Gods Remastered is an incredible achievement of Herculean proportions, and Nils Hammerich was more than happy to answer my questions about his pet project – which you can read below.
How did you get started within the industry, and what lead to you co-founding Robot Riot?
Starting point was probably when I got a Commodore 64 on my 13th birthday. For me it was never only a gaming machine but I learned to program right away. Selling a game to a disk magazine a couple of years later was so to say my first “professional” contact with the industry. Later in school I teamed up with some friends and we created games as PC shareware and founded a studio later to be one of the pioneers in the mobile phone games (based on Java) business. After leaving that company I founded Robot Riot together with some old team mates, to focus on the creation of casual and f2p games based on the Unity engine.
Given that one of your previously released games was a retro title (for the Commodore 64), it’s fairly obvious that you have a vested interest in retro. With this in mind, what were your favourite development studios during the 8 and 16 Bit era, and what significance do The Bitmap Brothers hold for you?
On 8 Bit I was a big fan of Manfred Trenz’ work (Katakis, Turrican), as it was absolutely mind blowing what he got out of the old breadbox.. This somehow transferred to 16 Bit where I was also a big fan of Factor 5 and the Turrican games. However, The Bitmap Brothers were also among my favorites, besides Gods I played a lot of Speedball and Xenon 2 on my Atari ST. On top of great gameplay I think they really had this very special style which made them stand out of the crowd of other games.
Given that Robot Riot has never worked on licensed IP, what difficulty did you have in convincing The Bitmap Brothers that you were the right studio for the purpose of remastering their games? At the same time, why choose Gods as the first title to remaster from their enviable back-catalogue? What was it about the game that appealed to you, and why do you think modern gamers should care?
What you describe is probably the typical way how projects like this happen. However, in this case it was a rather different story. As said earlier I used to work in a mobile games company. During that time, we were at a trade show and were offered the Gods license. As I was a big fan of the game it was a no-brainer to take this opportunity and we started to work on transferring the 68k assembler code to Java right away. Before the game saw the light of day – though almost finished – the company got a new owner and the game was never released. A couple of years later the license resurfaced again and I was able to acquire it. I decided to make a version for iOS and Android and during development I contacted Mike Montgomery, the owner of the Bitmap Brothers, if he would be interested in bringing the project to more platforms than just mobile, as the Unity engine would allow us an easy support of practically every gaming system available. He immediately loved the idea and was involved as a consultant from then on.
The main target group of this game are certainly people who know the original and would love to play it again, while at the same time the HD mode and an enhanced original appearance adds something new for them to explore. When modern gamers play the game they will find, that the original gameplay and level design was already quite ahead of its time, e.g. in supporting the player with extras depending on his performance, while the typical switch and item puzzles have become the building blocks of many modern games. Naturally, it has aged a bit in some areas, but it’s definitely worth a visit as it stood out in its days for a reason, not only for the superb pixel graphics that still outshine quite some modern productions.
What role did The Bitmap Brothers play in Gods Remastered‘s development? How were you able to ensure that the game’s essence was retained, whilst also making sure that the remaster would appeal to modern gaming audiences? Did you encounter any development difficulties during this time, and how were you able to overcome them?
As said, Mike Montgomery was a consultant in this project. He had some really good suggestions on things that I would have done quite differently otherwise, e.g. merging the controls for certain actions into a single button press. Apart from that we tried to modernize the game where it made sense (save points & controls for example) to lower the entry barrier for modern audiences a bit while keeping the whole pace and level design – and with it the essence of the game – intact. On the other hand, this could also be seen as the biggest difficulty, especially in making the game appealing to today’s gamers: In order to keep the level design intact, the whole player movement needed to stay the same. This was at times very limiting, as you would have done animations etc. rather differently in a modern game, but the fact that you can switch the graphics mode anytime requires the sprites in old and new versions to be at the same place anytime. If that wouldn’t be the case we could have added for example turning animations for the monsters among other things.
With Robot Riot having now released Gods Remastered, what Bitmap Brothers title would you like to remaster next and why? At the same time, what is the extent of your partnership with the company, and what are the chances that Robot Riot would helm completely new gaming experiences under the Bitmap Brothers’ umbrella? Would these include a proposed a sequel to Gods, and if so, what direction would you like to take Gods 2 in?
The answers to most of the questions really depend on the success of GODS Remastered I guess. I have a very friendly relationship with Mike and wouldn’t rule out that we make another game together. An obvious choice for another Bitmap Brothers game would certainly be Magic Pockets, as there’s a lot of technological overlapping with Gods. Personally I would probably prefer Speedball or Chaos Engine, but there are already new versions out so I’m not sure if that would make sense really. If there’s going to be a Gods sequel I think it would give us room to fully renew the gameplay and really bring it on par with modern games in terms of gameplay and overall appearance, as there would be no legacy stuff to take care of. But please do not take any of this as a confirmation or announcement, we really don’t have made any plans in that direction. However, the growing list of requests what we should do next makes me believe we’ve done something right.
Going forward, what are your future intentions for the studio, and what other projects do you have in the pipeline? Will you be contacting any of your other favourite studios from yesteryear so as to remaster any of their titles?
The focus of Robot Riot will stay on developing f2p and casual games. GODS Remastered is more a personal project of myself and can be seen to be at least 50% a fan project. Though I really haven’t made any plans for future games yet I would most likely only do a remaster version of a game I have a personal relationship with and really care about.