In 1988, Sierra Online released an AGI text-parser historical adventure game called “Gold Rush”. A historical-esque story that follows a newspaperman that must travel to the opposed end of the country to meet his brother, only to be met with word that Gold was found in California.
Near the end of 2013, Sunlit Games reached and agreement with the original license holders to remake the time old classic. Screenshots were released, met with both unusual praise and like myself critical disgust by quality. Being a long time fan of Sierra Online and the game itself, the quality felt amateurish with lack of artistic direction. Due to my critical comments, I was bated into producing what I thought would be a better artistic direction for a remake over the official production work.
Based on the shots, the game captured the colorful aesthetic while staying true to the layout and flow. Praiseworthy as it is, it was at the cost of capturing the essence of the original games direction.Adventure games are in a bad enough place as it is, with mockery from mainstream game journalists and genre specific gamers that choose to wear blinders. In my mind, something that looks and feels like what was shown in the Gold Rush! remake, would deter any worthwhile attention that would bring in new fans and staying true to the original audience.
That’s said, here is the production notes through each day of development for your pleasure.
So obviously, I started with doing a bit of research. Collecting various historical images other film and artistic renditions of the era including “Gangs of New York” set photos. Digging through articles about the time and old Brooklyn photos, I’ve found that brick laid roads were quite common in major cities. So i’ve decided to mix up stone and dirt roads depending on the area around. For instance, I chose to set my homage in the Post Office Exterior scene. I’d imagine that government run areas would be a bit upscale, so I’ve decided to use stone roads instead of dirt unlike the original Gold Rush! game scene. Thanks to the exhaustive research, I have a good list of items to populate the scene aside from the require elements to capture the original game’s scene.
After research was done, it was time to establish an artistic direction.
Many of the classic adventure games tried to create a realistic look. (We can only do so much with the graphical potential with the given hardware of the time) In honesty, its not wrong to make the game look cartoony or colorful in an unrealistic way. Nothing wrong at all. In my opinion though, like any historical game, the best part is capturing a more realistic setting with the awestruck of historical beauty. Films like Gangs of New York and games like Red Dead Redemption offers a strong historical atmosphere than what you could do with cellshaded graphics or oversimplified and over “mesh smoothed” models like the current Gold Rush! remake. Thats another thing I find dissatisfying about the remake. It doesn’t feel like it captures the excitement of the Gold Rush in the mid-late 1800s.
Before I begun, I grabbed some graph paper and drew out a simple layout of the scene before I block it out in Blender. (Seen on the right)
I only laid out whatever I need to establish the scene. I used multiple scenes from the game to rightfully propagate the map. With that done, I jumped into my 3d program and began blocking out the scene. I went about building the scene as close as possible to the layout I drew earlier, then afterwords scaling everything based to scale. Then gradually added in additional details (not the fine details) to the scene to start shaping it out into what it should look like. This concluded Day One.