Many years ago, D&D and RPG fans were treated to many, many classic games from glorious studios like SSI, Westwood, and more. It was the golden age of AD&D 2nd Edition and sub-franchisees like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Spelljammer, and more were thriving both on tabletops and on early personal computers.
Today, the good folks at SNEG, a boutique publisher based in Poland who also happen to be veterans of CD Projekt's storefront GoG.com, are bringing back many of these games to both their former workplace and Steam.
We talked with directors Oleg Klapovskiy and Artem Shchuiko about this endeavor, and what bringing back old and beloved games from the AD&D 2nd Edition era means for them.
Giuseppe Nelva: You’ve been bringing back quite a lot of classic games to Steam and GoG. Why do you focus on this kind of title?
Oleg Klapovskiy and Artem Shchuiko: Old habits die hard. Both of us spent many years working at GOG.com (or Good Old Games as it was originally called). Artem worked there for over seven years and Oleg almost 13. We both grew up playing games, and that was the reason why we joined this industry. If you spend the majority of your life playing games, discussing them, and helping to develop them, they become part of your DNA and classics especially. These great games bring back great memories that we want to keep alive forever.
Nelva: Are there particular challenges in making this kind of game run reliably on modern PCs?
Shchuiko: I would say each game has its challenge. It’s hard to say games from year X require one approach and from year Y another. Back then, each game had its game engine, with its pros and cons. Thus, even when we can only use an emulator to make games run on a modern PC, we still need to test and tweak dozens of things (game speed, controls, resolutions, paths, etc.). When it comes to Windows-era games (like DeathKeep), they often require reverse engineering, replacement or rewriting of DLLs, or injection of wrappers to make them run.
Nelva: Do you think there’s any room for porting them to consoles, or perhaps it’s not worth the effort?
Klapovskiy: Absolutely. Many of the games from the D&D universe were originally playable on consoles (e.g. Amiga, Commodore, 3DO, NES, etc.) and it was fun to play them on those. The main challenge here is a lack of the source code, but who knows maybe one day we'll find it. But even without it, we are constantly getting back to the idea of creating a wrapper (for at least a few games for a start) and checking them out on PS, Xbox, or Switch. Never say never.
Nelva: What is your personal favorite among the games you ported, and why?
Shchuiko: It would definitely be Blade of Darkness. The whole project was a real quest first to sign the rights, then reach out to the original team to source as many legacy materials as possible, and finally work on the game (which unearthed another pile of issues). Needless to say, it was a relief to finally re-release the game and get a positive response.
As for why - each genre has its sort-of genealogy with trees and branches full of games and Blade happened to be an important brick for its genre. So, not only is it beloved by gamers and modded for 22 years, but it is also an important part of gaming history.
Klapovskiy: As for me all D&D games are my favorite ones with Eye of the Beholder having a special place in my heart. I'm a big D&D fan and for many years I was fighting to get these games back to life.
Nelva: The AD&D 2nd Edition era was a veritable treasure trove for video games based on it. Nowadays, despite the fact that D&D is probably much more widespread, video games are actually surprisingly rare. Why do you think that is?
Klapovskiy: Frankly speaking, I don't know why Wizards of the Coast had such a break. Still, looking at their current plans and games that are already announced, we should expect quite a few great video game adaptations of D&D arriving. My personal top here is Baldur's Gate 3 being developed by our friends at Larian Studios.
Nelva: Do you have any ambition at all to move beyond porting the games and actually remaking them, or perhaps you prefer to bring these classics back as they were?
Klapovskiy: We definitely do have such a dream. Still, we want to make one step at a time. First, bringing the classic experience back to gamers, after bringing it to a bit wider audience by tweaking original games and afterward going straight to fully blown remakes or even sequels/prequels.
Nelva: Is there any game you haven’t yet ported you really would like to bring back to modern PCs?
Klapovskiy and Shchuiko: It is really hard to name only one game here. It will always be a long list, but if we need to make a joint top-3, these will be No One Lives Forever, Discworld, and The Neverhood.
Nelva: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about your games?
Klapovskiy and Shchuiko: I think there is one important thought we would love to share. We are often excited by the cool game mechanics that new games introduce. Fun fact that many of those have their roots in the classic games from the '80s, '90s, or even early '00s. Playing old games doesn't only allow you to dive into that era and have a nostalgic feel, but also gives you an opportunity to play something you never tried before.