As CD technology became cheaper to use in the 90s, many developers shifted to the format for video games. The increased storage space allowed for unprecedented levels of detail and scale, though it also had another benefit: video files. This is what EA and developer Westwood Studios used for Command & Conquer, giving its wacky strategy series a realistic edge.
Still, those old video files on CD are hardly what you’d call high quality in 2020. Compressed and formatted in outdated codecs, they look pretty terrible when blow up to fullscale on a modern HDTV. So EA would just have to take the original tapes and upscale them, right? Well…
As a new video from EA reveals, the original masters of Command & Conquer’s cutscenes are basically gone. EA thought it had discovered the original tapes, but after getting them converted to new digital formats, it turns out the files were basically the same as what was stored on the original CDs. Talk about a bummer.
So what was EA to do? Considering the Command & Conquer remaster effort is being done for the fans, why not get them involved with a potential solution? Working alongside members of the community, EA built an AI upscaling algorithm that is taking those 90s videos and making them more presentable for the modern era. It won’t be working miracles, but it’s far better than relying on the original, grainy files and potentially making something worse.
The results so far? Everything is a little smoother, but it’s not too bad. The previous files were beyond pixelated and almost look like 140p masters. Taking those and blowing them up to 4K wouldn’t have produced anything that even resembles a human being. There’s likely more work to be done on getting cleaner details, but the kind-of cartoonish look the new cutscenes has is nice.
While EA could have just filmed new replacements, fans want an authentic Command & Conquer experience. Bringing these older FMVs to life with AI technology is a solid way to do so. We’ve seen similar tech take older games and remaster textures in an incredibly faithful manner, so I have hope that C&C Remastered won’t end up shoddy.
Source: YouTube, Kotaku
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