Image: Ziggurat

Ever since its formation in 2019, Ziggurat Interactive has dedicated itself to resurrecting old video games on modern hardware, with the studio now estimating it has released over 130 titles as of 2023. These have included remasters of cult favourites like BloodRayne, Bloodrayne 2, and Terminal Velocity; unreleased and cancelled games like the Atari Jaguar CD title American Hero; and collaborations with Limited Run Games on projects like A Boy and His Blob: Retro Collection, Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection, and the upcoming Rendering Ranger: R2.

Not too long ago, we had the opportunity to chat with Cole Law (they/them), the marketing coordinator for the retro developer/publisher, and wanted to find out more about why Ziggurat has decided to focus on bringing back games from the dead, why they believe it's important to make these games readily accessible again, and what exactly goes into making these games work on modern hardware. So if you've ever wanted to know more about Ziggurat and what fuels its work, be sure to read on.

Time Extension: Could you tell us more about what the origins of Ziggurat Interactive were as a company?

Cole Law: Ziggurat Interactive was born out of a pure drive to collect and preserve video games that, due to the historical turnovers of the gaming industry, are becoming lost. When we launched over three years ago, we focused on acquiring as many titles as we could secure - ranging from historic titles from Atari, Rainbow Arts, New World Computing, Accolade, and MicroProse. From there, we turned to activating and resurrecting these titles through dedicated partners like Limited Run Games, who are experts in bringing lost games back to technological life and into the hands of all modern gamers.

Time Extension: Why did Ziggurat decide to focus its attention primarily on resurrecting older games? What do you think is the value of making these games more widely accessible to a modern audience?

Cole Law: Ziggurat believes that all games matter and there are unique attributes of every game that are worth celebrating - but we have to begin with preservation. Since our launch, we’ve brought over 130 titles to multiple platforms like Steam, GOG, PlayStation, Switch, and Xbox to allow that gameplay to thrive on more platforms and with more audiences than their original versions. Our resurrection process drives us to provide original resources as available (manuals, box content, etc.), optimize play without demeaning existing valuable code (as technologically possible - there are always limits!), and expand playability. With an estimated 87% of games being lost to time, our value to the gaming world is our continuous contributions to offset the continued loss of games to time and keep these titles in context to the gaming world's legacy.

Time Extension: You've collaborated a lot with Limited Run Games. What is that collaboration like? And how does it typically start?

Cole Law: Our collaboration is usually led by a title we have. One of us approaches the other with the hopes of bringing it back not only digitally but physically too. Limited Run Game’s experience and resources bring a lot of potential with not only the use of the Carbon Engine but also their knowledge and resources in making original cartridges for some titles or even the materials in deluxe editions.

Time Extension: As you mentioned Ziggurat has worked on a large number of games since its initial formation. What has been your favourite project to work on so far? Also, what are your proudest achievements as a company?

Cole Law: I’m very excited about Rendering Ranger: R2. To release this title outside of Japan for the first time is very cool, and I’m proud to be a part of that effort to share these visually stunning and fun games with a larger audience. And a fun fact: in chatting with Audi Sorlie, Producer on the project, about the sound effects in Rendering Ranger: R2, I recognized that there was a sound that reminded me of the barrels exploding in Donkey Kong Country. And Audi shared that the sound library is the same, which is wild.

And proudest achievement as a company? At Ziggurat, we are a team of eight people. And we have accomplished a lot in the four years of our existence. It is awesome to be the contemporary stewards for titles like BloodRayne, A Boy and His Blob, and multiple Rainbow Arts and Atari titles and with Slave Zero X on the horizon. I’m very proud of our adaptability. We all wear many hats and can activate items on multiple projects at the same time.

Time Extension: What have been some of the biggest technical challenges with making these games available again on modern hardware?

Cole Law: The challenges vary from title to title. Some titles we simply want to make accessible on modern hardware, and some we remaster. And while it may sound like easy work to make things run on modern hardware when it worked on older hardware, the architecture varies so much that there are always curveballs to address, even with just getting a title easily playable on modern hardware.

Alex Lotz (a producer at Ziggurat Interactive): [To give an example], for our remaster of American Hero, every platform the game released on handled streaming FMV (full-motion video) and audio differently. The low-level functionality varied quite a bit to produce a similar experience on each platform. Surprisingly, even the PS5 version required significant changes to the handling of streaming video compared to the PS4 release.

Time Extension: How much access do you typically get to original development materials/staff to guide these remasters?

Cole Law: Every title is different. The source code and surrounding documentation can vary wildly from title to title. Sometimes, we have a treasure trove of data to search through, from sketches on napkins and notes to the final code. Sometimes…it is more of a quest with heavy archaeological-themed sidequests to find supplemental materials for the game we are resurrecting.

Time Extension: As a final question, are there any dream games that you would personally like to see ported or remastered? Or anything that you'd particularly like to work on?

Cole Law: I love the Tenchu series. Particularly 1 and 2, developed by Acquire on the PlayStation 1. As much as I love these titles, a lot has changed in how we map controls and convey information to the player. Shoot, Tenchu 1 came out before the DualShock controller even existed! But I still think these games look great and utilized the PlayStation’s limitations to its strengths, allowing these limitations to help build tension and atmosphere. But selfishly, it is my favorite franchise, and would love to see more activity with the IP.