Developer: Night Dive Studios
Designer: Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
Engine: Kex Engine
Released: May 9, 2019
Genre: First Person Shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
Platforms: Windows (Linux and macOS planned)
Media: Digital download
"Battle an army of sycophantic cultists, zombies, gargoyles, hellhounds, and an insatiable host of horrors in your quest to defeat the evil Tchernobog. Squirm through 42 loathesome levels filled with more atmosphere than a Lovecraftian mausoleum. Begin your journey armed with a simple pitchfork and earn more effective implements of destruction like aerosol cans, flare guns, voodoo dolls and more!" — Official description
Blood: Fresh Supply (also known as the Blood Remaster and Blood EX) is a remaster of the original Blood developed by Night Dive Studios under permission from Atari. It uses the studio's in-house Kex Engine, supplanting the original Build. It was released on May 9, 2019 as 1.8.4 for Microsoft Windows onto GOG.com, Steam and Humble Store. A 50% discount was offered to owners of the original incarnation on these stores, with the DOS version of One Unit: Whole Blood still included as an extra on GOG. Linux and macOS releases are expected in the future.
It features all of the levels from all four episodes of the original Blood campaign, as well as the Plasma Pak and Cryptic Passage expansions included within the executable; support is also provided for all fan-made add-ons such as Death Wish. The upgrade also supports modern frameworks such as DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.2, Vulkan as well as online multiplayer services Steamworks and GOG Galaxy.
It also introduces new features such as high resolution widescreen, new HUD features such as power-up timers, achievements, high-refresh and variable FOV support, split-screen and modern online multiplayer with up to eight players, a customizable difficulty mode, additional voxels and effects (such as Antialiasing, Ambient Occlusion, V-sync and Interpolation support), and a new mouse-aiming interface, as well as controller support (in addition to an emulation of the original control scheme).
"Blood stood up extremely well over time and we are taking care to preserve all the qualities that made the game so special... It really only needs minor updates to provide a better user experience for contemporary audiences. By using some of the functions of Nightdive’s KEX engine, we’ll be able to provide compatibility with today’s video standards, with DirectX and Vulkan support. Similarly, we’ll provide compatibility with the current audio standards. We’ll add support for modern networks, Steamworks, and GOG Galaxy to bring this original game to more players. As part of this, we will preserve the accuracy of the game behavior. While these upgrades are relatively minor, we are confident that they will provide fans with a better, current generation gameplay experience." — Daniel Grayshon, producer at Night Dive Studios
A remastered version of Blood, developed by Night Dive Studios under license from Atari, was announced on December 7, 2018. The port was stated to support modern graphics libraries such as DirectX and Vulkan (as opposed to the original only having partial Glide support via an alpha patch), as well as multiplayer networks such as Steamworks and GOG Galaxy. The remaster was said to be based on reverse engineering rather than the original source code (implying no original source code release is likely; the new code could be though), built atop of Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal's Kex Engine from his earlier unofficial Blood EX effort; he was also being assisted by James "Quasar" Haley and Edward "Edward850" Richardson on the project. Kaiser confirmed on Twitter that the engine supports all Blood custom maps. The engine even allows proper modding, with scripting possible in a way not present in the original DOS executable. A quickly deleted tweet by Kaiser indicated a possible April 2019 release, which in the end extended to early May.
"Yup, I am working on it. I was actually working on it on my spare time since 2015... Reverse engineered. I've been disassembling the game for several years and have a more or less clear outline of how everything works. Its somewhat pressuring as I am looking to go over the disassembly multiple times to make sure everything is perfect... Some things like the slipperiness is going to remain as it was intentionally designed to do that, but none of the engine's collision detection is going to be used. Though the new collision code will produce nearly exact same results; just less glitchy results... None of the original assets will be modified. This includes levels (despite my temptations)... Modding will definitely be possible in BloodEX... There will be mod support. The idea is that you put your mod into a folder along with any modded .ART files or INI files you include and you should be able to load a mod from there. Additionally BloodEX will allow you to define your own enemies and scripted AI logic. Additionally you'll be able to define your own custom actors and scripted AI logic..." — Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
"We keep the maps and assets intact, and write a game module for the engine to load them and run the mechanics (so we can keep the original physics, animation subsystems and such intact without having to lossy conversions). If you check out the install folder, aside from the file dates (those get lost in depot construction), they are in fact all the original files straight from a DOS B:OUW install." — Edward "Edward850" Richardson, developer
"We're very happy for our friends @NightdiveStudio! They'll carry the torch with distinction, we have no doubt. Can't wait to play!" — Monolith Productions
Atari only retains the distribution rights to the Blood series, and so is only able to authorize the project due to provisions that allowed for the upgrading of the game.
"Atari, however, owns the digital distribution rights for the original game, which came out in 1997. The terms of its ownership includes limited provisions for updating the game. Atari chief operating officer Todd Shallbetter emailed Polygon with the following statement: “We are not changing the game. We have distribution rights and this version is just being updated and optimized for modern operating systems and hardware.”" — How do two companies own the rights to Blood?, Polygon (December 12, 2018)
"It has been both a great pleasure and an honor to have had the opportunity to work with Atari to update this classic game title that helped firmly cement the FPS as one of the most popular game genre. We look forward to sharing the gory splendor of Blood: Fresh Supply with a new generation of gamers as well as with the many current fans eager to play one of their favorite titles on contemporary PCs." — Larry Kuperman, Director of Business Development at Nightdive Studios
"We have been working hard over the last week or so, listening to your feedback and comments and, today we are happy to release our first patch for Blood: Fresh Supply!" — Steam Announcement
- 1.8.4 - May 9, 2019
- 1.8.6 - May 12, 2019
- 1.8.8 - May 14, 2019
- 1.9.0 - May 18, 2019
- 1.9.1 - May 21, 2019
- 1.9.5 - June 3, 2019
- 1.9.6 - June 6, 2019
- 1.9.8 - August 1, 2019
- 1.9.9 - August 2, 2019
- 1.9.10 - August 5, 2019
A test version patch, version 1.8.6, was released on May 12, 2019 followed by a final 1.8.8 release on May 14, 2019; these address some of the issues raised by players, as well as general bug fixing (including communications with Dustin "Bloatoid" Twilley to get better Death Wish compatibility).
Following the release of 1.9.10, the last in a series that came out two months after the previous few, the following statement was released:
"Thank you for your patience while we were dealing with the remaining issues. For future issues, we will have to recommend contacting Atari about them." — Daniel Grayshon, producer at Night Dive Studios
This was later clarified with this accompanying post.
"The game will not be abandoned. We are just having to return the game to the company that owns it. Atari will relay issues to us, and we'll work with them on new updates going forwards." — Daniel Grayshon, producer at Night Dive Studios
Indicating that although development was not ended, it may well be at a slower rate and under the direction of Atari. Atari has subsequently purchased NightDive.
"I haven't tried it myself so I can't comment on the quality of the remaster, but the list of features does seem to be pretty extensive for such an old game. That said, I have noticed some complaints about the gameplay feeling slightly off when compared to the original, so if you do decide to grab yourself a copy, make sure to do a bit of research beforehand." — Gamesear
Even prior to release, the effort was criticised for its usage of Nightdive's own Kex Engine rather than the actual Build Engine. In effect, this qualifies the release as more of a recreation, like the fan made Transfusion or ZBlood, than a true source port. Unlike either of those however, it does still work with the authentic files and formats, supporting all established fan add-on content, which further blurs the lines. It also has notably higher system requirements than the other ports already available, limiting its appeal to users of older hardware.
Post-launch Fresh Supply has been harshly received by many in the community, particularly by regulars on the Altar of Stone, the denizens of the Duke4 forums, and critic Civvie 11, for its perceived inaccuracy (including sound and graphical issues, off physics and balancing, and odd enemy and entity behaviours) compared to Build powered ports like BloodGDX and NBlood as well as the DOS original. Such inaccuracies were particularly apparent in user maps, such as crashes in the first level of the second episode of Death Wish. Demos are also not provided, which has been the main means of benchmarking accuracy in the other ports.
"Blood: Synthetic Substitute is an illegitimate impostor. NBlood and BloodGDX are both viable ways to truly play Blood. Which one works better comes down to the details of what you're looking for." — Evan "Hendricks266" Ramos, Duke4
Other concerns pertain to its effect on the game's legacy, with controversy swirling around Fresh Supply supplanting the vintage release on services such as GOG.com; even with the DOS version of One Unit: Whole Blood still available as an extra, thereby also retaining access for other ports. Reservations also remain about commercial re-releases of older games in general, where there are already community supported solutions available. It should be noted however that unlike with Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, none of the unofficial Blood ports are legally sanctioned by route of an open source code release.
Fresh Supply has however been positively received by the general audience, with high scores on its store pages. It also was graced with positive notices by reviewers and publications such as Gmanlives, Rock Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer, AusGamers and more.
This can partly be ascribed to excitement by casual players simply at the chance to revisit the cult classic; much of the press coverage serves more as a retrospective on the design of the actual game itself than an in-depth look at the intricacies of the re-release.
Sympathizers are apt to defend the variations from the original as part and parcel of so-called "quality of life" improvements considered necessary to bring the game to modern audiences. This includes the additional display modes, controls schemes and difficulty settings, as well as appreciation of the new features such as split-screen multiplayer and the fresh graphics and effects. This creates a similar sort of dichotomy between those who like limit-removing Doom source ports like GZDoom (favoured by John Romero) or more conservative options like Chocolate Doom.
It should be also be remembered that at the time of the game's first digital re-release onto Good Old Games back in 2010, and again with the Steam re-issue in 2014, a sizable minority protested that all that was included was the DOS version without any modernizations or upgrades (aside from a Dosbox wrapper).
"Also, if for some reason Duke’s latest appearance on Steam does little to excite you, you may be interested to know that an enhanced Shadow Warrior edition is en route. I can’t help but hope that the developer might tackle Blood as well in the future." — A Look At Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition - Rob Willimas (Techgage), March 26, 2013
This was particularly in comparison to releases such as Devolver Digital's upgraded Build kin Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition and Shadow Warrior Classic Redux. The controversial release of variants like Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, which corresponded to the outright removal of the DOS Atomic Edition from store-fronts and broke backward compatibility, has soured many on such projects however.
There is also an ill feeling among sections of the community that Fresh Supply was green-lit, while the upgraded version pitched by original producer Jason Hall in 2012, said to be using the actual binary source code, was spurned by Atari. Finally, it is partly a case of bad timing, because if Fresh Supply had come out in 2015 or 2016, during the initial development of progenitor Blood EX, it would not have been contrasted to the other ports; which at that time were seen as unlikely if not impossible to come to pass after years of attempts and false starts.
Indeed, a common view is that the initial release feels rushed and unpolished, but at least offers potential to be properly patched out with time. Civvie 11 released a follow-up video praising the work done in patches, and expressed optimism about the future; later commenting that the first stable patch "worked wonders". A closed beta period (like the original had in early 1997) might have allowed these issues to be ironed out before gaining such public exposure, with some making the claim that Nightdive has been using its customers unwittingly as its quality assurance testers. A lack of day-one support for platforms other than Microsoft Windows was also seen as a disappointment, with the status of ports to other systems currently in limbo.
Additionally it has been questioned how much value there is in the remaster's add-on support given it does not provide a modern replacement for MapEdit (which, in fairness, has not yet been done elsewhere either, but would certainly have been a justifiable inclusion for a commercial product). The game has spawned at least two prominent gameplay mods, Extra Crispy and Arcade Mode, and several new fan campaigns have been rapidly released since the port landed (namely Out for Blood, The Way of Ira and Fleshed Out; excitement for the fan made ports is also clearly a major factor however).
The release of Fresh Supply received a spot on PC Gamer's top stories of the week (it was previously listed as one of "18 promising FPSes coming in 2019"), as well as a place on the this week in games column of PC World. It was also earlier listed in Screen Rant's article "15 Video Game Remasters That Are Actually Happening (And 10 That We Wish Were Coming)". The topic of the game's release bugs and discrepancies was also the topic of the article "Blood: Fresh Supply’s Technical Shortcomings Outlined By Gaming Enthusiasts" by One Angry Gamer.
"Congratulations to @NightdiveStudio for their full-blooded remaster of our old classic! Thank you for carrying the torch forward with such obvious love, and for giving Blood fans the remaster they've been asking for and deserve. Well done, friends." — Monolith Productions
Original designer Nick Newhard has also complimented the remastering effort.
"Yeah, I have played through several levels and it gave me an opportunity to show Blood to my youngest son who's a bit more into games like Warframe and Team Fortress right now. The team has done an amazing job getting the play working identically to the original and to the point where I'm a bit embarrassed that some of our bugs are still there. Also, the sound works much better than past times I've played in DOSBox so kudos to the team for that as well, yeah." — Nick Newhard
For his part, lead developer Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal has said he is open to all feedback and criticism (save comparisons to BloodCM).
"I am taking every feedback, comment, and harassment seriously and will address every problem for Blood: Fresh Supply and I appreciate every single one of them. Except for those who say its inferior to BloodCM. They can just fuck right off." — Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
"Do you know anything about Kaiser? He's been working on three separate projects for the last 4 months. He lives and breathes code. Suggesting he put in anything less than full effort is an insult, plain and simple. Very little that's divergent is that way intentionally - some things are broken and fixes will be forthcoming; some things simply were not noticed. How many dedicated QA positions do you think we have? And a few things time just ran out on and have to be post-release fixes. It's like people think game devs would intentionally break things. This ain't AAA, we put care into the titles. It's not worth anybody's time to be going on an Internet crusade over and I don't know what the people doing it think the end result will be other than fake Internet points from people with the same viewpoint." — James "Quasar" Haley, developer
Kaiser has subsequently offered these thoughts on how the project panned out and what he would have changed in hindsight.
"Problem is that I also avoided using any BUILD code at all. That was my mistake. The second mistake was failing to understand the clockrate/tick rate of BUILD. Originally, the logic that I reverse engineered was running at 2x the speed in Kex, so everything had to be scaled down. I should of researched more on that rather than just scaling everything I hated BUILD's collision code so much that I didn't even think twice about the impact it would cause when I rolled out my own if I am ever given the chance to revisit FS. I am going to add an option to switch between collision modes." — Samuel "Kaiser" Villarreal
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