When remastering a classic video game, it’s important to make the right decision when it comes to what should change and what should stay the same.
Take the recent Command & Conquered Remastered for example. The game is a fantastically faithful reproduction of one of the most influential RTS games of all time. A fair number of annoying bugs were resolved. But one infamous trick remained: the sandbag exploit.
If you’re not familiar, the sandbag structure will never be destroyed by an enemy AI. Something about their programming doesn’t recognize that they should destroy the obstacle. They just see it as an immovable wall. Some players would take advantage of this, building a long sandbag pathway to the enemy base and surrounding them. This effectively traps them for the rest of the game.
The exploit remained in the remaster. And according to an interview with producer Jim Vassella with Eurogamer, that was an intentional decision.
Vassella compares the bug to a different one involving airstrikes. They discovered that in Nod missions, enemy AI would always air strike the player unit in the top left most position. But when they fixed that bug, the level became noticeably more difficult. The enemy AI was using the airstrikes correctly, causing devastating damages. Now the balance had been broken.
“That was the main reason we didn’t change the sandbag one – it was so core to those stories of how people experienced the game the first time. And then once we discovered what was starting to happen when we changed just very basic things in the AI code, it became evident how fragile the entire campaign was. So I think that’s one we will continue to forever keep in the game. It’ll be one of those iconic things of the original game.”
Admittedly, I didn’t know about this exploit before now. But it’s fascinating to see it as something iconic from the original game. I’ll have to try it out myself next time I’m struggling with the enemy.