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Why HandCircus rebuilt the early iOS game Rolando for modern devices

An interview with the dev team explores the preservation issues faced by mobile platforms and why devs sometimes need to adjust remasters to overcome rose-tinted nostalgia.

”It’s been really difficult that nobody’s really been able to play it for years, It’s heartbreaking that it’s a big part of our history that hasn’t been available in the store.”

- HandCircus CEO and founder Simon Oliver explores the team's motivations for remastering Rolando

Polygon spoke to the developers of the early iPhone game Rolando to discuss how and why the team circled back to make a remastered version of the 2008 mobile game after it was delisted from the App Store in 2017.

It’s an interesting conversation, and one that touches on some important topics like preservation issues faced by mobile platforms and why devs sometimes need to adjust parts of their remasters to overcome rose-tinted nostalgia.

The preservation issue is one that many iOS developers are likely familiar with at this point. Just a couple years ago, Apple made the announcement that it would be phasing out support for 32-bit apps on iOS and purging those titles from the App Store unless developers updated them to 64-bit.

For some developers, bringing their apps in line with new App Store standards either isn’t worth the cost or is impossible due to licensing or technology reasons, so a great deal of once-classic iOS games have essentially been lost to time. 

”It is a really important thing, and I think on iOS and mobile in general, it’s been very difficult to have those experiences again," HandCircus founder Simon Oliver tells Polygon. "Those early games, those early iOS classics that disappeared — it’s been a real shame that I can’t play games like Flight Control or Incoboto, classic games that I remember being really inspired by. With Rolando, we felt very much the same mission of hoping to restore something that is a piece of our history, but obviously is a little bit of a piece of history of the App Store, as well.”

HandCircus regained the rights for the Rolando series just a recently, however, and has since released a remastered version of the series’ first game called Rolando: Royal Edition. It’s a remaster that strives to recreate the game as fans and the dev team remember it, rather than just re-release the original game as-is for modern devices. 

”Nostalgia creates these rose-tinted memories. It’s a funny thing: the way you remember it doesn’t always match exactly how it used to be. At first, it was quite jarring. It was like, ‘Oh my god, this looks old,’” says Oliver. The full story on Polygon has more for Oliver on that topic, as well as the preservation motivations for doing so.

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