From what I understood, Arkana Studios actually intended to make Arx Fatalis another entry into to Underworld franchise, but they were unable to obtain the license. According to Arkane's CEO they contacted the founder of Looking Glass to ask for his help. He was willing to help them establish a new UW game, but EA didn't want to cooperate (they prefer sitting on licenses so they can turn them into browser based games 20 years later).
On topic, I often get very frustrated by UW1 and UW2. I can feel that they are great games that are pretty much my style (especially since I enjoyed Arx so mcuh), but the interface was so cumbersome and the game's viewport was so insanely small that I always had a lot of trouble playing it. When that System Shock mouselook mod was released I was silently hoping for a mouselook mod for UW, but that's probably not going to happen.
Most of the attempted fan-remakes I knew were mods. Unfortunately, I think it's rather hard to mod an existing engine for UW, because it's such a unique game. If any remake is to be completed, it will have to be on an engine built from the ground up for UW.
I'm one of the people who have been messing around with reverse-engineering UW and creating a new engine for it (and I'm also one of the guys who lost steam in the process ).
The thing is that UW is actually a very complex game for its time. On the surface it might seem like a doable thing to remake the game (and it might be, for the right person) but there are just *so* many little details in the game. I'll risk my neck by saying my own remake attempt is probably the one that got furthest in getting both gameplay and visuals working, but it still has a long way to go.
One small sub-project that might be doable is trying to increase the texture resolution somewhat in the original UW1 game. The textures for floors and walls are extremely low-res and the engine might actually support a somewhat higher resolution. We (the UW reverse-engineering "community") have fully decoded the file formats for the graphics, so it would be a fairly easy task to pack a new set of textures for the game. But that would of course require an artist to actually do the texture work
Personally I'm unsure whether or not such a visual upgrade of the textures would do much for the overall presentation of the game though. It would not affect interface or the other technical limitations of the engine (such as the very limited ability to look up or down).
Well, there is the whole part about story and quests. All this is implemented using a scripting language also used for the npc dialogs. This includes controlling NPC moods, gaining/loosing quest items, setting/checking quest flags etc. Pretty much most of the actual game play - besides combat.
Then there is the level setup which is implemented using a fairly elaborate "trigger/trap" system. This system implements all the puzzles (levers/buttons), text messages, key/lock gameplay, environment transforming (for example: drain the water puzzle in UW1), special camera angles, special graphics.. and much more!
Then there are all the items. Which monsters drop what? What does the individual items do? What about magical items? Spells?
IMO there really isn't any "easy" way. If you decide to reverse engineer the original file formats, then you gain a lot of "implemented game play" each time you manage to decode one more piece of the files - but decoding it all is *hard*.
If you go for the "lets just reimplement it from scratch" approach then you'll quickly realize just how much data is needed for this game
It'd be a very doable thing, and I bet they could make it all work within 6 months. But no one will do that, because they'd rather focus on profit.
Well, I believe the Unity engine has a pretty sophisticated scripting aspect, though I've never actually tried it. It's supposed to work with languages like C# - which would enable even a complete amateur like myself to make most of the code needed for the things you mention.
But that's not what I mean…
Writing the C# code for a key/lock system is fairly simple, yes. Writing the C# code to handle a dialog with an NPC is quite a bit harder but still doable - also yes. But we're talking about re-creating a game here, so the next question is then: how do you intend to figure out what the *content* and *logic* of the more than 100 npc dialogs that appear in the game is?
This is the part that will almost surely break the neck of any amateur team that sets out to recreate this game from scratch. Re-building and re-scripting the game logic. It's not so simple and such small a task as you make it sound. I think you seriously underestimate the work involved!
But anyway, this is getting very much off-topic for this thread.. so I'll end it here with the final comment that this is all of course just IMHO. I sincerely hope someone will prove me wrong