Hooray! – System Shock 2, Thief 2 Get Usability Patches

By Nathan Grayson on September 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

System Shock 2 and Thief 2 are regularly hailed as classics for a reason. They’re meticulously designed, tough but not unfair, and, well, they’ve been around for a gazillion years – at least, in gaming technology time. Unfortunately, our light-speed-traveling future machines take about as well to them as modern automobiles to giant stone Flintstones wheels. In other (pseudo) words, clunkity clunk clunk crash. But now – finally, wonderfully, mercifully – some kind soul’s seen fit to release unofficial patches that bring both games up to speed. And, according to early reports, they make some positively massive improvements.

Double Fine’s Chris Remo (via Kotaku) tweeted out word of the abruptly unearthed hunks of unofficial patching gold, pointing the way to a French forum called Ariane4ever. The original forum post came out of nowhere, and no one’s quite sure of the patches’ origins. That’s a shame, too, because this is what trophies, medals, and the Nobel Prize were made for – seeing as it used to be an enormous pain to get these games up and running on modern PCs in any sort of stable fashion.

But this works. Not only that, it’s relatively convenient. Users of the full games have reported huge gains in stability, performance, and graphical fidelity. Meanwhile, I did some fiddling with proof-of-concept demos of each, and seeing these games running smoothly in high resolutions is a total trip.

You can grab everything you need to apply the patches here. You’ll also find a gigantic changelog, if you’re in the mood for some refreshing Wednesday morning gawking. Enjoy!

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120 Comments »

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  1. povu says:

    Now to actually put System Shock 2 for sale digitally somewhere. Damn ownership issues.

    • Sic says:

      Are there any sort of news on this?

    • roz says:

      Its on GoG isn’t it?

      • Polmansol says:

        @Roz
        Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s been on top of the GoG wishlist for ages tho.

        • SiHy_ says:

          According to the chatter on the TTLG forum the System Shock IP is owned by some insurance company or some such. Apparently they have said that they would licence it but the fee they’re asking is ridiculous. I don’t know why they don’t just allow GOG to sell it. Even if they took just a small percentage they’d make a killing and all for something they have absolutely no use for.

          • sinister agent says:

            If it’s held by an insurance company, they probably won’t release it until they can find a way to have releasing it kill a few dozen orphans, or maim an adorable puppy, or set fire to an old woman’s house.

            Until then, the mere act of holding on to it, and therefore depriving thousands of people of joy for no reason, will have to suffice.

          • meatshit says:

            That’s a little unfair. I’m sure they’d do it for only a dozen orphan deaths with a bit of haggling.

    • Thiefsie says:

      Still got my original boxes for these – yep including the trapezoidal flap cover for Thief. The joy!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Stense says:

    Ooh, lovely. Two of my favourite games. I’ve not played them in ages precisely because they are such a pain in the bum to get running on dumb modern systems.

  3. Infinitron says:

    If you’re patient, I’m sure that in a few weeks at most, the fan communities will release unified mod packages for these games, that combine the new patches with the existing fan mods that have been developed over the years.

    Quick and easy mod guides:

    Thief: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/infinitrons-thief-series-fan-patch-guide.74267/

    SS2: http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=106.0

    • sabrage says:

      The way you say “weeks” belies a charming but ultimately tragic naivety regarding the life of a mod.

      • Infinitron says:

        Ooh sarcasm. Point taken, but compilations of existing mods are a bit easier to make than the mods themselves.

        • faelnor says:

          So the tragic naivety was that “weeks” should have been substituted with “days”?

          Well anyway, it took less than one: TFix for T1/TG, with improved and fixed resource along with patch v1.19 in an all-including installer.

  4. Premium User Badge

    oceanclub says:

    Given that there’s already ways of running these games at hi fidelity, I’m unclear why this is huge news. (Not being snarky, just wondering.)

    P.

    • Ansob says:

      Because this is one-click rather than requiring extensive patching and configuration.

      • Infinitron says:

        The existing fan patches are also pretty much one-click these days. Maybe two-click.

        • dskzero says:

          They aren’t even really that effective though.

          • Infinitron says:

            I don’t know about that. What are you expecting?

          • Vorphalack says:

            Game working vs. game not working. I’d say that’s pretty effective.

          • codename_bloodfist says:

            What? I’ve downloaded some version of Thief 2 (before someone lunges me, I was on a trip and I do own the original) before it even came out on GoG and it worked like a charm. Resolution fixes aside, Thief I and II work pretty well without any patches at all. You only have to turn off all other cores in the task manager after starting the game.

          • Vorphalack says:

            The original boxed retail versions of Thief 1 and 2 do not work on Windows 7 at all without mods. The version you downloaded probably had a pre-patched .exe file.

          • Treymoney says:

            Yeah, I’ve been trying to play Thief 2 with the earlier patches. Every few hours it does this weird thing where as soon as my save loads Garrett jumps. I dread this because it means that i can’t use inventory items and I can only run. I stopped playing a month ago because I was tired of reinstalling the game (the only solution I’ve found). When I installed this patch it cleared up the problem immediately!

          • Ragnar says:

            “You only have to turn off all other cores in the task manager after starting the game.”
            First, I think this is asking a bit much of the average computer user.
            Secondy, what? Do you mean that you have to Set the Affinity for the Thief.exe process to a single core? Or do you mean something else entirely?
            Thirdly, do you see why this is a bit much to ask of the average computer user?

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      Modern player for videos rather than hackily emulating the old, increases textures and colors to 32-bit, many more audio channels, OpenAL for audio rendering, removes dependency on EAX, antialiasing, better soft shadows, big increase in frame rates while reducing CPU/GPU load, etc etc.

      Basically makes both games much more problem free on modern Windows, and gives a huge budget for high-texture mods and other modders to play with.

      • Premium User Badge

        oceanclub says:

        OK, that does sound impressive alright. Quite odd they appeared from nowhere without fanfare…

        P.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lars Westergren says:

          Yes, probably someone who has access to the original source, which is why they are posting this anonymously.

          • diebroken says:

            I haven’t looked at the code, but a version of Dark Engine source code was supposedly ‘found’ a couple of years ago now…

          • Torn says:

            Reportedly the dreamcast source

        • Muzman says:

          It also increases the number of visible polygons by several orders of magnitude, permitting even more gigantic and complex levels and draw distances

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Maybe using this it would be possible to recreate T3 in the dark engine, at least some of the classic levels without loading bottlenecks.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      Because the existing ways of doing it involved a staggering amount of faff and didn’t always work.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        faff or taff?

      • Poliphilo says:

        I’m sorry but stop talking out of your ass, please.

        Installing Fallout 3 mods until it becomes a semi-playable game is a *staggering amount of work*.

        Installing both Thief: Gold and Thief 2: The Metal Age is like pretty much what you’d expect of installing two games, plus two patches. You can do it before your cup of tea/coffee becomes lukewarm.

        These patches though: they’re something else, they don’t just make the game playable or upgrade the textures, models, etc. but they massively improve on the original engines and renderers, making it possible to have much, much larger levels (keeping in mind Thief has some of the most massive environments to traverse of any first-person game, excluding some more recent open-world ones of course, like… S.T.A.L.K.E.R.?) as well as removing old dependencies on (for example) video and audio codecs.

        Seriously, in 12 years of keeping my Thief installations up to date, the ONLY real problem I ever ran into was when the briefing videos stopped working because of that damn impossible codec.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Well, the changelog is about thirty times longer than any other so far, that ought to count for something. If you’ve ever played Thief, and in particular, if you’ve ever DromEded, you’ll definitively find something you’ll like in that changelog.

      Whoever made this patch either has access to the sourcecode, or is a god among mortal men.

  5. TheInsider64 says:

    Some screenshots would be nice

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    Yay! I have two boxed copies.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    I’m confused. What does the patch do that I didn’t have already with the existing mods and the launcher (I can’t remember the name)?

    • LionsPhil says:

      System Shock Portable’s been around for ages, patching in higher resolutions and mouselook.

      • Interference says:

        You’ve confused System Shock 2 for System Shock 1. The original system shock is available in a “portable” version. This is a patch for it’s sequel, adding high resolution texture support, an in-built fan mission handler, extra features in the level editor, a permanent fix for SS2’s terminally wonky video codec, and a shedload of other features. It’s very, very impressive.

  8. Enzo says:

    Finished the game 3 times in coop mode. One of the best coop experiences I ever had.

    • mike2R says:

      System Shock 2 co-op is fantastic.

      I played it with a house mate of mine over a LAN years ago, with him upstairs and me down, shouting to each other.

      “BEEEEEES!!! RUUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!”

      I think our other housemates came close to killing us :)

      • rig says:

        Hah, reminds me of my little brother and I playing Unreal Tournament in different rooms of the house.

    • Scythe says:

      Personally I enjoyed the single-player more than co-op. Mostly due to the feeling of crushing lonelyness. Every time you get close to meeting someone living, they’re cruelly snatched away.

  9. Darth_Pingu says:

    I was hoping someone in the comments mentioned issues with Thief: Deadly Shadows. At least for me, it’s impossible to launch. I.e. it just doesn’t start if I launch it from Steam.
    Suggestions?

    • NathanH says:

      Deadly Shadows doesn’t work with multi core processors, you have to set it up to only use one core. That might be the problem.

      • Darth_Pingu says:

        IIRC, I already tried that (because the process starts running, but nothing happens). I even tried running it on my XP laptop. … Which most definitely doesn’t have multiple cores.
        And yes, as implied, I do have W7-64 with i7 4+4 core processor.

        • joh says:

          Well, if it doesn’t even start – for me, the multicore problems resulted in the intro video being played over and over again, with no way to access the main menu without forcing it to run on just one core.

          In any event, this “sneaky upgrade” from the TTLT-forums thats apparently mostly for widescreen support also “include a fix for multicore machines”, and since I installed it, I have a lot less problems with it (also less random crashing). Maybe it’s worth a shot?

          http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=138607

  10. Yosharian says:

    Hmm. Interesting. Perhaps I might actually finish Thief 2 now.

  11. Premium User Badge

    yandexx says:

    Patch for Grim Fandango anyone?

  12. virtualmatrix258 says:

    I’ve read wonderful things about System Shock 2 but I’ve yet to come across the actual game in any kind of digital distribution or even on CD-ROM. Might have to check out ebay…I would really love to spend a few days on this game.

    • AbsoluteDestiny says:

      You can generally find copies on ebay though honestly it’s not possible to buy this game in any way that would support the original makers or publishers or even the current IP owners (who are a Michigan insurance company). Hence there’s little moral argument against pirating this game, afaik. Legal arguments you will have to wrestle with yourself.

    • John Connor says:

      Just pirate it. It’s not sold anywhere, so there’s no point worrying about it. It’s basically abandonware.

    • Necroscope says:

      One of the greats is ..abandonware!!

  13. Neurotic says:

    For anyone wondering what’s so magnificent about these patches, when for the last hundred years they’ve been content arseholing around with fan-flaps, launchers and mods, these patches do SHITLOADS (the changelog is EPIC) with one simple install. Just go and read the readme ffs.

  14. Pemptus says:

    As with any mention of Thief, I feel compelled to direct everyone’s attention to the absolute crapton of quality fanmissions and user campaigns, some much better than the original ones. The TTLG forum is a good place to start.
    The op of the thread linked in the article, a chap named DrK, made one of the greatest series of missions for Thief 2 – A Night in Rocksbourg. The fourth one is in the making.

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      Without having read your comment I just wrote the same thing further down. :)

      People, go and play the Rocksbourg series now! It’s the pinnacle of immersive sims, right there with T2 and SS2 themselves.

  15. ShowMeTheMonkey says:

    Wot no “staring eyes” tag? How will I ever find this post again?

  16. DickSocrates says:

    I love this site, I come here multiple times every day (because I don’t have anything better to do). But sometimes I feel like I’m fighting through the articles to find the information, buried as it is amongst line after line of introductory humour.

  17. Tiax says:

    So what’s the installing order with this new patch ?

    Right now it was :

    – System Shock 2
    – SS2Tool
    – SHTUP
    – SS2 Rebirth

    Should I install the new patch after everything else ?

    • faelnor says:

      Have a look there, dunno if it helps: Thread on systemshock.org

    • Putzo says:

      This is how I did it:

      1.) Copied SHOCK dir from my ISO image to D:\Games
      2.) In SSTool, ticked “Patching Up”, “Getting Mod Ready” fully. In “Bug Fixes”, I only selected the “Audiologs Fix”. All other settings are made redundant by the new .EXE compile.
      3.) Dropped the contents of “new_dark.zip” and “contrib.zip” from the patch zip file inside the game dir.
      4.) Play!

      Remember to tweak gfx settings in cam_ext.cfg, it’s choke full of goodness!

    • PopeJamal says:

      Look at you, hacker…

  18. Casimir's Blake says:

    For those that aren’t aware: the source to System Shock 2 and Thief 2 has, previously, been leaked. Hence, this is possible.

    TTLG forums had a huge discussion about the leak, which later was “pushed into the background”, so to speak. I remember monitoring the pertinent threads at the time. The leaked code was never done so with permission.

    I conjecture that the coder responsible for this fantastic, long-needed, update is likely to be a member of the TTLG forums but has chosen to remain anonymous – and post these updates in the way that they have – to avoid legal issues. There should now be massive performance increases in previously “creakier” areas of official and fan-made maps, even on older systems. Hopefully this will rekindle the modding scene for Thief 2, which looked like it was broadly heading over to The Dark Mod… (not a bad thing, but further explorations in both would be preferable.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Revisor says:

      Thank you for the explanation. That’s probably one way an anonymous developer can keep the game technically alive with the legal mess it’s lost in.

      • Premium User Badge

        oceanclub says:

        Was the source code for Thief 1 also leaked in such a way? Would love to see a similar patch for that too.

        P.

  19. Nallen says:

    No one seems to be able to say where these have come from. I’m sure they’re benign but has anyone really looked to make sure they are?

  20. Premium User Badge

    Revisor says:

    It’s also worth saying that DrK, the poster of the thread on TTLG.com, is the author of the best fan mission series for Thief 2, A Night in Rocksbourg.
    He is an architect and the missions, the level design, the story are amazing. Words fail me to describe the goodness he has created.

    If you haven’t played it yet, drop everything now, buy and install Thief 2 and play the Rocksbourg series.

    Edit: Looks like I’ve been ninjaed with this information. So there you have it, two pseudonymous internet commenters feel the need to recommend Rocksbourg. :)

  21. flowsnake says:

    Getting SS2 modded and patched up to work on Windows 7 a few weeks ago was surprisingly easy. It worked, except it got very crashy at certain points in the game. The changelog only seems to be for Thief, so I wonder if those issues are dealt with by this.

  22. Stuart Walton says:

    Time to install Thief 2 and try to get Thief 2X working with it.

  23. Bhazor says:

    Ok I never tried the GoG version of Thief 2 but didn’t that already work?

  24. Jappy86 says:

    Hello everyone, I am an Italian fan and I have been lurking this site for a while and I think this is one of the best gaming sites ever. And Thief 2 and System Shock 2 are both some of my favourite games and this news makes me really happy. I’ll try these patches as soon as possible. And I will wait for a similar patch for Thief Gold.

  25. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Seems like someone has access to the source, the things I would do if i could get my hands on the system shock 2 source.

  26. MarigoldFleur says:

    As one of the only people on earth to not have even played Thief 2, this is fantastic news.

  27. GeeKay says:

    Is the Thief 2 patch designed to work with the way Steam installs it?

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      On the forums people say the patch works with Steam version, yes.

  28. Dainem says:

    It also works for Thief 1/ Thief Gold. You can download the patch here:

    http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=134733

    • Infinitron says:

      That is a different patch.

      • faelnor says:

        It’s an installer that now includes v1.19, so that’s not entirely a different patch.
        If you just want vanilla T1/TG working with v1.19, unpack the T1.7z archive in the doc folder and follow the instructions.

        • Premium User Badge

          oceanclub says:

          They really should update the description to make that clear, otherwise people will just skip over it…

          P.

  29. buzzmong says:

    Great scott! Amazing news and I feel a SS2 playthrough coming on.

  30. iniudan says:

    If only I could play System Shock 2, not that I didn’t try, but can’t get pass the monkeys, their screeching drive me insane.

  31. Dervish says:

    You mention the details in the text but I think this headline and introduction downplay what a big update this is. Getting the games to work has been quite easy for a while (well, more so for Thief than SS2), but the engine improvements are huge. “System Shock 2, Thief 2 get engine updates” is the real story here.

    - Increased the maximum number of visible on-screen terrain polies from 1024 to 20480
    – Increased the maximum number of visible on-screen objects from 128 to 1280

    For those not familiar with Thief, yes, the old engine had a hard limit of 1024 polygons for the visible environment. 1024! This update is an explosion of potential for more complicated architecture and mission complexity/detail in general. Non-modders will passively benefit from the increased performance and improved lighting.

  32. Jappy86 says:

    I tried System Shock 2 and followed the instructions you guys posted and it seems to work. I have so many games to finish and I added this one to replay it. Do I really want to immerse myself again into the horrors of the Von Braun? Hell Yes. I’ll try Thief 2 and Thief2 tx now.

  33. ResonanceCascade says:

    No more excuses for anyone out there who still hasn’t played these gems! Get on it!

  34. Jappy86 says:

    Tried also Thief Gold with the TFix posted by Dainem and Thief 2. They work perfectly. That’s great.

  35. GreatGreyBeast says:

    Good news for all you guys. I still keep a Windows 98 box handy specifically for these games.

  36. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Okay, so everything works perfectly for me but for that there’s no voice sound. There’s music and effects, but no voice plays for people or the audio logs. My process on an Intel i5 quad, Win 7:

    Taken from http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=4128.msg45551#msg45551
    1. Pull the shock folder from the CD (as advised in the SS2 tech FAQ)
    2. Install SS2Tool v3.6 but uncheck “Bug Fixes” as none of them are needed anymore
    3. Extract ss2_v24.zip into your game folder

    Did that,
    have OpenAL installed,
    using it as 16-channel ingame,
    have enabled “snd_oal_device Generic Software” in cam_ext.cfg,
    and still no dice. Anyone else getting this?

    EDIT: Fixed!

    From reading http://www.systemshock.org/index.php?topic=1847.0
    I figured I’d try just create a text file named install.cfg in the root directory, comprised of a single line:

    language english

    Lo and behold, voice acting!

  37. Hybrid says:

    I wonder if GOG is thinking about putting Thief 2 on sale…

  38. zabzonk says:

    I’ve just installed it for Thief 2, and played through the first mission and part of the second on Win7. It works really, really well and the widescreen support is great. Note you will need to patch to 1.8 before installing this patch.

  39. Putzo says:

    Wow, after spending part of my morning messing with the various files included in the patch, all I can say is that it’s a Herculean effort from this anonymous coder. I can’t imagine someone doing this only on his spare time, not to mention that the person responsible seems to be a very acomplished graphics programmer.

    And it’s neatly documented too! All very strange. Looks like a paid job to me.

  40. Poliphilo says:

    YES! This can only mean good things for the future of Thief and the Dark Engine (and by extension Dark Mod) and all things taffer and sneaksy. One peek at the changelist suggests this was a massive effort by anonymous benefactors, whoever you are THANKS SO MUCH!

    I can’t wait to see what this does for Thief, but I think first I’m going to replay System Shock 2 this week, finally (it’s been years).

  41. derbefrier says:

    I have never played system shock 2. It was one of those games i always meant to play but never got around to it. guess today is as good as any to start.

    I also didn’t realize it had co-op thats even better. Time for a lan party

    • ZB says:

      For the love of god, do NOT play SS2 for the first time in multiplayer. SS2 was designed as a single-player game. The only reason it even has multiplayer is because EA forced Irrational to include it. SS2 is the sort of game that’s best experienced alone, in the dark. The plot doesn’t even make sense when there’s a whole pack of giggling idiots bunny-hopping around instead of just one isolated amnesiac soldier.

      • valz says:

        Agreed. However, the multiplayer is still kind of nice for a second playthough.

  42. Oshmog says:

    If who ever made this is looking; THANK YOU!