As of this weekend, Christmas has come early for the Through the Looking Glass community. A CD’s been discovered containing the source code for the Dark Engine, aka the engine used by Thief, Thief II and System Shock 2 (not to mention Irrational and Looking Glass’ cancelled cold war spy game Deep Cover).
What does this mean? Well, if the fans can get the code into a workable state, initially it’ll mean versions of those Dark Engine classics optimised for modern systems. In the long term, you can probably look at the FreeSpace 2 Source Code Project for a glimpse at what lies ahead.
The story as to how the code was discovered is sweet. Four years ago, a Dreamcast modder by the name of game_player_s received a Dreamcast devkit he ordered online, although he quickly realised he’d need a rare adapter to actually connect it to his PC. As you can read in this thread, recently he managed to find one. Factory-sealed, too. Perfect. Except it wasn’t perfect because it was, in fact, defective. Infuriated, game_player_s took the the devkit’s hard drive to work to see if there was anything on the damn thing. There was. Lots of Looking Glass’ assets from 1996-2000, including unfinished Dreamcast ports of Thief II and System Shock 2.
This was months ago. Last week, game_player_s accidentally checked the bag that the devkit arrived in. Inside it was a CD containing the engine source code for all of those games. For four years, one of the Looking Glass community’s dream discoveries was gathering dust in the corner of a Dreamcast fan’s house.
Following a petition on the TTLG forums in 2009, the question of whether to release the Dark Engine’s source code officially has been with Eidos’ lawyers since the beginning of this year, but the community hasn’t heard back since then. There’s every chance that any minute now Eidos’ legal team will mobilise and try and shut down this dissemination of the source code, which would be several different kinds of ugly.
At the minute, there’s little else to report on other than a lot of excitable chatter. If you’re interested in reading that, the TTLG thread on the subject of the source code is here, and their technical discussion of what’s present and how to get it working is here. Unfortunately, it looks like some of the code redirects to files on networked drives that modders obviously have no access to, though it’s unknown exactly how big of a problem this is. We’ll be posting more on this as and when we hear it.