Lost source code might rule out Icewind Dale II: Enhanced Edition

Beamdog have been on a retro remastering rampage in recent years, fancying up and re-releasing Icewind Dale, the two Baldur’s Gate games, and Planescape: Torment. Their spree of updating games built on the Infinity Engine has reached one tricky obstacle, though: they can’t find the source code for Icewind Dale II. Beamdog say they fancy giving a remaster a go but they need the source to even see if that’s even viable. They’ve been searching, reaching out to people who might have it, but no luck so far.

Beamdog said in a blog post last week:

“At this time, the source code for Icewind Dale II can not be found. We’ve reached out to former developers and publishers with no luck. No one seems to know where it’s got to. Consider this our open call to fans for the code, patched or otherwise.

“We’d love to complete the Infinity Engine series and bring you all the game you’ve been asking for, but to make Icewind Dale II: Enhanced Edition a possibility, having that source code, preferably patched, is needed before we can even start assessing whether the project is doable.”

How does a game get lost? Too easily. The companies with financial interests in preserving it have been battered over the past 15 years, for starters. Icewind Dale II developers Black Isle Studios a year after releasing it. The game’s publishers, Interplay, largely exist now in name only, having been gutted and flirted with bankruptcy several times. And preservation has rarely been a priority at video game companies anyway, with some scrubbing source files after release to save disk space (money).

Even if people who worked at either had kept a copy themselves, storage mediums have limited lifespans – and people rarely hold onto old drives and discs forever.

Icewind Dale II’s source might still be around somewhere but the odds of finding and successfully salvaging it go down with time.

If anyone does have a copy of the source, Beamdog would like to hear from ’em. If you don’t have it yourself, Beamdog say, don’t play private eye and go bugging former developers about it.

It would be nice if, in some glorious future with bountiful cultural funding, an institution did exist to secure and preserve games. Amateurs are doing some good work but the scale of a scheme to preserve everything would be monumental. Alternatively, we could embrace the fact that all flesh is grass and everything we create will one day be dust so we may as well lean into it, treat games as fleeting fancies, surrender to nothingness, and embrace the wild world whooshing past. I do often find option 2 attractive.

Ta to PCGamesN for pointing Beamdog’s post out.

21 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Cyphran says:

    Wow, that got unexpectedly dark.

    • Detroit Jones says:

      That’s not dark, it’s perfectly accurate and just what is.

  2. GrumpyCatFace says:

    Wait… this is literally a company putting out a public call for a ‘any copy of Icewind Dale II’?

    Am I missing something, or did they mean something different by “source code”?

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      Source code nearly always meaning uncompiled programming type code. Not a compiled executable that you’d run off a CD or whatever.

      A lot of data/info is lost during making the text file into an executable.

      • baud001 says:

        Also the process of compilation is not reversible, so you can’t go from the .exe on the disk back to the source code.
        It is possible do disassemble an executable to try to reverse engineer it, but it’s extremely hard and time-consuming.

        • Premium User Badge

          Drib says:

          Yeah, decompiled code is a mess. IIRC, no comments obviously, but also generally useless variable names, horrible nonsense formatting, possibly intentionally obfuscated depending on the compiler.

          Basically without the original source, they’re looking at a full rewrite.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Well its infinity engine so they should in theory already have a substantial slice of it – but trying to work out what got changed of IWD II could be a deep dark rabbit hole.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    We get to archive games by the reboots without sequel titles.

    Why, ‘Doom’ was released just last year! I don’t know what all them 90s kids were playing.

  4. Pich says:

    Ironically it got copied over by Doctor Who episodes.

  5. Zaxwerks says:

    Well they’ll just have to completely remake it in the Frostbite engine won’t they?!

  6. baud001 says:

    It might not be to bad if they do not do an enhanced edition of IWD 2, since:
    a) the original game will stay available (especially since all their EE are more expensive than the original game (like 2x more expensive))
    b) BD’s next work be judged on their own merit, I mean SoD had a good encounter, so they can make good content, instead of just being like a record company getting rights to an old song and rereleasing it, especially for games that are already available.
    c) With the terrible additions (in term of quality and how it fit in the rest of the content) in BG, I don’t trust them to respect the content of IWD 2 (even if P:T was not changed in that aspect).

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Their versions of Icewind Dale and Planescape didn’t contain any additions apart from some bug fixes, as they correctly judged that any new content would have been out of place. So I think they have the judgement and experience to release a decent IWD 2 EE if it ever becomes a possibility.
      Personally I’m on the fence with their additions to the Baldur’s Gate games as some of the content is indeed out of place, but it’s not like those games were consistently good in the first place either.
      SoD did have some great encounters and art. I’m looking forward to seeing what Beamdog come up with next.

      • PineMaple says:

        “Their versions of Icewind Dale and Planescape didn’t contain any additions apart from some bug fixes, as they correctly judged that any new content would have been out of place.”

        That’s not really true. While they didn’t add any of their own content as far as quests go, they did restore some quests from the original and added a ton of other content. Namely, a new race, new classes, the “kit” system from BG2, new spells (both divine and arcane), new abilities, new items, and dual wielding for more than just rangers. While most of the new additions aren’t bad on their own, the game wasn’t exactly balanced for them and on the whole the EE is a lot easier than the original when playing on the same difficulty.

  7. nlaslett says:

    IWD2 was unlike all the other Infinity Engine games in that it was completely retooled to use AD&D 3rd Edition rules. (All the others use 2nd Ed.) That makes it pretty different – and not necessarily in a good way. If Beamdog can extract the artwork, dialogue, and audio they should just do that and slap it into their current EE version of the engine (which is a dramatically upgraded version of the BG2:ToB engine).

    It wouldn’t be completely faithful to the original but it would allow us all to (re)play the content using the modern Enhanced Edition engine. They did something similar for Planescape.

    “If I were to start over and do it from scratch, I wouldn’t actually use the original code. I’d probably just build an interpreter that looked at the old engine and used the old assets, and I’d re-engineer the same kind of gameplay.”
    – Beamdog cofounder Trent Oster, discussing PST:EE

    link to venturebeat.com

    It would be a fair bit of work to redo all the quest logic, pathing, and new spells, but if they did get the original source code my guess is that it would be so different from all the other games – and so in need of a complete overhaul – that it wouldn’t be worth using anyway. I wonder if they can decompile enough to get the quests?

    I’m guessing that restoring IWD2 like it was as an AD&D 3rd Ed. game would be a huge undertaking, even with the original source code.

  8. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    It would be nice if IWD2 was remade; I’ve been playing it on and off since 2002 and still not finished it.

    In particular it doesn’t react well with modern Nvidia drivers and needs a Direct2D shim DLL to fix a drawing issue.

    Also, the difficulty curve is awful. Yes, it’s supposed to be more at the nerdy tactical end of Infinity Engine D&D, but it’s too easy to get through the initial stockade section, move on to the bridge and then be killed by werewolves over, and over, and over again. The solution for this is to start again with a party that’s balanced according to the available walkthroughs, wasting hours.

    At the very least a remake should either re-balance the game, have a guided party creator that lets you know fights will be especially tough with your choices, or include a battle adviser when the options to win are difficult to figure out.

    Might get back to it at some stage, but after pushing myself to continue I finally made it a little past the half way mark and lost interest. When it works well, it’s superb – interesting battles, and a lot of customisation based on race and class, as it should be.

  9. LogicalDash says:

    Icewind Dale II developers Black Isle Studios a year after releasing it.

    I accidentally the whole developer

  10. johnpocalypse says:

    It’s a bit sad that the source code to IWD2 may have been lost to time. I really enjoyed that game, because it was based on the 3rd Edition rules. Which was what I learned the tabletop version of D&D on.

    Neverwinter Nights was good, but lost some tabletop charm because of the single player perspective. Temple of Elemental Evil was such a fantastic recreation of the rules shackled to a terrible module with poorly written NPCs. Icewind Dale II was, I think the best compromise. I do hope they find the source code, I’m sure they would do wonderful things that late 3.5 edition D&D introduced (Warlocks which are a staple of 5th edition were originally from 3.5).

    However, Pathfinder: Kingmaker was recently funded, and all signs point to a faithful adaptation of Pathfinder. So there’s something to fill that void.

  11. 2Ben says:

    For those complaining about paying extra for EE, for me, being able to play the IE games with one mouse-click on Linux without any hassle of patching the old games with Wine etc is absolutely worth the price of admission, particularly when bought in sales at 66% or 75% rebate.
    If BeamDog does make their own IP game, I might buy it full price just to support them.

  12. Cablenexus says:

    “It would be nice if, in some glorious future with bountiful cultural funding, an institution did exist to secure and preserve games.”

    Exactly what I was thinking a few years ago when Homm III HD Remake was released by a French company who couldn’t find the source code for the expansions anymore so released it without the most important expansions. That leaves the remake to a barebone version of HOMM III without even the RNG maps HOMM III was famous for.

    Sometimes source code isn’t lost, but just in the wrong hands. For example: Many years ago one of the best strategy games was Warlords III (Reign of heroes/Darklords Rising). In a mutually friendly decision in 2003, Warlords designer Steve Fawkner broke away from Strategic Studies Group (SSG) and started Infinite Interactive to publish further Warlords games.

    Co-founder Ian Trout died of cancer on 3 August 2011, which left Roger Keating as CEO of the company.

    On 19 and 20 June 2014 Roger Keating and Gregor Whiley of SSG attended the Born Digital and Cultural Heritage Conference in Melbourne.(Source wikipedia)

    There isn’t any official digital version available to download for any of the older Warlords games while there are many players (including myself) who wants to play this gem again.

    Is the source code at the original developer who released Warlords IV and Warlords Battlecry and now fully concentrate on Puzzle Quest mobile games the last few years? Is the official license holder the orginal SSG founder who passed away in 2011? Or is it still with SSG Roger Keating as CEO of the company?

    Should be nice if PCGamer can do some article about it and research how it went from one of the most popular strategy games which was praised for good AI and now not even possible to buy anywhere in boxed or digital form?

  13. JackMultiple says:

    Geez, this isn’t rocket science. Just ask the NSA for a backup copy. It’s still there in Area 71 (just 2 floors below 51). Tell ’em ‘Whizzo” sent you.

  14. alantwelve says:

    …storage mediums…

    Has anyone checked Derek Acorah’s hard drive?