Nobody Knows What Happened to the Source Code for Icewind Dale 2

July 11, 2017 8:15 am0 commentsViews: 4

Over the past few years, the Canadian developer and publisher Beamdog and its subsidiary, Overhaul Games, have earned a reputation for well-received updates to beloved titles previously released by Bioware and Black Isle Studios. After a successful overhaul of MDK 2, Overhaul Games and Beamdog have released Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment, along with an all-new expansion for Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear.

The Enhanced Editions and new content have been generally well-received. Some have reviewed a touch more strongly than others, but scores of 78 – 82 (or the equivalent in other systems) are common. Overhaul Games would like to move on to the second game in the Icewind Dale set and the last title they haven’t enhanced that uses Bioware’s Infinity Engine. But there’s just one problem — no one can find the source code to Icewind Dale 2.

IWD2

The original game is still available from sources like GOG.

That’s the report from Kotaku, which spoke to Beamdog’s Trent Oster about the situation late last week. “We’ve searched all the archives we have access to, including all the data handed over to Wizards of the Coast from Atari and there is no source code for Icewind Dale II,” Oster told that site. “We’ve reached out to our friends at Obsidian, as many of them were the development staff behind Icewind Dale II, and they do not have any source code. We’re stalled on the project without source and the project won’t move forward until we can find it. We’ve naturally moved on to other things until there is a change in the situation.”

This kind of situation doesn’t appear to be uncommon. Earlier this year, we covered the upcoming launch of Starcraft: Remastered, a new version of the classic game with 4K support and updated art assets. Blizzard 3D Art Director Brian Sousa confirmed in an interview with Ars Technica late last month that the company had “no code and no art assets,” at least not before one die-hard fan found an actual copy of the Starcraft source code and returned it to the company.

This kind of situation seems a bit crazy when you think of it as a matter of affirmative deletion — meaning that someone at Black Isle Studios or Blizzard or any company would highlight a master directory named “Source Code” and hit delete without first absolutely positively ensuring that data was preserved in multiple redundant directories. But that’s not usually how this kind of mistake happens. What’s more likely is a combination of less-than-perfect backup practices, especially in the late 90s and early aughts, the slow loss of old backups (physical failure, periodic supply closet cleanouts, and staff changes can all take their toll), and fallible human memory.

Eventually, the once-cutting-edge Pentium II Xeon server or tape drives that handled such mundane tasks are dust-covered fossils living in the corner of a closet, a random filing cabinet, or even shoved under someone’s desk. Toss in the relatively high rate of turnover at most gaming companies, and the staff deciding to toss that ancient server to make room for newer equipment often aren’t even close to the same group of people who saved code to it in the first place — and after all, who would want the source code to a game released 15-20 years ago, anyway?

With all of that said, I’d like to make a modest proposal for the fine folks at Beamdog and Overhaul Games. Black Isle Studios didn’t just develop and publish Icewind Dale or publish Baldur’s Gate — they also developed a modest little title you may have heard of called Fallout 2. It’s still a great game, but I’ll confess, the interface is dated, to put it kindly, and the engine and assets could easily use a little sprucing up. Having been developed with an engine that predates 3D graphics cards, a little bit of 3D acceleration wouldn’t hurt any, and I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks this is a good idea. Feel similarly, or got a game you’d like to see get an enhanced or remastered edition? Sound off and tell us about it.

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