With the resurgence of computer RPGs both in style and / or gameplay, it only makes sense that developers like Beamdog have been capitalizing on remastering and in some cases even expanding upon classic CRPGs. To remaster these games, however, you typically need access to its source code.
This is the problem Beamdog has run into when looking to remaster Icewind Dale II, the follow up to a game they’ve already remastered as Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition. Nobody really knows where the source code is, and now Beamdog is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“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,” Beamdog CEO Trent Oster said to Kotaku in an e-mail.
“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.”
Icewind Dale II was originally released back in 2002, only to see its developer, Black Isle, shutter its doors a year later in 2003. Things have sort of come full circle with former Black Isle staff eventually forming Obsidian Entertainment, who are now focusing on developing new games inspired by their forebears.
“Icewind Dale II was created by Interplay working off a customized version of the BioWare Infinity Engine,” Oster said when trying to make sense of the game’s code disappearing.
“They took the Infinity Engine variant they used to ship Icewind Dale and started from there. Somewhere along the path of the Dungeons and Dragons license moving from Interplay to Atari and then reverting to Wizards of the Coast, preserving source code and transferring it to the new rights holder, somehow data was lost.”
Beamdog was able to develop enhanced versions for the original Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, and the first Icewind Dale via source code obtained directly from BioWare.
“I drove over to the BioWare offices and dug through hard drives and backups for a day and a half, building a big pile of everything I could find,” Oster said. “We pulled some of the Planescape source from BioWare archives and some from the [Wizards of the Coast] archives which came to them via Interplay and Atari. The Icewind Dale source code was also from both sources… When we’ve searched for the Icewind Dale II code, there is nothing, not even a pre-release version. We’ve done the math and without source code it is simply too expensive to attempt to reverse engineer from an existing version of the game data.”
Some users noted that you could theoretically reverse-engineer the game’s finished product, however this is too involved for Beamdog.
“There is really no way to go backwards from a compiled game to the source code to rebuild it,” Oster noted. “You can decompile the game, but the difficulty of digging through the decompiled blob and extracting anything useful is much too high.”
For now, you can buy the original version of Icewind Dale II over on GOG.