Wing Commander Source Code

Discussion in 'General Wing Commander Chat' started by Farlander, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Madman

    Madman Vice Admiral

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    Farlander, the point remains that even if everyone else was backing up religiously and have amazing records of what jimmy the intern wrote in the 5th of april in 1989 - Origin didn't. No ifs, no buts. Whether you like the fact or not, they didnt. I believe that as strongly as i believe that iD do not still have the source code they wrote in a lakehouse while working under contract for softkey which they tried to sell to Nintendo (later to become commander keen). Because that is the age of gaming we're talking about, not the latest unreal engine 3 game. And that even if they did keep it, an intervening 20 years of office moves, companies being all but closed down etc have disposed of most of what remained.
     
  2. Bandit LOAF

    Bandit LOAF Long Live the Confederation!

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    I hate to say all this again but this thread just won't go away:

    There were certainly tape backups done at the time... but there wasn't:

    - A standard for when to do them. Run the backup every weekend? Every month? At the end of the project? It was up to the individual team... and when you had a group working nights and weekends to ship a product as quickly as possible then it was the kind of thing that was put off as long as possible.

    - A chain of custody. There was no Origin vault with all the precious tapes piled up for posterity and no one was carefully handling them with white gloves and averted eyes. Need the Wing Commander source code? Ask around the office and find out who has a copy they can dig up. (Origin did have a little library of all their published material... which itself was raided by employees at will.)

    - A corporate culture that was especially worried about this sort of thing. Origin was a mess, financially, before the buyout and their development plan was never built around carefully preserving old releases. Their entire reputation was built around consistently building bleeding edge games, not slowly building on previous releases.

    You are all thinking of game development as the slick, multi-billion dollar industry it became *because* of Wing Commander... but it wasn't anything like that in 1989-90.

    Those years were an incredibly daunting transition from a couple kids working alone in their parents' garages to teams of dozens of people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put out a game... and it happened in a *flash* and with the expectation that the kids from the garage were still the ones who knew how everything went together.

    You also didn't sell ten million copies of a game... and Wing Commander I forward were a huge leap in how much games cost to make... so margins were much thinner and so development had to be as *fast* and *cheap* as possible in a way we can't really understand anymore.

    I can tell you exactly which project archive tapes EA still has because I have been to their closet full of Origin cardboard boxes and held them in my hands: one from Ultima VII, several from Wing Commander IV (mostly the video footage) and Wing Commander Prophecy. They do not have the hardware to access any of these--and didn't even know they existed until we found them two years ago.
     
  3. Farlander

    Farlander Rear Admiral

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    I've said that the loss of the source code is understandable because Origin closed down. But some of you seem to have this picture of professional software development, even by small teams making games, in the 90s as being some disorganized mess where nobody kept track of anything and that everything is different now just because games are big business. I'm just telling you it wasn't that way. They didn't just finish the game and not give a thought to the source code after that. Because even if they never planned to do anything else with it after that, the source code was still of great value for several reasons. And copies of it go around for a number of reasons. Plenty of companies still have their source code from then. Every place I have personal experience with, in fact.

    Why does this matter now? Maybe it doesn't, but it's how I make my living so it is a fascinating subject to me. And because I know from experience how source code gets around, and it is not unreasonable to believe that it still exists somewhere. Apparently at least one copy (of the Amiga version) is known, so...there you go.
     
  4. Trelane

    Trelane On my way to court in a suit and a tie

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    Quit making excuses and just give us the source code already, jerk.
     
  5. Death

    Death gh0d (Administrator)

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    Farlander, what other companies of that time period may or may not have done is completely and totally irrelevant to how things were done at Origin Systems, Inc.

    Neither then nor now is the gaming industry one giant monolithic organization, or controlled by one. Origin sure as hell wasn't, even under EA management, let alone before the buy-out

    LOAF's comments are from his having talked directly with those who were there, and thus know what OSI did or didn't do.

    Not what they should have done.

    Not what they could have done.

    Not what they might have done.

    What they did do.

    Extensive backups kept somewhere safe wasn't one of the things they did.

    Now, can we please put this notion of perfection and infallibility to rest?
     
  6. sol_hsa

    sol_hsa 2nd Lieutenant

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    This doesn't mean the source code couldn't still exist
    - on some forgotten hard drive somewhere
    - on some lone developer's personal (perhaps illegimate) archive
    - burned on a forgotten cd somewhere

    etc.

    Here's hoping.
     
  7. Farlander

    Farlander Rear Admiral

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    I was responding specifically to the arguments, that have been raised several times now, that "that's just how it was in the 90's." And it wasn't. Yes, even Origin did make backups. LOAF said that himself. Those copies may be misplaced or inaccessible now that Origin is defunct, but they were made. And we know that at least one copy of one version of the source code survives and is known, so I'm not really sure which particular point I have raised that you are disagreeing with.
     
  8. Flojomojo

    Flojomojo Patron of the Nerdly Arts

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    Yeah, I know this is a very old thread, and that I'm a very weird lurker. Anyway, I found this thread while searching for "wing commander source code."

    I've been playing with Jedi Outcast on my Nvidia Shield (Android portable with nice controls) and it is AMAZING to see it on that hardware. The little screen makes it look super-sharp, the sound is perfect and LOUD, and the controls are great, at least on par with an XBOX controller. I love it, and it's a testament to what can be done with published source code for a much-beloved game, even after eleven years. Sure, it's Raven/id software code that was commented and packaged for sharing, but it took a long time for someone to pick it up for mobile.

    Then I read this ...

    ... and it made me sad! I want all of those things. Chris Roberts has moved on (to the point of being contemptuous of consoles and mobile), and EA is not interested. What would it take to convince the powers that be to release this source code to the wild? Who would be the decision maker (if in fact anyone is qualified to bless this)? Even if it's a mess, it would be historically interesting, and it would also be neat to get the go-ahead to create mashups. 23 years is a very long time.

    Until that happens, DOSbox Turbo does a nice job of emulating these old games on Android, complete with all the manual editing of AUTOEXEC.BAT files. Indie space shooters like Starlight Inception can fill in the holes and slake my thirst for this kind of game too.
     
  9. ScoobyDoo

    ScoobyDoo Rear Admiral

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    Reminds me of the old lost Doctor Who episodes :(
     
  10. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    They found a whole bunch of them in Nigeria a couple of months back. Maybe they have the WC source code in Nigeria, too? :p

    But actually, quite a bit has changed since 2010 in this regard. The CIC actually does have the WC1, WC3, and WC4 source code archived now. They cannot release it, because that would require EA's permission, and so far, this simply has not happened - but at least we know the code for these three games is safe. Of course, even then, it's hard to be sure what's actually there - in all three cases, the source code was obtained from former Origin employees, who had copied the code to whatever game they were working on. As such... well, it might be the final code, but it might also be pre-release. If the code was copied even just a day or two prior to shipping the final build, it would be very different indeed to the final game, because it is in the very last days of production that a lot of bugs get fixed.

    Interestingly, it appears that we also have - and this is available to everyone - some portion of the Wing Commander Shadow Force source code. It's a game that was never actually made, so whatever the source code contains, it's clearly not a finished product - and in fact, without all the art assets, you wouldn't even be able to build a working copy of the game. It's still an interesting thing to look at, and to be honest, I'm a bit surprised that none of our resident programmers have ever really commented about it. I for one would love to hear whether the source contained any hints as to the direction the game was going in, compared to WCP/SO. But of course, it might simply be too difficult to tell, since it's just so incomplete.
     
  11. cff

    cff Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi

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    In the end the source code to WC1 is worthless in my opinion. Sure its nice to look at it, but if you'd ever consider a remake/port you'd better start off from scratch. So much has changed with technology that you'd waste your time by expanding what was done.
     
  12. Quarto

    Quarto Unknown Enemy

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    That would depend on what you want to achieve. Any major change would of course require a rewrite - but if, for instance, you simply wanted the original game to take better advantage of expanded memory in order to allow higher resolution sprites (or simply more than three types of ship per mission), then working with the source code has a significant advantage. By extension, any change geared towards simply making the original game more moddable by reading data that is currently hardcoded into the exe from elsewhere, is also best done working directly with the code.

    More importantly, though, if anyone ever wanted to make a remake/port, they should spend a lot of time looking at the code in order to figure out how the game really works. A couple of weeks ago, Chris Roberts mentioned that WC1 actually did use Newtonian physics under the hood - and nobody had ever seriously thought so! All such things, which come together to make the WC1 gameplay, would be apparent in the code. So, the "nice to look at" factor is actually a very strong reason to argue the source code is not worthless :).
     
  13. delMar

    delMar Rear Admiral

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    Having access to the source code would make the creation of modding-tools a lot easier, as it is known which data is stored where.
     
  14. Dyret

    Dyret Super Carrot!

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    People always complain about remakes not feeling right, even when as close to the original as humanly possible, so the original with gorgeous HD sprites and whatever the modders can come up with sounds like excactly the kind of thing people who want to play old games only not would want.
     
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  15. wcnut

    wcnut Rear Admiral

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    Well you get zealots in every cult. But with most HD remakes I know anywhere where the game actually plays different is considered a bug as it's the differences are mostly texture based. Though sometimes there are some minor esthetically pleasing exception where they may have took liberties. Star control 2 HD remake is a good example with the moon rovers that actually blowup as oppose to pop out of existence and actual moving planets I think are a plus!
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  16. Flojomojo

    Flojomojo Patron of the Nerdly Arts

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    This is the best thing I have read all day. The fact that it is in Norwenglish is the best. :)

    So EA is the decision maker. That's good to know. Torches and pitchforks, anyone?
     
  17. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator

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    There's another interesting, and relatively recent, example of source code not being properly backed up or being lost. They're updating the Homeworld series for modern computers right now, and a set is with Homeworld 1&2 is set to be released in a couple weeks. But the source for Homeworld Cataclysm is nowhere to be found: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/new...Release-Comes-Down-to-Finding-the-Source-Code And it only dates back to the year 2000.

     
  18. Worf

    Worf Vice Admiral

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    2000 is 15 years ago - things have changed significantly in the decade and a half. Source code control systems have changed, documentation is lost, and no one remembers where the database was put so you can check the code out again, or figure out that since such an old version was used, the new software can't even read the old database because it wasn't "backed up properly".

    Somewhere at work (I've worked at the same company 13 years) there are ISO files of every release I did which was source code (we did a lot of Linux back then), but those ISOs are just a tiny part of the whole release - they aren't the CVS repository we used and thus lack all the comments, and the documentation was elsewhere. And now both are separated and archived to different places, so even if they are still on the network, no one knows where they're located.

    Oh, but we DID make master CD copies which are part of the BOM so production may still have a copy of them.

    Then when I went on to Windows work, we used VSS for a little while, and those repos have moved and changed (thanks to VSS's habit of corrupting database, you had to stop and create a whole new repo, and each time we did, layouts change). Documentation used to be separate too... and now who knows where they are. Perhaps on some dusty tape archive sitting on a shelf.

    And then we gave up and moved to BitKeeper on Linux which worked really well until now they no longer provide free licenses. Then we moved to Perforce, and now we're onto Git.

    This is for long running projects too. Something like a game which after it's shipped it's abandoned? If you can access it a year later, consider yourself lucky. For us we reference other branches often enough that code stays "fresh" so you can access it slighly longer. But as business changes ... after 3-4 years the old repos get dusty and people forget how to use it and it's effectively lost.
     
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  19. -danr-

    -danr- Rear Admiral

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    I actually stopped following this thread towards the end of page 2 and didn't notice it had been twice revived.

    I'm staggered and delighted that the original WC source code has shown up safe. Take good care of it CIC!
     
  20. ChrisReid

    ChrisReid Super Soaker Collector / Administrator

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    Sure, things change significantly every few years when it comes to data storage, but 2000 is way beyond the early 1990s, which was the time period in question. It's easier to understand lax protocols/lost data when hard drives where measured in megabytes and the main alternative for mass storage is some sort of proprietary tape drive that used an obsolete DOS program. A decade later, our hard drives were in the gigabyte drive, plus we had writable CDs that could be burned in Windows and still easily read today. Anyhow, the point was, if it could happen for a fifteen year old game made in 2000, it shouldn't be that surprising that things from 1990 were lost.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015

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