Updated: Feb 15, 2021
Welcome back everyone. In the last article we looked at graphics mods, modifications that take an older game and make it look new.
Today we will look at the most ambitious modification of all: The Source Port.
A Source Port is a major modification that recreates a game in a completely new game engine. Not only will this raise the bar as far as graphics are concerned, it can also improve sound, music and most importantly - gameplay.
Let's be honest, there are some games which were revolutionary in their day, but have not aged well. In particular, many early PC games were hampered by clunky controls, and some did not support full mouselook. This made them awkward to play, but we put up with this back in the day as there was no alternative.
A Source Port will often fix this, allowing for proper key mapping, mouselook and the other features modern day gamers take for granted. This can turn a potentially great but frustrating experience into something truly fantastic.
A very good example of this is the Doomsday Source Port of the early Doom games. Not only does it feature vastly superior graphics and sound, it also features truly three dimensional maps, optional 3D models in place of 2D sprites, and allows for key mapping, mouselook, jumping and being able to look up and down.
Ultimate Doom PC
Original, but no longer the best...
Video by Exposed.Files
Doomsday Engine Doom HD
That's more like it...
Video by Thommas Klausen
Sometimes developers will release their assets and source code to the public, so that the modding community can use them. These can then be used to create enhanced versions of previously released games.
The Freespace Source Code Project is a fine example of this. The Freespace modding community have used this to create their own custom campaigns, enhanced versions of the retail FreeSpace 2 campaign and even recreated the older Descent: Freespace - The Great War in an enhanced Freespace 2 Engine.
Descent: Freespace - The Great War
Original Freespace - The Great War.
Video by Raptor 10-420
Freespace - The Great War brought up to date via FSPort Video by Losti83
Freespace 2 vs Freespace SCP comparison.
Retail Freespace 2 on the left, Freespace 2 Source Code Project on the right. Video by Hard Light Productions
Probably the most well known source port is Crowbar Collective’s Black Mesa. This exceptional mod recreated the iconic Half-Life in the more advanced Source Engine used by Half-Life 2. Valve was so impressed by Black Mesa that they authorised it to become a full fledged retail game on Steam. Tripmine Studio's Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty, source ports of Half-Life’s Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansion packs, have done likewise.
Half Life vs Black Mesa comparison
They have come a long way in 14 years...
Video by Candyland
Video by TESRMorroblivion Official
Even this lofty achievement is set to be superseded by the Skywind and Skyblivion projects. Once completed, these projects will recreate both Morrowind and Oblivion in the even more advanced The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim engine.
Skyblivion Teaser Trailer - Glory of Cyrodiil
Video by Rebelzize
Skywind - Official Channel 2017 Overhaul Preview
Video by TESRSkywindOfficial
Source ports can even cross platforms and generations of hardware. GoldenEye Source has recreated the multiplayer aspect of the Nintendo N64 classic GoldenEye for the PC in the Source engine, thus allowing gamers to play GoldenEye online for the first time.
Video by Giuseppe D. Francavilla
GoldenEye: Source 5.0 - Official Release Trailer
Video by GoldenEye: Source
Sometimes a source port might be done for comic effect, such as this recreation of Half Life 2 in the older Half Life 1 GoldSrc engine. Because, why not?
GoldSource Half-Life 2: Classic Demo (2017)
Something's not quite right...
Video by Kills Alone
Half-Life 2 - Full Game Walkthrough in HD
...pretty sure it's supposed to look like this...
Video by Bolloxed
NB – if you are wondering why so many mods use the Source engine it is due to the Source engine being designed from the start to be very ‘mod friendly.’ Its creator, Valve, is known for being refreshingly supportive of modding since the beginning, and this support has helped the modding scene to flourish.
Source ports have proven so popular that the professional gaming industry is now following suit. One notable example is the upcoming remake of System Shock. The original game came out in 1994, and suffered from most of the problems plaguing first person games from that era.
The remake, due to be released in 2018, is being made on the Unreal 4 engine.
I am trying not to drool at the prospect of this. At this I am currently failing…
Video by Candyland
That's almost it for our look at mods. In the next article we will look at the other ‘top tier’ mod - the total conversion. See you all then.
What are your favorite source ports? How do you feel about source ports in general? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to online multiplayer. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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