Gaming Highs #6: Video Game Source Ports

Updated: Feb 15

The Black Mesa Logo
The Black Mesa Logo

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

Another, perhaps even more ambitious project, was Morroblivion, which recreated the classic The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in the newer The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion engine.

Morroblivion PC

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.

GoldenEye N64

Video by Giuseppe D. Francavilla