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Gaming Highs #6: Video Game Source Ports

Updated: Dec 10, 2019


The Black Mesa Logo


Last time 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.


Lets 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 501st



FSPort


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 Diceman


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 Golden Eye on-line for the first time.



GoldenEye N64


Video by BEPPE Saturn


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)


Somethings not quite right...

Video by Kills Alone



Half-Life 2 - Full Game Walkthrough in HD


...pretty sure its 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.


NOMAD is trying not to drool at the prospect of this. At this NOMAD is 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, NOMAD over and out.