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Dark Engine 2.0?
September 25, 2012 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Like Thief or System Shock 2 but have trouble running them on a modern computer?
A user over at the French-language Ariane Thief forums has uploaded a pair of unofficial patches that not only allow the games to run well on modern hardware, but also update the games' underlying Dark Engine to greatly improve graphics.
So far, Kotaku has a short write-up on the patch but otherwise this is still breaking news. Dedicated Thief fans at TTLG are currently putting the release through its paces to see what the updated engine is capable of.

Thief 2 v.1.19 patch (apparently also supports Thief 1) - Thief 2 HD Patched Demo
System Shock 2 patch - SS2 HD Patched Demo

(Thiefy stuff previously, previouslier.)
posted by dunkadunc (65 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
ah yeah, Chris Remo tweeted about this earlier today. I bought the 2 disk pack a while back but couldn't play anything without the game freezing. Time to dig 'em out again.
posted by hellojed at 9:15 PM on September 25, 2012


I don't know anything about these games, but I love seeing the dedicated Thief fans completely lose their shit about how great this apparently is.
posted by serif at 9:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


On a quick read it seems that it's primarily a resource for modders - making new awesomeness way easier to produce. But I might be missing something.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:28 PM on September 25, 2012


Sometimes I'm utterly amazed at what modders can do. This is no small feat.
posted by spiderskull at 9:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Though from the way they're talking about it, it's an incredible resource for modders. So we might be up for a massive remix/reskin of the Thiefs and SS2 in a year or so.

(PS Play Black Mesa it is astonishing)
posted by Sebmojo at 9:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look at you, hacker.
posted by 7segment at 9:32 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


System Shock 2 is one of those games I keep re-playing every now and then. Looks like it's then time again. I would love if System Shock 2 got Black Mesa'd (minus the very long development time). Hell, I would even donate a decent amount of money to see it happen.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:34 PM on September 25, 2012


A pppppathetic creature of Meat and Bone
posted by Sebmojo at 9:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is really huge news. The old games were becoming a massive pain to keep running, requiring TafferPatcher or DDFix to run, which didn't always go to plan.

Dromed (the Dark Engine editor) always required a bit of black magic to use, and sometimes weird bugs would turn up 15 hours into level creation that would crash the editor- and even if you went back to an old save the errors might turn up again. Enough to make a taffer cry, I tell you.

Looking at the release notes it seems like they've stomped most of these bugs- when I heard about this I literally jumped for joy.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:39 PM on September 25, 2012


SS2 has a couple of HD texture revamp patches - it's very muddy without that. Various other mods too, though the patch in the OP might obviate the need for them.

Exciting!

I love how this sort of non-profit cultural curation fills the gaps in a deeply stupid IP framework.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:40 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should mention that some of the best Thief fun isn't in the original missions, but in missions the fan community has made. Better writing, better level design, et cetera (although it's hard to beat Return to the Cathedral!)

If anyone is getting into Thief fan missions, check out The Seventh Crystal, The Inverted Manse, COSAS Mission X, and the complete, game-length mission campaign T2X: Shadows of the Metal Age.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:47 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Very cool and timely. Bizarrely, I purchased Thief 2 just last week for a nostalgic tip toe through a classic favorite. Patching was smooth as silk, and the start screen load time was freaky-fast. My laptop can't reach the outer limits graphically, but the update most definitely smooths the edges and un-blockifies some of the models (humans no longer resemble Katamari characters, for instance). Thanks for the post.
posted by prinado at 9:49 PM on September 25, 2012


Oh man, I just played through the whole thief trilogy and finished yesterday.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This may not be entirely relevant, but I heard the Thief 4 release is going to be pushed back to the next generation of consoles... so hopefully loading screens will be a thing of the past. Now if they could only give us some better AI - everyone knows that Thief fans are total masochists when it comes to the punishment we want to receive from our AIs ;-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2012


Oh man. System Shock 2 has been on my "must-play" list for over a decade now, but last time I tried I got no sound. It really is not friendly to modern systems (even Windows XP).

Between this and Black Mesa, this has been a good couple weeks for late-90s-style first-person gaming...
posted by neckro23 at 10:45 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a day off this week! Looks like I'll be gorn to the bear pits tomorrer....
posted by howfar at 12:45 AM on September 26, 2012


By the way, if anyone wants to buy new copies of these games, you can get all three Thief variants for $10 each at GOG, although $10 seems awfully high for such old games. I'd maybe wait for a sale or something.

Having played back through them recently, the graphics in T1 are truly dismal, slightly improving in T2. You can see why levels used to be so gigantic, because rooms are six polygons and a texture, and you might know it's a kitchen because there are two ten-poly tables and maybe a few dishes and carrots sprinkled around strategically. It does not, in any sense of the word, look real, especially in the first game. But, in exchange, the levels could be huuuuge, so large you can literally get lost in them. The underground Thief Guild level is just, god, it must take ten minutes to walk across it orthogonally, and then you've got the other direction too!

In T3, the rooms and buildings look much better, but because it was designed to work on a console, the levels are very small, and you constantly transition from place to place. On the PC, this isn't much of a problem, as level loads are extremely fast. And I didn't mind the cramped levels in T3 because, being a thief, you're usually moving slowly through them. When it takes as long as it does to get where you're going, small levels with transition points aren't that annoying.

God, it would be so cool to have levels the size of T2, but done to modern standards. Unfortunately, with the extreme expense in modern level-building, we may never see anything of the sort. Shooters have gone to rails-mode, instead of exploration-mode, because it is just so, so expensive to model and texture things, so they've gotta make sure that absolutely everyone sees everything they do, or the bean counters think of it as wasted development money.

T2X is a very good user mod. The voice actors aren't professionals, just talented amateurs. Maya (the protagonist) is prone in particular to being a little overdramatic. But, in some ways, I think this makes it more appealing, not less. You can tell that, for example, some of the guard voices are just guys who built the levels, and I find it pretty darn amusing. It sounds like a D&D session, and it makes me smile.

Looking Glass made something really, really special here, a world that's coherent, and while you kind of have to defocus your eyes a little, to look past the terrible graphics, the world they were trying to represent is rich, detailed, and believable in a way that very few fantasy universes ever are.
posted by Malor at 2:02 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh man. System Shock 2 has been on my "must-play" list for over a decade now, but last time I tried I got no sound.

SS2 might have the best sound among videogames. You are walking around and you know you can destroy anything that pops up with your trusty wrench but *creepy sound*>*360 to check you're alone in the room*. Then you hack a panel, but as you move forward something crashes outside your POV. Great sound; it makes me slightly jittery just typing about it.
posted by ersatz at 3:50 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey - just dropped the 1.19 patch on top of my Steam install and it works perfectly. Noticeably smoother. But the textures are... of their time. Is there a good texture update for Thief 2?
posted by Sebmojo at 4:20 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My goodness, the Through the Looking Glass forums still exist? Wow, blast from the past.
posted by painquale at 4:58 AM on September 26, 2012


Last week I turned in an essay about Eric Brosius and Greg LoPiccolo, who worked for Looking Glass and did music and sound for these games. It touched on their time at Looking Glass and their current work at Harmonix...but was mostly about their work in the beloved Boston band Tribe. It was pretty amusing to learn that Terri Barous, the sweet-voiced keyboardist and vocalist for Tribe, was also the voice of SHODAN.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:12 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Malor, don't discount things like Crysis, FarCry 2, Borderlands, Rage - not every shooter is constrained to a well disguised corridor. Although I'll grant you that open worlds aren't a direct replacement for the sprawling old-school level design you're talking about.
posted by phl at 5:27 AM on September 26, 2012


Mrs. Shen and I still reminisce about the great shared adventure that was our playing of System Shock 2 together.

Some of its rooms remain burned in my memory as epicenters of terror.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:35 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


She just wandered by and I told her about that comment. She said "Oh, that was the best game ever."

Then she repeated our favorite in-game announcement: "There will be a poetry reading..."

posted by Egg Shen at 5:41 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Huh. Just checked GOG and Steam for System Shock 2, but I'm not getting any hits. Is this some sort of outlier that needs to be purchased via physical media?
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 6:53 AM on September 26, 2012


SS2's been the most requested game on GOG since its inception but the rights are a mess. Its one of the cases where you need to pay over the odds for a second hand boxed copy or to an extra legal source Im afraid.
posted by TheCuriousOrange at 7:13 AM on September 26, 2012


Thanks. As soon as I saw that the copy on Amazon was available for $189, I thought, "Huh. Well, I guess I'll seek an alternative electronic delivery method."
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 7:21 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


AGH! I don't have enough hours in the day, intertrons! I'm about to have to quit my job to support my gaming hobby, or something. X-Com, FTL, Black Mesa, Borderlands 2, Dishonoured, KOTOR2, and now T1 and 2 and SS2? Cripes...
posted by FatherDagon at 7:28 AM on September 26, 2012


Is it alright to start the Thief series with Thief 2, or should I begin from the beginning?
posted by naju at 7:40 AM on September 26, 2012


I'd say you'd get more from the experience if you start with Thief 1; it provides a good, solid base for the mythology that is expanded and explored a little more adventurously in Thief 2. There are some remarkable levels in there that really shouldn't be missed (Constantine's Mansion! And Cragscleft Prison, and the Cathedral...) and in some ways the horror element is stronger in the first game, with more of a sense of loneliness and hiddenness, compared to the busier and brighter Thief 2. This progression is inline with the progression of the storyline, so I think it works better if you work through it in a linear fashion.

With that said, Thief 1 does look a little more shonky to modern eyes, although given the technical limitations I think there are few engines that have better stood the test of time (low polygon counts aside, here's just something remarkably effective about the lighting system). Hopefully this patch will help ameliorate that!
posted by Drexen at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I played thief 2 first back in the day and lost track of the story at about the time that Viktoria showed up. A caveat against thief 1 is the fact that some people really dislike the larger zombie based missions like the bonehoard and get put off. Oh and Thief Gold adds a number of huge new missions throughout that throw off the pacing. Feel free to skip to Thief 2 if you're not enjoying it but you'll be missing out on some great stuff.
posted by TheCuriousOrange at 8:03 AM on September 26, 2012


I managed to get SS2 running on a Windows 7 machine a few years ago. You had to start it with an option that bound the process to one CPU core because of some threading issues but other than that it ran well. Great game but I got stuck in a corridor with an automated gun that behind a door that I could never get past.
posted by octothorpe at 8:07 AM on September 26, 2012


Haha, I can't read anything about Thief without thinking of this awkward situation from college... Definitely not throwing that disc away now that it's modded for our new computer.
posted by resurrexit at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2012


I've never played these games but every time I see a Thief/System Shock 2 thread, I keep meaning to throw this link out - Looking Glass Studios podcast series. The MIT GAMBIT game lab did a series of interviews with various Looking Glass alums. There are 10 podcasts featuring Austin Grossman, Dan Schmidt, Tim Stellarch, Laura Baldwin, Randy Smith, Ken Levine, Greg LoPiccolo, Eric Brosius, Mark LeBlanc, Terri Brosius, Dan Thron, and Paul Neurath.
posted by zix at 8:28 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I picked up all 3 Thief Games via steam during their summer sale for $5.00. I was thrilled - I loved the first one, and am doing an incredible slow play through.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:51 AM on September 26, 2012


Egg Shen, that's awesome. The 'poetry reading' announcement, even being the small detail that it was, really advanced the depth of creepiness.
posted by Anything at 9:01 AM on September 26, 2012


I don't know anything about these games, but I love seeing the dedicated Thief fans completely lose their shit about how great this apparently is.

This. About everything.
posted by Fizz at 10:32 AM on September 26, 2012


is there video of the patched Thief 2?
posted by kernel_sander at 11:11 AM on September 26, 2012


I first played SS2 at a friend's house. I wondered why he had a puckish grin as I sat down at the computer and slipped on the headphones. Five minutes later -- after I literally jumped out of the chair from fright -- I understood. We tag-teamed the rest of the game with the lights on from then on out.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know if I could handle an updated SS2, but I'm going to go download and play this anyway. After turning on all the lights and making sure all the doors are locked, of course.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2012


Is SS2 worth the hassle of... *gasp* ... Going outside Steam?
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: it's an experience like no other in gaming.
posted by Malor at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


So... A bit more than Deus Ex v0.9?
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on September 26, 2012


It's totally different. It's SF-themed horror... it's a little like being in an Alien movie for 20+ hours. (Make sure to get the updated texture packs, they make a major difference.) There are some moments in System Shock 2 that have never been equaled by any game.

The major antagonist is probably the most memorable of any game, period, even GlaDOS in Portal.

I once made a post here, talking about one moment in SS2 where I was utterly horrified. Let me see if I can find it.
posted by Malor at 12:15 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


A quick word to anyone who hasn't played the game and might now be planning to do it -- I usually really don't like either giving or getting advice about a game I or someone else hasn't played yet, but System Shock 2 is one of the exceptions.

I won't really be giving you a spoiler about the plot, but a mild spoiler about what you can expect from some gameplay elements, so don't read beyond this sentence if you really don't want to hear anything beyond what you already have. I really love the game, and it's one of my biggest favorites, but it does have one particular pitfall that, I think many people would I agree, seems like something of a design error: from very early on, psionic abilities are presented to you as a major option among the skills you can give your character. The problem is, unless you are extremely lucky with picking just the right psi skills, you'll learn the hard way that you have essentially wasted your skill points, and life will get very difficult for you indeed. So my advice: on your first run, just don't pick psi skills at all, and by extension, in the beginning, do not join the OSA.
posted by Anything at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I've talked at more length about this, but I made this comment over at Gamers With Jobs, in a thread about "Oh Sh*t Moments in Gaming":
The all-time worst: standing there, in a hidden place, listening to a nurse sing to her 'little ones'. I suddenly completely understood that that had once been a perfectly normal, pleasant, fun lady... and her brain had been hijacked, her maternal instincts commandeered. I could hear the original woman in her singing to her larvae, and I got the most intense case of heebie-jeebies I ever remember.
If I'd known about the cordyceps fungi at the time, it would have been even worse.
posted by Malor at 12:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Agreed with Anything, by the way. What he's saying is accurate. If you make yourself dependent on psi powers, you will probably not be able to finish. This is what stopped me from completing the game twice... I didn't actually finish until years later.
posted by Malor at 12:23 PM on September 26, 2012


That's interesting. I remember (and this was a long time ago) that I picked up an invisibility psi power at some point (after going OSA) and basically walked past most of the second part of the game. So I almost had the opposite experience.

I loved this game, but you could not get me to play it again. Too... freaky.
posted by selfnoise at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2012


I've never played these games but every time I see a Thief/System Shock 2 thread, I keep meaning to throw this link out - Looking Glass Studios podcast series. The MIT GAMBIT game lab did a series of interviews with various Looking Glass alums. There are 10 podcasts featuring Austin Grossman, Dan Schmidt, Tim Stellmach, Laura Baldwin, Randy Smith, Ken Levine, Greg LoPiccolo, Eric Brosius, Mark LeBlanc, Terri Brosius, Dan Thron, and Paul Neurath.
I'm Dan Schmidt. That was fun to do! I haven't gotten around to listening to the other folks' interviews yet but I want to because I'm sure they remember things I didn't - some of the things I was trying to recall took place over 20 years ago. Heck, sometimes the interviewer seemed to remember things about the games better than I did.

Anyway, I am pretty gobsmacked by this patch. I can't imagine how much hacking they had to do to make half of it even possible.
posted by dfan at 2:08 PM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Agreed with Anything, by the way. What he's saying is accurate. If you make yourself dependent on psi powers, you will probably not be able to finish. This is what stopped me from completing the game twice... I didn't actually finish until years later.
posted by Malor at 9:23 AM on September 26 [+] [!]


Going full psi is quite doable - there's a specific power (invisibility) that trivialises one of the hardest parts of the game. And while it's tricky at the beginning, once you get a few points in it you can do some amazing things.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:14 PM on September 26, 2012


Sebmojo, the chance of successfully completing the game, as a psi-based character on the first attempt is just about zero. It can be done, but you need to understand what you're doing very, very well, or you'll run out of psi power.
posted by Malor at 2:36 PM on September 26, 2012


I'm Dan Schmidt.

Hi Dan, younger me wants to say that Ultima Underworld was a brilliant game. Thanks for that.
posted by ersatz at 3:59 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's hard mode, granted. And you're tying yourself to a single resource so it's high-risk from that point of view. But here's a youtube series of someone doing it on impossible difficulty, here.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2012


Right, but this is for people playing it the first time, Sebmojo.

That video kind of proves the point... who takes time to record playthroughs proving that the other tracks are viable?
posted by Malor at 4:23 PM on September 26, 2012


While this patch greatly increases render fidelity, it doesn't update resource files (except in the repackaged demos).

If you would like to play Thief with much nicer graphics, check out these- install them BEFORE installing the new patch, since they were released without the new engine in mind:

-Tafferpatcher: unofficial complete patch for Thief 2
-TFix: unofficial patch for Thief1/Gold

I'm certain new patches will come out soon that will take advantage of the neat new engine features, but for now these are pretty nice. I just used TafferPatcher to install new textures and for such an low-tech engine it's beautiful.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:15 PM on September 26, 2012


AAAAGH, I must've thrown away my system shock 2 CD and it's $60 used on ebay :(.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:25 PM on September 26, 2012


I must've thrown away my system shock 2 CD and it's $60 used on ebay

You're not alone. If most people didn't throw things like that away, they'd never become valuable collectibles. I don't know if that's a consoling thought or not.
posted by howfar at 5:16 AM on September 27, 2012


Before I install either patch I am going to pat myself on the head for keeping SS2 in pristine condition, box, manual, disc and all. Even in 2000 I knew I'd found something special.

Then I'm going to cower in fear in a corner clutching a wrench and trying to hack a vending machine for a few more precious bullets.
posted by Molesome at 6:38 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey thief fans, I'ma let you finish, but System Shock 2 was the greatest game of all time!!!!
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


For me, it's tied with Deus Ex.

I'm sad that Thief 4 is going to be on consoles, because somehow when a game is being built for pc AND consoles, it loses a lot of depth. I think it's partly due to the limitations of controllers, and partly due to how console players tend to be more casual. Bioshock suffered from this- while it was supposedly a 'spiritual successor', the UI felt downright FPS. SS2 was a role-playing game with no NPCs, and I really appreciated the inventory management.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


For me, it's tied with Deus Ex.

I love Deus Ex, it has some of the greatest moments in gaming, but I think, taken as a whole, it is flawed in a way that neither Thief or SS2 is. Partly that's because it is absurdly ambitious in what it tries to do, while each of the others limits itself in different ways, in order to make its main goals achievable. So is it better to succeed because you knew your limits, or to grandly fail because you attempted too much? I really don't know.
posted by howfar at 6:03 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


An abandoned (well....) spaceship is a pretty nice set of limitations for building a game world, I have to say.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:06 PM on September 27, 2012


and partly due to how console players tend to be more casual.

I started to write a comment about hard or complex console games like Demon/Dark Souls, God Hand, Ikaruga or Sin & Punishment and then I saw that Modern Warfare 3 (which mostly plays itself if my understanding is correct) sold 6.5 mn in the first 24h whereas Dark Souls sold a total of 1.19 mn for PS3...
posted by ersatz at 3:39 AM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


GOG.com have all three Thief games on sale for 60% off this weekend
posted by rollick at 8:32 AM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't need to know that, rollick.
posted by octothorpe at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2012


Yeah, I just came to post that, rollick. $4 each, $12 for all three.

If you have any interest in these games at all, I'd jump all over that deal.
posted by Malor at 4:39 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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