(Re)building Worlds and reverse engineering a flight sim for VR
January 24, 2014 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Reverse engineering Strike Commander. Fabien Sanglard realized he wanted to play ORIGIN Systems "Strike Commander" combat flight sim using an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (Sanglard on Oculus Rift development). But, after he learned the source code went missing during the shutdown of Origin by EA, he decided he no choice but to reverse engineer the massive—for the early 90s—game (eleven 1.44MB floppy disks!).
posted by skynxnex (9 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
tl;dr: Author has reverse-engineered some of the asset file formats, taken some notes, and started a GitHub project with the eventual goal of reimplementing the game. Nothing actually works yet.

I kinda was hoping for some wacky DOS emulation kung fu, which would probably be easier than what the author is trying to accomplish. Hmmm...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

From the game description:

In a chain of events, Alaska declared independence, and major powers of the world began fighting over its oil-rich territory. Japan turned into the world's most powerful nation, while United States and the Catholic Church were weakened; by the year 2011, humanity's dreams of unification have become completely shattered, and the fate of the world was decided by mercenary organizations.


Anyway, hats off to that guy for undertaking the effort.
posted by jquinby at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2014

Hidden gem of this post is a PDF of the 100-page "Sudden Death magazine" from the golden age of game manuals.
posted by theodolite at 8:58 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I appreciate that the guy has put together a really nice summary of his progress and github project to recruit a team. I hope he gets some good volunteers.
posted by JauntyFedora at 9:10 AM on January 24, 2014

I love the "adjusted for inflation" system specs he has listed. I wish more people did that.
posted by hellojed at 9:38 AM on January 24, 2014

Many stories could illustrate how "primitive" source control was but the best is probably the "ZAP SC" story at 15m14s:

On his first day one developer managed to delete the full 900MB of Strike Commander source tree. The IT team spent 72 hours recovering everything from developers machines. The interview also mention that Wing Commander 1 and 2 code was exchanged via floppy disks: They did not have a network until SC !
The game manual Sudden Death has a Want Ads section:
HELP! Desperately need to recover over 900MB of lost data from network! Respond ASAP! Call *** Mr Zap ***
posted by zamboni at 9:40 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Origin had some great little manual addons back in the day. I remember Crusader: No Remorse came with at least two... one from each side's perspective IIRC. That was back when people used the word 'imagination' in an unironic sense.

Call me back when they reverse engineer Chuck Yeager's Air Combat
posted by selfnoise at 10:10 AM on January 24, 2014

Strike Commander will forever have a special place in my heart as the original Grand Vapor Ware Game. At one point I had a poster touting a release date (if I remember correctly) five years in the past and the game still wasn't complete. When it finally shipped, my impression was that there wasn't a PC on earth capable of running it well.

Speaking of Chuck Yeager's Air Combat:
One of my friends got lucky enough to upgrade from his ancient XT to a brand-spankin'-new 386, which was equipped with a turbo button. We were mystified by the turbo button, because why would you ever want to make the computer slower? The mystery was solved when we tried to play Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer and discovered that you would orbit the Earth in 8 seconds if you didn't hit the turbo button. Good times.
posted by drklahn at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The interview also mention that Wing Commander 1 and 2 code was exchanged via floppy disks: They did not have a network until SC !
I guess this was common practice then. When we (Blue Sky Productions, later Looking Glass Studios) made Ultima Underworld (released 1992), we didn't have a network. Once every few days, every coder would copy every file in the source tree that had the archive bit set (meaning that it had been modified) to a floppy and give it to me. I'd take the floppies, do merges into the master source, and then give everyone back floppies to update their own machines. We called it SneakerNet; googling reveals that the term was not original.
posted by dfan at 2:29 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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