David Gibson, a moving image technician in the Library of Congress, found something oddly amazing while doing his routine video game inventory. Skimming the collection of games, Gibson came across a DVD-R labeled Duke Nukem: Critical Mass (PSP), an unreleased title from Frontline Studios.
While both a DS and PSP release was planned for Critical Mass, the studio lost their license to the Duke Nukem name during development, and relabeled the project “Extraction Point: Alien Shootout.” Eventually, the studio said “oh never mind, we do have the license,” and released Duke Nukem: Critical Mass for Nintendo DS, while the PSP version was lost to history… until now.
“My first assumption was that the disc, like so many others we have received, was a DVD-R of gameplay,” commented Gibson. “However, a line of text on the Copyright database record for the item intrigued me. It reads: Authorship: Entire video game; computer code; artwork; and music. I placed the disc into my computer’s DVD drive to discover that the DVD-R did not contain video, but instead a file directory, including every asset used to make up the game in a wide variety of proprietary formats.”
With the aid of Packard Campus Software Developer Matt Derby and a series of PSP homebrew sites, Gibson began cracking the code that is unreleased PSP source code. Using the program Noesis, they extracted 3D models and textures for the game’s characters and environments from the .gim and .gmo files. After some digging, the team uncovered a pre-composite 3D model of the Pig Cop enemies, as well as a 3D image of Duke Nukem and his jetpack, floundering through space (check out the animated gif).
Mediacoder and VLC converted the Sony ATRAC3 audio files to MP3, granting access to the game’s music files. Additionally, a hex editor accessed ASCII text in the disc’s system directory. The boot.bin folder held the game’s full text and credit information, as well as a large amount of software code. Much of the information came as compiled binaries, which in combination with ASCII code, will help the library evaluate and establish standards for video game preservation.
The Copyright registration process brings nearly 400 video games to the Moving Image wing of The Library of Congress every year. While physically published console games make up 99% of the arrivals, the rest are supplementary materials. DVDs or VHS tapes of gameplay, printed source codes, and descriptions of games give the library a rare glimpse into the hidden development of games. After discovering this Duke Nukem easter egg, the library is excited to continue setting a course for the preservation and exploration of video game history.