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Full, unreleased Duke Nukem: Critical Mass game turns up on PSP

The complete game of Duke Nukem: Critical Mass on PSP, which was only ever released on Nintendo DS, has turned up at The Library of Congress in the United States.

Discovered by David Gibson, a moving image technician at the Library, the unreleased game was found on DVD-R. With further investigation, and assuming that it would host a section of gameplay from a started, yet incomplete, PSP version, he discovered the file directory containing every asset for the full game. His findings were accompanied by the copyright database record containing the words: “Authorship: Entire video game; computer code; artwork; and music”.

A screenshot from the unreleased PSP version of Duke Nukem: Critical Mass

Indeed, David had stumbled across a very rare item; the source disc for videogame that was finished yet never released. In a very interesting write-up on his discovery, David explains how he researched and access the files which led to the revelation.

"The first challenge involved finding a way to access the proprietary Sony file formats contained within the disc, including, but not limited to, graphics files in .gim format and audio files in .AT3 format. I enlisted the aid of Packard Campus Software Developer Matt Derby and we were able to pull the files off of the disc and get a clearer sense of the file structure contained within," he explains.

"Through some research on various PSP homebrew sites we discovered Noesis, a program that would allow us to access the .gim and .gmo files which contain the 3D models and textures used to create the game’s characters and 3D environments. With this program we were able to view a complete 3D view of Duke Nukem himself, soaring through the air on his jetpack and a pre-composite 3D model of one of the game’s nemeses, the Pig Cops. Additionally, we employed Mediacoder and VLC in order to convert the Sony .AT3 (ATRAC3) audio files to MP3 in order to have access to the game’s many music cues."

He then goes on to explain how invaluable it is for the Library to find such source material.

"Perhaps the most exciting discovery came when we used a hex editor to access the ASCII text held in the boot.bin folder in the disc’s system directory. Here we located the full text and credit information for the game along with a large chunk of un-obfuscated software code. However, much of what is contained in this folder was presented as compiled binaries," writes David.

"It is my hope that access to both the compiled binaries and ASCII code will allow us to explore future preservation options for video games. Such information becomes even more vital in the case of games such as this Duke Nukem title which were never released for public consumption. In many ways, this source disc can serve as an exemplary case as we work to define preferred format requirements for software received by the Library of Congress. Ultimately, I feel that access to the game assets and source code will prove to be invaluable both to researchers who are interested in game design and mechanics and to any preservation efforts the Library may undertake."

So, why did Duke Nukem: Critical Mass never make it to PSP when a Nintendo DS version launched in 2011? Well, we guess the publisher knew it was rubbish.