Porting Star Wars: Dark Forces to modern hardware turned out to be much tougher than expected, at least according to the port's developer Nightdive Studios.
With its release date announced last month, we don't have to wait too much longer for Star Wars: Dark Forces to arrive on all platforms, and PC, on February 28, 2024. But it may have been one of the most challenging ports yet for the renowned Nightdive Studios.
In an interview with PC Gamer magazine for its 30th anniversary special, Star Wars: Dark Forces project lead Max Waine explained that the game "has been difficult to change, from the technical end of things, because it is very heavily over-designed. There were a lot of small details in how LucasArts did things at the time that made stuff particularly difficult."
"They managed to do multi-threading effectively, using a task system in the mid-1990s," says Waine. "We had to use sophisticated modern techniques to be able to get it to work nicely while keeping the same basic idea."
Waine explains that Star Wars: Dark Forces presented a rare case in which the developer was able to get hold of the source code for the original release. But even then, porting the fan-favorite Star Wars title to modern systems has been challenging.
"We had to modernize all these concepts that worked for programming in DOS for your 486 or Pentium," he says, "but do not fly on your 16-core, infinite gigahertz modern processor."
In addition to working out a modern solution for LucasArts' bespoke multi-threading, Waine also added that modernizing Star Wars: Dark Forces' user interface presented a substantial challenge, too. With the original menus being entirely controllable by a mouse, ensuring they could also work with a controller while remaining faithful to the source material certainly couldn't have been a simple task.
Nightdive Studios is responsible for some of the best modern ports of classic titles like the Turok series, Shadow Man, Powerslave, Doom 64, and Rise of the Triad to name but a few. It also developed the System Shock remake which launched earlier this year.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.