Beamdog's Trent Oster on Missing Icewind Dale II Source Code

Given the fact that it was the last of the Infinity Engine games to be released, was created by a highly experienced development team who are still in the business, was managed by multiple companies who likely followed its progress weekly, and was released at a time when sizeable hard drives were already quite cheap, it's astonishing that the Icewind Dale II source code could truly be lost to the world. Kotaku was also floored by this revelation, so they had an email exchange with Beamdog CEO Trent Oster and have published the results in an article-style interview:
“We’ve searched all the archives we have access to, including all the data handed over to Wizards of the Coast from Atari and there is no source code for Icewind Dale II,” Oster told me in an e-mail. “We’ve reached out to our friends at Obsidian, as many of them were the development staff behind Icewind Dale II, and they do not have any source code. We’re stalled on the project without source and the project won’t move forward until we can find it. We’ve naturally moved on to other things until there is a change in the situation.”


Perhaps as a result of that turbulence—or confusion over who owns what—Icewind Dale II has simply disappeared. “Icewind Dale II was created by Interplay working off a customized version of the BioWare Infinity Engine,” said Oster. “They took the Infinity Engine variant they used to ship Icewind Dale and started from there. Somewhere along the path of the Dungeons and Dragons license moving from Interplay to Atari and then reverting to Wizards of the Coast, preserving source code and transferring it to the new rights holder, somehow data was lost.”

While developing enhanced versions of Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, and the first Icewind Dale, Beamdog was able to get source code directly from BioWare. “I drove over to the BioWare offices and dug through hard drives and backups for a day and a half, building a big pile of everything I could find,” Oster said. “We pulled some of the Planescape source from BioWare archives and some from the [Wizards of the Coast] archives which came to them via Interplay and Atari. The Icewind Dale source code was also from both sources... When we’ve searched for the Icewind Dale II code, there is nothing, not even a pre-release version. We’ve done the math and without source code it is simply too expensive to attempt to reverse engineer from an existing version of the game data.”

Although anyone can buy and download Icewind Dale II on GOG, there’s no simple way to extract the source code from finished copies of the game. Because the code is all compiled, the data is inaccessible. “There is really no way to go backwards from a compiled game to the source code to rebuild it,” said Oster. “You can decompile the game, but the difficulty of digging through the decompiled blob and extracting anything useful is much too high.”