Like many fans of the 90s first-person shooter Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, I was intrigued by a video posted to the YouTube channel SiliconClassics on Friday, which shows what appears to be the source code for the Nintendo 64 version of the game, discovered on an old SGI Indy computer.
Also like many fans, I immediately began to wonder how we might benefit from seeing this source code posted online for free, where a whole community of modders could begin tinkering with it.
If you're a fan of Turok or never played it before but want to see what it's all about, it's not hard to find a playable copy, especially since Nightdive Studios remastered and republished it on Steam last year. But with the source code, those who know how would be able to modify the game to create new content for it, recompile the code for different platforms, or simply dig through notes and documentation the developers left behind for odd bits of history.
On Sunday, the man in the SiliconClassics video, Aaron, announced that he won't post the source code online. Aaron is a lawyer, so he's well aware that dumping the source code online could get him into legal trouble, precisely because it's still being sold on Steam. However, that doesn't mean the source code won't end up online. Aaron isn't going to dump the source code online, but he is going to sell the SGI Indy computer on eBay.
What the buyer does with it at that point is up to them, but Aaron told me over email that "an attorney I'd advise whoever buys the systems to exercise good judgment and act within the confines of the law."
It seems that at least one of the key developers directly associated with Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Stephen Broumley, is impressed with Aaron's discovery.
"I coded all the bosses, cinemas, effects, and a bunch of other systems for Turok back in the day when I was a young lad," Broumley wrote. "I remember that dev hardware - what a blast from the past! Thanks so much for sharing!"
Aaron, who collects and tinkers with old computers as a hobby, said he first spotted this SGI Indy at a warehouse where he was picking up a 24-bit video board for an SGI Indy from another seller. While there, he saw a whole stack of SGI Indys there along with boxes of obsolete 3D animation software. He made note of it, and last summer went back to buy the stack of SGI Indys and software. As he started going through the files, it became clear that the SGI Indys came from a liquidation auction for Turok publisher Acclaim, which went out of business in 2004. Acclaim should have wiped those drives before the sale exactly for this reason, but for whatever reason, didn't.
Aaron also said that the SGI Indys contain a treasure trove of vintage game assets that he plans to share soon on his channel. If you care about this kind of obscure game history, we're sort of lucky that this stuff ended up with Aaron and not the dump.
Aaron said that the eBay listing for the SGI Indys with the Turok source code will go up this week.