Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reverse-engineering LEGO Racers 1 - part 1

First off, a brief description of LEGO Racers 1: It basically was a racing game released back in 1999 (and then re-released in 2001) where you could make your own car (and driver) out of LEGO bricks and then race it against half-a-dozen or so AI cars or a friend, on one of about two dozen tracks. Sounds fun, right? It is.



Sadly, since the game was released so long ago, it can be difficult to run it on a modern OS - the 1999 release of the game had DRM that required the disk, for example - not to mention there's quite a bit of dummied-out content (several shortcuts are missing, most famously from the Knightmare-athon track) that I and probably several others would love to play around with and modify. And that's why I've decided to write a drop-in replacement for the LEGO Racers 1 game engine.

It's not a new idea - I can bring up forum threads from up to 2 years ago of people attempting to mod LEGO Racers 1. That being said, these people are trying to mod the game itself, not create a replacement for LEGO Racers 1's game engine. I want to create a game engine instead of attempting to mod the game itself for several reasons:
  • A mod of the game still would have issues with the DRM and compatibility issues I previously mentioned; one would still need the original game to play the mod.
  • A mod of the game would not be able to add new content without removing existing content; I doubt, for instance, you could add new circuits, bricks, chassis, or piece sets (you unlocked the pieces of each bosses car when you beat them) without removing existing content.
  • A mod of the game would still be subject to the limitations of the original game engine - AI cars still wouldn't follow shortcuts, the AI behavior itself couldn't be changed, no new racing modes could be added, racing with more than 2 human players wouldn't be possible (and even then, you'd need a joystick), etc. In other words, only content would be moddable, not game logic.
There would be many advantages to making a game engine as well:
  • Not only would only the data files from the original game be required to play, but it would be feasible to create a replacement for the original data files as well, so you wouldn't even need the original game to play (ala PrBoom + freedoom).
  • A replacement for LEGO Racers 1's game engine would allow everything to be moddable - powerups, tracks, circuits, AI behavior (imagine the AI being a script the game engine runs instead of being part of the engine itself), bricks, piece sets, cutscenes, animations - everything.
  • Making a replacement game engine instead of modding the original game makes modding much easier and more approachable to a new modder.
Right now, I intend to make the engine open-source (under the Apache License 2.0, probably), and host it on GitHub, to make it more accessible to potential developers. If you'd like to help out (that said, I haven't started yet), let me know. :) I'll try to keep updating my blog as progress on reverse-engineering LEGO Racers 1's data formats is made.

1 comment:

  1. My friend and I think an open source Lego Racer is a great idea! We hope this eventually comes to frustration.

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