Library of Congress discovers unreleased Duke Nukem game

During an inventory of recent acquisitions, congressional librarian David Gibson discovered that a DVD-R that he thought contained gameplay footage actually held the complete source code and assets for Duke Nukem: Critical Mass for the PlayStation Portable, which was never released. A game of the same name came out for Nintendo DS in 2011, but Gibson’s examination of the files revealed the unreleased PSP version to be substantially different.

Uncompiled source materials for games like this, particularly that haven’t been released, rarely make it to the public. This discovery provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain of modern game development, and stands as one of the rarest artifacts in the Library of Congress’ growing video game collection.

Since 2006 the Library has acquired roughly 400 games per year through copyright registration, 90-percent of which are physically published console titles. Along with physical copies of the published games, these submissions frequently include printed support materials and video recordings of gameplay. The acquisition of such a complete look into the design process is unprecedented for the Library’s collection, and could serve as an important touchstone for the evolving future of digital preservation.

The staff of the Library of Congress’ Moving Image collection, in which the games are housed, strongly encourage other developers to share similar materials in the future to better help preserve their legacy for future scholars and enthusiasts.

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