A video game preservation group called The Hidden Palace has released over 700 early builds and demos of games for the PlayStation 2. The trove has been dubbed “Project Deluge,” and includes pre-release builds of some major titles like Lego Star Wars The Video Game and Final Fantasy X-2.
Never before seen — The Hidden Palace says it obtained the trove from just one person, and the group spent nearly a year sorting through it all to exclude retail copies of games. It worked with the Internet Archive to properly catalog and upload all the files online totaling more than 850GBs.
It’s unclear who the unnamed source is, but it’s possible that it is someone who has worked in game journalism, as some of the builds were shown off at tradeshows like E3 and specifically built for preview coverage. Regardless, it’s surprising — but welcome — that the individual chose to release the works for free. They might have otherwise thrown the games away, or sold them privately — an early build of a popular franchise title could probably sell for thousands of dollars. But either outcome would have been a net loss for the rest of us, who will now have the opportunity to enjoy some retro nostalgia. It’s easy to run a PS2 emulator even if you don’t have a physical console.
Saving history — Preservation work is more important than ever in the digital age, where platforms go offline for numerous reasons and creative works are lost to history. But physical media isn’t always much better. The Hidden Trove says that because the game builds were recorded on DVDs, the conditions they were stored in might have allowed some to rot. Now with the help of the Internet Archive, they’ll stand a much better chance at surviving.
If you’re interested, The Hidden Palace has a lengthy blog post up where they go into detail about the lengths they went to preserve the collection.