Unofficial patch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An unofficial patch is a patch for a piece of software, created by a third party such as a user community without the involvement of the original developer. Similar to an ordinary patch, it alleviates bugs or shortcomings. Unofficial patches do not usually change the intended usage of the software, in contrast to other third-party software adaptions such as mods or cracks.


A common motivation for the creation of unofficial patches is missing technical support by the original software developer or provider. Reasons may include:

  • the software product reached its defined end-of-life[1] and/or was superseded by a successor product (planned obsolescence)[2]
  • the software was originally designed to operate in a substantially different environment and may require improvement/optimization (porting)
  • the developer has gone out of business and is not available anymore[3]
  • support is not economically viable (e.g. localization for small markets)
  • a fast solution for a time critical problem (e.g. security holes) when an official one takes too long[4][5][6]
  • the official developer is unable to cope with the problems[7]


Unofficial patches are also sometimes called fan patches or community patches, and are typically intended to repair unresolved bugs and provide technical compatibility fixes, e.g. for newer operating systems, increased display resolutions[8][9] or new display formats.

While unofficial patches are most common for the PC platform, they can also be found for console games e.g. in context of the emulation community.[10]


Unofficial patches are not limited to technical fixes; fan translations of software, especially games, are often created if the software has not been released locally.[11] Fan translations are most common for Japanese role-playing games which are often not localized for Western markets.[12][13]

Another variant of unofficial patches are slipstream like patches which combine official patches together, when individual patches are only available online or as small incremental updates.


The most common case is that the source code and the original development tools are not available for the software. Therefore, the faulty software's binary must be analyzed at run time by reverse engineering and debugging. If the problem is found, a fix to the program must be applied. Sometimes only small changes in configuration files or the registry are required, sometimes binary hacks on the executable itself are required to fix bugs. If a software development kit (e.g. for modding) is available, fixes to the content can be easily produced, otherwise the community would need to create their own tools. These found fixes are typically packed to user deployable patches (e.g. with NSIS, Innosetup).

If the source code is available, support can by provided most effectively. Sometimes the source code is released intentionally,[14][15][16] sometimes by leaking[17][18][19] or mistake,[20] such as what happened with the game engine of the Thief series.[21][22] Sometimes fans even completely reverse-engineer source code from the original program binary.[23] With the source code available even the support of completely different but recent platforms with source ports becomes possible.


While no court cases have directly addressed the legal ramifications of unofficial patches, similar cases have been tried on related issues. The case of Galoob v. Nintendo found that it was not copyright infringement by a user to apply an unauthorized patch to a system (while the scope was very specific to the Game Genie). On the other hand, the case Micro Star v. FormGen Inc. found that user-generated maps were derivative works of the original game. In Sega v. Accolade, the 9th Circuit held that making copies in the course of reverse engineering is a fair use, when it is the only way to get access to the "ideas and functional elements" in the copyrighted code, and when "there is a legitimate reason for seeking such access". According to Copyright law of the United States 17 U.S. Code § 117, the owner of a copy of a program can modify it as necessary for "Maintenance or Repair",[24] without permission from the copyright holder; an argumentation also raised by Daniel J. Bernstein professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[25]

Similar user rights are given also according to European copyright laws. The question of whether unauthorized changes of lawfully obtained copyright-protected software qualify as fair use is an unsettled area of law.[26] An article of Helbraun law firm remarks, in the context of fan translations, that while redistributing complete games with adaptions most likely does not fall under fair use, distributing the modifications as a patch might be legally permissible; however, that conclusion has not been tested in court.[27]


Reception of unofficial patches is mixed, but by large, copyright holders are ambivalent. When the software is not considered commercially viable unofficial patches are ignored by the copyright holder as it is not seen as a source of lost revenue.[11][28] There have been seldom cases of cease and desist letters to unofficial patch and fan translation projects.[29][30]

Sometimes the copyright holder actively support the patching and fixing efforts of a software community,[31] sometimes even by releasing the source code under a software license which allows the software community the continued software support by themselves.[16][14][15][32][33][34] Examples for such software are in the List of commercial video games with later released source code.

The free and open source software movement was founded in the 1980s to solve the underlying problem of unofficial patches, the limited possibility for user self-support in binary only distributed software due to missing source code. Free and open source software demands from distributed software the availability of source code, which prevents the technical problems and legal uncertainties of binary only user patching of proprietary software.

Examples in video games[edit]

Computer game Type
Anachronox Bug fix patch[35]
Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome Bug fixes, balance fixes, stability fixes, UI and sound improvements, resolution fixes including support for more higher definition resolutions[36]
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Bug fix patch,[37] fan translation
Battlezone II Bug fix patch[38][39][40]
Civilization IV Bug fixes and extensions,[41] (with SDK source code[42][43] and accessible XML configuration and Python files)[44]
Civilization V Bug fixes and extensions (based on source code)[45][46][47]
Chrono Trigger Fan translation, bug fix patch[48]
Command & Conquer Bug fix patch, resolution fixes, added support for language packs[8][49][50]
Dark Souls II Bug fixes[51]
Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut Resolution fix[9]
Ecco the Dolphin Bug fixes, ports for newer OSes[52][53]
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall Bug fix patch,[54] fan translation
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Bug fix patch,[55][56] translation fixes[57]
Empire Earth 2 Bug fixes, unhandled exception crash fixes, Windows 8 / 10 / 11 support, more screen resolutions (including 4k and the custom screen resolution generator), DirectX 9 support, G-Sync / FreeSync and high monitor refresh rate fixes, unlimited camera zoom settings, changed low-quality sounds, new options in game (e.g. more population, cycle time of day, disable crowns system and leaders), integrated language changer, integrated private multiplayer server and many more new features (fully customizable), frequently updated.[58]
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Bug fixes[59][60]
Fallout 2 Bug fixes,[61] resolution fixes
Fallout: New Vegas Bug fixes,[62][63] stability and performance fixes (especially for modern systems)[64]
Fallout 4 Bug fixes[65][66][67]
Freelancer Bug fix patch[68]
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Engine, graphics and quality-of-life fixes[69]
Gothic 3 Bug fix patch[7][33][70]
Infinity Engine (Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale etc.) Bug fix patch, resolution fixes[71]
IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover Fix mod based on source code (which later became an official release as "Blitz Edition")[72]
Jagged Alliance 2 (now JA2-Stracciatella) Bug fix patch, resolution fixes, ports[73][74][75][76][77][78]
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Bug fixes, stability fixes, new features for client side and server side[79]
Legacy of Kain series Bug fix patch[80][81][82]
LucasArts adventures (Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, etc.) Fan translation[83]
Master of Magic Fan patch[84][85][86]
Master of Orion 3 Fan translation,[87] bug fix
Minecraft Fan fixes implemented to latest patches[88][89][90]
MVP Baseball 2005 Fixes, support continuation[91][92][93]
Nier: Automata Resolution fixes, performance fix[94]
Nuclear Throne Various bug-fixes for co-op mode, as well as addition of online co-op[95][96]
Paradroid Bug fixes, speed fixes[97]
Rollcage Bug fix patch[98]
Silent Hill 2 'Enhanced Edition' rehaul, including bug fixes, enhanced and remade graphic assets, full widescreen support, HD cutscenes, and numerous modern improvements[99]
Silent Hunter II / Destroyer Command Bug fix patch (Ubisoft endorsed with source code)[16][100][101][102]
Star Ocean Fan translation[12]
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords Bug fixes,[103][104] restored content,[105] widescreen support[106]
Supreme Commander Bug fixes, multiplayer client and server replacement (Server emulator)[107][108][109][110]
Dark Engine (Thief 1, Thief 2, System Shock 2) Bug fix patch[21][22][111]
Titan Quest Bug fix patch[112][113]
Ultima series Bug fix patch,[114] fan translation
Ultima 4 Bug fix patch, remaster[115][116]
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines Bug fix patch, restored content, widescreen and modern OS support[117][118][119]
Xenonauts Bug fix patch and support continuation[120][121]

Examples in general software[edit]

Software Type
3dfx drivers Driver fixes, continued support[122][123]
Adobe Acrobat Fast security fix[124]
Socket 7 boards' Award BIOS 32GB+ HDD support, AMD K6-2/3+ support[125][126][127]
iOS 4.3.3 Fast security fix[128]
Java Fast security fix[129]
Windows 7, Windows 8 Unlocking of hardware support[130]
Windows 98 Slipstream patch, Bug fix patch,[1][131] support for harddrives > 137GB,[132] support for 2k API[133][134][135]
Windows XP Update pack[136][137]
Internet Explorer Fast security fix[138]
Nvidia nForce Chipset Device driver Support for older Chipsets on newer Windows OSs[139][140][141]
Palm Pre Functionality extension[142]
Windows Metafile format Fast security fix[4][5][6]
Windows URI problem Fast security fix[143]
Mac OS X 10.3 Daylight saving time patch[144]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dirscherl, Hans-Christian (29 November 2005). "Nicht tot zu kriegen: Win 98 Service Pack 2.1" (in German). Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  2. ^ Cassia, Fernando (28 March 2007). "Open Source, the only weapon against "planned obsolescence"". Archived from the original on January 20, 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ g4tv staff (30 May 2011). "The Lost History of System Shock". Retrieved 30 May 2012. Looking Glass Studios closed in 2000, a year after System Shock 2's release, and the copyright to the series went into the hands of an insurance company. That left EA with only the System Shock name, but no actual development rights.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Naraine, Ryan (4 January 2006). "IT Security & Network Security News – Another Unofficial WMF Patch Released". Retrieved 7 January 2012. Security vendor ESET, makers of the NOD32 anti-virus program, on Wednesday shipped an interim patch for the bug, almost a week before Microsoft Corp. is scheduled to release a properly tested security update.
  5. ^ a b Espiner, Tom (6 January 2006). "Firms urged to use unauthorised Windows patch". Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  6. ^ a b CNN Staff (3 January 2006). "Huge virus threat rocks Microsoft". CNNmoney. Retrieved 29 January 2012. Because of the severity of the threat, the SANS Institute, a computer security group, has released a patch for the vulnerability until Microsoft's fix is available next week. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ a b Sebayang, Andreas (23 March 2009). "Gothic 3 Community Patch soll fast alle Fehler beheben – mehr als 700 Veränderungen im letzten Community Patch" (in German). Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  8. ^ a b Sebayang, Andreas (27 May 2008). "High-Res-Patch für Command & Conquer 95 – Klassiker lässt sich nun in höherer Auflösung spielen" (in German). Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  9. ^ a b Moore, Bo (19 November 2013). "Is Your Game Crap? This Fan Will Fix It for You". Wired. Retrieved 25 January 2014. Thoman had uploaded "DPfix 0.1 alpha," a patch that allowed Deadly Premonition players to manually adjust the game's resolution. [...] The most recent DPfix release fixed pixel offset errors that occurred at higher resolutions, fixed anti-aliasing when it was not being correctly applied, added improved depth-of-field effects, and added an option for screen space ambient occlusion.
  10. ^ "Hacks – Bugfix". Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  11. ^ a b Löding, Torge (9 September 2003). "Infogrames toleriert Fan-Übersetzung für Master of Orion 3" (in German). Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  12. ^ a b Parkin, Simon (26 December 2008). "You Say Tomato: A Pro on Fan-Translating Nintendo's Mother 3". Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  13. ^ Szczepaniak, John (June 2006). "Japanese ROM Translation". Retro Gamer. 25: 102–105. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2012-12-15. [1][2][3][4]
  14. ^ a b Wen, Howard (10 June 2004). "Keeping the Myths Alive". Retrieved 22 December 2012. [...]fans of the Myth trilogy have taken this idea a step further: they have official access to the source code for the Myth games. Organized under the name MythDevelopers, this all-volunteer group of programmers, artists, and other talented people devote their time to improving and supporting further development of the Myth game series.
  15. ^ a b Largent, Andy (8 October 2003). "Homeworld Source Code Released". Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2012. With the release of Homeworld 2 for the PC, Relic Entertainment has decided to give back to their impressive fan community by releasing the source code to the original Homeworld.
  16. ^ a b c Trotter, William (1 May 2003). "Submarine marries Destroyer: The long vaunted union of SSI naval-sims is complete – thanks to fans". PC Gamer. Retrieved 6 May 2017. gave source code to [...] a fund raising drive netted more than $7000 to jump-start Project Messerwetzer [...] Skilled volunteers and playtesters rallied to the call [...] a free 5MB to 6MB patch that will be finally polished and playtested. The original crippling flaw, multiplayer instability, has been dramatically minimized
  17. ^ Bertolone, Giorgio (12 March 2011). "Interview with Kevin Klemmick – Lead Software Engineer for Falcon 4.0". Cleared-To-Engage. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2014. [C2E] In 2000 the source code of Falcon 4.0 leaked out and after that groups of volunteers were able to make fixes and enhancements that assured the longevity of this sim. Do you see the source code leak as a good or bad event? [Klemmick] "Absolutely a good event. In fact I wish I'd known who did it so I could thank them. I honestly think this should be standard procedure for companies that decide not to continue to support a code base."
  18. ^ xray on (August 2014)
  19. ^ xray-16 on
  20. ^ Smith, Quintin (14 December 2010). "Dark Engine Source Code Found In A Bag". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 15 April 2011. As of this weekend, Christmas has come early for the Through the Looking Glass community. A CD's been discovered containing the source code for the Dark Engine, aka the engine used by Thief, Thief II and System Shock 2 (not to mention Irrational and Looking Glass' cancelled cold war spy game Deep Cover).
  21. ^ a b Grayson, Nathan (26 September 2012). "Hooray! – System Shock 2, Thief 2 Get Usability Patches". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 16 November 2012. Double Fine's Chris Remo (via Kotaku) tweeted out word of the abruptly unearthed hunks of unofficial patching gold, pointing the way to a French forum called Ariane4ever.
  22. ^ a b Le Corbeau (25 September 2012). "Thief 2 V1.19 & System Shock 2 V2.4". Retrieved 10 November 2012. This is an unofficial patch for Thief II: The Metal Age (T2) which updates the game from v1.18 to v1.19, providing improved support for modern hardware and correcting many known bugs.
  23. ^ "Dune Dynasty". Dune Dynasty is a continuation of the classic real-time strategy game Dune II by Westwood Studios. It is not a remake. It builds upon the original game engine as reverse-engineered by the OpenDUNE project.
  24. ^ "17 U.S. Code § 117 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs".
  25. ^ softwarelaw on
  26. ^ MODIFYING COPYRIGHTED SOFTWARE: ADJUSTING COPYRIGHT DOCTRINE TO ACCOMMODATE A TECHNOLOGY Archived 2013-05-21 at the Wayback Machine by Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law (1988)
  27. ^ Reviewing the Questionable Legality of Fan-Made Translations of Video Games on (accessed 7 May 2017)
  28. ^ Boulette, Bryan (7 December 2007). "E3 – Front Mission Interview". Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011. […]we told Mr. Sakamoto that a fan translation had been done some years ago for Front Mission 1, and asked how he felt about such efforts. The producer replied that he actually found them very encouraging – it's something the developers should be doing, but because they're not, the fans are doing it instead. He stated that he'd like to be able to give something back to the fans, and would like to thank personally each of the fans that worked on the translation.
  29. ^ "Chrono Trigger Retranslation". 9 May 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2011. As of May 9, 2009, the patch is no longer hosted due to a cease & desist letter from Square Enix.
  30. ^ Adamczewski, David (21 November 2001). "Infogrames lässt Übersetzung von Civilization 3 untersagen" (in German). Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  31. ^ Community-based update to GalCiv 2 Ultimate Edition by MarvinKosh on 25 September 2014
  32. ^ Bell, John (1 October 2009). "Opening the Source of Art". Technology Innovation Management Review. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2012. [...]that no further patches to the title would be forthcoming. The community was predictably upset. Instead of giving up on the game, users decided that if Activision wasn't going to fix the bugs, they would. They wanted to save the game by getting Activision to open the source so it could be kept alive beyond the point where Activision lost interest. With some help from members of the development team that were active on fan forums, they were eventually able to convince Activision to release Call to Power II's source code in October of 2003.
  33. ^ a b Schramm, Peter (2010). "About MVG". Archived from the original on 26 March 2011. Retrieved 3 April 2011. Being part of the "Community Patch Team" formed to fix the great but bug-baiten "Gothic 3″ game, Mad Vulture Games was taking care of major coordination work, 3D model fixing and lots of other work for the Gothic 3 Addon "Forsaken Gods" Enhanced Edition, also being the producing company.
  34. ^ Blue Saga's Source Code Has Been Released by Matt Chelen on (30 July 2016)
  35. ^ "Anachronox – inoffizieller Patch" (in German). 27 May 2003. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  36. ^ "UPatch - Unofficial Patch for AoE RoR". 27 January 2017. The classic Age of Empires – revived in HD! This is the unofficial (HD) patch for Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome, a complete revamp of the original game – with HD resolution, HD quality interface graphics, hundreds of bug fixes, new gameplay options and many other enhancements.
  37. ^ "Unofficial Arcanum Patch v091225 Released". 27 December 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  38. ^ Battlezone Magazine Volume 1 Issue#5, p. 3 (online copy Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine)
  39. ^ battlezone-ii-its-alive-er-still on Rock, Paper, Shotgun (2009/09/08)
  40. ^
  41. ^ Civ4: Better AI on "Major improvements to AI naval and air unit handling [...] Well over 100 bug fixes"
  42. ^ Product_2K_Games_Firaxis_Release_Civ_IV_SDK on
  43. ^ civ4 downloads on
  44. ^ Kosak, Dave 'Fargo' (27 October 2005). "GameSpy: Civilization IV". GameSpy. pp. 1–3. 662218. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  45. ^ civilization-v-dll-source-code-coming-with-fall-patch on (2012)
  46. ^ Samuel Wicks (26 April 2016). "Wondrous: The Civilization V Community Patch Project". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. there's another big new release expected, but it's not an official expansion. It's the Community Patch Project (CPP; to be named Vox Populi on release), a community-made mod that overhauls and improves a majority of the game's systems in an attempt to make Civilization V the best game it possibly can be.
  47. ^ Patrick Klepek (26 April 2017). "The Modders Who Decided to Overhaul the AI in 'Civilization V'". Community Patch was actually built upon another mod. Since development began in 2014, it's become its own thing, prompting a rebranding: Vox Populi. Besides improving upon the game's AI, Vox Populi tweaks the game's balance, and fixes bugs that were left behind after Firaxis moved on. [...]we have to respect them for giving us the source code, and that must have taken some courage
  48. ^ Charisius, Manuel (20 July 2010). "Chrono Trigger deutsch" (in German). Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  49. ^ Smith, James E. (22 February 2010). "Command & Conquer retrospective part I – We take a look at the series that put RTS on the gaming map". Retrieved 12 April 2011. Special Operations was unique to the Nintendo 64 and Playstation versions of the game, but the maps have since been extracted and included in unofficial fan patches.
  50. ^ "Command & Conquer Gold: Project 1.06". Nyerguds. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  51. ^ Klepek, Patrick (15 April 2015). "Annoying Dark Souls 2 Glitch Has Gone Unfixed For Nearly A Year". Kotaku. There's no excuse for the durability bug to be part of Scholar of the First Sin. It's not limited to the PC version, either. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions run at 60 frames-per-second. From Software and Bandai Namco have not yet responded to my request for comment. You might not be surprised to learn that fans have decided to rescue the game again, however. DS2fix removes the durability bug from the game, in addition to addressing a few other issues.
  52. ^ Ecco PC – Fixed and Enhanced Edition on
  53. ^ True Fan Hack Stories: Ecco PC Fixed & Enhanced Edition on (August 2014)
  54. ^ "DaggerfallSetup". Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  55. ^ Sharkey, Mike (14 March 2012). "Unofficial Skyrim Patch Fixes Myriad Skyrim Bugs – Fan created uber patch designed to fix Skyrim's many problems". Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  56. ^ Quarn and Kivan (20 August 2013). "Unofficial Skyrim Patch Version: 1.3.3c". Retrieved 3 October 2013. [...]the goal of the Unofficial Skyrim Patch (aka USKP) is to eventually fix every bug with Skyrim not officially resolved by the developers [...]Hundreds of gameplay, quest, NPC, object, item, text and placement bugs fixed already
  57. ^ "Skyrim – Director's Cut" (in German). Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2012. Die Erweiterung Skyrim – Director's Cut hat es sich zum Ziel gemacht, die deutsche Version von The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim so gut es geht zu verbessern. Vorrangig geht es darum, fehlende Übersetzungen nachzuholen und Texte und Begriffe so anzupassen, dass sie auch zu den vorherigen Teilen der Reihe passen. Mit dem beiliegenden inoffiziellen Skyrim-Patch werden zudem eine Vielzahl Fehler des eigentlichen Spiels, die die offiziellen Patches noch nicht korrigiert haben, behoben. Mit der Erweiterung könnt ihr außerdem alle englischsprachigen Texturen nun in deutscher Sprache vorfinden.
  58. ^ – Empire Earth II – Unofficial Patch 1.5, created by Dr.MonaLisa
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  91. ^ Nine Years Later, Latin America's Leagues Keep MVP Baseball Alive on Kotaku by Owen Good (12/22/13)
  92. ^ Lindbergh, Ben (14 April 2015). "'MVP Baseball … 2015'? How the Best Baseball Video Game Ever Has Refused to Retire for 10 Years". Another factor in MVP's favor: The game allows greater access to its innards than most titles. [...] 2K's failure to match MVP's approval rating despite several years of running unopposed on the PC market, made MVP the go-to game for modders even as it lost its looks relative to 2K and The Show. The community's support peaked from 2005 through the first PC edition of 2K in 2009, tailed off for a time, and then ramped up again once Take-Two abandoned the PC market in 2013 and canceled 2K entirely last year. A decade of EA development made MVP the best baseball game on the PC market in 2005, and a decade of amateur development has helped it keep that title in 2015.
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