An unofficial patch is a non-commercial patch for a piece of software, created by a user community instead 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. There are several potential reasons:
In the computer game domain, where unofficial patches are most common, unofficial patches are also sometimes called Fan patches, especially if produced by an individual person. Combined patches, including the work of several developers and authors from the community, are also called Community Patch. They are aiming typical for critical bugs in the program flow which could lead to program crashes and technical compatibility fixes, e.g. for newer operating systems, increased display resolutions or new display formats.
While unofficial patches are most common for the PC platform, they are also existing for console games e.g. in context of the emulation community.
As another kind of unofficial patches are fan translations of software, especially games, to local languages. Fan translations are most common for Japanese role-playing games which are often not localized for Western markets.
Another variant of unofficial patches are slipstream like patches which combine official patches together, which are only available online or as small incremental patches.
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, sometimes by leaking or mistake, such as what happened with the game engine of the Thief series. Sometimes fans even completely reverse-engineer source code from the original program binary. With the source code available even the support of completely different but recent platforms with source ports becomes possible.
While court cases directly involving unofficial patches are not existing, there were similar cases in court. 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", without permission from the copyright holder; an argumentation also raised by Daniel J. Bernstein professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Similar user rights are given also according to European copyright laws. The question if and which copyright holder unauthorized changes of lawfully obtained software are fair and beneficial, is a long-standing debate among academic scholars. An article of Helbraun law firm remarks in the context of fan translations that redistributing complete games with adaptions most likely does not fall under fair use, but in patch form it might fall under fair use, while this was never tested in court.
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. There have been seldom cases of cease and desist letters to unofficial patch and fan translation projects.
Sometimes the copyright holder actively support the patching and fixing efforts of a software community, sometimes even by releasing the source code under a software license which allows the software community the continued software support by themselves. 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.
|Anachronox||Bug fix patch|
|Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura||Bug fix patch, fan translation|
|Battlezone II||Bug fix patch|
|Civilization IV||Bug fixes and extensions, (with SDK source code and accessible XML configuration and Python files)|
|Civilization V||Bug fixes and extensions (based on source code)|
|Chrono Trigger||Fan translation, bug fix patch|
|Command & Conquer||Bug fix patch, resolution fixes, added support for language packs|
|The Elder Scrolls Daggerfall||Bug fix patch, fan translation|
|Dark Souls II||Bug fixes|
|Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut||Resolution fix|
|Ecco the Dolphin||Bug fixes, ports for newer OSes|
|E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||Bug fixes|
|Fallout 2||Bug fix patch, resolution fixes|
|Fallout 4||Bug fix patch|
|Freelancer||Bug fix patch|
|Galactic Civilizations II||Script corrections, corrections of database mistakes, engine fixes|
|Gothic 3||Bug fix patch|
|Infinity Engine (Baldur's gate series, Icewind Dale etc.)||Bug fix patch, resolution fixes|
|Jagged Alliance 2 (now JA2-Stracciatella)||Bug fix patch, resolution fixes, ports|
|Legacy of Kain series||Bug fix patch|
|LucasArts adventures (Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, etc.)||Fan translation|
|Master of Magic||Fan patch|
|Master of Orion 3||Fan translation, bug fix|
|Minecraft||Fan fixes implemented to latest patches|
|MVP Baseball 2005||Fixes, support continuation|
|Nier: Automata||Resolution fixes, performance fix|
|Nuclear Throne||Various bug-fixes for co-op mode, as well as addition of online co-op|
|The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim||Bug fix patch, translation fixes|
|Rollcage||Bug fix patch|
|Silent Hunter II / Destroyer Command||Bug fix patch (Ubisoft endorsed with source code)|
|Star Ocean||Fan translation|
|Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords||Bug fixes, restored content, widescreen support|
|Supreme Commander||Bug fixes, multiplayer client and server replacement (Server emulator)|
|Dark Engine (Thief 1, Thief 2, System Shock 2)||Bug fix patch|
|Titan Quest||Bug fix patch|
|Ultima series||Bug fix patch, fan translation|
|Ultima 4||Bug fix patch, remaster|
|Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines||Bug fix patch, restored content, widescreen and modern OS support|
|Xenonauts||Bug fix patch and support continuation|
|3dfx drivers||driver fixes, continued support|
|Adobe Acrobat||fast security fix|
|Socket 7 boards' Award BIOS||32GB+ HDD support, AMD K6-2/3+ support|
|Java||fast security fix|
|Windows 7, Windows 8||unlocking of hardware support|
|Windows 98||Slipstream patch, Bug fix patch, support for harddrives > 137GB, support for 2k API|
|Windows XP||Update pack|
|Internet Explorer||fast security fix|
|Nvidia nForce Chipset Device driver||Support for older Chipsets on newer Windows OSs|
|Palm Pre||Functionality extension|
|Windows Metafile format||fast security fix|
|Windows URI problem||fast security fix|
|Mac OS X 10.3||Daylight saving time patch|
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.
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.
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.
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.
[...]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.
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.
gave source code to subsim.com [...] 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
[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."
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).
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.
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.
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.
[…]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.
As of May 9, 2009, the patch is no longer hosted due to a cease & desist letter from Square Enix.
[...]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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Beim Internet Archive ist nun nicht nur das Originalspiel [E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial] von 1982 zu finden, sondern auch eine Version, die seine schlimmsten Programmierfehler korrigiert.
a new Gothic 3 Enhanced Edition v1.75 Update Pack (International)
The BG2 Fixpack is a WeiDU compilation of fixes for Baldur's Gate II. […] This collaborative effort, including the work of modders from several different modding communities and assistance from BG2 lead writer David Gaider, has resulted in a fixpack that currently includes all of the fixes addressed by Baldurdash (including the Game Text Update) and several hundred new bugfixes. The project is ongoing, and we're working through a substantial list of bugs culled from various sites, the old Baldurdash forums, and our own research.
Jagged Alliance 2 [...] and maintains both a tutorial for getting GOG games to run on Mac OS X, and a list of games he has personally tested to work on Mac OS X through CrossOver, Wineskin, and open source ports.
Update 2013-03-13: Added support for high video resolutions. For example, game can be started in 1024x768 mode like this: ja2.exe -res 1024x768. Any reasonable resolution should work. Some bugfixes from this forum have been integrated. [...]
[…]now you can play in BO1 under Windows-7 without any problems with video.
What the Insecticide patch is all about? to make the MoM game as bug-free and as AI-challenging and as user-friendly as possible without modifying the content. The patch now features more than 200 bug-fixes, AI improvements and interface changes.
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.
[...]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
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.
former Attention to Detail programmer Robert Baker, who also still had a candle burning for Rollcage. Baker had been contacted by hardcore Rollcage fans asking for his help to keep Rollcage running on drastically newer PC hardware, 15 years down the track. “I can’t speak for other developers, but for myself, I’ve worked on a dozen games and Rollcage is the only game that I’ve personally supported after release,” says Baker. “I don’t hold the source code to many games as that belongs to the company that develops these games of course, but Rollcage was a bit different.”
Subsim Review served as the gathering place for Projekt Messerwetzer, the project that brought Silent Hunter II - Destroyer Command computability to full fruition
After years of development, the cut content has been finally restored and the most of the bugs have been fixed, thanks to a project known as known as the "Restored Content Mod.
On top of that, the mod fixes “over 500″ bugs, because Obsidian, basically.
The official multiplayer servers for Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance have been decommissioned for a while now, but fortunately [...] the community-driven Forged Alliance Forever has emerged. The self-patching multiplayer client allows players of the epic real-time strategy title to continue blowing things up in massive quantities. It even adds new units, a new faction, and some game modes that weren't available on the official servers, such as 6v6.
Bloodlines […] was essentially abandoned by its publisher after its developer closed a few months after release, but the fans have just kept on going, fixing things, improving things, digging up locked away extra content […]
Updated Security researchers have developed an unofficial patch for a zero-day Adobe Acrobat and Reader vulnerability that's become the subject of hacker attacks. Adobe acknowledged the vulnerability last week but said an official patch wouldn't be available until 11 March.
Win98: Enable 48-bit LBA patch for Windows 98 posted on MSFN.ORG - Implements 48-bit LBA support into Windows 98's default IDE driver to support hard drives larger than 137GB.
This is a fascinating project from a technical standpoint. They are implementing missing API calls used by newer applications that are missing from Windows 98 and Windows ME.
Another unofficial patch has been released to counter a critical flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.
Many users with an nForce chipset mainboard, who are running or going to install Windows XP (32/64bit), are searching for actual nForce chipset drivers, which are suitable for their special chipset and will give them the best possible performance and stability of their system. NVIDIA itself doesn't offer them.