Original Xbox Games with Debug Symbols

Edit on Github | Updated: 04 April 2020

Debug symbols pretty much open a game wide open to budding reverse engineers. These files make reverse engineering almost a piece of cake, giving useful names to each of the functions in an executable and sometimes even full local variable naming and source code references.

However most developers are very careful not to leak any debug symbols, especially into retail releases, so most games will not have publicly available debug symbols. But if you look very hard you might be able to find a game or two compiled for a console that have debug symbols left in by mistake.

The Xbox is no different, although unlike the PS2 the debug symbols were not stored in the executables themselves, they were instead stored in an external file (normally a program database file or PDB).

These files are then used the the debugger on a special Xbox Debug unit to allow the developer to fix bugs in the compiled code.

The disadvantage of the PDB files being a separate file is that they are very unlikely to be put on a retail Xbox DVD by mistake as they are not required for the game to run and are easy to spot and remove.

Symbols compiled into the executable themselves are much harder to spot and tend to be the most likely way for debug symbols to end up in retail releases on other consoles like the PS2.

Program Database files (.pdb)

The creme de la creme of useful data for reversers are PDB files and it is very rare for a game to include them on a retail release (or even a prototype for that matter).

So we are very lucky that after searching pretty much the entire Xbox game library we finally found 2 games with the PDB files fully intact, they are:

  • ATV 3 - Lawless (Beta) (Default.pdb)
  • Crusty Demons (Crusty.pdb)
  • Gauntlet Dark Legacy (shell3D.pdb)
  • Xyanide (Multiple pdb files!)

Linker MAP files (.map)

  • ATV 3 - Lawless (Beta) (Default.map)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (final.map)
  • Crusty Demons (Crusty.map)
  • Miami Vice (Data1.AIF)
  • Predator - Concrete Jungle
  • Sphinx And The Cursed Mummy
  • The Red Star
  • Wrath Unleashed
  • X-Men - The Official Game (X3.ZPK)
  • Xyanide (2003-05-07)

Other files

These files need further investigation but it looks like they might contain debug symbols:

  • Marvel Nemesis - Rise Of The Imperfects (default.bak)
  • Marvel Vs Capcom 2 (afs02.afs)

Xbox Scripting

Scripting is used in many xbox games to allow game designers with less programming experience to focus on the core gameplay and not low-level programming details.

Games vary in their use of scripting, some games can even implement most of their game’s missions and levels in scripts while others simply use it to tweak simple variables such as the speed of a car.

The scripting languages themselves also vary wildly between games/engines/developers. However there are a few common languages such as Lua that tend to be the industry standard.

The huge benefit of scripting from a Reversers point of view is that typically the entire source files are available with the game, with useful variable names and even comments!

They can be a great place to start a game mod or simply to make the game easier/harder.

Games that use scripting:

  • Land of the Dead (Unreal Engine)
  • Midtown Madness 3
  • Pariah
  • Pirates of the Caribbean

Games still to Check for Debug Symbols

  • Official Xbox Magazine demos
  • Xbox exhibition vol 1->7