21 Nov

DOSBOX and Tex Murphy without CDs

Note: This is the previous version of this article. Updated version is here.

Here’s a little tidbit our government boys missed…

DOSBOX is fantastic. It really is the answer for all of us who want to run old DOS games–the problem is, the documentation isn’t all that wonderful…

That isn’t to say that there isn’t documentation, it just seems a bit…well…terse. But it should get you going for simple stuff. What’s lacking is a good process for getting more complex stuff up and running. Like Tex Murphy – Pandora Directive with all six (count ’em) CDs.

dosbox01

Well, obviously it runs…but how well? Actually, very. On a modern Windows XP machine, at least.

If you have never played this game–and I whole-heartedly recommend that you do so–it is an adventure game with a mixture of a doom-level 3D environment and (dare I say) full motion video. So, literally, you explore in a first-person 3D viewpoint but trigger cut-scenes that are 3rd person FMV. PD is probably the best game of the series, and the Tex Murphy games are probably the best of this type ever made.

So, how do you get it? Well…ebay. Microsoft actually bought Access Software for their hugely successful Links golf games…and Tex went along for the ride. And there is NO way that Microsoft will ever invest money in a new adventure game…right now anyway*

First off–don’t use CDs. Why suffer those access times? Take an image of the CD’s and store them in a Games Directory somewhere. Use Alex Feinman’s marvelous ISO Recorder Power Toy, which is free. I’ve mentioned it before in the blog, so look back at that post. It integrates into the shell, so you can right-click on a drive (or any folder) and create a disk image.

I suggest that for ease of use that you don’t use spaces anywhere in the directory structure–DOSBOX configs are a little flaky with spaces…

For instance:

c:\games\iso\gamecd1.iso

Rather than:

c:\old games\disk images\gamecd1.iso

Anyway.

Once you have all of the CD’s imaged and safely stored on your hard drive (an unthinkable concept in 1994), you can make a config file for dosbox. Well…you should probably download dosbox first and install it. Yep. Anyway, I use a config file to mount all of the images as different drive letters, setup the sound emulation, CPU cycles, and etc. Most of them are the same–I just copy the file for each new game. Then I use a batch file to start the game…

So for Pandora Directive, here is my tex_pd.conf file (obviously, you’ll need to change the bit at the end to mount your iso images…):

[sdl]
fullscreen=true
fulldouble=false
fullfixed=false
fullresolution=640X480
output=surface
hwscale=1.00
autolock=true
sensitivity=100
waitonerror=true
priority=higher,normal
mapperfile=mapper.txt

[dosbox]
language=
machine=vga
captures=capture
memsize=16

[render]
frameskip=1
aspect=false
scaler=normal2x

[cpu]
core=dynamic
cycles=14000
cycleup=500
cycledown=20

[mixer]
nosound=false
rate=22050
blocksize=2048
prebuffer=10

[midi]
mpu401=true
intelligent=true
device=default
config=

[sblaster]
type=sbpro1
base=220
irq=7
dma=1
hdma=5
mixer=true
oplmode=auto
oplrate=12050

[gus]
gus=false
rate=12050
base=220
irq1=5
irq2=7
dma1=1
dma2=3
ultradir=C:\ULTRASND

[speaker]
pcspeaker=false
pcrate=22050
tandyrate=22050
disney=false

[bios]

[dos]
xms=true
ems=false

[modem]
modem=false
comport=2
listenport=23

[directserial]
directserial=false
comport=1
realport=COM1
defaultbps=1200
parity=N
bytesize=8
stopbit=1

[ipx]
ipx=false

[autoexec]
lastdrive=z
imgmount D “c:\iso\tex\pd1.iso” -t iso -ioctl
imgmount E “c:\iso\tex\pd2.iso” -t iso -ioctl
imgmount F “c:\iso\tex\pd3.iso” -t iso -ioctl
imgmount G “c:\iso\tex\pd4.iso” -t iso -ioctl
imgmount H “c:\iso\tex\pd5.iso” -t iso -ioctl
imgmount I “c:\iso\tex\pd6.iso” -t iso -ioctl
mount c c:\Archives\games -freesize 20
c:
cd pandora
pandora

Disclaimer: I deleted out all the DOSBOX comment lines for the sake of space…if this doesn’t work for whatever reason, you might need to compare my config with the basic config that comes with DOSBOX–maybe I deleted an extra line somewhere….

Oh, and PLEASE don’t edit your original config file…save this as a different file, mine is called tex_pd.conf.

Now, here’s the batch file:

@echo off
dosbox -conf tex_pd.conf -noconsole -fullscreen -exit

Just like that. You can just drag a shortcut to the batchfile into your games menu…actually, Tex Murphy has a Windows95 icon on disk 1, so you can even copy that in place and use it for your shortcut.

Here’s where the jiggery-pokery comes into play. Under the CPU heading in that config file there is a line that says:

cycles=14000

Every machine seems to have a sweet spot that is unique for that system. I’d start out at around 12000 on a P4ish machine, and then set it up 2 or three grand each time until the game gets as fast as possible, but yet doesn’t have sound glitches or video tears.

Higher isn’t always better…If I set this value too far up on my laptop, the game actually gets SLOOOOOOWWWW and the speech is unintelligible. In other words, take the 15 minutes or so, edit the file, save it, start the game, exit, change the number, save the file, and so on. The end result is a game experience that is FAR better than playing PD on the Pentium 166MMX or whatever I had when first I clapped eyes to it.

BUT, in the interests of full disclosure, booting a DOS disk to a modern system with ISA slots equipped with an SB16 or GUS would be much faster. Or you can try to make some PCI DOS drivers work (good luck). Supposedly people get results with the original SB Live! cards…(that’s another blog post entirely).

Now, use the wonderfully powerful Tex Murphy game engine to setup your sound and your CD-ROM drives. Just load all 6 of the CD drive letters into the game and you NEVER HAVE TO SWAP DISKS!!!

dosbox03

The automatic sound card detection worked great for me, too. Although, I did have to change my MIDI card to MPU-401 by hand.

dosbox02

One last thing: I would suggest using the Gravis Ultrasound emulation as much as possible rather than the Sound Blaster (that is, in games that support the GUS). It seems much faster (just like the hardware cards back in the old days). However, in the case of Tex Murphy, it was never consistently detected…and would drop the MIDI out completely at random intervals…oh well. I DO have a copy of the last official disks, though, if anyone wants them.

And buy the Tex Murphy games. They’re all great. I think you can get the first two for free from The Underdogs, that is Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum, however, they are much more primitive in scope when compared to the final three titles.

tex_mstex_mmtex_uakmtex_pdtex_o

Oh, another thing, Overseer is pretty much a “remake” of Mean Streets (told from a historical perspective), just so you don’t ruin it for yourself. Not that there is much comparison between the two. It also was supposed to kick off a new Tex trilogy that never happened after the sale to Microsoft…so it ends with a cliff-hanger that may never be resolved.

But if you’re interested, there is the Tex Murphy Radio Theater that helps a little…wow…maybe I’m the only one on the Entarweb who possesses those MP3 files…I’ll upload them and post a link.

Go to the wiki for more info.

* Just so you know, I think the whole 1st Person Shooter era is winding to a close. I mean, after the average person plays Halo a few times, all the clones seem to lose the wow factor. Seriously, I played Doom and Quake on the PC when it was brand-new, and I was hugely into Team Fortress. But I can’t really get that excited about it anymore… It’s all been done… If anything, Adventure will make a come-back as the computer-using public ages…like me…and really couldn’t care less about shooting yet another wave of faceless enemies with an automatic weapon. And if it does come to pass, then Tex Murphy like interface might actually be the shape of things to come…

16 Nov

Veritas Backup Process Flow

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while.  Please know that it bears no reflection upon my true feelings for you.  I still like long walks in the park.

But I’ve actually been extremely busy…doing things like fixing backup jobs.  Here is an example of the troubleshooting process that I use whenever confronted with a backup issues:

monkey

No, really.