04 Aug

Buried In Time – Running in Windows XP/Vista/7

buriedintimelogo

This is the second game in the Journeyman Project trilogy.  And, for me, the most memorable.  The artwork seems a bit dated now, but at the time of release it looked beautiful to me.  The acting didn’t bother me either…back then.  Now, well, any time an actor (in this case the main character) stops to smack his lips between phrases, you know you’re in for a treat!  The best part was the news editorial that was in no way editorial–the “news anchor” had no opinion of anything.  He just reported what other people thought.  Fortunately, the player may suffer through the video clips early on in the game and leave them far behind.

Read More

21 Aug

Time Out! Free Wii Games?

nintendo_wii_1

First: The Nintendo Wii is without question the best gaming console I’ve ever owned. Of course, it is the only console I’ve ever owned…but that’s another matter. When my best friend, Alex Jernigan, received his new Atari 2600 for Christmas, I got a Big Trak programmable tank.  And that’s about as close as it got for me to actually possessing a game machine.

(Dude, that trak is dope!)

800px_big_trak_white_background

Which was great…until my cousin, Paul Baron, dropped it after tripping over something in the dark. It developed a horrible “clicking” noise thereafter…the sound of some of the gears eating themselves. But, 25 years later, the counseling is going well, and I think I’m making pretty good progress…

Oh, well. Anyway:  Get a Wii. Really. Right now, I’ll wait.

[amazon-product align=”center”]B0009VXBAQ[/amazon-product]

And once you have one, you’ll need games. Like the incredible Super Paper Mario, which is unbelievably entertaining.

[amazon-product align=”center”]B000NNDN1M[/amazon-product]

We love to have other families over–sometimes 1 or 2 times each week. The Wii is usually central to the entertainment. And not just for the kids, as a matter of fact, the kids usually have to fight for a chance! One weekend we had mostly family in town, and the Wii stayed active for over 9 full hours! Another time, the amazing C-and-C stopped by (Chris and Courtney), and we visited until nearly 3:30AM, watching Rick Astley videos on the Wii’s browser and looking at all their European vacation pictures via the Wii’s SD card reader.

Alright. Now, I don’t ordinarily do this, but have a throw-away email address handy, click on this link and Sign up for Prize Rebel. I wouldn’t suggest it for many other sites, but this one seems different. Read the FAQ, take some surveys, and save up some points for from free Wii stuff.

Seriously, though, have a separate hotmail account or something! I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

I will continue with Wing Commander II shortly. There have been some nutty things happening with my work that totally threw me off my pace. I apologize for that. Anyway, stay tuned!

15 May

Wing Commander I on DOSBox Video Guide

wc101

Specifications

Title: Wing Commander
Subtitle: The 3D Space Combat Simulator
Released: 1990
Developer: Origin Systems
Genre: Flight Sim
Emulation: DOSBox

wc1021

I parked my car in what seemed like the forgotten recesses of a parking lot. The strip mall itself made a kind of an “L” shape, and I had driven through a small opening where the two wings met. There was a small parking lot that held maybe 20 cars, many of the spots already taken by employees of the nearby shops. I found that the foot of the “L” actually extended past where they would have joined, and

back here on the heel, facing a little used side street was my destination.

AmiTek. I didn’t even know the place existed. It was one on the last remaining Amiga stores anywhere in my area in fall of 1992. I headed in–they were big Toaster guys, and had an entire corner of the little storefront setup for video production. Mounted on the wall were some of the first good shielded multi-media speakers I had ever seen–stereo if you can believe it!

lemmingsBut they had a rack with probably only 20 or so game titles on it. Little cardboard Lemmings (some kind of marketing pack) were taped all over the walls and shelves, all doing nonsensical but cute things. But I immediately saw something that I frankly hadn’t expected–a box that proclaimed to the world that it was a 3D Space Combat Simulator…

My hand, almost of it’s own accord, reached out and took hold of this game. Someone else had just entered the shop and was heading over for the game rack…there were other games I

wanted to investigate, but did I dare put down this one? I intended to buy a game that Saturday morning, but was it this one? I tucked it under my arm, and from that point only visually inspected the rest of the titles–not wanting to appear greedy by picking up a second one.

I could sense that this new shopper–my competition–was eyeing the game box under my arm. That did it. My decision was made. It was time to along, calmly, slowly–nonchalantly.

“I see you grabbed hold of Wing Commander pretty quickly there,” a store employee said with a smile as he came around the counter. Then a concerned look crossed his face. “What model of Amiga do you have?”

amiga500_1

“Uh…a 500,” I said sheepishly, and feeling immediately lame I quickly added, “I want to get a 3000 later this year.”

It wasn’t quite a lie.

His eyes narrowed a bit and said, “You might want to try it out first, Wing Commander runs a little slowly on a 500. We have a new 600 over here if you want to boot it up.”

amiga500_2

I was loathe to admit that I had no idea what a 600 might be…but I ambled in the direction he seemed to be indicating and found a little gray box that apparently was a new Amiga model. (It actually was the replacement model to my Amiga 500.) Not wanting to appear like the noob I truly was, I was rapidly inspecting every inch of the computer in front me with my eyes as my hands slowly opened the Wing Commander box. Ah-ha! The floppy drive is in the side! Now, where’s the power button?

I flipped the disk in and booted up the game. This may seem odd to the PC world, but all Amiga games pretty much came on floppies with the operating system built in. So literally one would put the first game disk into the machine, power it on, and it would load an OS and then launch the game. In the case of Wing Commander on an Amiga 600 (and later at home on a 500), I was presented with a horribly slow, almost frame-by-frame, 3D engine that was nearly unplayable.

Nearly, I said.

wc103

Yes, I bought it. I was already in love with it, even after only a few minutes. So much so that Wing Commander II was the first PC software I ever purchased. But now, I want to play the real Wing Commander–the original, on a PC, full 256 colors, and a great frame rate. I’ll be honest, it was a struggle on the Amiga to play–and I never really got that far.

Once again, we turn our eyes to DOSBox, and prepare ourselves for the ultimate retro gaming experience in the Space Sim category.

Wing Commander is unique in the gaming world. It has a long lineage, a rabidly loyal fan-base (of which I count myself a member), and even a new game coming soon to Xbox Live, Wing Commander Arena. It may also be the only motion picture, based from a game, that can actually be watched without repeated compulsive vomiting. I can’t say whether space will ever be the same or not…but the movie wasn’t horrible.

But, more even more exciting than a new Xbox game is some of the fan projects that have been started in the Wing Commander universe, such as Wing Commander Saga. But we’ll get to that–right now, let’s get to the point of this guide!

wcarena1

Guide

Our choice for an emulation environment will be DOSBox on this one. It runs with 90% of the dos games out there, and it wonderfully easy to use. So, I’ll assume that you have the latest version, if not get it here: http://dosbox.sourceforge.net. Here is the video guide, click on the image below to launch it.

And you will need the game itself–I am not certain of Wing Commander’s abandonware status. I have an original copy of the Amiga version, so I felt well within my rights to download the PC version from Abandonia. Click to watch the Guide:

wc1_1

For the purpose of the video, I am running the game in a windowed mode. Full screen provides better performance on average, so I usually run things that way from the batch file. The command line for the batch file is:

dosbox -conf wc1.conf -fullscreen -noconsole -exit

I’ll just post the changes from the changes to the standard DOSBox config file below–as always, please note that this is not a full configuration, but just the settings that were adjusted to make this game work.

Deltas

[cpu]
core=dynamic
cycles=5500

The cycles setting needs to be dialed-in for each computer system. Ordinarily I would start somewhere above 10000 on a modern system and work forward until the game started acting strangely. However, this Wing Commander can run faster that a human can play–so in this case we have to dial in a playable speed. For my system, that is about 5500 cycles. Start the game in windowed mode, then use Ctrl-F11 to slow down and Ctrl-F12 to speed up the cycle rate inside DOSBox. The title bar of the window will display the current setting, so you can make it permanent in the config file.

[midi]
mpu401=none

[sblaster]
sbtype=sb2

[gus]
gus=false

[speaker]
pcspeaker=false
tandy=off
disney=false

[bios]
joysticktype=2axis
[autoexec]
mount c c:\Archives\games\wc -freesize 20
c:
cd wc1
WC Origin -k

wc1_2

Here is a video of the game in action–gaze at the hand-drawn wonder! Below is a quick sample of the in-game sound. I did a little processing on it, so I think it sounds pretty good for FM modulation.

Wing Commander Saga

And now we have something really special: Anton Romanyuk, otherwise known as Tolwyn of Wing Commander Saga fame, has sat down a moment to talk with us. The interview will spread across all six Wing Commander guides that are planned, so you’ll just have to keep checking back to see it all 😉

Fourth Law:
Hey, Anton, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I think people are very excited about Saga–I certainly am. First off, please tell a bit about yourself.

Anton Romanyuk:
Ok, my name is Anton Romanyuk and I am the founder of the Wing Commander Saga project. I have been its constant advocate to make sure it makes its way out of my dreams and in to reality. As the project leader, I have to maintain the Wing Commander Saga website, render 3d animations and models, create 2d graphics, address scripting issues, edit sound, coordinate team efforts, and much more. When I am not busy with Wing Commander Saga, I am pursuing a degree in medieninformatik at the Munich University.

Fourth Law:
Great, but what is Wing Commander Saga, anyway (as if I didn’t know)?

Anton Romanyuk:
Wing Commander Saga is a space combat simulation computer game based on the popular Wing Commander universe created by Chris Roberts. A few months ago, on the 31th of December, the introductory chapter entitled Wing Commander Saga: Prologue had finally been released. The game is completely free to download.

Wing Commander Saga: Prologue feaures a new chapter set before Wing Commander 3 which explains the events suffered by the human race in its fight for survival.

Prologue doesn’t use the same graphic engine as the original game. The actual engine is that of Freespace 2, improved by the efforts of the Source Code Project team. This results in a spectacular adventure with an incredible visual aspect. The game features a solid plot with models, music, sounds and feel all transferred from the original series to the new engine.

The flagship campaign of Wing Commander Saga, “The Darkest Dawn” begins right before Wing Commander 3 and concludes with the ending of the Terran-Kilrathi War (whether or not the Terrans win depends on you). Check out the progress at http://www.wcsaga.com/.

To be continued…

Here are some clickable screenshots from Saga you’ve probably never seen. 🙂 It’s looking great, Saga Team!

warp01_sm

warp02_sm

warp03_sm

warp04_sm

Anton says:

“This feature hasn’t been shown before: seemless transition between different systems (should remind of WC4 and the mission in the Axius system). :)”

Sandman: “Looks like no one’s here.”

Have fun, and check back often–Wing Commander 2 is next, which is yet another great game. And, I will also be posting another excerpt from the Wing Commander Saga interview. See you, Space Cowboy.

23 Apr

Tex Murphy Radio Theater and DOSBox Guides – The Recap!

deadend

I guess we’ve come to the end of the road with Tex for now. Simply some of the best adventure games ever made–without question. And honestly, I’m sad to see them all done. But, hey, we got them all running very well on Windows XP. Here are the guides, click on the box art to jump directly to the post:

tex_mstex_mmtex_uakmtex_pdtex_o

These are all excellent games–I certainly wish that I could provide ISO files for the final three games. However, for one thing, Bryan probably wouldn’t want to pay for that kind of bandwidth for his server. But, while Access is gone, Microsoft now owns the rights to at least the final three games–and, frankly, I don’t know whether they can be considered abandonware.
Look, I’m not a lawyer–I don’t even play one on TV–but here is the delineation with which I can morally and ethically live:

If one may purchase a new copy from somewhere, then it is not abandonware.

This seems to be true for Arcade ROMs, games, and other software. In conversations with Michael Verdu several years ago, I pointed out many of the Legend Entertainment games on The Home of the Underdogs, and he said that he thought it was great. They had gone through a merger of some sort and the adventure market crashed, so he was happy that people could get at his work. I can’t suss out every possible angle, but my definition holds for LucasArts games–which can apparently still be purchased new…and LucasArts appears to be delighted to sue any site that does not respond to a Cease and Desist order.

All of that is well and good, but I’m not going to go up against Microsoft for hosting Tex Murphy ISO files. 🙂

And speaking of which, now that we’ve played all of the Tex games, where are we going to go to find out what happens next? Overseer ends in a massive cliff-hanger–and we are all left in the lurch.

radiotheater

The guys from Access came to our rescue with Tex Murphy Radio Theater. Six episodes on mp3; all extremely well-made, with high production values. They take up from the end of Overseer and lead us through the first chapter of the next planned game, which may never now be produced.

Please Note: The first and last episodes have a few (short), shall we say, “racy” bits. In the first, Tex is dreaming and it actually becomes a pretty funny joke if you stick with it. The last episode, well, it is only a brief comment and it can easily be skipped. I’m not sure why they went a little over-the-top with the radio shows in comparison to the games, but I thought it would be good to offer out fair warning.  As a gauge, though, it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow on network television.

Click the play button to listen online, or download the entire mp3:

Episode 1: The Naked and the Bed

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 1.mp3]

Episode 2: The Month of the Living Dead

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 2.mp3]

Episode 3: The Monkey’s Tail

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 3.mp3]

Episode 4: Foreshadowings and a Funeral

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 4.mp3]

Episode 5: Jail, Bail, and Happy Trails

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 5.mp3]

Episode 6: Games of Chance

[audio:Tex Murphy Radio Theater – Episode 6.mp3]

I had to convert the sampling rate of Episode 6. For some reason it was released as a 32000 Hz file, and my audio player will only play standard sampling rates, so I dropped it to 22050 and it works fine. I mention this in case someone notices the difference from the original.

And now, there you have it. Apart from a few IRC interviews archived around the web, we’ve covered about all the Tex Murphy information available anywhere. I had a blast, and I hope you did too.

wc_1_box_cropendian_button

In the works for the Fourth Law:

  • Next up for Retro Gaming will be Wing Commander. These games are imminently playable on DOSBox, and are great fun. Oh, yeah, and happen to be a major slice of PC history.
  • But on the Connections side of the house, Fourth Law will bring you a step-by-step guide to really secure the home network with enterprise-class protection from Endian Community. I’m looking forward to this one. The Internet is a nasty place, and your widdle NAT-based router won’t cut it anymore, so you don’t want to miss this one.

Check back early and often!

20 Apr

Tex Murphy – Mean Streets on DOSBox Video Guide

ms02ms03ms04

Never played it. Really. But I would have loved it, if I had!

As a matter of fact, in 1989 I was concentrating on writing the half dozen term-sized papers that Ms. Stinson was pleased to assign to every Senior English class as a matter of course. So, on one hand, during my Freshman year of college while the rest of the class was freaking out about a few piddly research papers, I was thinking, “Just another day of English.” But on the other hand, I missed out on a classic game.

tex_ms1

Mean Streets was yet another ground-breaking game in Access Software’s long line of the same. It included a state-of-the-art (for the time) flight simulator engine as well as a few side-scrolling action sequences into what would ordinarily be thought of as an adventure game. So, regardless how many advertisements for the latest games talk about how New Game X is innovative for it’s cross-genre gaming, the idea is actually old hat. Truthfully, even the Zork games had RPG elements (random throws for battle damage) and Action elements (fighting that stupid dwarf)–and they were text-based games.

The sound in Mean Streets was also cutting edge. And now that I have DOSBox it is easy to replicate a PC on which the game would run natively. In almost every way, DOSBox is even better than playing games in the late ’80s. This is mainly because I am not imprisoned in a drab windowless DOS cell. But it also stems from the fact that DOSBox is so incredibly configurable. Take a look for yourself, click the video below:

ms05

For instance, Mean Streets preceded the Sound Blaster, and as such only supported RealSound via the PC speaker. According to the wiki:

RealSound is a patented technology for the PC created by Access Software during the late 1980s. RealSound enables digitized PCM-audio playback on the PC speaker. The first video games to use it were World Class Leader Board and Echelon, both released in 1988. At the time of release, sound cards were very expensive and RealSound allowed people to get life-like sounds and speech with no additional sound hardware, just the standard PC speaker.

Odd that Tex Murphy has something in common with Spellcasting 101, but Legend Entertainment evidently thought RealSound was the bee’s knees. In any case, this little factoid provides us with an interesting twist on our DOSBox setup. Perhaps not as challenging as a complex sound configuration, but interesting at least for its singularity.

It sounds remarkably good, by the way. Below is a sample of the music–I even captured some of the sound effects at the end. On 1.2MB floppies, they probably agonized over the decision to include sounds for a right and left footfall! Give it a listen:

[audio:ms01.mp3]

We will be using the following changes to the standard config file:

[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=none

[sblaster]
sbtype=none

[gus]
gus=false

[speaker]
pcspeaker=true
pcrate=22050
tandy=off
tandyrate=22050
disney=false

[dos]
xms=true
ems=false
umb=true
keyboardlayout=none

[autoexec]
mount c c:\archives\games -freesize 20
c:
cd\ms
ms

And the standard batch file of:

dosbox -conf tex_ms.conf -noconsole -exit

So, let’s run through it quickly with the video guide. As you will see, there is really minimal setup involved:

ms06

That brings us to the end of the Tex Murphy games. I have something special planned for next week to close off the chapter on Tex Murphy–check back often!

13 Apr

Tex Murphy Martian Memorandum and DOSBox Guide (Video)

The second PC game I ever purchased. After Wing Commander II, straight off the shelves of Best Buy, my hands found their way to Martian Memorandum, by Access Software. Little did I know that I was about to meet Tex Murphy for the first time.

tex_mm1

I wanted an adventure game. WC2 was fun…once I went back and bought a CH FlightStick (not the Pro version, they cost too much at the time 🙂 ). However, some of my fondest gaming memories were of adventure games on my Amiga. Now with my new PC, I once again wanted to pit my intellect against that of the game designers. I need some brain stimulation. Something that would make me think.

So, after finally removing the ugliness of OS/2 2.1 from my brand new PC, and purchasing two sound cards–the Gravis UltraSound, with which the musician in me fell in love, and the brand new Sound Blaster 16. I was ready to play.

250px-floppydrive

Good thing I had a 5 1/4″ drive…and a lot of patience. But it finally finished installing. I struggled with my sound, finally winning out, loaded up Martian Memorandum and promptly lost about a week of my life.

OK. It wasn’t the best adventure game ever made. Matter of fact…it was incredibly irritating in places. And it certainly was no Under a Killing Moon–Martian Memorandum doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to the final three Tex titles. And really, even compared with Mean Streets, the first Tex game, it comes up short. Mean Streets was actually fairly ground-breaking at the time. At this point, I’m almost wondering myself why I would bother with this game–well, two reasons. First, we need a complete chronology of Tex Murphy. We started with these guides, so we’d better be as complete as possible. Secondly, for nostalgia purposes–it really was my first PC adventure game.

If you’re coming along on the Martian Memorandum trail with me, you’re going to need some things.

  1. DOSBox: If you’ve followed the other guides on The Fourth Law, you already have it. Just download it and install it.
  2. Martian Memorandum: This game is abandonware, and available from several places. Personally, I love The Underdogs.
  3. ConTEXT: Well, you don’t really need this one. Yet it’s one of the best editors out there, and, unlike UltraEdit, ConTEXT is free.

Hey! It says “video” in the title, right? Well, as long as DOSBox is installed on the system, we’re ready. Let’s get right to it–click on the video file below:

mm01

Really quickly, here are config file changes we made in the video:

[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=intelligent
device=default
config=

[sblaster]
sbtype=sb16
sbbase=220
irq=7
dma=1
hdma=5
mixer=true
oplmode=auto
oplrate=22050

[gus]
gus=false
gusrate=22050
gusbase=240
irq1=5
irq2=5
dma1=3
dma2=3
ultradir=C:\ULTRASND

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

[autoexec]
mount c c:\Archives\games -freesize 20
c:
cd\mm
mm

My changes are in italics.

All in all, this one is a good game to take on the road and play back in the room. Here is the result:

mm02

Thanks for watching! If you like the article, please comment or better yet, submit me to digg. Or best yet, both! 🙂

Along these lines, just found a great gaming community at Subgamers.com.  I’m new there, but it seems to be a very active site with deep info in the forums.  Check it out.

See you, Space Cowboy.

06 Apr

Tex Murphy, DOSBox, and the Gravis UltraSound 16

gus

I had just purchased my first PC after years of loving my Amiga. It was 1992, and after much pouring over the Sunday BestBuy inserts, I finally purchased. At over $3000, I received an IBM4019 laser printer, a 14″-ish monitor, and an IBM 486DX/33 PS/1 with 8MB of RAM (standard was 2 or maybe 4) and a 210MB hard drive.

Naturally, this machine was preloaded with OS/2, and didn’t come with drivers for the printer (which was part of the package). And, as was common, there was no sound card. So, back to BestBuy I go…and based upon specs alone, I purchased a Gravis UltraSound. I was a clean slate–I had no knowledge or preconceptions about the PC sound card market of the time.

I didn’t even realize how lame OS/2 2.1 was, either, I guess I had heard the name Windows, before–but OS/2 had Windows built right in! What a noob. Wing Commander II ran fine under OS/2, but there was no way I could find to get the game sound to play through my spanking new sound card. Many calls to IBM later, they finally just sent me a set of DOS/Windows reinstall disks. Finally! Things worked. Sorta.

gus_card

“Advanced Gravis taught me how to use a computer!”

They didn’t intend to…it was just that the GUS had absolutely zero native support in games. Sure it sounded far superior to the SB16 I purchased later in a fit of pique (Forgive me, Gravis!), but I wanted to play games!!! Particularly the only two I owned–Wing Commander II and, ironically enough, Martian Memorandum.

wingiitex_mm2

And to top it all off, the IBM install booted directly to Windows, and when you exited would take the machine to a bizarre DOS Shell application that would ask if you wanted to go back to Windows or maybe the DOS SHELL…which wasn’t DOS. It was some ANSI based file manager. But I stated to learn the ways of the PC world.

But, let’s use some of those fantastic MIDI patches in our DOSBox games!

dosboxlogo

To start, one will need a DOSBox install and a game. For the purpose of this posting, we will continue from my previous guide and utilize the setup for DOSBox and Under a Killing Moon (the third in the Tex Murphy series). Read the article in its full form here on the Fourth Law to catch up.

And go ahead and start downloading the GUS install diskettes.

Ok, here’s the trickiest part (not really)–unzip them all into the same folder. Let it overwrite the text file each time.

gus01

gus02

gus03

Now, we get to install the GUS software where DOSBox can get at it. Open up a command prompt, change to the directory where the files were unzipped, and execute INSTALL.EXE. Step-by-step:

  1. Start | Run | CMD <enter>
  2. CD\<path to install files>
  3. INSTALL <enter>

There is no way to use the regular installation script, since part of it will try to detect the hardware–which isn’t there. Therefore, we will use “Restore File(s)”.

gus04

Tell it to restore everything using wildcards. Type *.* for the selection. Oh, and don’t forget to mail in your UltraSound registration!

gus05

When it asks, tell it to install to the C: drive. A security warning message will probably appear, just tell it yes.

gus06

gus07

Allow it just to install to the default directory. The plan is to move it to a location that DOSBox will use as its root.

gus08

Once that is complete, exit from the install program and the command prompt. Now, in Windows, explore to C:\ULTRASND, grab the folder and move it to the root of your games directory (or where ever DOSBox maps as its C: drive). In my case, this is C:\Archives\Games.

gus09

DOSBox, meet the GUS. GUS, p0wn the DOSBox.

Now Remember: Since we are emulating more digital audio rather than just passing MIDI calls to the Windows MIDI mapper, this setup hinders the performance of DOSBox.

Open the DOSBox config file–which, if my previous guide is being followed, is called TEX_UAKM.CONF. We will first turn off the MPU-401 interface. Under the midi section, let’s change it from “intelligent” to “none”.

[midi]
mpu401=none

Make sure that the sbtype=none and the GUS emulation is turned on.

[gus]
gus=true
gusrate=22050
gusbase=240
irq1=5
irq2=5
dma1=3
dma2=3
ultradir=C:\ULTRASND

Save the config and launch it with DOSBox.

Alright! Now let’s play the classic file HIDNSEEK.MID using the UltraSound MIDI Player. I know, I know–but it still gives me goosebumps, probably only for nostalgic reasons. These sounds being produced by my 486 simply knocked me out at the time. I didn’t really think a PC could produce audio at that level. Comparing it to the other 16bit cards of the day, even the Wave Blaster SB16 daughter board, the sound quality was unbelievable.

And it was second to none for Digital Audio playback (not that it matters here–since it is only being emulated).

Try it out! From the DOSBox command prompt:

  1. CD\ULTRASND <enter>
  2. PLAYMIDI <enter>
  3. Select the MIDI directory

gus10

This is just a little DOS application for play .MID files. The General MIDI specification (GM) required 16 channels, and utilized volume levels from 0 to 127. In case anyone wonders, the volumes per channel are shown on the right, and the pitch is on the left. Escape exits, if you need it.

gus11

w00t. Now, for Tex Murphy. This actually stopped me for a little while. I simply could not get the MIDI card setup inside UAKM to detect the UltraSound. Then, something at the edge of my memory caused me to more closely examine the Tex Murphy UAKM install directory.

Sure enough! MOONGRAV.BAT…for playing Under a Killing Moon with a GRAVis card. Duh!

It simply uses an Advanced Gravis utility to preload the MIDI patches into the sound card’s on-board RAM before the game starts. It has a bunch of echo lines and a pause in it, but the meat of it are these two lines:

loadpats mem1
TEX3 %1 %2 %3 %4 %5

I don’t know why it is passing all five arguments to the EXE in the second line, but I know we will need to make some changes to this file. For one thing, we don’t want to emulate the stock GUS that shipped with only 256k of RAM, we want to emulate one that the owner has painstakingly filled up to a megabyte. And when I say “painstakingly”, I speak from experience. They didn’t just sell those SOJ modules anywhere. And also, we need to run the patched file TEX197 rather that the original TEX3 executable.

Anyway, open up MOONGRAV.BAT from your UAKM directory and edit the last two lines thusly:

loadpats mem4
TEX197 %1 %2 %3 %4 %5

And now, run MOONGRAV.BAT. It will take a second to load the patches. Tex will start, but complain that the MIDI card has not been configured.

uakm20

Just set it up as we did in the last post (I/O Port 240) and away we go.

uakm21

Tex on a GUS. Now that’s living the life!

Hope this helps! Have fun revisiting the olden days. If you really want to tweak, here’s a copy of the last version of MegaEm for GUS and the PROPATS bundle of patch replacements.

03 Apr

Tex Murphy Under a Killing Moon – DOSBox Guide (No CDs)

When last we met our hero, he was struggling in vain to hear the sweet jazz stylings of James Earl Jones as the Great Detective in the Sky. “Why, oh, why aren’t DOS legacy sound drivers a requirement of WQHL certification?” he lamented…

uakm-box

I was working 3rd Shift (11:00pm to 7:00am) when I first saw Under a Killing Moon. And, as one might imagine, I had a great deal of spare time on my hands. A perfect situation for an adventure game that was fun, and most importantly, had serious plot-depth. I can even remember the PC Gaming articles, remarking that it was a game with chuztspa to recommend 4 CDROM drives and a 486DX/66 just to get the full experience. And really, it has only been out-paced by hardware in the last 4 or 5 years–which is frankly remarkable for a game that was released in 1994!

uakm01uakm02

This unique game was an instant classic, and should always be mentioned with the top-shelf of classic games that truly innovated the adventure genre. So, in my mind, Tex Murphy always keeps company with King’s Quest, Myst, and Zork. UAKM was the first game to take a fully navigable 3D environment and interweave it with full-motion video. This created a result that far beyond just a gimmick, but instead transformed itself into a new genre of gaming. Personally, I would trace the Thief games and System Shock II back to this early beginning.

But how do I play it today?

I’m here to help. This is the 3rd of my Tex Murphy Guide articles, here on the Fourth Law. I’ve dealt with the hardest to run of the series, Pandora Directive. We’ve seen Overseer running pretty well in XP. And now, I’ll swing around to the original, ground-breaking game, Under a Killing Moon. It runs extremely well on DOSBox with modern hardware, just like Pandora Directive. So, if you have read my article on PD, then you can probably quickly adapt the same techniques to UAKM and get going (don’t forget the patch).

gus1

But, I’m going to dig a little deeper and go for the ultimate retro experience (at least for me), and setup Under a Killing Moon to use the Advanced Gravis UltraSound 16 for audio and MIDI music. Just playing the demo MID files from the GUS install disks was such a nostalgic experience it almost physically disoriented me. Ah, HIDNSEEK.MID, how I loved thee…

I still have two GUS16s (1024K and 512K) at home, and an official GUS MIDI/Joystick breakout cable. Had to special order it from Gravis…I think the made them by hand or something 🙂

Just to be clear, here, this will actually take a chunk back from the performance of the game. Therefore, I will demonstrate how to just use the General MIDI interface as well, which I believe maps directly to the XP MIDI Mapper. The General MIDI interface in DOSBox will be much more efficient–so it should probably be used to play through UAKM. Anyway, we’ll do both–GM for performance, and GUS for old skool fun. However, due to the length of this post I am going to add the GUS guide as a Part 2.

First order of business, obtain a copy of the game. I suggest eBay for this one. Amazon will occasionally have a used copy, but they seem scarce there. So get one…and even a few scratches won’t be a big deal, as part of the process will be imaging the CDs to the hard drive–which usually mitigates those scratches that cause the optical reader fits. To do this, we’ll once again tap Alex Feinman’s ISO Recorder Power Toy. This free tool simply creates ISO files from CDs or DVDs. Place each disk into the drive, right-click on the drive and select Create Image from CD.

iso_1

Then store it someplace handy. I suggest creating an ISO directory using game name to keep them all separate. And just for simplicity’s sake, use director names without spaces in them. Spaces seem to bug DOSBox. For instance:

C:\archives\iso\disk1.iso

iso_2

Now that we have our ISO images, we can move onto DOSBox itself.

dosboxlogo1

Download the most current version. In this guide, I’ll be using 0.70, but the config files appear to be backward compatible. Let it install with all the defaults. I’ll do a little cut and paste from the PD guide: After it is installed, browse out to the folder C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.70\ and look inside. It wouldn’t hurt to read the README.TXT, but we’ll skip it for now.

To follow my method, we’ll be creating a pair of text files. The first one is called tex_uakm.bat and will easily launch our DOSBox session with our choice of command-line switches. For the second file, copy the default dosbox.conf to a new file called tex_uakm.conf. This file will contain all the sound card, cpu, and memory settings required to run the game, and will also mount all of our ISO images as CD drives.

I have my ISO files in C:\archives\iso\tex\uakm\ so, obviously, the bit at the end may need to be changed to the proper location. Here are links to copies of my own files:

tex_uakm.conf
tex_uakm.bat

However, since you are probably here partly for the challenge of beating a DOS game into submission, let’s briefly go through the changes to the config. This will be helpful later should you decide to go on and setup the GUS MIDI or play another game entirely.

I’m going to start with the section called RENDER. This is a change from the previous guide, but after some testing with .070 there seems no need for some of the settings. Just set frameskip to 1 from the default of 0, which serves to smooth things out a bit.

[render]
frameskip=1

Now to one of the most critical spots. CPU core will default to auto, but I force it to stay in dynamic. Also, pay close attention to where the cycles setting is. This is the one we’ll have to tweak to get a good Tex experience. Is that a “Texperience”?

[cpu]
core=dynamic
cycles=14000

Let’s go ahead and address this here. Essentially this: Start at around 12000 or 14000 and move it up at 1000 cycle intervals until the game gets as fast as possible, but doesn’t cook the sound or tear the video. In other words, once the process of installing the game and setting up the sound is complete, this configuration file needs to be edited, this number changed, the file saved, and the game tested. It will take some time, but it is the only way the optimum performance can be dialed in for each individual computer system.

There are no changes to the Mixer section, but I wanted to point out the rate setting…this can be lowered if you really need the performance, but if that has to be done, you might be wasting your time on slow hardware. This shouldn’t make enough difference on a modern machine to be the sliver bullet that takes you from an unplayable choppy mess to silky smooth gaming delight. Oh, and the nosound may seem counter-intuitive: make sure it is false if you do, in fact, want sound.

[mixer]
nosound=false
rate=22050

Defaults are fine for the MIDI section. (If planning to GUS it up, keep a mental note on this section.)

[midi]
mpu401=intelligent
device=default
config=

Here’s some changes from the Pandora Directive Guide, turn off the Sound Blaster emulation:

[sblaster]
sbtype=none

And turn on the GUS! w00t!

[gus]
gus=true

gusrate=22050
gusbase=240
irq1=5
irq2=5
dma1=3
dma2=3
ultradir=C:\ULTRASND

Turn off the PC speaker, Disney Sound Source, Tandy, Joystick, and stuff:

[speaker]
pcspeaker=none
pcrate=22050
tandy=off
tandyrate=22050
disney=false[joystick]
joysticktype=none

The defaults are fine for all the rest, but let’s turn off Extended Memory (EMS):

[dos]
xms=true
ems=false
umb=true
keyboardlayout=none

Lastly, I’ll add a few lines to the Autoexec section to mount our ISO images. Change this to reflect the proper location, if needed:

[autoexec]
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
mount c c:\Archives\games -freesize 20
imgmount D “c:\archives\iso\tex\uakm\disk1.iso” -t iso
imgmount E “c:\archives\iso\tex\uakm\disk2.iso” -t iso
imgmount F “c:\archives\iso\tex\uakm\disk3.iso” -t iso
imgmount G “c:\archives\iso\tex\uakm\disk4.iso” -t iso
c:
cd\moon
#tex197

If you’re keeping score at home, you might notice that the last line has a # in front of it to comment it out–basically telling DOSBox to skip this line. We will want to take that out later after we complete the installation and patch. Save this file as tex_uakm.conf and then create a batch file with the following lines:

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

And save it as tex_uakm.bat. Now we’re ready to install Under a Killing Moon, so run the batch file. It should place us in the C:\MOON directory. Type in SETUP and hit enter. Edit:  I made a big mistake here–thanks to Detray for discovering it! Change to the D: drive (or whichever letter is mapped to the ISO of the first CD) and run SETUP.EXE.  In other words, at the C: prompt, type:

D: <enter>
SETUP <enter>

And the following screen should appear.

uakm01a1

Pretty obvious, click Install Software.

uakm02a

Click OK to accept the defaults. Notice all 4 of your virtual CD-ROM drives! 🙂

uakm03

Confirm the path.

uakm04

And now, we patch. Download this file and just unzip it into the game directory.

uakm05

Let’s setup the game!

uakm06

Click OK, and let it Autodetect.

uakm07

Click Auto Detect for the tenth time and one should see the following results–matching the DOSBox config. Port 240, IRQ 5, DMA 1.

uakm08

uakm09

Click the Sound Test to hear Tex say

“Prophecy is not in my job description. I’m just a humble P.I. trying to save the world as we know it.”

uakm10

Now to the MIDI setup:, click Continue:

uakm11

uakm12

Here is where we will use the General MIDI interface for performance reasons, and set the port to 330. Change the settings and test the sound. Some film noir jazz should be pounding from the speakers.

uakm13

Lastly, let’s take advantage of UAKM’s interface that allows us to use 4 CD drives.

If the goal is to get UAKM setup and running, this is where you can leave us. Click OK, select New Game, and save the world!

Stay tuned for the Ultimate DOSBox Gravis UltraSound 16 and Tex Murphy Under a Killing Moon installation guide!

Hope this helps–if it does, please comment or digg it!

26 Mar

Tex Murphy Overseer Install Guide

texmurphyoverseer

I remember walking into my new Software Etc store in the late 90’s and wondering where it would all end. Who and how were they going to top this one? The box on the rack that contained Tex Murphy Overseer had a little, flashing, red light to highlight the box art. Right at the top of the building in picture was a miniature LED driven by a watch battery. Definitely eye-catching.

tex_o_boxannotated

And the MMX badge prominently displayed–it was Intel, in fact, that played a large role in financing this fifth entry into the Tex Murphy Universe. And if you read the interviews with Access muckity-mucks, the imposed development time-line necessary to get the game done at the same time the Pentium MMX processors shipped is somewhat to blame for Overseer’s rough edges. Ah, but the fond memories (of course, when I think about my Pentium 166MMX (with a Voodoo3d card), MDK comes to mind first for some reason…).

This game was also unique in that it shipped on 5 CDs, like it’s predecessors Under a Killing Moon (4 CDs) and Pandora Directive (6 CDs). However, it also included a single DVD version of the game with (supposedly) much higher quality video.

If you’re like me, you didn’t have a DVD drive in those days. Mainly because to do things right, one needed not only a DVD-ROM drive at the steep price of $300 or so, but also a Hardware MPEG card. These cards (like the REELMagic) also cost about $250-$300, but were almost required due to the relatively stodgy performance of even the fastest CPU of the day. So, I didn’t have one.

I played Overseer by swapping the CDROM disks, like most people. One leg at a time.

But, over the interceding years I would occasionally ponder the DVD version of the game. You and I are probably not too different in this. Perhaps you would find yourself considering the disk, lurking darkly in the game box in the deep recesses of the basement. Who knows what wonders would be revealed simply by installing it? And sooner or later, the temptation would become too great–great enough to root through the junk in the attic or whereever and find it.

The heady anticipation we felt as we popped that disk into the drive, thinking, “I was so lame back then–how could I have gotten along with just a silly CD drive?” And our chortling at ourselves would give way to a rapt excitement, as that autoplay we’ve been meaning to shut off decides to work with us for a change and we see:

o01

Oh, the joy! My stupid old Pentium 166MMX wouldn’t be loading it that fast! No, sir! This is going to be great–WHAT?!?!

o02

With an almost PC LOAD LETTER calmness, one small Windows message deflates our high hopes faster than a balloon animal made by Needles the Clown. Oh well, we told ourselves, it wasn’t that great a game. Maybe someday I’ll build a Windows 95 machine with which to play old games. We blinked back the tears and went on with our dull lives…

But not today. Today we’re going to beat it. We will play Overseer again!

Since Overseer has a much different architecture when compared to Under A Killing Moon and Pandora Directive, our options to play this game are substantially different. There may be variations, but they roughly break down like this:

  1. Option 1: Build a Windows 98SE PC. Seriously, you could buy all the stuff from Ebay (CPU/MBD/FAN), throw 256MB of RAM on it and Ebay an nVidia TNT AGP card, and a Sound Blaster ISA card. This would be a fun project–you could even buy a PC case that identical to the one you have and a $40 KVM switch to bounce your Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse between them. Or, go out into the garage and dig up enough parts to build a machine 🙂
  2. Option 2: Full Virtualization, once again. Host Windows 9x in a VM session. With a really fast dual core CPU and gobs of memory, this may get you where you want to be…or it could end up performing slower than that Pentium 166 originally was…bleck.
  3. Option 3: Tweak–and enjoy 3D acceleration, smoothness, and breakneck performance. And best of all, “high quality DVD video”. Oh, did I mention, at the cost of MIDI music? Yeah, sorry, I’ll explain why this is apparently unavoidable in a minute.

Once again, my main goal is to be able to play these games on the road or on a Media PC. So, with those restrictions in mind, I am constrained to Option 3 with Windows XP or Vista. The only real prereq here is to have a DVD decoder codec installed. If you can watch Movie DVDs on your computer, you then you already have one. PowerDVD and WinDVD are good ones–versions of Windows Vista already come equipped.

First thing we need to do is install the game–mostly, anyway. Insert the DVD, browse to my computer, right-click on the DVD drive and select “Explore”.

o03

Now, right-click on SETUP.EXE and select properties again. Switch to the compatibility tab and turn on Windows 95 compatibility mode. Click OK, then execute the setup program.

Have you ever noticed how people incorrectly use the phrases “capital punishment” and “execution” interchangeably? A criminal may have a death sentence “executed”, but they themselves cannot be “executed”. Kind of a pet peeve…sorry 🙂

o04

The installation program should run fine now.

o05

Place the files can be installed anywhere, I personally do not like to clutter the root of my C: drive. Now here’s two bigger deals: When prompted to install RSX and DirectX 5, respond with NO to both.

o06

And it will finish up the install. Hey, cool, there’s an 800 number for registering our product! Bet they can help us with the MIDI issues!

Ring 1. Ring 2. Click. “Connect now with exciting local ladies! Call … blah blah blah…”

Guess not.

o07

Now we have to do something about Intel RSX3D Audio Software. So as Unofficial Tex Murphy user marinedalek tells us, copy the RSX3D folder from the DVD to the root of your C: drive. Right click on the file called RSXSETUP.EXE and select Properties. Place it into Windows 95 Compatibility mode just as before. Click OK and run the file. It will only take a few seconds to install, and will present a configuration page. Go ahead and test it, just to make sure.

o08

Next, go to the tab entitled Advanced Settings – Buffer Times and change it from the default to 240ms. This may not be entirely necessary, but it is recommended according to the readme file.

“Change the output audio device buffer from its default 120 milliseconds setting to a higher one. We suggest 240 milliseconds. 400 milliseconds is maximum.”

And we’re right here looking at it, so why not? I couldn’t tell any difference in the audio, and if it possibly saves a troubleshooting step later, then I’m all for it.

o09

Now is the time on sprockets when we patch.

Simply download the Tex Murphy Overseer 1.04 Patch, and unzip it over the top of your game install directory. If prompted, tell it to overwrite existing files.

And the DVD Express Software must also be installed. This seems to be just another front end for your existing MPEG2 codec, but from back in the day. Therefore, it shouldn’t interfere with DVD decoding software. I tried doing some hacking on the Overseer setup files and registry settings, but wasn’t able to find a way around this step. Turns out that I was working hard for no reason–DVD Express is old, but didn’t cause any problems on my system.

So just run the DVDExpress install, and even though it may not be necessary: let the machine reboot.

Now, let’s give it a shot. But, before we forget, place the shortcut to Overseer into Windows 95 compatibility mode (right-click, properties, compatibility tab, win95 check box). Click OK, and launch Overseer. You will probably get an info box that looks something like this:

o10

It was probably important back in the day–but a modern machine should suffer no real performance loss for a few applications running. Click the “Don’t show this window again” check box, and then Continue.

Then a Screen Saver warning will pop up. This one may be slightly more important, however, I clicked the “Don’t Show Again.” In Windows 95, task swapping between running applications and a game was usually somewhat catastrophic–but XP can handle it just fine.

o11

Alright. We’ve got some tweaking to do, so escape out of any video the game may present, until you get a menu that looks like this:

o12

After clicking on the CONFIG button, two display options instead of just one will appear on the video tab–IF the patch and DVDExpress are installed correctly. If there is only one drop-down line for display devices, exit and re/install the patch.

o13

Drop the MPEG II Device combo down to Mediamatics DVD Express, and select the Preferences Tab.

o14

The Basic Preferences default to 640X480 and medium walking…800×600 looks better, and each user can make up their own minds on the walking speed. Click on Advanced Preferences.

o15

In this menu, setup the Hardware Rendering if there is supporting hardware (which is a pretty good bet). Personally, I turned on the Trilinear Filtering.

Now then, here’s were the make of Video Card can affect things. On my ATi video card, the screen would jumble up in a horizontal band where ever the mouse was…this happens on other video cards as well, evidently, so here ya go:

ATI – The quick fix for this is to edit the TEX.INI file in the installed game directory. On the boards of the Unofficial Tex Murphy site, user Adam tips us to simply change the lock video setting from the default to 1:

lockvideo=1

The funny thing is, I took a screen capture of the messed up video, but the shot was clear in the JPG. Oh well. Obviously, lockvideo has something to with refresh timing or something late in the rendering chain.

NVIDIA – I’m sorry, can’t really test this solution, but it seems pretty well known. UOTM user i’m_melting_i’m_melting says:

“Uninstall the driver in ‘Add/Remove Programs’ (or whatever it is in XP) and then use this: http://www.drivercleaner.net/ to remove all elements of the previous driver. Then install this version: http://downloads.guru3d.com/download.php?det=966

Nonetheless, at this point one should have a very playable game running…

o17

..with two small problems. One, this stupid error message that at first seems to (but really doesn’t) have something to do with accessing MPEG video from the DVDROM and then re-entering the VR world.

o181

And secondly, the MIDI music. Sigh. Windows 9x used a technology called MCI (media control interface) to play MIDI music. That was changed in Windows 2000/XP to the new WDM (Windows Driver Model) format. In other words, the Overseer sound system is sending out messages addressed to an vacant lot. Nobody’s home. And it seems that there is a timing issue involved as well…

Turns out that this is the same issue. If one mutes the MIDI music on the Audio configuration tab, the message goes away. I suggest doing this. Furthermore, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as muting the MIDI seems to be the fix for crashing bugs in Gideon’s Gallery and the Anazasi Ruins sections of the game.

But the good news here is that I think there may be some surface to attack this issue. I’m running over some plans with some developers friends–it may be fixable.

The last unresolved issue, at least on my machine, is that the game will not exit cleanly the first time each reboot. This could be a Visual Studio issue, however, as the debugger pops up which may lock the application and prevent it from closing out. It’s a bit strange, if I go into the game once, exit out it brings up the VS debugger. I just use Task Manger and end the application. And it doesn’t happen again until I reboot–I can open and close the game 30 times without a hiccup.

I have been meaning to disable the debugger anyway, so this just gives me an excuse.

Grab up a copy of this essential game from Amazon:

[amazon-product]B0007TB6HK[/amazon-product]

That’s about it. I believe that I will continue this series of posts with guides for the other three games, and then distill them out as static article pages. So, up next would be Under a Killing Moon. See ya then!

23 Mar

Tex Murphy Overseer (Coming Soon)

tex_o1

Keep tuned…I’ll post soon with a complete setup guide. This game is running great, without much in the way of real issues on Windows XP. That is, except for the MIDI music… And yes, I know there’s other info out there (such as on the boards of the Unofficial Tex Murphy website), but I thought it might be nice to have it all in one spot.

In other big news, PHP is no where near the mystery it was to me a few days ago. I should have my own custom WordPress theme done sometime soon.