I set up a full website for this a while back and just ran out of steam. I might pull it back out if there is enough interest.
Found this booklet up in the attic at Mom and Dad’s House. I don’t know to which of my brothers it belonged, but the publish date is 1963. Wouldn’t it be great if American children were still excited about truly technical things? This book depicts the circuit board (Chet the Circuit Board) admonishing the reader to not take him apart–you’ll learn how I work when you get older.
We’ve lost something along the way.
Yep. Jack Bauer uses them all the time. Every movie, TV show, novel, and newspaper article talks about them. Apparently, they exist as some magical device that at one time both renders a “server” impenetrable and throws open secret files to terrorists. Depending on the character in our little drama, there seems to always hide some trick or pathway around this “firewall” thing, and the description usually relies on pseudo-technical jargon to explain it away.
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.
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!)
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.
And once you have one, you’ll need games. Like the incredible Super Paper Mario, which is unbelievably entertaining.
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!
Title: Wing Commander
Subtitle: The 3D Space Combat Simulator
Developer: Origin Systems
Genre: Flight Sim
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!
But 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?”
“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.”
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
mount c c:\Archives\games\wc -freesize 20
WC Origin -k
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 😉
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.
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.
Great, but what is Wing Commander Saga, anyway (as if I didn’t know)?
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 doesnâ€™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, â€œThe Darkest Dawnâ€ 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!
“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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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:
We will be using the following changes to the standard config file:
mount c c:\archives\games -freesize 20
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
- DOSBox: If you’ve followed the other guides on The Fourth Law, you already have it. Just download it and install it.
- Martian Memorandum: This game is abandonware, and available from several places. Personally, I love The Underdogs.
- 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:
Really quickly, here are config file changes we made in the video:
mount c c:\Archives\games -freesize 20
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:
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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:
- Start | Run | CMD <enter>
- CD\<path to install files>
- 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)”.
Tell it to restore everything using wildcards. Type *.* for the selection. Oh, and don’t forget to mail in your UltraSound registration!
When it asks, tell it to install to the C: drive. A security warning message will probably appear, just tell it yes.
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.
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.
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”.
Make sure that the sbtype=none and the GUS emulation is turned on.
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:
- CD\ULTRASND <enter>
- PLAYMIDI <enter>
- Select the MIDI directory
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.
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:
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:
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.
Just set it up as we did in the last post (I/O Port 240) and away we go.
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.