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!

20 Mar

Tex Murphy Rides Again (Pandora Directive and DOSBox w/o CDs)

“I’d like to help you, but I can’t.”

The glory days of adventure games are gone. I really hate to say that, but let’s be realistic.

As much as anyone, I have fond memories of all night runs at the latest title. I actually played through Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on an Amiga 500, for heaven’s sake. (For the uninitiated, an A500 didn’t come with a hard drive, and there were 14 diskettes that I had to swap between two floppy drives.) I was working 2nd shift when The 7th Guest came out, and I distinctly remember agonizing over the $250.00 CD-ROM upgrade. I ended up with a glacially slow 2X Mitsumi. I wanted one of the new Plextors that ran at 3X but they required SCSI, and this Mitsumi had it’s own ISA interface card. Whereas, my unfortunate Gravis Ultrasound didn’t have a CD interface and there was no place in town that stocked a Creative Labs CDROM drive that could be purchased separately. I didn’t need a second SB16… I was running out of ISA slots.

“My gun. I love it SO much!”

And then, Tex Murphy came to visit.

I had played Martian Memorandum, and enjoyed it well enough…but…it was no big deal. Not paradigm shifting. I have never, to this day, played Mean Streets. I might get around to it one day. Both of these titles can be downloaded for free from The Underdogs, but really, unless you are an Adventure Enthusiast they’re awfully primitive.

While MM was fun, it did nothing to help prepare me for the Under a Killing Moon experience. Wow. 4 CDs? All for one game?!?!?

I whole-heartedly recommend that you play this game. It is an adventure game with a mixture of fully-navigable 3D environment and (dare I say) full motion video. So, literally, one explores 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.

I should point out here that Overseer is pretty much a “remake” of Mean Streets (told from a historical perspective), just in case you decide to download it–wouldn’t want anyone spoiling their fun. Not that there is much comparison between the two. Actually, Overseer was supposed to kick off a new Tex trilogy that never happened. Microsoft bought Access primarily for their Golf Game assets (Links)…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. It contains 7 short episodes that at least inform us that Tex and Chelsea are not dead…wait…forget you read that, and play the games! You can get them from Ebay usually. That’s where I got mine. My original plays in the 90’s were borrowed from the amazing Thomas Joseph Murray III, the father of my high school chum, Tom #4.

Go to the wiki for more info on the time lines and such. Oh, and of course, The Unofficial Tex Murphy site.

“Knick-knacks, paddy-whacks, and the world’s largest piece of elbow macaroni.”

But, dear reader, you are probably here to find out more about DOSBox configurations. And rightly so, for to play Tex Murphy on a modern machine, you’re going to need help. All but Overseer were pure MS-DOS goodness, DOS4G extenders and all. And Windows XP seems to purposefully hate DOS.

So, to play Tex Murphy you’ve got 3 main options:

  1. Build a DOS Gaming Machine.
  2. Find a PCI Sound Card with DOS Drivers
  3. Use some form of Virtualization Software

Option 1: Isn’t bad–as a matter fact, can be quite fun. Just go to a local Computer Recycler-type store and get the fastest motherboard/CPU combination available that still has ISA slots. The ISA slot is the key, here. A native DOS sound card is our main requirement. Everything else can be modern equipment–as a matter of fact, some VOGONS (enthusiasts who run Very Old Games On New Systems) would be well off to invest in a new motherboard built for industrial computing, something like this:

Caveat: I have not done this, although, I want to build a Media Center PC using this motherboard (or one like it). The plan is to be able to play Adventure games on the TV screen from bed. However, this is a project for a later date.

So, one of these and an Sound Blaster Pro or Sound Blaster 16 from Ebay, dig out a set of DOS 6.22 install disks, and you’ve got a KILLER DOS machine. Don’t forget to load a CPU slowdown utility, though, it might be TOO fast for some games. But not Tex–these games will eat as much CPU and Video power as you can throw at them.

Option 2: A bit harder, technically. I tried 14 ways from Sunday with a Yamaha PCI card–one that supposedly had DOS drivers. The Yamaha site has been updated, and may include better downloads now. YMMV. I have heard that an original Sound Blaster Live! has good DOS support, but have never tested it. I did try with about a half-dozen Sound Blaster PCI64s and PCI128 cards with no luck.

Yamaha Sound Card YMF744

As you can see, this one (YMF744) has an optical SPDIF on it. Which, was why I focused on it so long–I wanted it for the Media Center PC, so I could hook it directly to a surround sound receiver for multi-channel DVD playback.

Now that I actually have my hands on a couple of SBLive! cards, I’ll probably try again with these DOS Drivers.

Option 3: Is all that’s left to us in the meantime. Virtualization. There are three sub-options here:

  • A fully virtual machine–a complete second operating system running on top of your own. Such as a VMWare solution, which is certainly an option here, with their free downloads now. Sadly, I was never able to get good performance in a DOS game within a VM session.
  • VDMSound is another, slightly better, option in general. This is a neat Windows extension that translate the DOS sound card calls directly to the Windows sound driver. Good for many games–but not much luck for old Tex. At least in my own experience.
  • DOSBox.

“Here’s a little tidbit our government boys missed…”

DOS Box Logo

DOSBOX is fantastic. It really seems to be the answer for all of us who want to run old DOS games. The only problem is that the documentation is a bit…well…terse. But it should get anyone 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.

PD in DOSBOX

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

First step is to take images of the disks. There are alot of advantages to this, including better access times, particularly for a Tex Murphy game. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use Alex Feinman’s marvelous ISO Recorder Power Toy, which is free. Nero or some other software can do it as well. ISO Recorder integrates into the shell, so you can right-click on a drive (or any folder) and create a disk image.

Right Click on Drive

Then store the image someplace.

Save the ISO

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

Once all of the CD’s imaged and safely stored on the hard drive (an unthinkable concept in 1994), we are able to turn our attention to DOSBox. Hop over to the sourceforge site and download the latest version, which at the time of this writing is 0.70. 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_pd.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_pd.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\pd\ 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_pd.conf
tex_pd.bat

You may use them at your own risk 🙂 .

Let’s walk through the sections. I’ll remove settings we won’t be adjusting for the sake of space. So, just because it isn’t here, don’t delete it! 🙂

In the SDL, I will only note two of the lines. Full screen can also be set at the command line. But in my initial experiments, I was able to get better performance holding the full resolution down. Odd thing is that I don’t think this actually affects the graphics…and this may have changed in .70. It is possible that you can leave the default setting of “original”.

[sdl]
fullscreen=true
fullresolution=640X480

The next section with some changes is RENDER. I set frameskip to 1 from the default of 0. Smooths 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”? We’ll return to this later.

[cpu]
core=dynamic
cycles=14000

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.

[midi]
mpu401=intelligent
device=default
config=

However, I changed the SBLASTER part to use an SBPro1. I had much better luck there instead of the SB16, which caused the audio to skip. This may be somewhat hardware dependent, and the SB16 might be fine on another machine. Anything less than an SBPro will be mono, rather than stereo. The rest of the settings are defaulted.

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

Curses! My favorite card of all time and I have to turn it off. It actually worked very well on Tex Murphy back in the DOS days…but in DOSBox, it locks up the installation sound card detection. And if one sets up the game by hand, it refuses to play sometimes. Sigh. I intend to revisit this sometime.

Not that it really matters, all of the sound is actually being generated by my current sound card…whatever it is. I would like to say, though, that for other DOS games, if a GUS is supported (or you understand the usage of SBOS) try to use it. Performance will be better in DOSBox just like it was better in the old days. Ah, the arguments we had with the SB16 guys on Prodigy. Paging Dave Redfern from Clearwater, FL.

Anyway.

[gus]
gus=false

Turn the speaker off. You won’t be needing it and it will save a CPU tick or two.

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

XMS on, EMS off.

[dos]
xms=true
ems=false

Turn this stuff all off.

[modem]
modem=false

[joystick]
joysticktype=none

[directserial]
directserial=false

[ipx]
ipx=false

And now, to the AUTOEXEC. This syntax works on DOSBox 0.70 which is a little changed from 0.65. Notice the lastdrive, this is to get past the default DOS lastdrive setting. Which is, what, F? I can’t remember 🙂

[autoexec]
lastdrive=z
imgmount D “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora1.iso” -t iso
imgmount E “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora2.iso” -t iso
imgmount F “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora3.iso” -t iso
imgmount G “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora4.iso” -t iso
imgmount H “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora5.iso” -t iso
imgmount I “c:\games\iso\tex\pd\pandora6.iso” -t iso
mount c c:\games -freesize 20
c:
#cd pandora
#pandora

In addition, I commented out the lines at the bottom that will start the game. We need to install it first, as was pointed out by Anastos. This basically means we’ll start the DOSBox with this config, which will mount all of our images and drop us to a C:\ prompt. Then, just like if we sat down in front of our 486, we will need to change to the CDROM drive and install the software. It may seem a little backwards at first, but think about it and you’ll see.

“Well, hello there, little Buddha!”

Now, here’s the batch file:

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

Not much to the batch file. One can drag a short cut into the Start Menu and use this icon from the Pandora Direct CD, if desired. Great! We are almost ready to dissect some area 51 aliens!

Pandora

Now, let’s run the batch file and see what happens. You should have a big ugly C:\ staring you in the face.

Ugly DOS

Type the following at the prompt:

D:INSTALL

And you should be taken to the Installation screen, click Install to Hard Drive and accept the default C:\PANDORA for the directory.

Install Splash

Setup

Ok, once it gets finished, exit out of the installer and DOSBox.

At this point, download the Pandora Directive patch. Rename your current TEX4.EXE to TEX4.BAK, unzip the patch, and drop the new TEX4.EXE file into its place. I personally did not need this, but it may prevent some random memory errors.

Remove the # symbols from the last line of your DOSBox config file so it will automatically start Pandora Directive. Since this is the first run, the game will take you to a setup menu. The automatic sound card detection worked great in my case for the digital audio card. For the MIDI, I had to change it to MPU-401 by hand.

Sound Setup

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

CD Loader

Click OK, and exit out of the game. Now, here’s where the jiggery-pokery comes into play. Under the CPU heading in that config file there is a line I mentioned earlier that says:

cycles=14000

We are going to keep changing this until we get the best performance possible–trying to zero in on the optimum setting. 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 test machine, the game actually gets SLOOOOOOWWWW and the speech is unintelligible.

In other words, take the 15 minutes or so:

  1. Edit the setting and save it
  2. Start the game and test
  3. Exit, change the number, save the file, and so on.
  4. Rinse, lather, repeat.

“I’m on your left. I’m on your right. I’m right in front of you.”

The end result is a game experience that is FAR better than playing PD on the Pentium 100 or whatever I had when first I clapped eyes to it. This same setup works for Under A Killing Moon, but you will need to run TEX197.EXE rather than the TEX3.EXE to start the game, or it will crash on the DOS extender.

Overseer is more of a challenge–if you want to use the DVD version that has the higher quality video. I’m still working on that one.

[amazon-product]B0002SLAYA[/amazon-product]

Hope this little guide helps. Keep on playing adventure games. Sooner or later the market will open back up. They may not look like Myst or Tex Murphy, but I have enough faith in basic human intelligence to believe that firing automatic weapons at endless waves of faceless aliens will eventually become stale to the buying public.

It sounds even more naive when I put it that way…

See you, space cowboy.

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…

20 Jun

Alien Breed Obliteration

Well, it has been a while since I last posted. Sorry about that–things have been crazy busy.

  1. SQL Reporting Services has me beaten down. I can’t seem to get the silly thing to pass authentication to the query the DB server. Keeps generating an error that states that my user name is “null”. I’ve done quite a bit of research on it–and am frustrated. I posted on the microsoft newsgroups…if that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll have to call support. This is just stupid–this kind of operation should be expected!
  2. We are working to get the house finished. I’ve hung all the trim, finished the cedar on the front porch and stained it, started painting the doors and trim. All those little details. It’s almost ready for sale.
  3. That all, and some travel here and there…my wife’s sister is almost ready to have a baby…it just never ends.
  4. Oh yeah, I’m becoming a developer…just because. Well, I’ve always wanted to do some development, but I’m kinda forced into it by business needs. If I don’t do all of this database work, report creation, client development, and so forth it just won’t get done. And nothing gets better.

abo

In the meantime, you–gentle reader–must download Alien Breed Obliteration and play it. I never played the Amiga versions. Some are mad when rap this is fun. Except that I’m stuck on the 3rd level. I’m supposed to escape in an air duct, but I can’t find it before the level splodes up.

Go get it.

Don’t forget to use the cheat keys if you’re lame like me. K for keys, L for lives, A for ammo, and M for money.

Speaking of the Amiga, I hauled out my A500 last night and started to set it up. I want to CrossDOS some of my old stories off of it, but I couldn’t find the disks. I think they’re buried in the garage. If I can find them (and still read them) and there is actually anything-thing interesting on it, I’ll post them here.

06 Jun

SunDog

Mr. Bruce Webster has made clarification to a previous post. 

Thanks for the kind words, but I must clarify a few things. First, Wayne
Holder was co-designer of Sundog (though I did most of the programming on the
original Apple II version). Second, the Atari ST version was done by Wayne, Doug
Bell, Mike Newton, and Andy Jaros (though it did make use of some of the
original Apple II source code). Third, I’m not a lawyer, I just work for them
from time to time (as an expert witness).

And for more SunDog
goodies, you can go to sundog.brucefwebster.com and sundog.sourceforge.net.
There’s also more info in the Wikipedia entry (SunDog:_Frozen_Legacy).
..bruce..

So, the unfortunate fact is that I was horribly wrong on several points. 🙂  I wish it were the first time.  And you know, now that he brings it up–most of the elements do come glimmering in from the dim past.  I hope, however, that sometime he will tell me how he resisted saying, “I just play one on TV.”  Such restraint must come only at monumental effort!

Ah, well…the point of the blog post was to gush about SunDog–which I believe was more or less successful.

21 Mar

Arcade machine auctions

Well, what could possibly be cooler than having your own arcarde game standing in a basement? How about five?

I certainly intend to build a mame machine as soon as time presents–but it’s kinda hard to build a pinball table. So why not buy at an auction? Evidently they are more commonplace than I would have dreamed. A quick google found several very close to my point of origin, with hundreds of games just waiting to be purchased. Pac-man, galaga; sure–but there were even a few that I didn’t even recognize.

If I can get my house finished, and if we get it on the market, and if someone buys it; then I’ll certainly check out the very next auction.

Here’s some links!

http://unitedamusement.com

http://www.superauctions.com