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…
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!
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).
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.
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:
Now that we have our ISO images, we can move onto DOSBox itself.
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:
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.
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”?
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.
Defaults are fine for the MIDI section. (If planning to GUS it up, keep a mental note on this section.)
Here’s some changes from the Pandora Directive Guide, turn off the Sound Blaster emulation:
And turn on the GUS! w00t!
Turn off the PC speaker, Disney Sound Source, Tandy, Joystick, and stuff:
The defaults are fine for all the rest, but let’s turn off Extended Memory (EMS):
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:
# 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
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:
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:
And the following screen should appear.
Pretty obvious, click Install Software.
Click OK to accept the defaults. Notice all 4 of your virtual CD-ROM drives! 🙂
Confirm the path.
And now, we patch. Download this file and just unzip it into the game directory.
Let’s setup the game!
Click OK, and let it Autodetect.
Click Auto Detect for the tenth time and one should see the following results–matching the DOSBox config. Port 240, IRQ 5, DMA 1.
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.”
Now to the MIDI setup:, click Continue:
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.
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!