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.
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:
Oh, the joy! My stupid old Pentium 166MMX wouldn’t be loading it that fast! No, sir! This is going to be great–WHAT?!?!
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:
- 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 🙂
- 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.
- 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”.
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 🙂
The installation program should run fine now.
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.
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…”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Drop the MPEG II Device combo down to Mediamatics DVD Express, and select the Preferences Tab.
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.
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:
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…
..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.
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:
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!