Games! Games! Games!


Come on Sal, never miss a game!

Yeah! Over the MS-DOS collection over at archive.org is well over 2,500! Isn’t that great?!?

Well let’s take a peek at a few favorites…

Sadly DataEast’s greatest hit RoboCop doesn’t work correctly on the site, however if you were to do something evil like open up the inspector, and manually download the asset yourself it’ll load fine in actual DosBox. It’s a great side scroller, even 30 years later. Yes, 1989 was a long long time ago.

Buck Rogers – Matrix Cubed was a great fun SSI Action/RPG of the day, more of a maze crawler unlike Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday being more older style top down. And speaking of, for any SSI/Buck Rogers fans out there I hope you have checked out I am not a Monster: Complete Edition, which rides the fun line of homage & parody.

And speaking of SSI, Curse of the Azure Bonds and it’s ilk are available as well! I’m not sure how a board game company with a vast library (and IP rights licensed) could possibly fail so hard. Maybe the games were too difficult? Maybe they were too involved? I guess I’m guilty of it too, as I’m the uncleansed masses that preferred Fallout 3 to 1&2. Just as Diablo took off as it removed the clock, and turned it into action.

Project-X was a favorite shoot-em-up on the Amiga, although it being PAL was surprisingly significantly harder to play on my NTSC Amiga, with not being able to see all the screen, running faster, and the insane blinking of some timing with the sprites. I didn’t know there was a PC version, but yeah it looks pretty much like the Amiga version. And it was one of the larger issues that a 386 PC with VGA & a SoundBlaster really not only was as good as an Amiga, but was just plain better as PC hardware kept on improving while Commodore trapped in their downward spiral just didn’t innovate.

Rise of the Triad – The Hunt Begins, this was a soso shooter, but where it really shone was it’s multiplayer maps and combat. It was a awesome time waster on the LAN. I never tried it dialup, or even in modern times, but many fond memories of this game. And it didn’t need insane requirements, unlike say Quake. And it was surprisingly more fast paced than DooM. I wonder sometimes if they had released the source code to ROTT (2002) much sooner than ID released DooM (1997), or around the same time if it’d have achieved more retro popularity? Or was it more of as LAN game, and my experience with it kind of lacking in single player the prevalent feeling?

MechWarrior was at first this incredible 3D game where you could pilot a battle mech in the 31st century! How awesome! It changed the world from the table top rules of BattleTech – The Crescent Hawk’s Inception into something action based. Amazingly the genre for some reason never seems to get the massive appeal I always felt it should have. Although Mark Kern is trying to do something with Mechs & Kaiju over at Em-8er.

3D games like NASCAR Racing arriving in 1994 were really pushing the boundaries of what you could realistically do in MS-DOS with 3D. And of course Quake basically drew the boundary of MS-DOS into Windows with the primary reason being better and uniform 3D drivers. You need a STRONG MS-DOS machine for this, so for me at least DosBox in javascript on a 2006 Mac Pro just wasn’t really up to the task.

Turbo Out Run, a SEGA classic game. The graphics are … well caught in a world between 1987 and 1990. I guess they either didn’t want to push the PC too hard, or accidentally release a superior game on a non SEGA platform? It could have looked better. It should have sounded better. It’s ‘fine’ but I kind of call shenanigans. Golden Axe is way better.

So this is by no means an exhaustive list, I left out a LOT, as 2,500 is way too much to give any reasonable review without it turning into a book, but I scanned the first hundred or so and picked out what caught my eye.

AVGN reviews Chex Quest

Okay that was funny. I never thought of even trying Brutal DooM + Chex Quest. Sounds awesome.

Although I’d played a little with Chex Quest before, I never tried it on the DooM source. Oddly enough it’s Ultimate DooM. In d_main.c you can do some simple test for chex.wad and pass it off as the ‘retail’ version.

	if ( !access (chex,R_OK) )
	{
		gamemode = retail;
		D_AddFile (chex);
		return;
	}

Or you can simply just rename chex.wad to doom.wad or doomu.wad. Many of the strings for DooM are compiled into the EXE, not taken from the WAD file (although it could have been, I guess it was to prevent people from making overtly cheeky mods?).

So firing up the wad under my crappy DooM port thing to MS-DOS (for the sane people just use some other Win64/OSX/Linux thing like zdoom), and when selecting an episode you’ll see the Ultimate DooM levels.

Chex Quest, Thy Flesh Consumed!

Wait? What? I though Chex Quest was a ‘total conversion’ WAD. Well it turns out that it is, and it isn’t. They replaced a lot of the default stuff from a retail version of Ultimate DooM. And what they didn’t replace, well it’s still there. And yes that does mean everything outside of the first 5 levels are the original DooM levels. And that includes the music as well!

E2M2 from Chex Quest

Well isn’t that surprising! And yes that means that it’s possible to just replace the first 5 levels with the default DooM levels and have that reverse conversion. In the same way the menu screens are very Chexy too:

It certainly gives that kid like feeling to it. Although the replacement Barrons of Hell are a little too big so they do look kind of silly.

E1M8

So as always I’m late to the party. I’m sure someone out there didn’t have the retail version of DooM and instead used Chex Quest for those LAN games. Although it does detect that the WAD has been modified so I don’t think it would just be all that fine.

Not that finding the original WAD files, or source to the maps, and just compiling them yourself is all that difficult, but I guess it is something else to load up.

PCem v15 released!

The new dynamic recompiler appears to be much more faster, although if you want maximum performance, make sure to set your video card to the fastest possible performance.

I was doing my typical DooM thing, and the performance was abysmal. But I did have an 8bit VGA card selected, so what would I really expect? Interestingly enough in ‘low resolution’ mode it performed quite well, but setting it to the artificial ‘fastest PCI/VLB’ speed it was performing just great.

PCem v15 released. Changes from v14 :

  • New machines added – Zenith Data SupersPort, Bull Micral 45, Tulip AT Compact, Amstrad PPC512/640, Packard Bell PB410A, ASUS P/I-P55TVP4, ASUS P/I-P55T2P4, Epox P55-VA, FIC VA-503+
  • New graphics cards added – Image Manager 1024, Sigma Designs Color 400, Trigem Korean VGA
  • Added emulation of AMD K6 family and IDT Winchip 2
  • New CPU recompiler. This provides several optimisations, and the new design allows for greater portability and more scope for optimisation in the future
  • Experimental ARM and ARM64 host support
  • Read-only cassette emulation for IBM PC and PCjr
  • Numerous bug fixes

Thanks to dns2kv2, Greatpsycho, Greg V, John Elliott, Koutakun, leilei, Martin_Riarte, rene, Tale and Tux for contributions towards this release.

As always PCem can be downloaded here:

Early MSDN CD’s on archive.org

I ran across this, and thought it was cool. These CD’s are getting harder and harder to find, and unless you want the old physical disks, getting ISO images is, of course the next best thing.

Granted these disks replaced the much older Microsoft Programmer’s Library. The new CD’s use a Windows based search & interface program removing the clunky old MS-DOS program that made it feel like trying to view the world through a straw. (Although the up side of the MS-DOS version is that you could easily dump the video RAM and save the contents to plain text).

And in this brave new post Windows 3.0 centric world of Microsoft just about everything regarding OS/2 was dumped, and the seeding of Win32 via Windows NT had started.

Naturally after winning this war, Microsoft withdrew many low end products and just couldn’t compete with the tidalwave that was GNU/Linux.

At any rate for the curious kids down the road that want to see what all the fuss was with Win16, and how Windows 3.0 had changed the landscape removing the force of IBM it’s worth a look.

Quake 2 for MS-DOS full playthrough

Playthrough by TheSlipGateUser

I was just alerted to this playthrough of Quake 2 for MS-DOS by TheSlipGateUser which showcases the game play under DOSBox.

Honestly I’m terrible at Quake, QuakeWorld and Quake 2, but it’s great to see someone who knows that they are doing, and more so that under emulation the game is holding up.

I know the MS-DOS port isn’t exactly the most popular in the world, although I suspect if it had been a thing in 1997 there would have been an audience with people that didn’t want to have Windows in the background as a distraction.

That said, any new people will of course want to check out the excellent (if I do say so myself!) series “Porting Quake II to MS-DOS“.

Microsoft Bookshelf (1991)

I found this online a while ago, although it’s taken about half a year to pick it up, but here we are.

What is kind of cool about this, is that being from 1991 this is not for Windows, that this reference library instead targets MS-DOS using the MSL/Microsoft Library from the Programmer’s Library.  So the same advantage holds true, that the content can be scraped from the text mode video RAM.

Factbook: Hong Kong

So yeah, back in the day this was some really amazing stuff, the ability to search a few books in some incredibly fast and convenient, although as always lacking super depth.

Back then online services were crazy expensive, charging by the minute, and of course just like the stock MS-DOS client preventing you from being able to easily copy the text.  Outside of anything beyond gradeschool I couldn’t imagine the ‘encyclopedia’ being of all that much worth but the dictionary/thesaurus & quotations is okay enough, although in 2018 it really is showing it’s age.

Having your own private reference back then was a big deal, something like this would have been more apt in a library, but you’d have to wait in line, no doubt as the ability to look up stuff just by typing would have been great.  While using this online would have cost quite a bit quickly justifying the cost of a CD-ROM drive along with the program.

The common carrier and lower costs of delivering content over the internet has really made something like this an oddity of time, but for anyone that needs to work 100% offline, these are a real gem.

Another great use of extracting the books from the CD-ROM, is that you can take, say the “American Heritage Dictionary“, a 30MB file, and compress it with 7zip, yielding a file just under 4MB, or an 87%, or a 7.76:1 compression ratio.  So unlike other ‘dictionary’ test compression sets, this is using an actual dictionary.

For anyone wanting to take a dive, I put it on archive.org

MS-DOS v1.25 and v2.0 Source Code now on github

This repo contains the original source-code and compiled binaries for MS-DOS 1.25 and MS-DOS 2.0.

These are the same files originally shared at the Computer History Museum on March 25th 2014 and are being (re)published in this repo to make them easier to find, reference-to in external writing and works, and to allow exploration and experimentation for those interested in early PC Operating Systems.

License

All files within this repo are released under the MIT (OSI) License as per the LICENSE file stored in the root of this repo.


At first I just thought it was simply just another mirror of the original source that had been released that had some incredible restrictions.

Original license:
To access this material, you must agree to the terms of the license displayed here, which permits only non-commercial use and does not give you the right to license it to third parties by posting copies elsewhere on the web.

However the restrictions have been lifted, and MS-DOS 1.25 & 2.0 are now available under a MIT license.

So this is actually very awesome!

You can download it here: https://github.com/Microsoft/MS-DOS.

MSDN from October 1994

I picked this 20 disc set recently and ugh the cringe is just… insane.  And yes, that is Bill Nye

 

STUDS from Microsoft .
(Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

I had this ages ago, although I couldn't remember if the NT 3.5 SDK/DDK had shown up at this point, but it's only the Japanese version in this set.  Since I'm having such a PITA in tracking down a 3.5 set, and I'm not sitting on this, I may as well archive it.

Yes, I had to rip 20 of these!

So you too can find the early Video for Windows, and all kinds of other things from the mid '90's on archive.org.

Or Wallpapers like this 'puppy' from the Japanese version of Windows 3.1

https://archive.org/details/MSDNOctober1994

Windows/386 v2.0(3)

Unknown disk on Ebay…

I stumbled onto these three disks, seemingly out of place in history.  Windows/386 version 2.0 is a strange one in that it shipped to OEM’s in late 1987, making it & Xenix part of the initial 386 wave of Operating Systems/Environments and beating out not only the OS/2 launch in 1988, but taking advantage of the 80386’s v86 mode, something that OS/2 wouldn’t be able to do in a shipping product until 1992. 

This version itself appears to be a retail version of Windows/386 lacking any clear OEM identification that was so prevalent for the era.  Indeed setting it up it offers a few interesting platforms:

Getting this to run was a little bit of a challenge as much as I prefer Qemu, these older 2.0x versions of Windows/386 have a BIOS/disk incompatibility with the hypervisor resulting in errors reading the hard disk.  Although PCem/86Box have no such issues.  I think it’ll run off floppy/CD-ROM/Network without any issue though.

Windows/386 v2.03

Once installed it reveals itself to be version 2.03 of all things.  While I was hoping for some kind of retail version of 2.00/2.01 this appears as close as it may get as it has more in common with the PCjs version of 2.01 (which you can try live on his site!)

The PCjs version of 2.03 has 138 setup files (not counting the PIFs), compared to the eBay’s 141, while the PCjs 2.01 has 59 files.

That said, well it’s Windows/386 mostly from 1987 with slightly updated EGA/CGA VMM drivers from early 1988 that just didn’t quite make the cut.  To me what is confusing, is that it identifies as 2.03 while it’s closer to 2.01 in file count and functionality, unlike 2.03 it really ought to have been a 2.02, if there even was such a thing.

Windows/386 2.03 in CGA

Otherwise it’s really not all that interesting short of the timestamp.  It’ll run on CGA/EGA *IF* you have the proper adapter in place, although VGA is compatible, the environment will detect that it’s not actually the proper card and refuse to run.  I tried to put in the 2.01 CGA/EGA drivers, but that resulted in an OS version mismatch (I didn’t check if 2.01 was locked to the Compaq OEM of MS-DOS)

No mixing drivers!

I installed the infamous pair Word & Excel.  Despite Word 1.1a demanding at least Windows 2.11, it appears to run okay.  Excel 2.1d loaded without complaining.  There isn’t very much convential memory for either, but they both can use expanded memory, which the hypervisor can create and share out without any emm386 or any equivalent driver.  I can only imagine the incompatibles of trying to balance these drivers at the time, and how much the coming DPMI specification was needed.

Memory trouble in Windows 2.x

 And as the old saying goes the three top problems in Windows version 2 is memory, memory and memory.  Trying to run anything graphical will exhaust convential ram, forcing you to single task anything graphical which kind of defeats the whole point of Windows.  You go from this:

BattleTech CGA in a Window

To this:

Windows is out of memory!

Oh well it’s 1987, and users were kind of used to being disappointed as such.  It’s really no wonder why Windows 3.0 became the smash it it was.

And of course you can't talk about Windows/386 without this gem. (Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

Quake 1.01 / Shareware

Quake Shareware CD

I saw this pop up while cruising archive.org, and I thought it’d be fun to play with.  The shareware version of Quake on this CD image is version 1.01, which corresponds with the crack dot com leak of the Quake source code.  Searching around revels that the leak was aptly named “Quake101leakedsource.zip”, which wasn’t so hard to track down.

The source code is, naturally, in the process of being ported to Linux, and the makefiles reflect this.  I used my MinGW to DJGPP cross compiler toolchain that is close to era specific.

I had a single issue with the code, d_copy.s the following line was giving me trouble:

movl	$2,%al

changing it to the following however, let my version of GAS happily assemble it.

movb $2,%al

After a while of messing with the Makefile, and adding in the DOS components, it was easy enough to get an executable.  And even better it’ll run with the data/music from the demo disc!

I used Daemon tools to mount the MDS/MDF image, and just pointed DOSBox to the CD drive letter with a simple:

mount d: f:\ -t cdrom

And now when I fired up Quake, it’ll play the music tracks from the CD.

Quake 101 on DOSBox

One thing that caught my interest was that when you exit the game, I get the “couldn’t load endscreen.” message.

Well it turns out that someone was naughty and had modified common.c on January 20th 1997,  and made the following addition:

if (h == -1)
{
Con_Printf ("Playing shareware version.\n");
// if (com_modified)
// Sys_Error ("You must have the registered version to use modified games");
// /*return;*/
}

So yeah, since they had double commented out that return statement, it’ll fall out the logic, and set the game to registered, which is why the endscreen message is missing.  Uncommenting them all will restore the default execution behavior.  Speaking of registered, on the CD there is a file QUAKE.MJ3, which is 25MB, which looks like an encrypted version of the registered game.  I guess it’d be ‘neat’ to have version 1.01, although the Steam version I have is 1.06 and I don’t know how much difference it’d really make.   Although I guess 22 years later it doesn’t matter much.

On the one hand I’m really impressed that it works.  For anyone who is slightly interested I guess, you can find my re-build of the source here:

Quake101-djgpp2.zip