New feature: Java applets

by George 13. December 2012 03:50

I'd like to announce, that we've just setup a testing version of Dosbox for Java. This new feature allows you playing our games directly in a Java applet in your browser which should work for all users who have at least some newer version of java installed. This applet is, of course, not a replacement of our unique system, which works perfectly for all our games including fullscreen mode and several scaler modes. This applet is the last chance for those, who cannot run the game otherwise for some reason (are in the work for example ;-) ).

This feature however currently supports only some of our games and doesn't support saves or fullscreen mode, which we hope, will be solved in some time. The supported games have added a new button "Run in Browser", which runs the game in a java applet without any other requirements directly in your browser.

I hope, you'll enjoy this new feature.

Happy gaming.

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How to play old games.

by George 22. January 2011 12:11

With modern operation systems(OS) based on Windows, Linux or MAC OS, you mostly cannot play old games designed for MS-DOS or old Windows distributions like Windows 3.1 or 95. This article shows your the possibilities of how to play those games.

If you have an old game and an OS that cannot play it properly, you have following options:

Emulator

This option is mostly reasonable for DOS games even when there are some Windows emulators for Linux or MAC. Emulator is a program, that can run a different  program in an environment typical for this program. For example MS-DOS emulator for Windows can run MS-DOS programs in Windows environment.

The best DOS emulator you can find is definitely DOSBOX. About 70% games run in default configuration and you can customize settings for almost every old DOS game. There are several PC emulators like BOCHS but they mostly have poor performance and you will probably not be able to play more complex games. PC emulator is a program emulating a complete PC, with a DOS image, you can boot up a whole new virtual computer. Those emulators are quite ineffective in compare with virtualization mentioned later. You can google some more stuff if interested, just look for "DOS emulator" or "PC emulator" for your system.

Something a little else is VDMSound Project. It emulates old sound card and other hardware to allow playing old DOS games directly under Windows. Unfortunately, this emulator is currently not working with Windows Vista and 7. But if you have NT/2000/XP system it's definitely worth a try,

DOSBOX

I will focus on DOSBOX DOS emulator because it is a top of all possible emulators. DOSBOX is available for a wide range of OS including Windows, Linux, MAC and even Solaris is supported. There are also a lot of different frontends available to download at dosbox page. Complete documentation is available here. We will focus here only at some specific options.

When you install DOSBOX, you can play your old games pretty easy. In Windows, you can drag&drop game executable file at the desktop icon and the game will start instantly, detailed description is located here, with workaround for other OS. DOSBOX has some shortcuts to enter/leave fullscreen, change graphics, etc. those shortcuts are available here. Take your time to browse the documentation a bit, it cannot hurt you. Those basic information will be enough to play a wide area of games. Some games however require some special settings to work. every DOSBOX installation contains a configuration file. Name and location can differ based on OS but when you find some game not working with default settings, you will have to change it. Please note, that you will need a specific configuration file for every game that don't work with default settings. You can use program parameter -userconf to load a specific configuration file. Please keep in mind that there can be multiple .EXE files located in your game directory. Refer to the game manual about the meaning of every file if not sure. When you start a DOSBOX without a parameter, you will get a DOS shell. All commands you can use are listed here. You can also use some utilities, take a closer look at MOUNT (for mounting disk devices including CD-ROM), CONFIG (For managing configuration files) and KEYB or IMGMOUNT can be pretty usefull.

Virtualization

In computing, virtualization is the facility that allows multiple operating systems to simultaneously share processor resources in a safe and efficient manner, a facility generically known as hardware virtualization. In the late 1990s x86 virtualization was achieved by complex software techniques which overcame the processor's lack of virtualization support and attained reasonable performance. In the mid 2000s, both Intel and AMD added hardware support to their processors making virtualization software simpler, and later hardware changes provided substantial speed improvements. Source: wikipedia.org

Virtualization is a good option to run both Windows or DOS games. You just have to setup a virtual machine and install an old Windows distribution or a simple DOS. Ideally install Windows 95/98 if you have some and you will get a DOS boot capability for free. If you wish to install a DOS only I recommend FreeDOS. It's free and has a lot of modern useful tools included. You can get a nice full distribution packed to an ISO image.This method is unfortunately much more complex and requires some basic skills with OS installation and with DOS OS. Anyway there is a project called RetroUSB that can be very helpful since you can boot an image directly to you virtual machine without a further configuration.

There are several virtualization tools that you can get. Windows users will probably choose a VirtualPC because it can do the job fine and is available for free. A simple guide is already available at our Blog here. There are several other tools like Xen or Qemu but they require advanced computer skills to get them to work. See more information at their web pages. The most suitable solution for all OS is definitely VMware. It is basically not for free, but they offer a VMware player for free that is sufficient for our purpose.

Compatibility mode

This option is for old Windows games that cannot be run normally. This can be done under Windows only. Modern Windows OS have a mode called "Compatibility mode". In this mode, you can simulate an environment of older Windows systems like Win95. Some old Windows games for Win95/98 or even earlier will work in this mode. You may be even lucky with some newer DOS games.

You can set a compatibility mode for an old executable you wish to run that was designed for Windows 95 or even older. Some DOS games can run too but don't count on it too much. To initiate this dialog simply select preferences of the executable you wish to run. Selecting all checkboxes is usually a best choice but you can experiment with it.

Further discussion

You can discuss your related questions in this forum thread. I will eventually expand this article.

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Rapid Guide to UFO: Enemy Unknown.

by George 16. January 2011 06:38

UFO: Enemy Unknown is a first game of X-COM series. This game is epic and I played it countless times. It's my favorite game because I played it a lot as a kid and also because it was pretty easy and you can make a serious alien kick-out. When I was looking at our game site about UFO, I saw some comments about this game being very hard. This is what I cannot allow because of my favorite game so I thought, I will tell something about my experiences and reveal some good tactics.

At first, this guide is for players who played this game already and is not considered as walkthrough but most likely a set of hints. I start with why is this guide called a Rapid Guide. This game can be won in a single day without a single save game at the highest difficulty (I've done it before) and you will enjoy the playing so much that you will change your lunch time to a dinner time :-). I will tell you a set of hints and guides and as I said before, they also require some game experience to make it work right. Even if you want to play without a saved game I recommend to save often and be honest and don't load. The game crashes some time.

Stage one: So it's time to start your new game. Choose the highest difficulty because you require it to advance more quickly. I never recognized some change in alien strategy. The higher difficulty only means, you get more aliens more often and thats good because you will need a lot of alien technology. When the game starts, unequip all you have and sell it except Avalanche missiles for Interceptors and you can keep few rocket launchers even if only explosive rockets are useful. Now you have a good starting cash, buy few Avalanche missiles for Interceptors, Auto-Cannons with explosive and armor piercing ammunition and one rocket tank. Start building your base, you will need two more laboratories to get a required start boost, then some storage, living quarters and if you accidentally have some money left, buy a large radar array. Start researching a laser technology up to a laser rifle. Your first strategy is to blast a few aliens to keep a good fundings and to finish building your base. Don't risk too much, shoot some to the oceans (good score anyway). When you send an Interceptor, send a squad too. You may be a lucky and UFO sits down on his own, then you can attack fast. On missions keep your distance. Arm you Auto-Cannons with an explosive ammunition and use auto-fire to blast them out. Use only tank to explore area and when you see one, blast him with your Auto-Cannons from distance. When you encounter a terror mission, take one or two more tanks and blast everything suspicious you see. When you blast some civilians, don't worry, you cannot do a clean score this early and you need to lower a minus points from a terror and get some alien weaponry.

Stage two: You have already researched a laser rifle and finished building your first base. When you have enough money, start to build more bases. Don't be too ambitious, build a lot of small bases with only one or two hangars, radar and storage rooms. Launch Interceptors from those bases and try to destroy as many alien aircrafts as possible (mostly crash them to the oceans). Take only missions you need and feel, they are easy for you and as closest to your main base as possible. Those additional bases can cover more airspace and give you more credits from shooting down UFOs. Make light infantry (don't try to train some soldiers, they will probably die soon without any armor.) that means only one man with one laser rifle. Laser rifles are cheap, don't need any ammunition and spares your money and Elerium that you will need later. Focus your research on stunning bombs and plasma weapons up to Interceptor mounted plasma cannons.

 

Stage three: Equip stunning launchers and bombs and get as many live aliens as possible. You need especially Sectoids and Ethereals but don't try to win a fight with Ethereals just now, just grab one alive and go. You can clear all mission with stunning launchers against Sectoids or Floaters, blast their tanks and hardly accessible aliens with your tanks. Focus all research on live aliens with psionic skills, you can use some higher ranking officers if you have some. Your goal is to get a psionic lab as soon as possible. When you have it, build a one or two and hire as many soldiers as possible. After you discover their potential, release everyone with psi-power below 90 or use them as light infantry. Those soldiers will be your strike team, equip them with power suits or flying suits and heavy plasma guns (should have enough clips now without the need of manufacture.)

Stage four: It's time to train your strike team, assign them to psionic training and equip them with Psi-Amps. Add at least two tanks to your strike team. Your missions should be like: Tank exploration, gain control over all aliens you see and make them throw their weapon and come to your location. Then just slay them when they are back in control. Your soldiers will advance very fast in their stats. Try to get some high raking officers and leaders for further research. Be careful about those damn big launchers, they can kill all your team if you stay at one place, you can also change levels with your flying suits. Bombs are effective only in one level. You should have researched almost everything this time with 3 laboratories at full capacity.

Stage five: Fun begins :-) Build Mind Shield and Hyper Wave Decoder in every base so they cannot attack you and you get all information you want. Your strike team are now really bad guys and you can win every mission, just always spare some time for your Psi-Amp and beware of large guided launchers, nothing else can stop you. Now you can do whatever you want and eventually go to the final mission. Last base is as easy as every other base you encountered.

And this is what makes fun about this game. And if you get bored with your supremacy, switch to X-COM: Terror From The Deep. No hints this time, use everything you learned from your previous play and don't expect you don't get kicked, second X-COM game is really much harder. Good gaming.

 

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General

Ultima 8 - Love it and Hate it

by George 16. January 2010 05:07

I have recently played Ultima 8 (again). Who played this game before will surely understand me, when I say: I love it and I hate it. It is the last game of a classic Ultima series and as the first one, it creates quite a good looking 'feel 3D' engine. But the game itself has a fantastic story (as most of The Ultima series games by the way). The story begins exactly when the Ultima 7 ends. Avatar is cast to the world of Pagan, and he has to find his way out of there to help Britannia, which is (once again) under attack. But you have to feel the story by Yourself of course :-). You can try the game here: http://www.freegameempire.com/games/Ultima-8

Now, why I love it? It is because of the world it creates, the way Avatar conquers the world of Pagan (Without any real knowledge by the way. It reminds me that there are no too much clever people there), a graphics (well, it is quite old today, but it used to be something) and of course the great story that is always part of Ultima series games.

And why I hate it? I always get pretty angry playing the game. Controlling the avatar is dedicated to mentally strong people, especially when you don't have a patched version. You will probably die many times stucked behind a tree or in the corner, unable to jump over a rock 2 inches high or my favorite; you will die countless times in the bottomless water pool 5 feet wide.

As you can see (and we are slowly reaching the end of my analysis), this is simple the game you cannot miss. Some of Ultima fans will only hate this game, without the love part I think. But it will always have a small place in my collection.

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