Virtualized DOS Gaming in 2018

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5 Responses

  1. Your write-up was recently linked to on VOGONS, and I just wanted to say that it was a very nice read. You did good research and summarized very nicely that which is known to many veterans of the DOS gaming community, but which is often hard to convince others of: that for the purpose of enjoying DOS games, DOSBOX is generally far superior to tinkering with real hardware.

    Thanks to DOSBOX’s open-source nature, there are enthusiasts taking it to directions beyond what is officially supported by the core team: such as 3D accelerator (Voodoo) emulation, and support for running Windows 9x inside DOSBOX. I do not have firsthand experience as to how viable this solution is; for early Windows games I typically found that there are game-specific patches and fixes that allow them to be run on a more modern OS, such as Windows XP, often with emulated 3D capabilities (e.g., nGlide).

    • Jason says:

      Thanks for letting me know that. I didn’t know that site existed but it looks cool. I’ll check it out. I haven’t tried any old Windows games in the ways I tried to use DOS games as described in that guide. Most of the older Windows games I played were some of the popular ones so they’re all available on Steam and GOG (Quake II, Unreal Tournament, etc.). It’s good to hear that people are taking the initiative to patch some of these older games and keep them alive.

  2. Aussiebear says:

    How about a sequel to this article?
    => https://pcem-emulator.co.uk/index.html

    Version 15 was recently released.

  3. ynari says:

    The biggest issue with using legacy hardware is configuration. Yes, with the appropriate hardware and software it offers the most authentic (not always best) experience, but setting up DOS, finding appropriate drivers (including ones that maintain stability and maximise base memory), and appropriate boot menu configurations for different game types is at the very least a whole evening’s work.

    Transferring data is actually easy. Stick in a network card, use packet drivers, and a DOS FTP server. Much easier than a full network requester.

    Physical hardware is always a compatibility trade off. Certain games will need expansion cards to be swapped out.

    Tie Fighter is one of the worst cases in point. For maximum effect I’m using a Soundblaster AWE64, an analogue joystick, a separate replica MusicQuest MIDI card (otherwise it triggers a pause bug in TF), and a Roland Sound Canvas. That’s a lot of hardware, fiddling, and expense to play a game when it’s available on GOG.com in a ‘click and go’ configuration that supports modern game controllers for under a tenner (provided you own a reasonably fast PC, emulation is slow).

    DOSBox will usually achieve at least 90-95% of a real hardware solution. In the case of games such as Commander Keen 4-6, I don’t think I could tell the difference in an A/B comparison.

    If you really want to scream, go and look at the requirements to successfully run the demo ‘Copper’ with all effects present (needs both a specific graphics card, and a limited selection of fixed frequency monitors). It just works in DOSBox..

  4. kurkosdr says:

    Just use Windows 98SE, it comes with the SoundBlaster drivers bundled (and they even auto-install) and the OS is generally much more stable on fast or emulated systems. I got 98SE to run on VirtualBox (plus Display Doctor), but all my games wouldn’t enter full screen. Even ones which don’t require Direct3D and can do software rendering.

    I will try on VMWare. Maybe display emulation is better, and with the 98SE having bundled SoundBlaster drivers it could be the ultimate DOS and 9x setup (minus Direct 3D support obv, I am surprised that no VM software supports software-emulated Direct3D support for 9x)

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