Category Archives: AGFV

Why you should spend more time on the Internet’s library

Internet_Archive_logo_and_wordmarkI’ve used the Internet Archive for years. It’s where I discovered Over The Rhine, John Holowach and Tryad, Two Zombies Later and a ridiculous amount of concerts and community artists.

It’s a great resource for old books too, be it public domain works from Project Gutenberg or LibriVox recordings of The Lost World.

It’s also where I discovered a lot of great machinima including an old Star Wars classic “A Great and Majestic Empire”. Do yourself a favor and at least watch episodes 14 and 15 (though sadly this series doesn’t have much of a proper end, but it’s still amusing to have British, Irish and Scottish accents in storm troopers).

And if you’ve never played, or even seen, LucasArt’s classic Grim Fandango, there’s a full playthrough here.

The point is there’s a lot of cool stuff*, for geeks of all sorts.

And it just got even better.

If you’ve been a long time reader of the blog, you probably know one of my hobbies is getting old games to work on modern systems with the help of tools like DosBox and ScummVM. Till now if you heard about a cool old game you’d like to try you either had to download a copy of a game from an abandonware site, or buy a copy from GOG or a used store. But the Internet Archive has struck again, releasing several thousand old DOS games that you can play right in your browser. Remember Doom or Commander Keen? Well now you can indulge your nostalgia. For the moment you can’t save your game, but you can at least get a feel for how we gamed in the 80’s and 90’s (and how some of us still do). You can browse the whole library here, but here are a couple of titles you should check out now.

Note: What’s in the collection may fluctuate. I saw Sierra’s Quest games in the collection earlier this week, but they now appear to have been removed. Probably some of this is going to be subject to copyright.

Lost Interplay Titles, particularly Wasteland (the predecessor to Fallout) and Star Trek 25th Anniversary. Also a video game version of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

screenshot_00

The aforementioned Commander Keen, particularly episode 5.

A whole treasure trove of Carmen Sandiego games (got you singing the theme right?). I played the deluxe Where in the World on my first computer.

Some old Lucasarts favorites Zac McKracken and Maniac Mansion.

And thousands more.

As it turns out the Internet Archive has been awesome in this department for a while. In my searching for games in the Archive I stumbled upon another collection of IBM PC CD-ROM’s from the 90’s. Not a particularly huge collection but it does include my favorite Star Trek Adventure Game, the third chapter of the Monkey Island series and something that may Shock you.

Note: All of these materials are provided for academic and scholarly purposes, so if you’re going to play System Shock, write a paper (or a book) about it 🙂 I don’t have to write one since I have an original sitting in my personal archive but I might for some of this other stuff 😉

Oh and there’s one other thing you can find on the Internet Archive, me. Turns out they’re a great place to host eBook content that I want to give away for free, but retain some Creative Commons licensing and have the site not cost me anything. Starting this time next week, new chapters of the serial novella will appear on the archive. In the meantime, I put up an old story from the first year of this blog in eBook formats for your enjoyment.

If you haven’t checked out the archive at all, just spend a half an hour browsing. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like and would never have heard of otherwise.

*Oooh ooh and I almost forgot to mention old Computer Chronicles videos. Want to know what the 80’s and 90’s thought the future of computing was going to be? Check it out here.

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Trube on Tech: WordPress eBooks and Star Trek Games

This week I got a couple of questions on some older posts asking for a little tech assistance. Rather than reply in the comments, I thought a special post would best serve to answer their questions, or those of anyone else in the future:

ennoundinga asks on Converting Your WordPress Blog to an eBook (Part 2)  : In my Blog export I would like to grab the comments also. Do you think there is a chance to extend the XSL transformation to evaluate the comments?

For my solution I wanted to do two things:

  • Add a “Comments” header if comments existed, and hide it if there are none
  • Format comments with the comment author and comment content

Testing for the existence of comment elements can be accomplished with an xsl:if test:

<xsl:if test="./wp:comment[1]">
  <h2><b>Comments:</b></h2>
</xsl:if>

The xpath statement “./wp:comment[1]” looks for the first comment element that is a child of the current post. If one is found the “Comments” header is printed. If not the parser moves on to the next post.

If comments are present the following code will format them into our working HTML:

<xsl:for-each select="wp:comment">
  <b>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_author">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </b>
  <em>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_content">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </em>
</xsl:for-each>

Both the comment content and author name are stored in CDATA statements and need to be processed by our print-paras template. This code will format the comment like this:

Name of Commenter

What the commenter said in all its glorious detail.

I’ve uploaded an update to the XSL template here (again note since WordPress has filename restrictions the extension has been renamed .xls).

Next question, I’m on a rampage!

WZ writes on AGFV: 20 years of Star Trek 25th AnniversaryBen: Followed your instructions carefully for Star Trek 25th using DBGL, but I only have the CD not floppies version. DBGL is fine. This game appears to not run because (per dos window) the game is looking for a CD to be in the CD drive. But need this to run from the hard disk instead because of physical disability makes it hard to always be putting cd’s in and out of the drive bay. Is the CD game version hardcoded to only run from CD bay? Please reply to my email… Thanks for your gaming blog, it’s great, I enjoyed all your gaming entries.

As it happens, I was reorganizing some of my DBGL files this week (no joke) and managed to create a solution to this very problem.

The 25th Anniversary Enhanced Edition CD-ROM is a little unusual. It’s an Enhanced CD, meaning it has both CD Audio content and CD data content. This means it can’t be fully ripped to an ISO image, since ISO’s only deal with CD data. But there are programs available that allow you to rip an enhanced CD, one such being CloneCD.

To rip an enhanced CD using CloneCD:

1) Open CloneCD and click Read to Image File:

CloneCD_001

2) CloneCD will analyze the disc in the drive, and ask you to select the type of CD. Many selections will work for our purposes, but for now select Game CD:

CloneCD_002

3) Browse to a folder and choose a name for your file (the program will actually create four different files so maybe store in a blank folder). Check the box next to Create “Cue-Sheet”:

CloneCD_003

4) Click OK to begin ripping the CD:

CloneCD_004

5) When you’re finished your folder will contain four files that will look something like this:

CloneCD_005

6) Create a folder in dbgl\dosroot called TREKCD (full path dbgl\dosroot\TREKCD). Copy the folder containing your ripped CD to this folder.

7) You’ll need to install the game from the CD first, then set DBGL to run it. Add a mount for the C drive to the TREKCD sub-folder. Add another mount for the D drive and select the Mount Image(s) radio button. Click Browse, browse to your CUE file and select it as the mount point.

DBGL_Mount

8) With the imgmount selected, click the Grab button next to the main then Browse to add files from the CD image to run at startup. Select INSTALL.EXE. Your run window should look like this:

DBGL_ReadyToInstall

9) Click OK, and run the file to run the install program. When the installation is finished copy the files it installed into your TREKCD folder. Your final directory should look something like this (you may not have the CFG or savegame files):

DBGL_Folder

10) Edit the Profile again and change the Main to STARTREK.EXE in the TREKCD folder, and Setup to SETUP.EXE (in the same folder). Your final setup should look like this:

DBL_PlaySetup

Note: You probably want to set your machine to 7500 cycles for optimum performance.

GameRunning

And you should be good to go. Let me know if you have any further questions.

 

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AGFV: The End of the Blackwell Legacy

Today’s the launch day for The Blackwell Epiphany, the fifth and final entry in the Blackwell indie adventure series.

In it you play as Rosangela Blackwell a spirit medium or “bestower of eternity” who helps guide lost spirits to the other side. Your partner is Joey Malone, a spook who’s been dead since the 1930s, and who has been tied to the women of your family since your grandmother got stuck with him.

BE-shot1

What this practically means is a lot of detective work. Spirits don’t know who they are or even accept that they are dead in some cases and it’s your job to find out and help them to accept it. In the process you uncover crimes both terrestrial and supernatural.

BE-shot3

Each game is only about 3-5 hours long so it’s better to think of them as episodes in a season long game like the work that Telltale is doing (even though the first entry in the series was released in 2006). This last game is supposed to be the longest yet, taking its creator (who presumably knew the solution to everything) 5 hours to complete.

The Blackwell Games are a bit of a throwback, point and click adventure style games using pixel art that was present in games of the early 90s. Think Sierra’s “Quest” titles or LucasArts later SCUMM games. The developer (a four person team out of New York), Wadjet Eye Games, has produced a long series of games using the Adventure Game Studio engine, all of which are quality titles well worth the playthrough. Particular favorites of mine are Resonance, Primordia and The Shivah (Wadjet Eye’s first real game).

I played through the extended demo available on GOG and Wadjet Eye’s website and can’t wait for the released version later today. Gameplay has definitely improved since some of the earlier entries in the series, Rosangela uses her phone to look up clues and contact people rather than always having to travel back to her apartment and use her computer. One of the first puzzles is how to get inside a locked building (a handy trope of the series which involves sending your ghost envoy Joey in first, even though he can’t touch anything). The solution’s not the most obvious from the clues given, but most of the rest of the puzzles in the demo are solvable with a little thinking, and judicious use of each character’s unique abilities (Joey can’t touch anything but he can blow light objects like paper in your direction).

BE-shot13b

What I love about these games is the engaging mystery, amusing character dynamic, and fun puzzles that aren’t as obtuse as some older adventure games. It’s the best of games I played as a kid with less of the frustrations. The voice acting in the series can be a little over-dramatic at times, but I think that’s part of the indie charm, and what other series let’s you hear bloopers of the voice actors recording their characters after you complete the game?

And let’s not forget the music (the soundtrack for this game is over an hour), a mix of jazzy and electronic tracks that really set the tone of a cold New York night.

I can’t wait to play the rest of this game. Why are souls being ripped in half and will Rosangela be driven to the brink of insanity like her relatives? Why is Joey bonded to their family and is there an achievement for drinking coffee 50 times?

Do yourself a favor and at least check out a demo of the first game on Wadjet Eye’s site if you’ve never played this series. Or alternatively you could watch a let’s play of the entire first game here.

~All images from Wadjet Eye games, trailer from GOG.com

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AGFV: The Best and Worst “Forward Thinking” Game Companies

For this month’s installment of AGFV I thought we’d cover the five best and five worst game companies for getting their older games working. Some games have life even after twenty years, and some won’t work on the next or even their own OS.

I considered a lot of factors when compiling this list; continued support, ease of installation, whether emulation is required, 16-bit installers, broadness of graphics cards/methods supported.

The Best:

5: Valve – Say what you will about Steam, Valves’s game distribution platform, it’s a great service for games like Half Life and its ilk. While games on Steam are not gaurunteed to continue running on all new OS’s, the support structure seems to be there for you to invest with confidence. I also have the stand-alone GOTY edition of Half-Life which installs without problems.

4: Interplay – It’s worth noting that Win 95 games are the kiss of death in forward compatibility and Interplay has several that install in compatibility mode WITHOUT patches (Fallout and Freespace). It’s DOS back catalog installs well in DOSBox, and they have many of the best known series (Freespace, Descent, Fallout, The Bard’s Tale). (Notable exceptions: Giants: Citizen Kabuto was buggy to begin with and remains so, and the floppy edition of Star Trek: Judgment Rites will not install without replacing the extracting program)

3: iD/Raven Software – Doom, Quake and Commander Keen are all emulatable in DOSBox or other third-party enhancement projects (Doomsday, Dark Places). The Win95 distro of Doom still installs and runs well on new systems. Most games that are Quake 3 powered run on Win 7 without modification (Elite Force Series for instance).

2: Sierra (DOS-era) – Also known as the “Quest” Era, Sierra’s adventure games work both in DOSBox and ScummVM. Many have been repackaged and sold with automatic DOSBox compatibility so they install and run on Win XP/7 without modification. Some copy protection in their games requires you to download copies of the original manuals, but these are widely available.

1: Blizzard (pre-2003) – It’s worth noting that Starcraft (the original) is still one of the most widely played games in some circles. Warcraft 3 which came out 9 years ago still sells in stores (as does Starcraft). Even older titles like the original Warcraft or Diablo can be installed as is or emulated in DOSBox. Newer tactics toward online registration have changed how their newer games will move forward, but their back catalog is among the easiest to install and get playing.

The Worst:

5: Nintendo – Yeah okay, I know I’m not a console gamer to begin with, but it’s worth noting that you can’t play a Nintendo game from 20 years ago without repurchasing it. All the games listed in the best category can be installed or emulated using original media.

4: Cyan – MYST and Riven specifically. Some editions of MYST were designed for Win 3.1 only and can’t be run even in Win 95. Those that were designed for 95 use old editions of QuickTime. Riven’s five disc edition can be recombined into one (though I haven’t tried it), but even a conventional installation from the 10th anniversary set on Win 7 does not work. CYAN’s secret, new editions. You can buy MYST and Riven on GOG and they install and run just fine. You can even buy MYST on the iPad (but again repurchasing is not the same).

3: Remedy – The sound libraries for Max Payne have to be recompiled to get them to run in Vista/Win7. Even my XP installation did not work quite correctly (I had to hit the Windows button and click back in to get the menu). Maybe a victim of focusing on console versions first.

2: LucasArts – Where do I begin? Maybe with all the crappy Win 9.x Star Wars games. LucasArts installers from this period are 16-bit and have never been updated for 64-bit systems. The graphics cards supported are very narrow and its a crapshoot as to whether a newer system can interpret them (interestingly had a lot better luck with integrated graphics cards than real ones). The GrimE engine has only recently been emulated sufficiently to be playable and even some Scumm titles (Enhanced Monkey Island 1) require more than a basic level of skill to get running.

1: Simon and Schuster Interactive – They make games? Yeah, a lot of crappy Star Trek titles mostly. What’s unfortunate about Simon and Schuster is that many of these products are interesting (the TNG Technical Manual is one of my favorites but can only be run in emulated Win 3.1!). Again these suffer from using strange 3D techniques tested on only a few graphics cards, or using old versions of QuickTime. Even DOS era games have weird copy protection that requires a very specific configuration (otherwise Spock yells at you for piracy). (Notable Exception: DS9 The Fallen based on the Unreal 1.5 engine. Great game even today)

Tried to get any of these games running yourself? Like to see a game guide on some of the tougher ones?

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