Friday, March 9, 2007

Friday Freebie - Who Needs Next-Gen Graphics?

Retro gaming is all the rage these days. Old arcade games can be had on the 360's XBLA, old Nintendo, Sega, and TG16 games (and soon NeoGeo - yeah!) can be found on the Wii's VC, PS1 and PS2 games can be played on the PS3, at least for now, and some PS1 games can even be downloaded to the PSP. Sometimes it seems like there are more retro games available on these next-gen consoles than there are next-gen games...

Alas, the same cannot be said for the PC. Granted, the state of gaming on the PC is in the toilet, but still, what little focus on games that exists is pointing straight to the future. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing - old games get old after a while. But what do you do when you just need a classic Leisure Suit Larry fix?

In the last freebie we talked about virtualization, which allows you to run multiple OSes at once in order to run older software. Some of you may be thinking that's a perfect way to run old games - just install DOS in a virtual machine, and away you go. Well, not really. True, some games will run, but they won't be pretty. Here's the deal: (1) VPC 2007 doesn't officially support DOS, so yes, while you can install it, you won't have a mouse or CD driver, which pretty much leaves you stuck; (2) the virtualized hardware is usually newer than the game, and is more Windows-friendly; and (3) virtualization is a resource hog. So what's a boy to do? Get yourself a DOSBox.

DOSBox is a program that's specifically designed to emulate a DOS environment suited for playing games. Unlike virtualization, emulation does not require a separate client OS - that's built right in. Also, emulators are usually stripped down to just the basics you need, so the performance is better. Here's a screenshot of what DOSBox looks like:

Kind of looks like a command prompt, doesn't it? That's cause it's literally a "DOS Box". From here, you load all your DOS games, and they run in the emulated environment of the program.

Unfortunately, this software doesn't come with any games preloaded - you get what you pay for - so you'll have to dig out those old floppies. And probably connect a floppy drive to your PC to use them. But once you do, you'll be in retro gaming heaven, enjoying those classics like Monkey Island, King's Quest, and Spectre. Does anyone out there actually remember Spectre?

You can find out all the details about DOSBox here, and hit the download page here. They've got packages for just about every OS. And yes, even the FreeBSD guys are covered this time. So comb your hair real high, fire up some Def Leppard, and go get your retro game on.

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