metzomagic.com Steves XP Legacy Games Corner
Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner - LucasArts and others (using ScummVM)
By Steve Metzler (Last updated: 5th January, 2014)

When LucasArts developed its SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine in the late 80's, it heralded a new era for adventure gaming. The game writers could concentrate their efforts on the game itself rather than having to re-invent the engine for each new game. And SCUMM served them well. Here are just a few of the fabulous games that utilised this engine:

Day of the Tentacle
The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Sam & Max Hit the Road

But alas, none of these games would work very well, if at all, in Windows XP. And thus it was that a few dedicated programmers were inclined to start up an open source initiative called ScummVM. The idea was to create a brand new engine that would run on modern operating systems, using only the data files from the original games. And the idea works brilliantly! Not only can the ScummVM (the VM stands for virtual machine) handle LucasArts games, but these people also set themselves the task of accommodating some of their own favourites, notably:

Simon the Sorcerer and Simon the Sorcerer II (Adventure Soft)
Beneath a Steel Sky (Revolution)

It turns out that Revolution were so impressed by this effort that they donated Beneath a Steel Sky to the ScummVM team, and it's now a free download on the ScummVM site! But the CD version is 67MB, so you might be glad that you have the original CD, as I happen to. And that leads us nicely along to the next topic, in fact the very reason you are reading this page. You want to know how to use the ScummVM to run your own old games. Well, it does require a little bit of command line expertise, and here's how you do it:

  1. We'll be using the CD version of Beneath a Steel Sky in this example. You can run this game right off the CD. Don't have to even install it!
  2. Go to the ScummVM site, and navigate to the Downloads page (Note: both the CD and floppy versions of Beneath a Steel Sky are available for download at the bottom of this page if you need them). Locate the latest released version of the Windows Installer (at the time of writing it was 1.6.0). So then you would download the file: scummvm-1.6.0-win32.exe. Run that programme to install ScummVM wherever you want to on your PC. Usually, this would be: C:\Program Files\ScummVM\
  3. The game will run off the CD, but we need to create a folder to hold our saved games. In XP, you could put this folder anywhere you like. But later versions of Windows from Vista onwards (including Windows 7/8) feature Unix-like security, so make sure that wherever you put this folder is a place that you have administrative privileges in. You need to be able to create and edit files here. So make a new folder called something like: C:\Users\Steve\Documents\my games\DOSGAMES\sky, bearing in mind that your user name probably isn't 'Steve' :-)
  4. Insert the Beneath a Steel Sky CD, then start up a Command Prompt via:

    Windows key + R, and then entering 'cmd' in the dialogue box.

  5. At the Command Prompt, change to the new folder you just created by entering something like: cd \Users\Steve\Documents\my games\DOSGAMES\sky
  6. Now we are ready to run Beneath a Steel Sky. Assuming your CD drive is letter 'D' (it may be 'E'), just enter the following at the Command Prompt to run the game:

    "C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -pD:\bass sky

    The -f tells the engine to run the game in full screen mode. The -pD:\bass tells it where to find the sky.exe file on the CD (Note: if you are running a downloaded version of the game from your hard drive, you must point ScummVM at wherever the sky.exe file resides. You might, for example, use: -p"C:\Users\Steve\Documents\my games\DOSGAMES\sky"). Note that the double quotes around the path to the folders are only necessary if the path contains space characters, as is the case with 'my games', and also 'Program Files' as above. Finally, the sky at the very end of the command line is ScummVm's recognised abbreviation for Beneath a Steel Sky. If you want to see what other games are supported, and indeed what abbreviation you need to put at the end of the command line, just enter:

    "C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -z

    at the Command Prompt to get a complete list (for instance, Day of the Tentacle is 'tentacle').
  7. Since most of these games were written to run at 320 x 200 resolution, they will appear blocky when they are blown up to 640 x 400, especially on a 17 inch or larger display. There are some nice filtering algorithms built into ScummVM to get around this. My favourite is 'High Quality 2x', and this is how you can run the game with a graphics filter (using the -g flag):

    "C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\bass sky

    A complete list of available filters/modes is contained in the C:\Program Files\ScummVM\readme.txt file, where you will also find other valuable information concerning ScummVM. The --aspect-ratio flag is also good for old games, as it fixes the transition from 320 x 200 to 640 x 480 so that your display isn't 'squished'. Also, the -n flag says to display subtitles by default.
  8. Lastly, I recommend creating a batch file to hold that command command line in, as it would be pretty laborious to have to type all that in every time you wanted to run the game. So in Windows Explorer, right-click on the C:\Users\Steve\Documents\my games\DOSGAMES\sky folder and use:

    New > Text Document

    to create a file called sky.bat. Then copy and paste the above command line into it, and save. Now you only have to type in the following two commands to run Beneath a Steel Sky:

    cd \Users\Steve\Documents\my games\DOSGAMES\sky
    sky

Well, that's about all there is to it. Now you can revisit a considerable number of your old classic adventures courtesy of the ScummVM team!

Copyright © Steve Metzler 2014. All rights reserved.

See also the metzomagic.com Help! page for links to additional help in getting games to run.