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Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner
By Steve Metzler (Last updated: 23rd January, 2014)

5th January, 2014: Windows XP is 12 years old already, and patches for it will no longer be released after 8th April, 2014. So over the Christmas break I bowed to the inevitable and upgraded to Windows 8.1. It went a lot smoother than I anticipated, and I'm delighted to report that the two most important tools of the trade for running very old games on new systems, DOSBox and ScummVM, work just fine. The only caveat, and it's a real important one, is that since every Windows operating system since the dreaded Vista features Unix-like security, you need to make sure that you install all your old games in a place where you have administrative privileges. For me, that would be:

C:\Users\Steve\Documents

Naturally, your name may vary :-) If you don't put your old games somewhere underneath there, then you won't be able to create and edit batch files and the like and you probably won't even be able to save games. I have updated my DOSBox and ScummVM guides to reflect these important changes. I'm going to have to take a deeper look at how you could actually get something like Windows 98 running in a virtual machine in Windows 8. That might take some time.

Oh, and almost forgot: had to rename these pages to "Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner". Didn't change the URL though, as people may have it bookmarked... you do have this place bookmarked, right?

To quote Martin B., maintainer of a (sadly, former) great skeptical resource called the T-Files, "The Net is a huge library of bulls**t, lies, stupidity and nonsense. And all the shelves have been toppled and the books are scattered on the floor... Yes, the truth is out there. It's just damn hard to find". It would seem that nowhere else is this more applicable than when it comes to trawling through Internet forums, looking for advice on how to get a particular game working on your system :-(

So welcome to Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner then. I've done all the trawling through the forums so you don't have to! You see, in my 'real' job I happen to be a professional programmer (in fact, I've been programming computers since 1974. That's really scary, isn't it?). I'm thereby willing to go that extra mile just to get a game up and running. All the advice you will find in this column has been verified to work by me personally. No "this might work" or "so-and-so says this works" will you find here. And yet this column would not be possible were it not for the innate curiosity and perseverance of the many dedicated individuals who post on the aforementioned forums, so I'll make every effort to give due credit to their contributions.

Many of the games featured here are quite old, and have to be dragged literally kicking and screaming onto your modern computer, so be prepared for a little hacking in order to get them to work. I'll be updating this column regularly as I get new games up and running, so check back often. Your feedback is appreciated, especially if it relates to crashing, timing, or control problems that I haven't mentioned here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Q. What old games will/won't work in XP?
Q. How do I run a game in Windows 95/98 Compatibility Mode?
Q. How do I turn off auto-run?
Q. What is DOSBox and how can I use it to run old DOS games?
Q. What is ScummVM?
Q. What is VDMSound?
Q. OK, I've got DOSBox working, but I've never used DOS before. How do I get my DOS game running?
Q. My game intermittently locks up, or my cursor leaves trails on the screen. Both of these symptoms are indications of possible hyperthreading or dual/quad core problems. Is there any way to fix this?
Q. How can I use Virtual PC 2007 to run games in XP that will not work using any other method?

Q. How do I run a game in Windows 95/98 Compatibility Mode?
A. Windows XP will let you run programmes in Windows 95/98 'Compatibility Mode'. Sometimes you even need to do this with the Setup.exe on the CD that is used to install the game. If a Windows 95 game's Setup.exe or the game itself refuses to work straight off in XP, you can try getting it to work in Compatibility Mode by doing the following:

  1. Right-click on the desired .exe file, and choose 'Properties' from the menu.
  2. Select the 'Compatibility' tab on the resulting dialogue.
  3. In the 'Compatibility mode' section of the dialogue, tick the 'Run this program in compatibility mode for:' box. Leave the operating system selected as either 'Windows 95' or 'Windows 98 / Windows Me'.
  4. Click the 'OK' button, and then try running the programme again. If you still have no joy after that, you can try ticking various combinations of the boxes under the 'Display settings' section and then running the programme again (but I find that this invariably never helps).

Though most people don't realise it, Compatibility Mode is most certainly a feature of Windows 2000 as well (SP2 and upwards anyway), although it's admittedly a bit obscured. To enable it in Windows 2000, just:

Start -> Run, and enter:

regsvr32 %systemroot%\apppatch\slayerui.dll

Now when you select any programme's shortcut and right-click on it, you will see a Compatibility tab :-)

Q. How do I turn off auto-run?
A. So you're playing Pandora Directive, and you need to swap CDs every 2 minutes. Each time you put a new CD into the drive, XP minimises your game and throws up an unwanted Explorer window. You then have to get rid of this window, and double-click on your minimised game to open it up again. Aaarrgh! What to do? The solution is indeed quite simple. There are several approaches, but this one is the most direct (thanks to Windows Annoyances):

  1. Run the Registry Editor ('Start' -> 'Run' -> and type in: regedit.exe)
  2. Open the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Cdrom
  3. Double-click on 'Autorun', and replace the '1' with a '0'. (If it's not there, create this key by selecting 'Edit' -> 'New' -> 'DWORD Value', and typing Autorun for its name)
  4. Exit the Registry Editor. You now have to restart your PC for this change to take effect.

The only side effect of this change is that when you, for instance, load up a DVD to watch a film, XP will not do anything automatically. You have to start your DVD player software manually. The only other practical method for killing Autorun is if you can remember to hold down the shift key each time you insert a new CD. But you won't remember, believe me. And besides, you almost need three hands to do this :-(

Q. What is DOSBox and how can I use it to run old DOS games?
A. A series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding DOSBox can be found in our very own metzomagic.com DOSBox FAQ.

Q. What is ScummVM?
A. ScummVM is a utility written by some dedicated LucasArts game fans that allows you to run games written using the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine (plus a slew of other games), on modern operating systems. Instructions for setting it up can be found here: metzomagic.com ScummVM Guide.

Q. What is VDMSound?
A. Like DOSBox, VDMSound is a utility that lets you run DOS games in XP, and is especially useful if your processor does not have enough 'oomph' to run DOSBox. See the metzomagic.com VDMSound FAQ for further details.

Q. OK, I've got DOSBox working, but I've never used DOS before. How do I get my DOS game running?
A. We've cooked up a simple DOS Tutorial to outline the basics of DOS navigation and programme execution.

Q. My game intermittently locks up, or my cursor leaves trails on the screen. Both of these symptoms are indications of possible hyperthreading or dual/quad core problems. Is there any way to fix this?
A. Hyperthreading is a technique used by Windows XP/Vista/7/8 (along with special hardware in late model Pentium IV processors) to make your single processor appear as two processors. The theory is that while one thread of execution is blocked waiting for something to happen (like a piece of data to be read from disk), another thread can be running away blissfully on the other virtual processor. And of course, if you have one of the newer dual or quad core processors, then you also have a multiple processor scenario. Some Windows games that were written before the advent of XP cannot handle this thread switching between processors, and will randomly freeze up. Here are a few examples:

Grim Fandango (after saving your game and returning to it, you lose sound, or Manny freezes as soon as he starts to speak)
Thief: The Dark Project
Outcast
Tex Murphy: Overseer

If your PC does have hyperthreading/multiple cores, there is a universal patch programme that you can run to permanently bind a particular application to a single processor. We have archived it for you here: imagecfg.zip. Just download that file and unzip it. Then copy the IMAGECFG.EXE file to the folder:

C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32

Now you can run this programme from anywhere. To fix up a particular game, install the game first. Then open a Command Prompt. In Windows Vista/7/8, you will need administrative privileges to accomplish what we are about to do next. In that case, search for the Command Prompt application, then right-click on it and Run As Administrator.

Now you need to figure out where your game's main executable file is located. Using Grim Fandango as an example, you would enter something like this at the Command Prompt (note the quotation marks around the path to GRIMFANDANGO.EXE. These are only necessary if the path contains any spaces, but it does no harm to include them anyway):

imagecfg -a 0x1 "C:\Program Files\LucasArts\Grim\GRIMFANDANGO.EXE"

And you should see the following output:

C:\Program Files\LucasArts\Grim\GRIMFANDANGO.EXE contains no configuration information
C:\Program Files\LucasArts\Grim\GRIMFANDANGO.EXE contains a Subsystem Version of 4.0
C:\Program Files\LucasArts\Grim\GRIMFANDANGO.EXE updated with the following config
information:
    Process Affinity Mask: 00000001

Done! Just remember that should you ever re-install the game, you will have to run imagecfg on it again. Oh, and you also need to create a shortcut on your desktop that points to GRIMFANDANGO.EXE rather than the launcher, Grim.exe. Hey, the icon looks cooler anyway, so win/win all around :-)

Q. How can I use Virtual PC 2007 to run games in XP that will not work using any other method?
A. Just visit our metzomagic.com Virtual PC 2007 FAQ.

Q. What old games will/won't work in XP?
A. Just below you will find the list of games that can be made to work in XP. By no means is this a comprehensive list, just a list of games that I own and have been able to get working. It is truly a work in progress.

You can see at a glance whether Windows Compatibility Mode, VDMSound, or DOSBox is required to get the game running. Further on down the page is the list of games that don't work (either at all or not very well) in XP.

Games that work in Windows XP
Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy
Anachronox
Beneath a Steel Sky
Day of the Tentacle
Diablo II
Discworld Noir
Fallout and Fallout 2
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (with English subtitles patch)
Grim Fandango
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny
The Longest Journey
Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy
Outcast
The Pandora Directive
Planescape: Torment
Realms of the Haunting
Ripper
Riven
Sam & Max Hit the Road
Simon the Sorcerer (I and II)
Space Quest 5
System Shock
System Shock 2
Tex Murphy: Overseer
Thief: The Dark Project
TimeLapse
Tomb Raider
Ultima VII Parts 1 & 2
Under a Killing Moon

Amerzone: The Explorer's Legacy Win Comp: yes VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Runs fine using Windows 98/ME Compatibility Mode.

Anachronox Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
All you need do to get it working in XP is download and apply the 1.01 patch before you run the game for the first time.

Beneath a Steel Sky Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Works just fine using ScummVM or DOSBox. Sample command line to run off CD using ScummVM (assuming your CD-ROM drive is letter 'D'):
"C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\bass sky

Day of the Tentacle Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Works a treat using ScummVM or DOSBox. Sample command line to run off CD using ScummVM (assuming your CD-ROM drive is letter 'D'):
"C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\dott tentacle

Diablo II Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
I had no problem running Diablo II with my 'old' video card, an nVidia 8800 GTX that came with my XP PC in April, 2007. But once it finally gave up the ghost and I replaced it with a GTX 550 Ti in 2012, no dice... until I downloaded the 1.13d patch from here. As these things go, it was probably more the various updates to XP along the way rather than the new video card, but who knows. In case the patch disappears, I have archived it here.

Discworld Noir Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
A strange one, this. Works fine until you try to either resume your game or access the options from the menu. But there's a very easy workaround: just use F1 to access the save/restore screens and the options, and away you go :-)

Fallout and Fallout 2 Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
No trouble at all getting either of these classic RPGs to run. Make sure to download the patches for each game before you start to play though. You can find links to them in the Tips section of the corresponding metzomagic.com walkthroughs for Fallout and Fallout 2.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
There's a new kid on the block, and the name is DOSBox. Previously, you had to jump through a few hoops to make this game run in XP, but the process has now become a whole lot simpler thanks to this great utility. Full details here.

Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (with English subtitles patch) Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Somewhat painful to get running, but worth it if you're really into Gabe. The subtitles also make the game accessible to more people. Gory details here.

Grim Fandango Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Normally you just have to turn off hyperthreading/dual core to get this game running. But on my new nVidia 8800 GTX, all the characters in the game, including Manny, had stripes running through them. I couldn't get rid of this rather undesirable texture effect no matter which setting I tweaked in the nVidia control panel. So I finally gave up and... originally had you all installing Virtual PC 2007 and running the game in software mode to get around this problem (because even running the game in software mode in XP wouldn't work). But reader Jim Luczak just e-mailed me with a much simpler solution: Start > Run... dxdiag, and in the Display tab, simply disable DirectDraw Acceleration. And away you go. Many thanks for the tip, Jim. Of course, you have to remember to re-enable DirectDraw Acceleration to resume business as usual.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Another classic brought to you via ScummVM, but also works with DOSBox. Sample command line to run off CD using ScummVM (assuming your CD-ROM drive is letter 'D'):
"C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\atlantis atlantis

Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Runs fine in DOSBox, but this is one of those games that checks the available hard drive space before it installs, and it probably gets it wrong on your modern system and refuses to install. The remedy for this problem is to add the following parameter to your C: drive mount command in dosbox.conf:

mount C C:\ -freesize 500

Then start up DOSBox and install the game by running the setup command from your CD drive. For the sound and MIDI devices, choose Sound Blaster ASP/16 (I usually recommend Sound Blaster Pro, but that seems to be really choppy in this game). Once the game starts, be sure to nick into the Options/Video menu and set everything to High, with a Large texture cache. The game is so pixellated on the default settings that it's unplayable.

The Longest Journey Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Just don't use its Launcher. Instead, open the folder where you installed it and double-click on game.exe to run it.

Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
If you try to run this one out of the box, you won't get very far. But all you need is a patch, and it should run fine then on most modern video cards. As usual, because the developer and publisher are no longer active on the web, we have archived this patch for you here: Nightlong version 1.1 patch

Outcast Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no

Just follow the steps below to get Outcast running in XP:

  1. On the Outcast CD-ROM, right-click on Setup.exe and tweak it to run in Compatibility Mode for Windows 98/ME. Then run it to install the game.
  2. Download Outcast Patch 3 and apply it.
  3. If you have a late model Pentium IV with hyperthreading, or a dual core processor, you'll need to run imagecfg.exe on the Outcast.exe file. See the Q & A above regarding hyperthreading/dual core if you don't already know how to do that.

  4. Now you can run the game, and when you eventually get to the game menu, open Settings > PERFORMANCE SETTINGS, then hit the down arrow. Up the Resolution to 512 x 384, and make sure all the other settings are on High (except Depth of Field on the last page, which you can leave at Med). Then hit the 'OK' button to save your settings.
  5. Finally... before you run the game, if you don't use a slow-down programme to slow down your processor, you'll find that three undesirable things will happen:

    1. Combat will be difficult.
    2. You'll have extreme difficulty wading through even the shallowest water.
    3. You won't be able to ride a kwon-ha (you can mount him but he won't move).

    So... I've had good results in the past using Turbo, but this can be tricky with dual core, as it just hops to the free core and you get no slow-down. However, I believe if you bind Turbo itself to the same core that Outcast is using, with imagecfg.exe, that it will work. I can't verify this though, as I need to some time get to the part of the game where you obtain a kwon-ha to try it. Some people have reported success with CPU Grabber. It's on that same page of slow-down software I just pointed you at.

Well, that's about it. Good luck with it if you can get it running, because it's a true classic.

The Pandora Directive Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
There are now two alternatives to running Pandora Directive in XP. If you have at least a 2GHZ processor, you can try the DOSBox route. Otherwise, you can try using VDMSound, but the set-up is more complicated.

Planescape: Torment Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Be sure to apply the V1.1 patch before you start to play. It primarily fixes a problem with memory leaks that causes the game to slow down terribly and eventually crash. You can find a link to the patch in the Tips section of the metzomagic.com Planescape: Torment walkthrough.

Realms of the Haunting Win Comp: no VDMSound: yes DOSBox: yes
Use VDMSound with all the defaults. One thing you should do immediately once you get the game running: re-map the movement from the default cursor keys to the ASWD keys. Otherwise, if you accidentally hit one of the cursor keys just to the right of the Ctrl key, your character will begin spinning uncontrollably and you will have to hit one of the cursor keys on the keypad to stop spinning. Note: if you have at least a 2GHZ processor, this game runs just fine in DOSBox :-)

Ripper Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Works in DOSBox, but the setup is a bit complicated. See here for details.

Riven Win Comp: yes VDMSound: no DOSBox: no

Another one that is well behaved in XP. You will want to download and apply the Riven Updater 1.02 before playing though, as you can get absolutely stuck in a few places without it. Since nearly every Riven page on the web points you to the Broderbund site for this patch, and Broderbund is now effectively defunct, you would have a very difficult time indeed finding this patch. So... we have archived it here on metzomagic.com for you :-)

Well... on my PC it was well behaved. Others are not so lucky. Firstly, if the game won't run at all, you should try running riven.exe in Compatibility Mode for Windows 98 / Windows Me. If you don't know how to do that, there are instructions in the FAQ above. Then if the sound or the movies still won't work, one of the following should fix the problem (courtesy of Myst Community forum:)

  1. Go to the folder where you installed Riven and open the file 'mohawk.w32' with a text editor (eg. MS Notepad). Find the line with "fEnableAudioProxy=true" and change it to "fEnableAudioProxy=false". Save the changes and try to run Riven. If it works, then you are done.
  2. If Step 1 didn't work, then uninstall QuickTime, and install the version of QuickTime that came with Riven. There will be a setup programme for it somewhere on the CDs or DVD.

Sam & Max Hit the Road Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Another game that works using ScummVM or DOSBox. Sample command line to run off CD using ScummVM (assuming your CD-ROM drive is letter 'D'):
"C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe" -f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\samnmax samnmax

Simon the Sorcerer (I and II) Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
I had bought a special edition of these two games that purported to work in XP. As it turned out, they didn't. But they work fine in ScummVM. All you need to do is find the folder on the CD where the game's executables are located, and you're away. In the case of the first game, that was: SimonI. And for the second, SimonII. Sample command line to run off CD using ScummVM (assuming your CD-ROM drive is letter 'D'):
"C:\Program Files\ScummVM\scummvm.exe"-f -g hq2x --aspect-ratio -n -pD:\SimonI simon1

Space Quest 5 Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Use DOSBox, with IRQ 5 as the SoundBlaster interrupt request. You will also need to download and install this updated SoundBlaster driver.

System Shock Win Comp: no VDMSound: yes DOSBox: yes
One of the most difficult games of all to get running, but well worth the effort. See here for full details. By the way, if you have at least a 2GHZ processor, System Shock works just fine in DOSBox :-)

System Shock 2 Win Comp: yes VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Even more difficult to get running than its predecessor. Check out the set-up here.

Tex Murphy: Overseer Win Comp: yes VDMSound: no DOSBox: no

I previously thought that you needed hardware MPEG2 decoding in order to run the DVD version of Overseer, but the 1.04 patch made a wider selection of DVD players available, including those that play back using software :-) So here's how to get Overseer working in all its original glory, using the Mediamatics DVDExpress player:

  1. Install Overseer from the DVD. You will need to run the Setup.exe programme on the DVD in Windows 95 Compatibility Mode. While setting up the RSX 3D audio, I recommend going to Advance Settings - Buffer Times and changing the 120 milliseconds value to 400. But you can always do this later on if you wish. Just follow the instructions in the Overseer README.TXT file.
  2. Download and apply the Overseer 1.04 patch.
  3. Download the DVDExpress player, unzip and install it.
  4. Now run OVERSEER.EXE. First try it without Windows 95 Compatibility Mode, then with if the game will not run. In the Config/VIDEO panel, the game should have auto-detected the presence of your Mediamatics DVDExpress player. If not, select it from the list of MPEG II Devices. And now we are done.

If the control panels in-game fragment/break up when you slide them in, then quit the game and navigate to the folder you installed Overseer to. Edit the Tex.ini file and set: LockVideo=1.

You get a meaningless error message after each FMV sequence (XP returns a code to the game that it couldn't anticipate 5 years ago), but the game is still eminently playable :-) Note: you can also run the CD version of Overseer in XP. Just ignore all the stuff regarding the DVDExpress player in this case.

Pixel-Artist has just reminded me that if the game crashes on you in Gideon's gallery, there is a work-around you can use to get past this spot: go into the game options and mute the MIDI section. Then, once youve crossed over to the center, you can switch the MIDI sounds back on.

A final note: Overseer is one of the programmes that seems not to like hyperthreading. See section above on: Turning off hyperthreading.

Thief: The Dark Project Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
I had been trying to get Thief working for a long time in XP. I could get it running, but it would lock up intermittently. Very frustrating. I tried all variations of video/sound acceleration settings, still to no avail. Then up on the Through the Looking Glass Forums, I finally discovered the solution. Dark Engine games don't work in multi-processor/hyperthreading environments. And hyperthreading (making your single processor appear to be two processors) is turned on by default in XP.

In the end, you only need to do two things to get Thief working in XP:
  1. Start -> Run, and execute: d:\setup.exe -lgntforce to install Thief (that's a lower case 'L', by the way. Thief thinks you're trying to install the game in NT, which has insufficient DirectX support, so you have to force it to install)
  2. You need to turn off hyperthreading for Thief. See section above on: Turning off hyperthreading.

TimeLapse Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: no
Amazingly, this beautiful adventure game works right out of the box, almost as if it was waiting for XP to come along. Just goes to show that when developers adhere properly to the conventions of the Windows API, even forwards compatibility is possible. One thing though: you'll want to have Autorun turned off for sure, or it's pretty vexing whenever you need to change CDs. Instructions on how to accomplish this can be found earlier in this article.

Tomb Raider Win Comp: no VDMSound: yes DOSBox: no
It's possible to get this game running in it's original glory, with a Glide wrapper that emulates an old 3DFX Voodoo card. The set-up is a bit complicated and involves VDMSound too, so it gets its own page here.

Ultima VII Parts 1 & 2 Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Much along the lines of what ScummVM does for LucasArts games, so have a group of dedicated Ultima fans created Exult. If you are a dedicated Ultima VII player, you owe it to yourself to try out this fantastic utility. And... of course, it now works in DOSBox. All you have to do is make sure to set ems=false in dosbox.conf.

Under a Killing Moon Win Comp: no VDMSound: no DOSBox: yes
Full instructions for getting UAKM up and running in XP with DOSBox may be found here.

Crashed and burned in Windows XP
With the advent of Virtual PC 2004, and now Virtual PC 2007, there are no games that I know of that cannot be made to run in XP. See the Virtual PC 2007 FAQ in the FAQs at the top of this page for details. For the record, the following games that previously would not run in XP will now run in a Windows 95 (maybe) or Windows 98 (definitely) virtual machine:

AMBER: Journeys Beyond
Dark Side of the Moon (fixes missing text in dialogue trees problem)
The Feeble Files (not yet verified, but it should work :-)

Copyright © Steve Metzler 2004 - 2014. All rights reserved.

Should you need to contact me via e-mail, the address is:

steve.metzler @ gmail . com

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