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Due to the Age of this Title

September 23, 2009

So here I am, about to shell out $5 for a game I bought 14 years ago in the hopes the code would have been updated to run properly inside DosBOX. I had tried reinstalling Dark Forces last winter to much frustration. I could never get the whole thing to run correctly inside DosBOX. The sound would cut in and out, the whole thing would crash, etc. depending on what settings I had on. The only way it would run was without sound. So basically I said “forget it” since the game’s sound is superb.

Jump forward several months to the entire Dark Forces Collection (not Jedi Knight Collection, like they so proudly proclaim. Katarn was NOT a Jedi in the original Dark Forces, just a Han Solo wannabe) being released on Steam. “Hooray!” I shouted. “I get to toss thermal detonators at Ree Yees!” Then I see the following warning:

Due to the age of the title, users may run into a few compatibility issues from use of current hardware. Please see the forums for more information.

Back up. Do you mean to tell me that if I drop $5 on this that it might not even work because nobody went through whatever amount of effort it takes to get this awesome first person shooter running on Windows XP/Vista systems? And it even says the same for Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, which was a Windows 95/98 game. What confuses me is that if you know your game is old and you know you are releasing it on Steam, why not go back to the source code and make it, I dunno, work? What happens when I drop my $5-$10 only to find out that the game you sold me will not work with my system? How is that supposed to make me feel? This game won’t work because my computer is TOO good, as opposed to the Crysis style of “not good enough.”

I thought these problems were alleviated ages ago, what with being able to manually control turning CPUs on and off, adjusting video card settings, etc. These could all be done in game to make sure anyone can play it. But, just in case, how about letting us test the game for 5 minutes to see if it runs before we shell out money for an obsolete game that could end up playing like something 20 years old instead of something just 10?

I’ve had no problems getting my Steam purchased version of Ultimate DOOM to run, but such a disclaimer as the one with Dark Forces and DF2 should not even be necessary. And what with the bad experience I had trying to get it to run off my CD version, I just want to know that this will be $5 well spent.

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3 Comments
  1. Rinaldo Sequitos permalink

    They’ve put that message on there because they didn’t want to go to the trouble of bundling dosbox (LucasArts is afraid of free/open source software). The message is there for Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II because ATI’s drivers are nolonger compatible with the title (works fine on nvidia geforce and probably fine on intel too).

    If they tried to update the original title to run on Vista instead of DOS, it would probably cost more than the production of the original title (read: converting from DOS to Windows can be hard, especially with the original programmers long gone).

    I still have the original CDs for JK: DF II and MotS, which is better than the steam version because they have the original musical score where the steam version has no music.

  2. When an old game is released on a digital distribution service, we expect the full quality package and whatever it takes to run it. LucasArts’ refusal to package the game with dosbox just further proves my point, that we should be allowed to test these old games to make sure our systems are compatible, especially when they’re not running in an emulator.

    As for the original Dark Forces, there is a Windows 95 version, which may have been a safer port than the DOS version, but they would have had to go through the trouble of getting the Windows Compatibility Mode working properly.

    I think the issue here is the lack of trust in dosbox, when Ultimate DOOM runs great, was ported to Steam to run in dosbox, has music, sound, full game, everything. Id actually went through a bit of trouble to get it to work right, and damn does it work right.

    If Lucasarts doesn’t want to package their game with dosbox, and doesn’t want to go through the trouble of making sure the games are fully compatible with modern systems, then they could also take the approach of remaking them like they did Monkey Island. Can you imagine Dark Forces/JK/JK2 running in the Ronin engine?

  3. Funnily enough I tried getting this game to run recently too.

    Then I had to wonder… Am I Soundblaster? Soundblaster Pro? What port? What IRQ? How many dozens of combinations are there do I have to try to get it right?

    Then a google check told me of this handy program named Dosbox. Was an amusing afternoon reminding me why I love modern games and how convenient they are.

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