DOSBox, We Salute You

By Alec Meer on May 28th, 2009 at 5:05 pm.

It is impossible to overstate quite how much open source emulator DOSBox has done for PC gaming. Without the tireless efforts of its volunteer staff, vast tracts of PC gaming history would be all but lost to us and our fancy modern operating systems. Yeah, the likes of Steam and GoG may be keeping olden classics in print, but c’mon – they’re doing it for the money more than for the love. The guys, though – they’re bally heroes. Even those aforementioned download services occasionally hook their wares onto DOSBox to ensure maxi-compatibility. So, on behalf of the PC gaming community, I would like to award them the biggest invisible medal in the world for it. Perhaps more usefully, I can direct you to the DOSBox website, where a brand new version of this essential retro gaming tool has just become available.

There aren’t any really mammoth, sweeping changes (so you’re stuck with typing in command lines, unless you install one of the various GUI frontends doing the rounds), but there is a lot of under the hood tweakage to improve speed, stability and Vista support. Some of the games that previously proved beyond its miracle magic may now be supported, so it’s well worth checking in case you do have some old favourite you feared would be shelved forever. Also improved is the sometimes hit’n'miss CD-ROM detection, which should make life a little easier for some games. Oh, and there’s some new rendering modes if you’re into that sort of thing. Me, I’m a bit of a purist and don’t like graphics tweaks that noticeably alter the original look of a game, but some folk do love their smooth sprite edges.

It is, as it always has been and hopefully always shall be, available for free from DOSbox.com. Those handy frontends are also available from the download page, including the wonderfully-named (but sadly OSX-only) SirDOSalot – a title I’ve lately been adopting in various online games.

Thanks, DOSbox. ThOSbox. If you really want to show your thanks, you really should drop ‘em a donation – see the button top left of their front page. On an absolutely unrelated note, there’s also a very nice button underneath our own search box. Cough.

, , , .

64 Comments »

  1. GibletHead2000 says:

    I’ve been using this to play Settlers 2 on my eeepc, on long train journeys. Much fun.

  2. Vinraith says:

    Amen to that. Thanks DOSbox team!

  3. Cooper says:

    Indeed, bless you DOSbox team.

    DOSbox has turned my netbook from a lovely piece of equipment for work into a treasure trove of gaming joy.

    I’m a fan of D-Fend Reloaded as a GUI, it provides a neat Steam-like list of games which can be individually tweaked.

    As to old games, I remain convinced a remake of Floor13 is in order, given the current increasingly BigBrother state of the UK… (I just need someone with Flash skills to get it put together…)

  4. LewieP says:

    There are some dudes working on porting Dosbox to the Wii. Pretty neat idea if you ask me.

  5. Robin says:

    DOSbox made writing this practical.

    The DBGL front-end makes it a complete doddle to configure. I still can’t get over the fact that you can play Origin’s later DOS games (like U8 and Pacific Strike) in a window with no tweaking config files.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Stense says:

    It is indeed a great program, given an awful lot of old games a second wind. A lot of the games GoG sells just wouldn’t work if not for being wrapped up in DOSBox goodness.

  7. Persus-9 says:

    Hear! Hear! I say we do as Alec suggests and head over there and drop them a couple of quid each! I think I owe them a pint for all their work and since it’s hard to send beer over the internet money will have to do.

  8. mcw says:

    I’m curious, are there any purists out there that still run the original DOS environment for their older games?

  9. Brian says:

    Been using it for a couple years now. They’ve helped me resurrect my beloved Ultima 7 in all it’s retro glory m/.

    THANX DOSBox!

    Oh yeah, being using “DBGL” too, grrrreat application.

    One more thing, just for the record, the Steam versions of older id soft games like Commander Keen or Heretic use DOSBox also :)

  10. Thirith says:

    @Brian: I guess you know Exult, right? It’s been a while since I played (with) it, but by all accounts it *improves* on the DOS Ultima VII experience.

  11. Tworak says:

    Dune 2. Great game.

  12. DarthInsinuate says:

    To celebrate I shall have another go at getting X-Com Apocalypse to work.

  13. Dominic White says:

    My only gripe with DOSBox isn’t so much a complaint about the software, but more rather the inherent inefficiency fo emulation.

    My beefy dual-core processor that can make Crysis thunder along on Very High detail quite happily struggles to emulate a 640 x 480 SVGA image. I guess it’s because it can only really use one core.

  14. Munken says:

    Bless you Dosbox.

    Blosbox

  15. rebb says:

    I <3 DOSBox !

  16. Markoff Chaney says:

    I second that Hear Hear and I second the call for donations to these fine people. Thanks to them I was finally able to put to rest that 386 I had kept resuscitating just to play some of my older games in their proper environment every once in a while. I was one of those purists, but getting kit just started getting prohibitive to keep the dream alive.

    I’ve never used a frontend for it though. The most I do to simplify my use is mount a directory as a hard drive. It’s one of my joys actually navigating back through the command prompt, though playing with batch files is a bit easier with notepad.

    In fact, I think I’ll fire up Codename: ICEMAN right now. I’ve been in the mood for something adventury, yet retro, and that was always, I thought, a well put together game with some nice innovations, even if I didn’t have to kick all 4 tires before I got in my car.

  17. Magnus says:

    Without DOSbox, I wouldn’t be able to play my old Sierra games, nor most of my GOG games.

    These are truly wonderful people, and I say they should be given honourary Knighthoods! (or real ones, if they’re British.)

  18. Pags says:

    After Winamp and Firefox, DOSBox is always the first thing to get installed on a new system. Okay slight exaggeration but it’s always there amongst the first batch.

  19. Tei says:

    I am not a fan of nostalgia.. what ms-dos game is worth to install on my eepc? maybe this Planetscape Torment game? this Fallout 2 game? I sould ponder more about the question.

  20. Doomstalk says:

    As a few have noted above, a lot of old DOS games on GoG and Steam wouldn’t even be available without DOSBox. Most notably, the Doom collection sold on Steam by id Software is DOSBox facilitated.

  21. Gremmi says:

    “I am not a fan of nostalgia.. what ms-dos game is worth to install on my eepc? maybe this Planetscape Torment game? this Fallout 2 game? I sould ponder more about the question.”

    Neither of those are DOS games, so ponder on.

  22. ilves says:

    looooooove dos-box… recently re-played some classic Indiana Jones using it.

  23. Pavel says:

    Hum Hum I did not even know there is an option to subscribe here.

    I might just do it, 2 bucks…hmm ok you convinced me.

  24. CogDissident says:

    @Tei
    Both of those games do not require DOXBOX to run, and run perfectly fine on windows XP with the correct patches. Try going a bit older than that.

  25. sinister agent says:

    This really is long overdue. They are indeed champions.

  26. Pavel says:

    GRRRR what the hell?
    “We were unable to verify your credit or debit card. To proceed with your purchase, please select a different payment method or add a different credit or debit card, then click Continue.”

    I never ever had a problem paying for anything via paypal.I bought about 35 GOGs, 15 Steams, 10 Rapidshares, etc…
    This is the first time.Any ideas?

  27. Dolphan says:

    @Dominic White – Sounds like a settings problem rather than a lack of hardware power, the inefficiency of emulation shouldn’t be a problem with modern PCs (compare the fact that PCs have been able to emulate the N64 perfectly smoothly for years). My laptop runs Dark Forces (pretty advanced as DOS games go) in Dosbox with no problems whatsoever, and it would certainly struggle with Crysis! Getting the right CPU cycles setting is often the trick, games will stutter if it’s too low or (oddly) too high.

  28. ZeeKat says:

    It even emulates Gravis Ultrasound and high/truecolor (not sure about the latter but it runs 15bit/16bit ones anyway) video modes, they’re thinking about everything.

  29. Vagabond says:

    I wrote a beginners tutorial to DOSBox for my website… please check it out! http://game-central.org/2009/editorials/how-to-configure-use-dosbox/

  30. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    Also Wine. The lovely software that brings windows games to Mac and Linux users.

  31. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Here, here it’s about time someone gave them a slap on the back, good job alex

  32. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Incidently i’d expect it’d be virtually impossible to run ms dos on a modern pc unless your into writing usb and pci express drivers

  33. Poltergeist says:

    I played Blood, Prince of Persia and (the beginning of) System Shock in DOSBox.

    Good times.

  34. Nick says:

    Good DOS Games – TIE Fighter and X-Wing (though you can get slightly more updated win95 versions), Wing Commander: Privateer, Strike Commander, UFO, Xcom TFTD, Daggerfall (sort of had a win 95 exe but it was even more unstable than the dos version), System Shock.. hmm.. loads more but those are off the top of my head.

  35. Petethegoat says:

    Sword of the Samurai and Covert Action are the two games that first spring to mind, both are fantastic, with mixes of strategy, puzzle solving, and action! I <3 Sid Meier!

  36. no says:

    I wonder if these will continue to work once Windows 7 is out. Granted, I really don’t use Windows, but still…

  37. Thranx says:

    Hells yes. DosBox = Win

    Love those guys. *scurries off to play some XCom : UFO Defense*

  38. Subject 706 says:

    @Vagabond
    Did you nick my avatar!? How naughty!

    @no
    I am running Windows 7 RC and DosBox works like a charm. Quest for Glory Anthology +Qfg 2 remake + DosBox = Win

  39. solar says:

    Yes indeed, several unending cheers for DOSBox.

    And LewieP, are they really porting one to the wii?! That would indeed be awesome. Nintendo are going to have to offer support for USB harddrives to contain the universal excitement of retro PC shenanigans (forgive me if this already exists)

  40. eduo says:

    SirDOSAlot is wonderfully named but, doubtleslly, the very best of DOSBox approaches for OSX has to be Boxer: Create self-contained icons, with the image of the original box, with all the necessary files in them so when double-clicked they launch transparently.

    Arguably, the only better option would be a DOSBox wrapper but I disagree. Once you wrap it’s hard to upgrade all the wrappers but Boxer can be updated and all the Boxer bundles benefit.

    This also makes browsing collections of games a pure joy:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eduo/tags/boxer/

  41. PC Monster says:

    A hearty “hell yeah” from this happy DOSBox user as well. Without this fabulous bit of software wizardy I’d never have gotten to play my beloved Mechwarrior 2 games again.

    These guys are LEGENDS.

  42. Blather Blob says:

    @Tei: Syndicate!

    @solar: I’d guess LewieP was referring to the homebrew version of DOSBox for the Wii. I can’t imagine Nintendo being down with the idea of something that could be a competitor to WiiWare if it were able to load games you already owned, and as far as selling DOS games wrapped in DOSBox via WiiWare, I don’t think many games would lend themselves to working without a keyboard, which would probably be a requirement for their customers.

  43. Phydaux says:

    I remember gaming on a DOS computer. Having to reboot to get the EMS the game needed and the correct IRQ settings so that you could get sound working without another piece of hardware conflicting and not working. I remember having to uninstall some of the big games (like Sim City 2000) to get enough space on my 512 MB hard-drive to install another game that I fancied playing.

    Setting up DOSbox to work with these older games is about a million times simpler than getting the games to run on the OS and hardware they were designed for.

    I’d love to get my hands on games like Terra Nova, and Dune 2 (The sprites in the DOSbox logo). I currently have it running an old share-ware game Slicks-n-Slide.

  44. Dreaded Walrus says:

    I grinned at the Look Around You reference.

    Thanks, Alec.
    Thalec.

  45. Brian says:

    @Thirith:
    Yep, I’ve played with Exult, it does improve U7. But I really like that feeling of playing it exactly like the old times, with the old MIDI tunes, with blocky graphics, it’s pure nostalgia. :D

  46. Vagabond says:

    @Subject 706, nope. I added this myself. :P

    A big Crusader fan? Check out my Crusader website: http://www.echosector.com. All I’m doing is advertising so far, heh. :\

  47. Mr.President says:

    I always liked the concept of DOSBox, but it’s missing one thing that almost every self-respecting platform emulator has: savestates.

    Aged graphics and sound don’t bother me, but it seems like many of those ole games were brutal and unfair, and trial and error were the main way to accomplish anything. I’d give more of them a try if I had savestates to remedy that.

  48. Supertonic says:

    Dosbox is brilliant, and lets me use my old DOS games on my trusty linux laptop. With that and Wine I very rarely need Windows any more.

  49. phuzz says:

    DOSbox is wonderful, but I’ve had more smiles from SCUMMVM, which you definitely can get on the Wii.
    Hooray for community emulation projects!

  50. Nallen says:

    Gooo DOSBox! *does dance*