Play Classic Games With DOSBox
YOU’LL NEED THIS
DOSBOX Download the software for free
VINTAGE GAMES You need either the original
game files or a CD. IF YOU LIVED THROUGH THE ’90S, you probably have fond memories of gaming classics such as RedAlert,Doom, and Starcraft. Despite the clunky graphics and witless AI, it’s hard to recapture the sense of excitement that came from giving Stalin a bad day, or battling against the forces of hell on the moons of Mars. Sadly, most of these vintage gaming classics don’t work natively on modern PCs. This dilemma is the focus of the DOSBox project, an emulator designed to mimic Intel x86. The emulator’s primary focus is to play games that were released prior to Windows XP (2001), but in practice, you can actually run a number of DOS/ Windows programs. The DOSBox website maintains a database of all supported software ( www.dosbox.com/comp_list.php?letter=a).
You’ll notice that DOSBox bears an uncanny resemblance to MS-DOS itself. This is all part of the fun: You only need to master a few commands to relive your gaming glory days. In this guide, you’ll discover how to get started, as well as how to access more advanced options. We also cover how to connect a gamepad or joystick, as well as how to configure DOSBox for LAN gaming. 1 INSTALL AND LAUNCH DOSBOX To get started with DOSBox, open your web browser, and navigate to www.dosbox.com. Select the “Downloads” tab, then click the green “Download Now” button. Once the download is complete, open your downloads folder, and double-click to launch the DOSBox installer. Click “Yes” to allow Windows 10 to begin installation. Click “Next” to continue, then do the same when DOSBox asks you to choose which components to install.
Click the “Install” button to finalize installation. A shortcut to DOSBox now appears on your desktop. 2 PREPARE GAME FILES For security reasons, DOSBox can’t access your disk drives directly. Instead, it mounts folders as virtual drives. If you have multiple games, consider creating the folder “C:\GAMES” or similar, so you can access all your titles from one place. For the purposes of this guide, we’ve used a shareware version of the firstperson shooter Doom2 (available from www.dosgamesarchive. com/download/doom).
If you are lucky enough to still own the original CD of a particular game, such as TombRaider II, but don’t have regular access to an optical drive, you need to create an ISO image, so DOSBox can access it. Utilities such as Alcohol 120 can do this for you. See http://support.alcohol-soft.com/knowledgebase. php?postid=27806 for more information.
Copyright law in some countries permits software owners to copy disks to a new medium for their own use—for example, by creating an ISO, as outlined above. Some states also permit downloading games from what are known as “abandonware” websites, because the copyright holder no longer exists. Take some time to research what’s legal in your jurisdiction before proceeding. 3 MOUNT AND RUN YOUR FIRST DOSBOX Double-click the DOSBox icon on your desktop to launch the emulator. If you’ve previously used MS-DOS, the interface should look reasonably familiar [ Image A], but bear in mind that DOSBox only recognizes a few MS-DOS commands.
>> Begin by mounting your game folder as the C virtual drive—for example:
mount C C:\GAMES\DOOM2
>> If your game is stored on an ISO, mount it as virtual drive “D” with imgmount so the command becomes: imgmount D C:\GAMES\STARCRAFT.iso -t iso
>> Once your virtual drive is mounted, switch to it by running the command:
>> For ISOs run:
>> You next need to run either the game executable or the corresponding setup program to install the game files. Use the following command to list all the files and folders in the current directory:
>> You can use this command to switch to a new directory:
>> Once you’ve located the correct file, run it by typing the full name—for example:
4 ACCESS DOSBOX CONFIGURATION SETTINGS All DOSBox emulation settings are managed via the “DOSBox.con” text file [ Image B]. In Windows 10, you can find this file within your “AppData” folder—for example, C:\Users\Nate\ AppData. DOSBox should also display the location of your configuration file inside the main window when you launch the emulator. If the file doesn’t yet exist, you need to open DOSBox, and run the following command to create a configuration file in your directory:
config -writeconf dosbox.conf
>> Open the file “C:\Program Files (x86)\DOSBox-0.74 Options. bat” to view the DOSBox configurations in Microsoft Notepad. Each separate option is listed on its own line. Those lines that begin with “#” are ignored by DOSBox. However, you can read these lines to explore what each option does and view any alternative settings. For instance, output can be set to opengl , which offers faster performance, but potentially more blurry graphics. You can also toggle simpler options, such as setting fullscreen= true , for example.
>> You’ll get the very best from your emulation experience by customizing your configuration for each game you play through DOSBox—it supports multiple configuration files. To launch the emulator with a specific one, use the command-line argument
-conf w . The simplest way to do this is by modifying the DOSBox desktop shortcut. 5 GAMEPAD CONFIGURATION DOSBox supports many game controllers and joysticks out of the box. In the configuration file, joysticktype is set to auto by default, enabling automatic detection of devices. If you have a specific type of controller, you can specify this here as well. Visit the DOSBox manual for a full rundown of these options ( www.dosbox.com/DOSBoxManual.html#Joystick).
>> Before you can use your gamepad with DOSBox, you must also ensure it can be detected by Windows. First, connect the controller to your USB port. In Windows 10, a notification should appear automatically to say that the device is connected. For this tutorial, we used a PS4 wireless controller connected by USB cable.
>> To check your gamepad is working, click the Windows 10 “Start” menu, and enter “game” in the search bar. Next, click “Set up USB game controllers.” This opens the control panel, and your gamepad appears. Click “Properties,” then open the “Settings” tab to access the calibration options.
>> Only certain DOS games are configured to work with joysticks and gamepads. For instance, Doom works with the keyboard by default. If you want to use a modern controller with a classic DOS game, press Ctrl-F1 when running DOSBox. This opens the “mapper” [ Image C]. From here, you can bind gamepad buttons to keys. For instance, to bind the S key on your keyboard to the “Down” button on your controller’s Dpad, use your mouse to click on the key in the mapper window, select “Add,” then hold “Down” on the Dpad. Repeat this process for each of the keys used in game. Click “Save” when done to store your settings. 6 ADVANCED TWEAKS One of the most common complaints of DOSBox users is that they can’t find the all-important backslash (\) on their keyboard, which is necessary for accessing files and folders. The easiest workaround is to use the mapper, as outlined in the previous step, to reassign backslash to another keyboard key [ Image D].
>> Certain DOS programs may require more memory than the amount DOXBox allocates by default (16MB). You can alter this by accessing the configuration options as outlined in Step 4, then changing memsize=16 to something more suitable.