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Jason Carr

ExoDOS Import

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30 minutes ago, eXo said:

I'd argue that DOS games were not intended for monitors such as that. I mean, first of all, DOS is one of the few game platforms that was active for a solid 2 decades. In that time it went from text only, to monochrome (both shaded and 4-color), to 16 color, to 256 color, to a palette of 16 million colors. During this time there was a high variable of screens with ever increasing refresh rates, less curvature, and better screen controls to minimize such issues.  I personally never had any curvature on my 386 and later machines as I could even things out using my monitor controls. Point being, things changed a LOT during that 20 years. 

Essentially, the games were not built that way because that's how the developers *wanted* it. They were built that way because they had no choice. But those people with higher quality setups had much less pronounced issues. Not to mention flat screen monitors actually did exist in the 90's, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit of the more well off developers were using them. 

MAME is a different beast. The actual manufacturer built those machines. And apart from operators who were swapping boards into normally incompatible cabs, the manufacturer knew exactly what type of monitor, what size monitor, and what specs each machine would be when it left the factory floor. So a MAME game was designed for that cab. A DOS game was designed for any number of countless PC compatible machines. What is "accurate" to you may not be "accurate" to someone else. DOSBox is designed to emulate the operating system and hardware interfaces that powered those games. I'd argue it is not designed to mimic the exact monitor you owned. 

I mean, if that type of accuracy is the goal here, then you need a serial port mouse, a gravis gamepad, a pair of $20 speakers, and box that makes really loud clicking sounds every time the games thinks it is accessing the disk drive. Might as well throw in the acrid smell of smoke for those of us who used their dad's or uncles computers. Also, I want it to take about 5 minutes from the time I hit start to actually load the game and I want to have to switch disks 10 or 12 times before the first level.  And when I get stuck in a game I want to have to drop to my terminal, dial-up to a emulated BBS, and watch it load character by character on an emulated 1200 baud modem. 😁

I'm exaggerating a bit here for the fun of it, but the overall point stands. DOSBox makes old games run on newer computers. The high variability of hardware at the time makes it nearly impossible to recreate the exact way that you experienced the game versus the way I experienced it. For me, personally, scan lines and screen curvature were things to try and work around or minimize.

From an options perspective, I'd love to see those capabilities introduced at some point, but in relation to eXoDOS that becomes very tricky. As I mentioned before, I rely on several different branches of dosbox to get the collection working. Some of those branches are dead. 

DOSBox *is* the definitive dos experience right now outside of playing something on an actual DOS machine. Nothing will ever be the same as playing it directly on an older machine. Even though I was sort of joking above, all of those little things i talked about do play into what it was like to be a DOS gamer in the 80's and 90's. 

You want the "realest" display emulation? Don't emulate. Get an old SVGA monitor, hook it up to a VGA-HDMI adapter, and plug it into your machine. Voila - all the scan lines and curvature your heart desires.

Hah this is too real.  Right down to the 1200 baud dialup BBS's.  This post was such a trip down memory lane :)

With that said... I actually do have a (very high quality, flat screen, from the 90's!) CRT display I use specifically for retro gaming.  Its beautiful.  I'm sure it was insanely expensive in its day, but I got it for $5 at a garage sale ;). I really wish I saved my old CRT's when I first switched to LCD displays.

 

 

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flat screen CRT's were fairly common in the late 90's actually. The super expensive monitors I was referring to were the LCD one's, more often found in commercial scenarios. They had no scanlines. But yea, the flat screen CRT's that were more common in the 90's would have eliminated any screen curvature. I got mine around 96 I think, when I was working at good ol' CompUSA.

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@eXo - yes, perhaps "intended for" was not the right way to put it when making an analogy to DOS games. As you point out, unlike MAME games, the games produced for DOS were not intended for any particular machine but for a range of PC compatibles. I would however rephrase and say that shaders can be helpful to re-create the feel of the original monitors that the games were played on - and acknowledge that this will differ between individuals. I would suspect that the majority of DOS games were played on CRT type monitors rather than flatscreens. For you, as you say, scan lines and screen curvature were something to work around. For me, trying to eliminate these was never on my radar and I just enjoyed the games as they were on (originally) my parents' Amstrad 1512. 

Thankfully, we both sensibly agree that this should be an option to enhance the current experience - though you say that in relation to eXoDOS this becomes tricky. I take it that you are therefore not aware of any other possibilities here within the realm of emulation, other than using a different version of DOSBOX which does support this feature?

wtt7co.jpg     :) 

PS - I have indeed considered getting hold of an old monitor like the above. I have not taken the plunge largely due to space and aesthetic issues though maybe one day!

Edited by Dan

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Keep in mind Dan, that to go down this path you are going to have to get your hands dirty for now. There are no immediate plans for me to try and implement anything like this in eXoDOS natively. Primarily because it would require a ton of testing that I simply would never be able to accomplish on my own.

That said, the SVN Daum versions of dosbox do have some interesting options. See this thread for examples:

http://www.classicdosgames.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1271

Essentially, it can mimic the fishbowl distortion of older monitors as well as what we are calling "scanlines". 

Lucky for you, the SVN Daum version is already in eXoDOS. In the exodos subfolder (after you have run the install batch), you will see a dosbox folder (note: not the one in the main launchbox folder). Inside you will see dosbox, but you will also see a subfolder called SVN. That is the version they are referring to.

If you look at the file launchbox calls when a game is launched, that is that particular games launch file.

Something like, ".\exodos\Games\MotoMani\Motor-Mania (1989).bat"

Go to that location  and open the batch file with a text editor and you will see a line that says:

".\dosbox\dosbox.exe" -conf ".\games\!dos\MotoMani\dosbox.conf" -noconsole -exit

edit it to

".\dosbox\svn\dosbox.exe" -conf ".\games\!dos\MotoMani\dosbox.conf" -noconsole -exit -nomenu

and now that game is being launched with the svn version. Some games *require* the svn version, so they will already be edited. Notice the command line parameter "-nomenu" has been added. This is because the SVN version adds a bar to allow you to change emulation options while the game is running. While handy, this ruins the effect of running your game on original hardware.

Now that you have the game running on the SVN copy, you have to edit the games dosbox.conf file. It is sitting right next to the batch file you opened earlier.

Open the conf file with a text editor and you can now change all the options that define how that particular game is emulated.

At this point, I leave it to you to play around. You'll notice you may have to add lines that don't exist in order to get some of this running, as my conf files were built on the parameters of a vanilla 0.74 build. None of it is rocket science though, and you can learn a lot through some trial and error. Remember that all these files are backed up in the GamesADV.zip (or GamesRPG or GamesSTR, etc) file in the parent .\exodos\games\ folder. So if you feel like you've totally screwed it up beyond all control, you can always pop open that file, find the game folder you were editting, and pull it out to overwrite the files you've changed. Do that, and you'll have a fresh copy again.

Changing the scaler will sometimes require changing the output from surface to something like ddraw or overlay. So make sure you read that thread carefully and ask questions in the proper channels if you get stuck.

 

Spend some time getting a single game running the way you like and then maybe I'll show you how to mass edit all of your files to get them all to use those settings (keeping in mind that it may break some games to make those mass edits).

Edited by eXo
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3 hours ago, FistyDollars said:

It's funny this was brought up, I was just thinking about this after reading this thread on the emulation subreddit. I primarily use retroarch for my emulation for a number of reasons, one of them being the amazing glsl shaders that are included. Being able to recreate the actual feel of the tvs and monitors of the time goes a long way towards making the experience accurate, and is the way it was meant to be played. Scanlines are a stopgap measure at best, but they don't really do the same thing. I'd post image links but I'm on mobile right now.

My point is that I think including a fork of dosbox that supports some truly advanced shaders could be the missing piece of the puzzle needed to make eXoDOS the definitive DOS experience. Just my two cents.

This reminds me of this bounty -- http://www.rlauncher.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-5076.html?s=7eae2ed1e3db2c730f3fe356a57d2c60

Using the retroarch version of dosbox seems like a good solution to this if it could mount just using the config files but the current structure doesn't seem to allow that. This would allow for other cool things such as auto-controller config and rewind, too. Maybe someone knows a better way and can cash in on that bounty :P

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2 hours ago, eXo said:

(Truncated)..................You want the "realest" display emulation? Don't emulate. Get an old SVGA monitor, hook it up to a VGA-HDMI adapter, and plug it into your machine. Voila - all the scan lines and curvature your heart desires.

Excellent post. I love to hear / read people reminiscing about DOS. Such a MIGHTY platform when you think about it. Two decades!

PS. Acrid smell of smoke if you used your Uncles PC -  Hahahaha!

 

Edited by JamesBond@ge

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1 hour ago, Dan said:

PS - I have indeed considered getting hold of an old monitor like the above. I have not taken the plunge largely due to space and aesthetic issues though maybe one day!

What "aesthetic issues" are these Dan? We were all thinking that you were a DOS aficionado, looking for the real deal.

Edited by JamesBond@ge

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hehe. I enjoy reminiscing, which is probably why I built eXoDOS in the first place.

Thinking about the evolution of DOS, I think the memory that stands out to me most is the introduction of the CD-ROM. In 1992 I went over to my Uncle's place one evening. Normally I'd sit at the end of his desk on a 386 he had cobbled together while he messed around on his amazing (for the time) 486.  I'd play stuff like Catacombs Abyss or a Sierra adventure while he trolled the BBS boards looking for the next amazing thing.

That evening was different though. He told me he had to run and take care of some stuff, but that he had just installed a CD-ROM into his main computer. He told me there was some weird game about gremlins in the drive, and told me to mess around with it and see if I could get anywhere.

The game ended up being Gobliiins. When it started I was blown away by how vibrant the graphics were, but even more so by the audio. It was the first time I had ever heard CD audio in a game before. I still have a huge soft spot for that soundtrack and the Gobliiins series in general. Eventually we got through the game and just a few weeks later I visited and he had just gotten King's Quest 6. 

Game Over man. My Nintendo got very little usage after that!

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2 minutes ago, Dan said:

@JamesBond@ge LOL; yes, I think that description does apply to me in some ways. Perhaps I can make a recess in the wall for it :) 

If you did that, you would probably end up setting fire to your house and incinerating your family. You know those things get hot, right?

Edited by JamesBond@ge

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2 minutes ago, eXo said:

Game Over man. My Nintendo got very little usage after that!

Back then, did the PC platform feel inferior to the Amiga at the time? I'm in the UK and the Amiga was big here but I always thought the PC was superior and yet, just recently, I read someone else say that around 1994 "the PC starting emerging from under the shadow of the Amiga". I found this surprising because I always thought the Amiga was the underdog.

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Yes, don't worry I won't cite you on the insurance claim, I was just being a little facetious. I do look on eBay from time to time - though need to do some more research on the particular monitor that I would need to go for. 

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6 minutes ago, Dan said:

Yes, don't worry I won't cite you on the insurance claim

What has it got to do with me? I'm just a dude on the internet advising you that putting a hot CRT monitor in an enclosed space is probably not a good idea.

Edited by JamesBond@ge

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"@JamesBond@ge persuaded me to buy an old CRT monitor; it subsequently set fire to the house and I hold him responsible". Don't worry, it indeed has nothing to do with you, I was just messing around!

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7 minutes ago, JamesBond@ge said:

Back then, did the PC platform feel inferior to the Amiga at the time? I'm in the UK and the Amiga was big here but I always thought the PC was superior and yet, just recently, I read someone else say that around 1994 "the PC starting emerging from under the shadow of the Amiga". I found this surprising because I always thought the Amiga was the underdog.

I actually had an Amiga as well, and remember inwardly scoffing at the games a friend of mine was playing on the PC in the very early 90s. It couldn't reach the graphical splendor (nor certainly the audio samplings) of the Amiga at the time.

However, when he first showed me a game what I'd later know to be Monkey Island 2, I gulped. Something about the vibrant visual representation of its graphics and adaptive situational music made me think the tides were shifting. Then Wing Commander came out, and the rest was history.

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I love this. And your first post too! Thanks.

Yeah, it seems like the PC went up a gear around 93-94 with the advent of the CD-ROM and the death of the Amiga.

(I find that whole era fascinating because I was an Amiga 1200 fanboy at the time and never played anything DOS until relatively recently, thanks to eXoDOS.)

Edited by JamesBond@ge

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30 minutes ago, JamesBond@ge said:

Back then, did the PC platform feel inferior to the Amiga at the time? I'm in the UK and the Amiga was big here but I always thought the PC was superior and yet, just recently, I read someone else say that around 1994 "the PC starting emerging from under the shadow of the Amiga". I found this surprising because I always thought the Amiga was the underdog.

As soon as you said "Amiga" I knew you were from the UK. Growing up in Texas I had never heard of an Amiga until the mid-2000's and I was downloading roms online and I got to wondering what the hell an "amiga" was. Even by the late 80's and early 90's, everything here was pretty much PC focused. There was a handful of mac-obsessed weirdos, who you would swear had joined a cult, with the fervor in which they would debate. During my days at CompUSA we used to have to run them off. They would actively stand in the PC software aisles and try to debate people into buying a mac. 

Anyways, I never actually knew anyone who had any other type of machine. I knew some C64's were floating around, but I didn't know anyone personally who had one. 

For me it was the NES and then the 16-bit consoles that I held on a pedestal while the PC games I had in the 80's were pale comparisons. 80's platformer games like Chaganitzu or Monuments of Mars just weren't as cool as Super Mario Bros or Mega Man. I mainly played PC games for the more in depth interface that it allowed, making games like King's Quest and other adventures possible. In the early 90's things started equalizing, with the computer scene even having decent Mario Kart clones, and then through the mid 90's it felt as though the PC had pretty much come into it's own. Amazing flight sims started releasing, crazy in-depth RPG's and adventure games, new genres like RTS popped up.

I think I can sum it up best by saying it always felt like console games were a bit more polished (plus you could run them without regards to what sound card you had, or how much base RAM was available, or if you had a joystick port, etc...) but PC games felt like anything could happen, even if it was an overall rougher experience at times. 
 

So the really long winded answer to your question is, I didn't know anything better existed! hehe. For me the competition of better looking games laid within the multiple monitor types and soundblaster cards available to me. I lost more than a few nights sleep as a kid browsing PC parts catalogs and imagining ways to make money to buy a sound card. My first PC was an AT&T 8086, green screen monochrome CGA, no mouse, no sound card, 10mb hard drive. This was when 286 and 386 machines were available, and VGA was becoming fairly common. I played a lot of games in 4 color monochrome w/ no sound simply because that's all that was available to me. Hence the memories of my uncle's house, where I could play games in color with sound! *angels singing*. 

 

edit: I forgot, the other reason I loved my PC was because of that little modem attached to it.  NES games were expensive and even getting to rent one was lucky. But with that modem there was a *huge* world of shareware and pirated stuff floating around. I played a ton of crappy games simply because they were free and I was bored. Avoid the Noid comes to mind...lol.

Edited by eXo
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13 minutes ago, eXo said:

There was a handful of mac-obsessed weirdos, who you would swear had joined a cult, with the fervor in which they would debate.

Lol well put! I am now an Apple ecosystem user having moved my main machine over to OSX a few years ago (for various reasons), though I don't think I'm a "fanboy" or even a cult member! In fact I run LB on Windows on a "Bootcamp" partition on my MacBook which seems to work well.

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3 minutes ago, PhuriousGeorge said:

Comp USA...that takes me back.  Almost like Circuit City

The very first CompUSA was less than a mile from my house at the time. It was just the little local computer store. It was sort of nuts when it went national. the "flagship" store was just a few blocks away from the original store in Addison, TX. That is where I ended up working in high school. Being such a big store in Dallas, which was a hotbed for software development at the time, I got to meet a ton of game developers. Apogee/3D Realms, 7th Level, DigiFX, and of course id were all based here. In the late 90's when Romero, Hall, and Carmack left to create Gathering of Developers (GoD) and Ion Storm they tapped me to help promote their software around town. Which sounds great until you realize it meant demoing games like KISS: Psycho Circus all the time...lol.

 

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