X-Wing under Virtual PC

  • Comments 20

Now this is a classic, the original DOS version of X-Wing.  The game where you got to play as part of the rebellion and try to overthrow the evil empire - you even get to participate in the final run on the Death Star.

This game had many things that made it great.  It had an amazing 3D engine (for the day), a compelling story line, and a lot of attention to detail.  The missions in this game are quite authentic for a 'rebellion' in that you are always racing against the clock to try and complete your mission before stronger forces arrive from the Empire.  Similarly, many of your missions involve skulking around and trying to destroy / capture ships without drawing attention to yourself.

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X-Wing runs well under Virtual PC - with smooth graphics and perfect sound support.  The only problem is that you cannot use the joystick - which leaves you relying on mouse / keyboard (annoying, but possible to do).


  • X-Wing without a joystick?  How horrible.

    So who do we have to talk to for gameport emulation to get on the next version's spec?

    Xbox 360 controller with X-Wing via VPC?  Now that would be awesome.

  • Just use DosBox for crying out loud.

    Yes, it's entertaining to see Ben test DOS games in VPC but it's not very usefull to do so. Play your games in DosBox. Enjoy your games with all of their features actually being useable. If you have a problem and actually want your problem to be fixed then post your issue at the VOGONS forum http://vogons.zetafleet.com (Offical DosBox forum).

    VPC has not nor ever will be an optimal or even  decent gaming solution for DOS games. There was a brief point in time where it was usefull in some limited situations for DOS games but that point is long past. Use DosBox.

    Sorry but it's true. If you cannot use DosBox for some reason then use GameTap (bleh) or for you console people wait for it to be ported to XBL or I guess you can limp along with VPC. I hate these services due to the activation and the inevitable emulation bugs and loss of features but just like in all things usually convenience comes at the loss of quality.

    This is not an advertisement. DosBox is completely free and far more feature complete and compatible than VPC has been or ever will be. I'm sure right after this post someone will shoot me down and comment on how completely perfect VPC is and how it can never get any better. They are lying. Use DosBox.

    VPC is dead for DOS gaming. There hasn't been any improvements for DOS in VPC since MS bought VPC from Connectix back in 2003. Even then I daresay there weren't that many changes in the final few versions before they sold out. DosBox has been in development since 2002 and will continue to be in development for the forseeable future. As you can see by this compatibility list: http://dosbox.sourceforge.net/comp_list.php?letter=a&begaming_website_session=41feb08843d3d114dff7f82fa0604bb1

    DosBox is highly compatible with DOS games and this only increases with time.

    Use DosBox. Use DosBox. Use DosBox. Yes, I sound like a broken freakin' record. I do so for your own good. Use DosBox.

  • I have found DOSBox to be far too slow for some games (ie Dark Forces), because it's a multi-platform emulator.  It's not supposed to be fast, and it can't be fast.  Virtual PC on the other hand is specifically for x86 processors and thus doesn't have to emulate 'em... I have thus found this the best and fastest solution for my DOS fix.

    Of course, if you don't have speed problems with DOSBox, go right ahead.  It's easier to just run games on it without having to install DOS and stuff.

    And what do you mean by "improvements for DOS"?  DOS is DOS, and it's a dead product, hasn't been updated since Windows ME (and post-6.22 MS-DOSes don't really work very well with plain <= 6.22 DOS stuff anyways).  You got virtual additions, which do as much as I would expect (folder sharing, lower CPU usage on idle).

    If you want to do something like automatically run a VM and launch a DOS game just by clicking an icon, Ben's already been over how to do that (check the archives).  Otherwise I can't see what you would want MS to do... DOS is DOS, and the whole point of LEGACY stuff is IT CAN'T GET IMPROVED.

  • The statement "DOSBox to be far too slow for some games" is not true. With a decent machine, you can play even the most demanding DOS games in high resolution (SVGA), with full sound and joystick support. The argumentation line "It's a multi-platform application, thus it's slow" is flawed, to say the least. A multi-platform app can still be, and is most cases is, optimized for specific platforms. Thus the conclusion "It's not supposed to be fast, and it can't be fast" is simply incorrect, and misleading.

    It true that DOS can't be "improved". What can be improved, though, is the user experience, and that's excatly what DOSBox is very good at. No more fiddling with multiple memory types (Base memory/XMS/EMS/UMB), no more worries about drivers taking too much base memory, so you can't run a game. DOSBox takes a lot of the DOS specific technical aspects away from the user.

  • Any program can be compiled with optimizations for specific platforms.  You haven't gotten my point.  DOSBox is an emulator.  Virtual PC is a virtualizer.  There is a distinct difference in what they do.  Virtual PC takes the x86 instructions of whatever OS it is running and runs them right on the x86 CPU of the host machine.  DOSBox takes the x86 instructions of the DOS program you want to run and translates them into whatever the native instruction set is.  For x86 machines, yes there is probably some optimizations to speed this up, and because of higher level emulation this might give it an edge... but all this is moot because I'm not saying it's slow because of this or that design, I'm saying it's slow because I've TRIED THE SAME GAMES IN BOTH DOSBOX AND VIRTUAL PC.  Virtual PC ran them faster.

    DOSBox "improves the experience" as you put it by emulating at a high level, instead of the low level NEEDED for emulating an ENTIRE PC as Virtual PC does.  DOSBox doesn't need to do that because users won't expect it to run Linux or Windows XP or Vista or whatever.  I doubt Microsoft even officially supports running MS-DOS on Virtual PC... and if they do, I'd be surprised if they did anything like you described.  Even if they did something as little as bundling or linking to Windows 3.11 drivers for the emulated hardware.

    Granted memory management on DOS is a pain, but so is tweaking DOSBox config files to try and get decent FPS in that one high-performance game (Dark Forces again), but fortunately I am one of the few that actually likes doing that stuff.

    I haven't run into any problems with my uber config (thanks partly to Ben's Virtual PC optimized EMM386 parameters I picked up somewhere around here) but if I do run into problems with a game... guess what?  I'd probably go play the game in DOSBox or something if it ran fast enough.  I have nothing against DOSBox.  I even carry it around on my flash drive... Virtual PC can't do that :(

    Speaking of running fast enough, not all of us have new hardware.  Dark Forces' default level set runs well enough for the most part on DOSBox for me with a 1.8gHz PC, but some add-on levels make extensive use of Dark Forces' 3D model renderer, which is a bit on the slow side.  My framerate suffers under DOSBox in these parts, no matter how much fiddling I do with DOSBox options.  Under Virtual PC, there's no noticeable drop when 3D models are on the screen.  So that is the solution I use and recommend to others.

    Oh right... someone should probably actually comment on the article now... X-Wing... yeah I never played it but I played the sequel, TIE Fighter.

    I need to try TIE Fighter on Virtual PC... not sure if I really tried it or I had problems or what.  I probably tried it with VMDSound (sound emulation for NTVDM) and DOSBox back sometime ago but I forget how those went too... I think VDMSound made the experience decent enough.

    Ok this "legitimate" section of my post fell apart too quickly. :(  Sorry Ben.  Didn't mean to get into a troll fight.

  • DOSBox isn't slow at all.  It's fast (in Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).  VPC on the other hand manages to be slow and runs only on Windows.    

    Furthermore DOSBOX is versatile, extensible, is highly compatible and appropriate for DOS gaming.  

    VPC is none of these and it's  lack of joystick support stands out most of all.  

    This alone makes VPC a pretty useless sim platform for DOS hall-of-famers like the FALCON and GUNSHIP games.  Sports games also suffer from lack of Joystick support in VPC and DOS had many greats in it's day, including the Cinemaware Realsports series (which are freely available from their website) and the ubiquitous arcade driving game Screamer (which VPC wouldn't have a hope in hell of running in SVGA high resolution mode).

    CH, Thrustmaster and Advanced Gravis made a mint in the DOS halcyon days because games wanted to play simulators (arcade, serious, space, sky and road among others) PROPERLY.  That means NOT with a mouse or keyboard.

    X-Wing with a mouse is just plain lame.  That's just as true now as it was back in the early 1990s.

    There's just one last point I'd like to make:-

    MS DOS CAN be improved.  There was a whole UTILITY market in the DOS era that thought thrived on that single idea.  Norton Commander, XtreeGold, QEMM386, Desqview, 4DOS (all can be run in DOSBox) and many other products all sought to improve the performance and user experience of MS DOS.  MS even weighed in with their own EMM386 and SMARTDRV solutions, not to mention the infamous 'purchase' of STAC's disk compression tool STACKER.

    The argument that VPC's slow performance and lack of extensibility are somehow reflections of MS DOS limitations is almost as lame as VPC's lack of joystick suppoty.  Almost.

  • Why in the hell would you use Virtual PC in this day and age. Dosbox is EASILY the more superior application/emulator. It runs fine on any medium level pc (as of recent versions) and has such a huge amount of features that it completely puts VPC to shame.

    Use dosbox, enough said.

  • "I have found DOSBox to be far too slow for some games (ie Dark Forces)"

    Actually that was true a couple years ago. With the newer version of Dosbox (0.70), almost every game ever made for dos runs decently even on a three/four years old machine. Just make sure you're running with dynamic recompiler on (type "core dynamic" at prompt), if it's still slow then raise cycles number (type "cycles max"). All this should be automatic for most games (no need to type anything), anyway if your game is still slow this is the way to speed it up.

  • DOSBox gets bad rap for being slow by people that have not tried in in the last couple of years. The project is in very active development, and is constantly being improved & optimized. VPC has its uses, but its forte is not DOS gaming. There are very few DOS games that you can't get to run decently on DOSBox.

    "Granted memory management on DOS is a pain, but so is tweaking DOSBox config files" What is so hard about selecting a few options like:

    xms= true

    ems= true

    umb= true

    If it doesn't work, you don't end up with an unbootable machine. Remember "The right tool for the right job."

    Also, it's a little unfair to call someone a troll because he reasoned arguments that just happen to not be your views.

  • As Collector said - "The right tool for the right job.". But I see it little different - there are some uses, when VPC is better than DOSBox and vice versa. If someone doubts - try run Earth 2140 with sound on DB - good luck with that :) (or try run some SVGA game with DB on something like C900).

    So, I think there is no perfect "tool" - sometimes DB is better, sometimes - VPC (with FreeDOS ofc :)).

  • Most of the bad rap DOSBOX got, is from people who didn't know what they were doing or gave up after 5 minutes.

    I told Qbix (one of the original creators of DOSBOX) that the defauly speed for Dosbox was set waaay too low (set to 3000 cycles which is slower than a 386 which means most DOS games ran much too slow) and since 0.70 nearly all DOS games will run perfectly with the default values.

    So, it did confuse a lot of people who didn't know what cycles are. The huge problem with VirtualPC is exactly that it doesn't emulate. It means that older games will be way too fast in a lot of cases with no way to slow them down. Dosbox uses cycles to do this, and with a front end, you can have a perfect experience.

    In the end, Dosbox runs on nearly every system, runs nearly every Dos game perfectly (I think only about 2% of all games still won't run well) and with a front end, it's virtually painless to use.

  • Earth 2140 was really more of a Windows 95 game. The only DOS version I found had sound ripped so not possible to test that. I hope you're not using that bad rip of the game. Considering it ran in Windows too, I don't see why you'd want to run it in DOS only anyway. I'm surprised to see so many late DOS games that ran like crap on real computers doing so well in the first place.

  • DOSGAMELOVER: I can't imagine how Virtual PC is slow for you and DOSBox is fast.  Maybe you're thinking of running a newer OS, such as XP or Vista, on Virtual PC.  Then of course it will run slow unless you have a monster of a machine.  And if you compare Virtual PC to running anything natively on the same machine, it will be slower because you also have a whole host OS and other processes running, so it will look slow.

    But DOSBox has even more overhead.  And I say this not because I have coded it or looked at the source, but because I played Dark Forces a lot in DOSBox, and I got the best performance I could. I then decided to see if Virtual PC would run it better... in theory it would, because of the virtualization/emulation differences I mentioned earlier.  I tried it and it did run much better.

    kekko: Just an FYI, I have been talking about DOSBox 0.70 using the dynamic core, and maxing CPU cycles.

    Collector: About my config comment, I was merely pointing out that DOSBox has text-based config files just like MS-DOS does.

    Also I called us BOTH trolls (and I didn't notice two different people had posted).  And I said that because we're sorta deviating from the topic of the blog post.

    Red_Avatar: I did used to use DOSBox with Dark Forces a lot and I did tweak the config files a bit as well.  I even made a mod launcher for Dark Forces which supports launching through DOSBox.

    Also it's easy to slow down DOS games in Virtual PC.  Ben has been over this before, I believe.  Back when DOS was in wide use there were tools made to slow down faster games... you can still find 'em.  I think I used one called slomo or something like that.  It was neat 'cause it was a TSR (you'd hit a hotkey and it'd pop up over the command prompt) allowing you to adjust the speed on the fly.

    BlackhandPL says what I probably should have said from the beginning.  Both Virtual PC and DOSBox are good for different games and different people.


    - Virtual PC won't run some games, example: Descent 1.  DOSBox to the rescue! (Actually haven't tried it in DOSBox, I probably should heh.)

    - DOSBox is easy to just double-click and use, although minimal CLI knowledge is needed there are frontends that eliminate this requirement, making it even easier to use.  Virtual PC is decidedly for those of us more comfortable with DOS.  It can be slower, but for most games this isn't an issue.  If it is, you can decide if it's worth looking at other solutions, just as I did.

    There's no reason to do "DOSBox is superior, VPC is inferior" or visa-versa.  Both programs share my hard drive without annihilating each other.  I've used them both.  There's no reason to champion one over the other.

    Well, except that this is VIRTUAL PC Guy's Blog. :)

    So uhh... back to X-Wing... I'm gonna have to find a copy of this, Death Star trench run would be fun.  TIE Fighter had nothing like that (well, except maybe the training course).

    Huh... does Virtual PC always double pixel size in low resolutions like that?  Or is that just the game doing it?  I never paid attention!  Hmm... Virtual PC needs a zoom function to do that... that'd be neat.  Oh well... maybe for Virtual PC 20XX? :)

  • I tried many DOS games in VPC - some did not work at all, some had broken or miserable audio. VPC is useless for DOS gaming, maybe with very few exceptions. It is sad that Microsoft did nothing for DOS games on modern platforms, without DOSBox there would be no solution at all.

  • Red_Avatar, you're right. There is Earth 2140 for Windows. Guys from Reality Pump ported their game to Windows just like Blizzard did with Warcraft II (WII Battle.net Edition). But Warcraft II has been improved during that process ("food counter" just like in StarCraft, network play over TCP/IP, Battle.net support) whereas Earth suffered some "damage" - it seems they somehow deactivated AI module (so now even "hard" isn't much of challenge), multiplayer doesn't work either. DOS version doesn't have those issues - at least AI works properly (I didn't try to play over network - I don't know how to configure IPX/SPX correctly).

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X-Wing under Virtual PC