How To Play Old Games on Vista and Windows 7- 64 Bit Windows to 16 Bit Earthsiege II
“We created them to fight our wars... We gave them artificial intelligence and equipped them with the most powerful weapons imaginable. Now man's creation has become it's darkest nightmare...
(Quote on Vista 64, me, May 2008 courtesy of Sierra Games.)
"The version of this file is not compatible with the version of Windows you're running. Check your computer's system information to see whether you need an x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) version of the program, and then contact the software publisher"
(Quote Windows Vista 64-bit, May 2008)
Worked out by inference of multiple failures june 19th 5am - Earthsiege II does not run on dosbox
Mission: make Earthsiege II run on a 64 bit computer.
I’ve always been a fan of almost-retro computer games, not so far back that you need specific older hardware to play it but I find most modern computer games samey, if you have Halo, you have them all.
I’ve got Dosbox to play all the games I had on Windows 3.1 and before but the step up from that, Windows 95 and some ’98 games, wouldn’t run on Dosbox and I couldn’t get them to work on my 64 bit system.
The problem is that 64 bit systems, at least mine anyhow, don’t support the later 16 bit games, post Windows 3.1. I simply couldn’t get Vista 64 to open the exe files. All I got was the message about the version of this file is not compatible with the versions of Windows you're running.... It appeared that apart from keeping an older computer alive and running specifically to play these games, EarthSiege II and Civilisation II and countless other gems from my childhood were lost to me.
I scoured the internet looking for an easy way to get them to run. I made iso images of the cds and mounted them. I got patches and plugins – none of which worked. I consistently ignored my one other option as too much hassle, but finally, admitting defeat I opted to load the dreaded virtual operating system.
What Is a Virtual Operating System?
For the only vaguely computer savvy like me, this is a program that hosts another operating system within your actual computers operating system using the existing hardware in the process. In effect, a “software implementation of a computer” (wiki).
It doesn’t appear to harm my computer nor interact with the current OS in any way beyond using it as a platform for the program. It doesn’t take up much space and trust me when I say it appears to be the only way to play those older games if your system is being rebellious.
I’d first try the Dosbox just to check, but if it comes on a cd, it almost certainly won’t work. If you’re looking for a game and you used to play it via the c command, i.e. you used to type it into a c:\ prompt, it can almost certainly be played on Dosbox and found on abandonedwares.com. Dosbox requires a little fiddling called mounting the c: drive but it’s easy enough and has precise instructions in the help section.
What Do I Need?
A virtual operating system does require a little setting up but if you want to play the games you may well have to bite the bullet and do it. You’ll need three things.
- An existing working computer
- A version of a virtual machine software
- An older operating system.
The computer host I assume you have. The virtual machine software you can download free of charge from a number of different sites. The last thing you need is a version of the operating system you want to use. From 32 bit XP down to Windows ’95 should work. You’ll need an actual disc to make it easy. I would advise a legitimate disc. If you have one that came with an old computer, check it isn’t only a repair disc before bashing your head on a brick wall trying to get it to work.
Check with friends and neighbours, one of them may be able to give you an old disc. Obviously you can't use an OS already in use but somebody might have discs they don't have operational, especially if its an older OS. The laws for copyright still apply even to a virtual machine so be careful.
What Software Can I Use?
For the virtual machine software, I’m using the Microsoft version: Microsoft Virtual PC (2007). I tried one called VMware but couldn’t get it to run my chosen OS Windows ’98 SE. It kept on crashing mid way through the load.
By contrast the MS version loaded it without hitch first time. The actual virtual PC program told me that my version of windows, Vista 64 home premium wasn’t supported but then loaded without any problem, so maybe try it even if you get the same message. Oracles Virtualbox is another option if you're having issues.
Both the MS version and the VMware versions have easy to use wizards that talk you through each step, from creating a virtual hard drive to actually loading the OS. You may be advised to look up hardware models, as you can set the hard drive volume and the amount of RAM. It’s fairly minor stuff however and to get the actual virtual machine program running shouldn’t cost you too much hassle.
Is The OS Easy To Set Up?
Loading the actual OS also caused me little bother even with ’98 but getting it to recognise hardware after it was loaded was a major drag. Even now, the sound card doesn’t work properly. I think this is to do with the fact that the hardware, even simulated as it is on the virtual machine is a long way ahead of what was the norm back when these OS’s were used. In the end, I told it to ‘upgrade’ the driver for each of the problem hardware items. It actually had the drivers loaded and once it had deemed these really were the best drivers available, it seemed to accept the hardware fine.
The other issue was in finding the drivers and getting the OS to find them. It kept trying to access a ‘precopy’ file which it never found. Instead I had to redirect it to ‘win98’ folder on the cd and then it was happy.
Once it was set up I had a few tweaks to make before I could use it. I needed to load a virtual PC additions pack (right alt + I) before I could share folders over from my real hard drive, set the screen resolution and change the colour depth. The native setup on ’98 was so bad even a ’95 game told me I didn’t have the specs to play.
After that it was all fine and dandy and I’m happily loading dusty cds and rediscovering my childhood on the PC. It is a little slow even with fairly excessive amounts of hardware set but it’s probably worth the wait. My greatest moment of triumph came when I hooked my 42” tv up via a vga cable (which it was happy to do) and kicked some cybrid ass in EarthSiege II on the big screen.