Free games? Believe it with Bethesda!
It's not very often that video game companies decide to give away games
In 2004, the game company Bethesda, creator of the Elder Scrolls series, decided to release their game Arena for free. Why? For the series' tenth anniversary. Well, in 2009 the Elder Scrolls turned fifteen and now the second chapter, Daggerfall is a free download as well! These games may look ancient by today standards, but if you give them a try you'll discover two of the greatest RPGs ever made.
A few years ago, if you wanted to experience Daggerfall you had two options:
- Find the game on the internet (not a moral choice).
- Find a copy of the original CD.
Neither was an easy choice. Old CD's were hard to find in usable conditions, and downloading the game was, well, wrong. (and even finding the game for download was difficult, because it was so old)
A gift to the fans
Nowadays, old games have found a new way to get distributed. The distribution platform Steam, from Valve corp. besides selling the latest in electronic entertainment, also carries lots of classics, including Myst, Secret of Monkey Island and Doom. Bethesda could've simply announced that the games would be available through Steam and be done with it (and even in that case there would've been much rejoicing), but instead they just chose to give them away for free.
Of course, there are obvious benefits for doing this, from a PR point of view. They sure got me as a costumer now, awaiting for their next game, Skyrim. Liking the company that makes a game compels you to buy their next product.
About the Elder Scrolls
In case you haven't heard of it, the Elder Scrolls is a series of role playing games in which Freedom is the key concept. Freedom to choose our own path, to create your own class and your own destiny.
- Want to be a noble hero? Go ahead! Save kidnapped children, assault orc strongholds or recover lost heirlooms.
- Want to be a villain? Join the Dark Brotherhood, slit throats for a price, terrorize the population.
- Want to be a little of both? Balance your allegiances between good and evil, nobility and commons, conflicting guilds and temples. Trouble with the law? Move to a new region a start anew!
- Want to be something else? With a little practice, or just luck, you can even become a vampire or werewolf!
Not bad for games made more than fifteen years ago, eh?
Cool! But how do I play them?
Sadly, new PC's just can't run these games, as they weren't designed with modern hardware in mind. In order to play, you must first download a DOS emulator (DOSBox is a great choice) which requires a little configuring. The instructions for installing the games and configuring the emulator are found on the file that Bethesda is distributing, but I'll give you a short rundown here:
- Install DOSBox.
- Open the folder you installed it to and open the dosbox.conf file with Notepad.
- This is a simple text file. Find the line that says memsize=16 and change it to memsize=32. (if it has any other value than 16, just change it to 32)
Now, unzip the file containing the game, preferably somewhere like c:\games\ (dosbox prefers these short locations).
- Run DOSBox.
- Type "mount c c:\games\ -freesize 1000" (without the quotes)
- Now type "mount d c:\games\dfcd -t cdrom -label Daggerfall" (in the case of Daggerfall, of course!)
What we are doing here is telling the emulator to "pretend" that our real folder c:\games\ is our emulated c:\ drive, and that out folder c:\games\dfcd is our emulated CD-ROM d:\ drive. Now, we have to install the game:
- in DOSBox, type 'd:' . You should see the command prompt change from Z:\> to D:\>
- type 'install' and follow the on-screen instructions.
- When asked about the install size, select the option 'huge' .
The game will begin to install. It shouldn't take long. When it's done, it will configure the sound card. DOSBox emulates a Sound Blaster 16 card, and it will be autodetected by the installation program, at least for sound effects. For MIDI, you'll have to select it manually. (if this sounds complicated, don't worry, it just means to select Sound Blaster 16 from the list).
Finally, when you exit the installation, you should be in c:\dagger. If you're not, type the following:
- cd dagger
When you get there, type "dag213" to install important patches. Now you just have to type 'dagger' and the game will start. Enjoy!
Where do I get them?
I previously had the links to the games here, but I think that they looked suspicious to Hubpage, because they flagged this hub as substandard. I made a few changes to get it back on-line, so I don't include the links anymore. You can get the games from the Elder Scrolls official homepage. On the top menu, on the games tab, you'll find both Daggerfall and Arena.