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October 6, 2023 at 4:01 pm in reply to: Which DOS games do you have on your Topsters 25 list? #7928
For me I guess it depends how exactly we define DOS game. If we mean games where DOS was the initial or primary release platform, then I think only DOOM would make my cut of best games ever. If we include anything that merely had a DOS version, then Lemmings would be in there too.
I think the reason so few games make the cut for me is also the reason the platform is so interesting. It was a highly experimental wild-west where new and strange things were constantly being tried, many of which either didn’t work, or needed further refinements to really shine. Console games tended more to focus on established formulas and iteratively refining them, which is why the “best of the best” exemplars tend to be found there.
EDIT: And just to clarify, I interpreted this more in an objective “what games achieve the highest quality” sense, rather than just a list of my favorite games. Many of my favorite games are deeply flawed in some way, and several more DOS games would be included in that case, such as Descent, Hexen, many Sierra adventures, etc.
Even better, there’s actually 4 Christmas editions. ’91 and ’92 are 4 level shareware demos promoting the ONML main game, but ’93 and ’94 were full commercial standalone titles. Thankfully, the ’94 version includes all the levels from ’93, so you only need the ’91, ’92, and ’94 versions to get all the content.
That should be plenty of official content to keep us busy, but I’m also going to dive into the mod scene since there’s lots there to talk about also.
While I don’t have a deck specifically, I do all my gaming (including DOS stuff) on Linux, and it works great.
For best results, you’ll want a version of DOSBox that uses SDL2. I recommend dosbox-staging or dosbox-x, both of them are quite good. The main challenge will just be using the dosbox keymapper to set up usable control profiles for different games so you can play without using a keyboard.
There’s also 86Box if you want a maximally authentic experience, including setting up the BIOS and installing DOS itself. I’m not sure if it supports controller mappings though, so it might not be as suitable for deck use.
I agree that Hexen would be a better pick for an episode, since Heretic really is essentially a doom total conversion, with the most notable innovation being the ability to store items in an inventory for later use.
Hexen has a fundamentally different game design, with the non-linear hub-based map structure and emphasis on thorough exploration. Also, Hexen brought several interesting technical advancements to the Doom engine. Firstly the custom ACS scripting language which adds much more dynamism to the maps with elaborate scripted sequences and puzzle triggers. Second, there were “polyobjects” which were specially marked sectors that could move and rotate in ways previously impossible for Doom, allowing things like the swinging doors on the first level, or the sliding crusher walls seen later.
My friend and I couldn’t get enough of Hexen and played through it with all the classes on progressively higher difficulties just to get more out of the game, and would do co-op runs over modem, much to the frustration of our parents for tying up the lines 🙂
Thanks. Unfortunately I’m definitely more programmer than musician. I got myself lost in the weeds of designing an efficient song format with support for digitized drum samples because it was a fun challenge and something I hadn’t done before, but now that it’s mostly usable I’m going to need to learn how to actually compose music at all :/
In the meantime I just use converted VGM dumps of classic DOS tunes to make sure it’s working properly, and I’m working more on the renderer, since that’s the most crucial part. I’ll definitely share once it’s far enough along to be interesting!
Indeed, the OPL3 especially never really saw its true potential. Most games used it merely as a stereo version of the OPL2, and even then only to play MIDI conversions using off-the-shelf General Midi patches. When the chip is programmed directly and its full capabilities are used, it can do some amazing stuff.