If you can't find a solution to a problem that you are having with your classic Sierra game, you can ask for additional help on the SHP forums. To save a lot of back and forth posting to gather information and to cover the basics, please review the following before asking for help to help us to help you.
- Note: If you have used one of the SHP installers, you may skip the following and go directly to the Information gathering post.
The Classic Sierra games were not written for modern hardware or Operating Systems. Because of this you may encounter many problems with getting your game to run right. This is where the classic gamer's best friend comes into play, DOSBox. DOSBox is a DOS-emulator that emulates an old DOS PC. It emulates both the hardware and DOS itself. This provides the games the environment that they expect to find. This solves compatibility conflicts and other problems, such as speed issues. It is highly compatible with most DOS games. If you have the Windows 3x install disks you can even install Windows 3x in DOSBox to play the old 16-bit Windows programs. While DOSBox is easy to use, it requires some knowledge of how to mount folders as drives in DOSBox. There are the official guides to using DOSBox and the DOSBox Wiki, if you wish to learn. A frontend (GUIs) can be used to ease the setup of games in DOSBox. Whatever approach you take, some basic knowledge of how to install and run DOS games/programs is also required. Occasionally, you may even need to know how to navigate in DOS.
There are new installers that are designed to avoid all of the following problems by setting up the games in DOSBox, applying all relevant patches and automatically configuring both DOSBox and the games. No manual setup or configuration is required.
Vista and Windows 7 users should avoid installing these legacy games in any system folder, like "Program Files" or "Program Files (x86)". These games game expect to have no restrictions placed on their folders that may prevent them from writing files to their own directory. Games may not be able to save configuration or preferences changes. Most commonly they won't be able to create save games. Other, less predictable issues can occur. An example of this can be found with Leisure Suit Larry 5. If the player has read only rights to the game's folder, the game will ask for a non-existent password to play.
Solution: This and other problems can be avoided if the games are not installed in any system folder. The default folder that the installers use is the same as the original Sierra installers used, a subfolder inside of "C:\Sierra".
Long Files Names:
When manually setting up your game in DOSBox, avoid the use of long file names inside of the mounted folders. In the DOS and Windows 3x era, folder and file names were limited to the "8.3" naming convention. In other words, the names could be no longer than 8 characters long with an extension of no more than 3 characters. Any spaces in the file name were interpreted as the end of the file name. With Windows 95, long file names were introduced, but DOS was still limited to 8.3. Any file with any spaces or more than the allowed characters is seen in DOS with a different name. "My Web Page.html" might be seen in DOS as "MYWEBP~1.HTM". If you try to run a program with a long file name with a space in the name from the DOS prompt by typing in the name and hitting enter, DOS will look for a file with just the name before the space. "My Program.exe" will be seen as just "MY" and the user will be given an error message of
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Illegal command: MY.
Solution: If any of the folders in the path to your intended mounted "C:" drive have any spaces, enclose the path in quotes when mounting:
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mount "C:\Old Games\Sierra\King's Quest I"
Any folders inside of this mounted C: should follow the 8.3 convention.
No Sound or Other Issues Because the Game was Not Properly Configured:
DOS games often needed to be configured to the specific hardware of the user's PC. The original installers would either autodetect this hardware or allow the user to manually select the hardware. If game's files are just copied to the folder on the hard drive mounted in DOSBox instead of using the original installer, the game's folders may mounted right in DOSBox, but the game may not be configured properly. This may lead to audio or graphical glitches/problems or the game might crash, freeze or not even start.
Solution: use the game's original installer or, if possible, manually edit the config file(s).
Mount Drives to Install vs. Mounting Drives to Play:
When you install a game using the original installer, it will write any configuration files telling the game where to find its resources. If the mounting of drives in DOSBox is not exactly the same as when you installed the game, it may not look in the right place for the files that it needs. With CD based games, if you mount your CD drive and a "C:" drive to manually install your game, and the game needs to be able to find files on the CD to play the game, The CD has to also be mounted along with the "C:" drive every time the game is played.
Solution: always mount your drive(s) in DOSBox exactly the same way to play the game as you used to install the game.
Incorrect DOSBox Cycles Settings:
Speed bugs are common to later Sierra SCI games. While some of these bugs have been fixed with the NewRisingSun patches, there are many that have no patch. For these, DOSBox can avoid speed related bugs if the cycles (speed of DOSBox's emulation) are not set too high. The default settings for DOSBox is "core=auto" and "cycles=auto". Depending on whether the game is a real mode or a protected mode game, these settings may cause DOSBox to either operate at 1800 cycles, which will make the game take forever to load screens or run at max cycles, which will uncover all of the potential speed bug lockups/crashes.
Solution: set the dosbox.conf to use cycles @ 8000 to 10000. This is usually enough to load screens quickly, but slow enough to avoid most speed bugs.
Error Message: "Unable to initialize your audio hardware":
When the game starts you receive this message and then have no digital audio in the game. DOS games needed to include their own drivers to be able to use the computer's hardware. Most of the Sierra drivers were good, but their Sierra SoundBlaster driver was very buggy. The initialization error was due to the way that driver detected the hardware. On faster machines when the driver queries the sound card, its response is so fast that the driver misses it, so the effect is as if the hardware is absent.
Solution: While Sierra released updated drivers for some games, these drivers were game specific. If one of the updated drivers is used on a game that it was not designed for, if may cause lockups, infinite loops or memory errors. Try selecting different audio hardware, such as Thunderboard. For games that don't have an acceptable alternative to SoundBlaster, setting the cycles to no more than 7000 to 8000 to start the game can solve this initialization error. If this makes the game too slow for your tastes, you can increase the cycles for DOSBox (Ctrl+F12) after the SoundBlaster has initialized.
Other errors or issues that are game specific may have a patch that will fix some of these bugs. Be sure to check if there are any patches for your particular game. If all else fails, try the new installer designed for your Sierra game. The new installers found on this site are intended to avoid most of the mistakes in setting up the Classic Sierra games that many make when they are not familiar with DOSBox or with getting the older Windows games to run on modern computers and modern Windows. While the vast majority of users have no problems with using the installers, occasionally a few encounter problems, or end up with unsatisfactory results.