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Some guys opinion about DOSBox

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First post, by DosFreak

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https://www.doomworld.com/forum/topic/110992- … change-my-mind/

Amazingly the thread wasn't that bad. OP is of course wrong but it does make you wonder even more how the smartphone generation or whatever comes next generation will regard DOSBox in the future.

The CLI will always be a requirement if you want a DOS gaming experience, you can put lipstick (a frontend) on a pig but it's still a pig.
You can't compare the usability of a port to the same game in DOS unless that port includes a DOS port.
User ignorance on controls, how to setup, how games "should" be played. Probably best bet there is documentation and custom configs. Ideally differentiation between the config settings that everyone agrees on versus the ones that people don't. "modern key mapping" vs "original", "Best sound quality" vs "what I played in the past", "Best video quality" vs "What I played in the past", etc.
More work should be done by the end users on complaining to the publishers on bad DOSBox configs on the other hand they barely give a crap as it is so people should be thankful they bother releasing the game.

DOSBox Compilation Guides
DosBox Feature Request Thread
PC Game Compatibility List
How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
Running DRM games offline

Reply 2 of 72, by canthearu

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All this is just the nature of the DOS gaming beast.

People who were there for it understand, those who weren't just won't understand why the experience is so weird and different, to say, the Playstation 4 experience. Or even the NES/SNES experience.

Reply 3 of 72, by dreamer_

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DosFreak wrote on 2020-02-05, 23:40:

Amazingly the thread wasn't that bad. OP is of course wrong but it does make you wonder even more how the smartphone generation or whatever comes next generation will regard DOSBox in the future.

Ehh, I agree that OP of that thread is wrong, but I also think it's wrong just to outright dismiss such opinions. DOSBox is not an easy software to use, there are many, MANY "papercut" issues that make it really problematic. When user tries to play e.g. Wolfenstein 3D using his new computer bought in 2020 and learns the game from 1992 is stuttering what is he supposed to think? Such user might not know what OpenGl is, and he's supposed to know why `output=ddraw` someone suggested in a reddit thread from 5 years ago does not work on a new macOS? And even when surface is configured correctly, game will stutter anyway because dosbox defaults to cycles=3000 in this case.

I monitor various DOS and retrogaming related subreddits and questions about basic DOSBox usage are raised all the time. An average user trying to configure emulator bounces off, because the program behaves differently than any other modern sofware out there. It's not just "smartphone generation", it's anyone under the age of, say, 30, trying to use DOSBox for the first time - if you've never seen a DOS prompt in your life, then you're completely lost. Nowadays, expected experience for playing a game is "click download", "click play". Normal experience with DOSBox consists of: perusing through configuration file full of options unrelated to the game itself, browsing a manual without hyperlinks, googling for (often wrong or outdated) answers on various fora, creating a game-specific configuration file, and manually creating game-specific shortcut for the file, etc, etc.

Only a small percentage of users eventually reach this forum to ask for help - most people lose interest in using DOSBox, thinking it's simply half-baked solution. This is survivor bias in action - rare fixes landing in SVN trunk are addressing only concerns of expert DOSBox users, while general improvements are never being implemented.

Don't dismiss users who have problems with using DOSBox, learn why they are having problems instead.

[edit]

canthearu wrote on 2020-02-06, 00:12:

All this is just the nature of the DOS gaming beast.

People who were there for it understand, those who weren't just won't understand why the experience is so weird and different, to say, the Playstation 4 experience. Or even the NES/SNES experience.

I don't agree. It was easier to play games on my old 486DX2 with 4MB of RAM on MS-DOS than it is to configure the same games to work properly in DOSBox.

| ← Ceci n'est pas une pipe
dosbox-staging

Reply 4 of 72, by leileilol

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I see it more as a "DOSBox is popular now so it sucks", taking all the presence of Dosbox for granted.

Chocolate-Doom still doesn't reproduce the proper 11khz sound buffer Doom used by default (leading to 22khz sounds playing in Doom2 as that wasn't the case for the DOS version) , and i've had SDL issues with Choco and 60hz displays before, which may/may not be fixed now (2018 introduced some nasty SDL2-related regressions that gave Choco stuttering before)...

by the way, DOSBox is not for running Windows 9x

Reply 5 of 72, by canthearu

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dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 01:52:
canthearu wrote on 2020-02-06, 00:12:

All this is just the nature of the DOS gaming beast.

People who were there for it understand, those who weren't just won't understand why the experience is so weird and different, to say, the Playstation 4 experience. Or even the NES/SNES experience.

I don't agree. It was easier to play games on my old 486DX2 with 4MB of RAM on MS-DOS than it is to configure the same games to work properly in DOSBox.

Does that involve the effort of finding a 486DX2, putting it all together, configuring and installing DOS on it, getting the sound card to work right with correct IO/IRQ/DMA settings and whatever PnP TSRs are required during bootup. Then getting and installing a copy of the game you want to play, and hope that this system you have is beefy enough or just doesn't hold a random grudge against this particular game.

Then you have to understand at least some basic DOS commands to navigate the system and get the game running.

Although, I absolutely get where your coming from in terms of improving how DOSBox works to make the experience smoother and more accessible. There really should be an integrated GUI to modify settings like you would find on any other emulator/hypervisor system. This would let people make changes quicker, and actually show what options DOSBox has.

However, it will never be the plug and play experience we have all come to love with modern gaming (although the other parts of modern gaming, like micro-transactions, can all go to hell). There will be people who come in, expecting it to work out of the box with no prior experience, have it fail, then they complain.

Reply 7 of 72, by canthearu

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jmarsh wrote on 2020-02-06, 02:36:

A GUI would be counter-intuitive as most options cannot be changed on-the-fly and require the program to be restarted to take effect.

This shouldn't be a problem though.

The same restrictions apply to many settings in Hyper-V, virt-manager (KVM) and VirtualBox, but somehow all these hypervisors are more or less completely configurable via GUI.

I know the current fashion is to use powershell for everything, but less experienced users are better served with a GUI to show them the options and give them a quick way of changing them.

Reply 8 of 72, by Joseph_Joestar

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People complaining about DOSBox being "user unfriendly" should just stick to official remasters and source ports.

The remasters are there for players who want the game to " just work" out of the box and don't intend to do any additional tweaking. Source ports are the middle ground, offering a variety of ways to play the game and tweak many settings to the players' liking without overwhelming them with configuration options. DOSBox is for enthusiasts who want to experience the game exactly as it used to be and fully customize every aspect of its configuration. (e.g. things like OPL3 vs. MT-32 vs. GM vs. GUS etc.)

That said, if a company like Steam or GOG bundle an old game with DOSBox, it's their responsibility to ensure that DOSBox is properly configured for that particular game in terms of cycles, sound emulation etc. It should not fall to the player to set that up from scratch.

Your next line is...

Reply 9 of 72, by Joseph_Joestar

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On an unrelated note, I find it hilarious that some people in that thread tout 320x200 as a "native 16:10 resolution". It seems that non-square pixels and CRTs are a completely unknown concept to these guys.

No one had a widescreen monitor in their home during the late 80s and early-mid 90s.

Your next line is...

Reply 10 of 72, by canthearu

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Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2020-02-06, 06:42:

That said, if a company like Steam or GOG bundle an old game with DOSBox, it's their responsibility to ensure that DOSBox is properly configured for that particular game in terms of cycles, sound emulation etc. It should not fall to the player to set that up from scratch.

This I absolutely cannot argue with. If steam ships a game with DOSBox, that DOSBox session should be properly configured

However, DOSBox can still do a lot better to make it easier to change settings for those who are not quite experts at configuring DOSBox. It could still be more approachable for newcomers.

And even all that said, there would still be plenty of people who don't understand DOS and DOS games, and would blame DOSBox before understanding why their problems exist.

Reply 11 of 72, by keropi

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typical for a person that never played the original back then (age perhaps? not interested back then?), finds dosbox hard to use (= I don't know how to use it or understand this is actually what the name states: DOSbox) and finally assuming you can play doom/blodd/etc at 144fps with mouselook, no lag anywhere, perfect 2020 controls and refined gameplay mechanics.... 🤣
Clearly most of the people complaining have no first-hand experience with a dos system and the original games and some expect thing will work like a snes emulator where you load a rom and call it a day...
meh

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Reply 12 of 72, by jesolo

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keropi wrote on 2020-02-06, 07:46:

typical for a person that never played the original back then (age perhaps? not interested back then?), finds dosbox hard to use (= I don't know how to use it or understand this is actually what the name states: DOSbox) and finally assuming you can play doom/blodd/etc at 144fps with mouselook, no lag anywhere, perfect 2020 controls and refined gameplay mechanics.... 🤣
Clearly most of the people complaining have no first-hand experience with a dos system and the original games and some expect thing will work like a snes emulator where you load a rom and call it a day...
meh

Most likely because they were all born in the 21st Century 😊

Reply 13 of 72, by ZellSF

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Garrett W wrote on 2020-02-06, 00:06:

Doom is a rather special case for DOSBox since it runs at 35fps which doesn't display properly on 60hz monitors. Just one more reason one should look into source ports that run the game at 60fps.

That's not a very special case at all, 70hz isn't uncommon.

dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 01:52:

Such user might not know what OpenGl is, and he's supposed to know why `output=ddraw` someone suggested in a reddit thread from 5 years ago does not work on a new macOS? And even when surface is configured correctly, game will stutter anyway because dosbox defaults to cycles=3000 in this case.

Well there's no way to fix people giving bad advice. Also DOSBox doesn't default to cycles=3000, it defaults to cycles=auto.

dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 01:52:

Normal experience with DOSBox consists of: perusing through configuration file full of options unrelated to the game itself, browsing a manual without hyperlinks, googling for (often wrong or outdated) answers on various fora, creating a game-specific configuration file, and manually creating game-specific shortcut for the file, etc, etc.

For most games (non-CDDA) I just drag and drop the game exe over to DOSBox. That's the normal experience.

If people are giving bad advice to do otherwise, I again can't see what can be done about it.

Reply 14 of 72, by dreamer_

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I am not even talking about GUI. How about starting with simple things, like making output=opengl the default instead of surface. In dosbox-staging I added a tiny feature to display drive label above output of dir command (as it was in DOS), so it's easier for users to identify which floppy image is mounted right now - such changes are not difficult or risky, but they do improve user experience.

canthearu wrote on 2020-02-06, 02:09:

Does that involve the effort of finding a 486DX2, putting it all together, configuring and installing DOS on it, getting the sound card to work right with correct IO/IRQ/DMA settings and whatever PnP TSRs are required during bootup. Then getting and installing a copy of the game you want to play, and hope that this system you have is beefy enough or just doesn't hold a random grudge against this particular game.

No, that involves owning a 486DX2 circa 1994 and using it. Boot PC, run NC, navigate to the game directory, maybe run SETUP.EXE, run the game. It was much easier than all the tweaking required in modern DOSBox. And I am even comparing exactly the same games I used to play back then.

ZellSF wrote on 2020-02-06, 08:57:

For most games (non-CDDA) I just drag and drop the game exe over to DOSBox. That's the normal experience.

It does not work in 0.74-3. Or do you mean dragging exe over DOSBox shortcut? Because that's not normal, nor user-friendly, interaction.

keropi wrote on 2020-02-06, 07:46:

Clearly most of the people complaining have no first-hand experience with a dos system and the original games and some expect thing will work like a snes emulator where you load a rom and call it a day...

So what they don't have first-hand experience with DOS? Am I crazy to believe, that DOSBox for average users should be as easy to run as some SNES emulator? It takes some work, yes, but it's not exactly rocket science.

| ← Ceci n'est pas une pipe
dosbox-staging

Reply 15 of 72, by keropi

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dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 09:28:

[...]

keropi wrote on 2020-02-06, 07:46:

Clearly most of the people complaining have no first-hand experience with a dos system and the original games and some expect thing will work like a snes emulator where you load a rom and call it a day...

So what they don't have first-hand experience with DOS? Am I crazy to believe, that DOSBox for average users should be as easy to run as some SNES emulator? It takes some work, yes, but it's not exactly rocket science.

well DOSbox is a pc emulator running DOS, not a console where you pop in a cartridge -> power on -> play
you need to use it as a computer, configure accordingly , mess with settings... it's just how things work
-or-
you can download some ready-made front-end with preinstalled games already configured and use it like a snes emulator , these archives do exist (but that just means that someone else did all the legwork beforehand)
I think it's unrealistic to expect a DOS system emulator to be like a console one except in scenarios where you load a booter game or something.
It also unrealistic to expect games to be comparable with today's ones just with worse graphics. Back then framerate issues, control issues, sound issues , gameplay issues etc were all a reality. You might even have crappy mechanics by today's standards (mouse usage for example that was discussed in the thread) but back then all that was groundbreaking with no comparison to something better.
You got to expect old-style crapiness 🤣 when you are playing 20~30 year old games 😁

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Reply 16 of 72, by ZellSF

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dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 09:28:

I am not even talking about GUI. How about starting with simple things, like making output=opengl the default instead of surface.

output=opengl
aspect=true
fullresolution=desktop
windowresolution=(insert random 4:3 resolution here)

Would be better defaults I agree, but it would only fix aspect ratio, which most people don't care about. I'm guessing the current defaults are to support antiquated hardware.

dreamer_ wrote on 2020-02-06, 09:28:

It does not work in 0.74-3. Or do you mean dragging exe over DOSBox shortcut? Because that's not normal, nor user-friendly, interaction.

I mean dragging the exe over the shortcut yes, it's not normal sure, but it is user-friendly. When DOSBox was opened directly it could prompt for a file to open and do the same thing, that would be more "normal" , but it wouldn't be easier.

But dragging the exe over the window and/or allowing a menu with "File>Open" could be problematic. It would need to automount a directory and autolaunch an executable, but what if a directory was already mounted or it was already running an executable?

Reply 17 of 72, by Dominus

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Yes, there are games that wirk like this but then you have games like Ultima 7 (especially part 2) that required you to turn off EMS, and have as much free memory free as possible.
As you can see anecdotal evidence is not worth much.
And dragging things like output here is not really helping. Yes, on OS X opengl should be default and it was made the default (either in 0.74-3 or SVN or both).
But you are willfully ignoring or really have no idea why surface is the default on Windows. Thanks to SDL1.2, video card drivers, and unbelievably, keyboard drivers, surface turned out to be the most reliable. But again thanks to... it may turn out that the other outputs are better.
It's a can of worms and only switching to SDL2 will help with this (for example opengl on the last two OS X releases is only stable with an AMD graphics card - intel and Nvidia have bad opengl drivers - not to mention that dosbox needs to be compiled against a certain SDK or hell breaks loose on non AMD cards).

But back on topic, unless DOS games come in some kind of rom format with all the needed settings pre-configured (xms,ems?) it will always be wonky. AND this we cannot solve ever.

A GUI would be nice even if it meant you need to restart Dosbox.

Windows 3.1x guide for DOSBox
60 seconds guide to DOSBox
DOSBox SVN snapshot for OS X (10.4-10.14 ppc/intel 32/64bit) codesigned for gatekeeper
DOSBox SVN with SDL2 snapshot for OS X (10.7-10.14 intel 64bit) codesigned for gatekeeper

Reply 18 of 72, by Errius

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I can't play Doom in DOS any more. I'm used to controls I used for years in Quake which aren't possible in DOS Doom.

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Reply 19 of 72, by henryVK

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I'm not necessarily a purist, but Doom is just a bad example because seeing as there's a source port for modern systems, there's no need to run it in dosbox in the first place.

The dos version, on the other hand, is really easy to run on an old machine too. No need to free up conventional memory even.