VOGONS


First post, by digger

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As most of you know, there were many DOS games that came on several disks and supported floppy-only systems by prompting the user to swap the disks throughout the game play, most notably Sierra adventures. Those games were obviously intended to be installed on hard drives for an optimal experience, but the option to play them on a system without a hard drive was still offered.

However, at a certain point, as games became larger and the hard drive pretty much had become a basic component in any new computer, it became a requirement to install games on a hard drive.

Since there is a first time for everything, one game must have been the first to require this. I'm curious to know which one that was, if only for historical reasons.

Does anyone here know which was the first DOS game in history that required itself to be installed on an HDD in order to run?

Reply 2 of 29, by digger

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mrau wrote:

i don't think dos games require a hard disk; a big enough floppy will almost always do;

That was certainly true during the early eighties, but in the latter half of that decade, many DOS games started to require in-game floppy disk swapping even before hard disk installation became a necessity.

Reply 3 of 29, by mrau

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they might require swapping, but they might also just require further files - depends on software; if swapping is not explicitly required, for example due to label, its completely optional i believe

Reply 4 of 29, by Osprey

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mrau wrote:

i don't think dos games require a hard disk; a big enough floppy will almost always do;

You may as well argue that even today's 50GB games don't require a hard drive, since a big enough floppy disk would suffice. He's not asking for a technical, hypothetical answer like that. He's simply asking which game was the first to require a hard drive at the time, according to what was available to the average gamer and how the game was documented and marketed.

I don't know the answer, but my guess is that it would not have been a game that installed everything to hard drive. It was probably a game that installed just a little bit (only 1MB or so) and then still relied on disk swapping during gameplay, as a way of cutting down on having to re-insert Disk 1/A so often. That's just my guess, though.

Reply 5 of 29, by mrau

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i did not understand that question this way at all - what You say is most easily asked for - what game required more than 1.38MB data accessible at the same time to run; even the scenario You describe does not really really require a hard disk;
may OPs question should be understood as the first game with an installer?

Reply 6 of 29, by root42

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The answers so far are a bit disappointing.

I can say from experience that things like Space Quest 3 (1989) ran from floppy and Monkey Island 2 (1991) required installation to a hard disk and would not run from the original floppy. So I would look for a first somewhere in that period...

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Reply 7 of 29, by Jo22

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Well, I'm afraid I'm of no help, either. I don't know of many games that did support installation on floppies in the first place even. 🙁
The very last game of mine that supported that was Magnetic Scrolls' Wonderland. The (c) has 1990 into it.
Maybe that's only because of an interpreter update, or something along these lines..

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Reply 8 of 29, by krcroft

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At some point, floppy disks came populated with a setup/install exe file, and one or two big dat (archive) files. Your only option was to install to HDD.

In some cases, the install.exe was an sfx archive that presented a couple questions before unpacking. Other times the disks held the full tree of files except with mangled extensions (game.ex_, game.ex1) which the installer expanded to the target HDD directory.

Unfortunately I've moved to 100% dosbox-based gaming and have no vintage hardware to read my shoebox of floppies, so am of little help in the investigation.

Reply 9 of 29, by Errius

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Later on you had games that ran entirely from CD-ROM and only used the hard drive to save configuration data and save games.

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Reply 11 of 29, by mrau

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kode54 wrote:

Don’t forget the combination of installing all the minor game data to hdd and playing redbook audio off the cd.

this just made me think of a quake hd install, with audio on floppies; i would love to watch someone play and swap floppies all the time

Reply 12 of 29, by digger

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mrau wrote:

i did not understand that question this way at all - what You say is most easily asked for - what game required more than 1.38MB data accessible at the same time to run; even the scenario You describe does not really really require a hard disk;
may OPs question should be understood as the first game with an installer?

Let me clarify my question as I intended it.

First of all, for the sake of this discussion, let's disregard the existence of the 2.88 MB Extra Density diskette format, since both disks and drives of that format were quite uncommon and mostly limited to certain IBM PS/2 models, if I'm not mistaken. Besides, as far as I know, no games were ever distributed on that format, for that very same reason.

So what I'm looking for is the first game that did not fit on a single 1.44MB diskette and did not support run-time disk swapping either. Also, let's leave out any games that came on two disks and supported reading the first disk from the A: drive and the second disk from the B: drive in dual disk drive systems. (Although that would be an interesting special category of games by itself, because I don't know of any games off the top of my head that actually made use of dual floppy drives.) So yes, as others have pointed out, this would most likely have been a game that came with an install or setup utility that would install it to a hard drive before it could be played. Although I guess it could also at least theoretically have been a game that would require the user to manually copy the contents from more than one floppy disk to a single directory on the hard drive.

With so many games released back in the day, I guess it would be difficult to determine which specific game was the first that at the time could only be played on a system with a hard drive. I guess the original boxes of the games (and perhaps also bundled README files) would probably have explicitly stated a hard drive as being required as opposed to recommended.

By the way, I know of a one theoretical workaround for such a requirement: if a PC that lacked a hard drive in those times had an Expanded Memory (EMS) board with a large enough amount of RAM on it installed, then by loading a Virtual Disk driver backed by EMS and installing the game to the virtual disk, it would still be possible to play the game on such a system. It would load a lot faster too, although it would have to be reinstalled after each reboot. 😉 I remember my Dad's 8086 PC being upgraded with an EMS card before it was upgraded with a hard drive. I remember playing with virtual disks, trying to get games to load faster. In the case of Sierra adventures that used the SCI engine, the EMS card would reduce the amount of floppy swapping required by caching the loaded sceneries in EMS, which those games supported natively. No virtual disks needed for those games. 😀

Reply 13 of 29, by Azarien

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digger wrote:

if a PC that lacked a hard drive in those times had an Expanded Memory (EMS) board with a large enough amount of RAM on it installed, then by loading a Virtual Disk driver backed by EMS and installing the game to the virtual disk, it would still be possible to play the game on such a system.

I'd say that's "cheating" and doesn't count. It's still a "hard drive" from the game's perspective. Otherwise we could install an SSD or a flash card and call it a PC without a hard drive...

Reply 14 of 29, by digger

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Azarien wrote:
digger wrote:

if a PC that lacked a hard drive in those times had an Expanded Memory (EMS) board with a large enough amount of RAM on it installed, then by loading a Virtual Disk driver backed by EMS and installing the game to the virtual disk, it would still be possible to play the game on such a system.

I'd say that's "cheating" and doesn't count. It's still a "hard drive" from the game's perspective. Otherwise we could install an SSD or a flash card and call it a PC without a hard drive...

Oh, I agree that also counts as a "hard drive" from the game's perspective. Which means that such a game would in fact count if it wouldn't work on a system without a hard drive otherwise. I just mentioned it as a possibly interesting anecdote. 😀 So indeed, within the context of this topic, EMS-backed virtual disks, SSDs, SD cards, CF cards, 2.88 MB diskettes and basically any drives larger than the size of a single diskette would count as a hard drive.

Although that does make me realize that older PCs without hard drives usually didn't come with high density floppy drives either. So that might make this discussion a bit more complicated. Will we assume a "single diskette" to be 360KB or 720KB? As far as I can remember, all games that I ever played that supported run-time diskette swapping ("Please enter disk X and press ENTER", etc), would come on 360KB 5.25" Double Density floppy disks. Space Quest I, for instance, came on two 360 KB floppies and could therefore fit on a single 720 KB diskette. Most systems that required in-game disk swapping only had 5.25" DD disk drivers anyway.

If any of you know of any games that supported in-game diskette swapping, but would only fit on diskettes larger than 360 KB, please share those as well! As far as I know, such games don't exist, because that wouldn't make much sense.

Reply 15 of 29, by Marek

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Osprey wrote:

I don't know the answer, but my guess is that it would not have been a game that installed everything to hard drive. It was probably a game that installed just a little bit (only 1MB or so) and then still relied on disk swapping during gameplay, as a way of cutting down on having to re-insert Disk 1/A so often. That's just my guess, though.

That was quite common for early CD games although rarely with swapping. But I've never seen such a thing for floppy games. Makes sense considering the typical hard drive had a few hundred MB at the time games span multiple floppies. Also DOS and Windows only took a few MB, thus plenty of space for games to be installed.

root42 wrote:

I can say from experience that things like Space Quest 3 (1989) ran from floppy and Monkey Island 2 (1991) required installation to a hard disk and would not run from the original floppy. So I would look for a first somewhere in that period...

The first Monkey Island EGA (1990) can also be played directly from the floppies. That narrows it down for LucasArts, but there are many other companies which might have done the switch earlier. I would suspect something from Bullfrog or Origin, since those were quite demanding. Unfortunately, there are rarely exact release dates for games of the time.

digger wrote:

(Although that would be an interesting special category of games by itself, because I don't know of any games off the top of my head that actually made use of dual floppy drives.)

I don't think I've seen such a game either on PC. That was pretty common for Amiga games, though. The way Commodore wired the floppies supported up to 4 drives.

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Reply 16 of 29, by Azarien

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Marek wrote:
digger wrote:

(Although that would be an interesting special category of games by itself, because I don't know of any games off the top of my head that actually made use of dual floppy drives.)

I don't think I've seen such a game either on PC. That was pretty common for Amiga games, though.

One can take advantage of it on Amiga emulators. It's more convenient to mount several floppy images at the same time (and let the game find them) than to swap floppies (even if virtual ones) in-game.

Reply 17 of 29, by digger

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Marek wrote:
root42 wrote:

I can say from experience that things like Space Quest 3 (1989) ran from floppy and Monkey Island 2 (1991) required installation to a hard disk and would not run from the original floppy. So I would look for a first somewhere in that period...

The first Monkey Island EGA (1990) can also be played directly from the floppies. That narrows it down for LucasArts, but there are many other companies which might have done the switch earlier.

It seems that support for in-game floppy swapping and compatibility with less-than-16-color graphics modes (CGA as Hercules) started to disappear around the same time. This can be seen in both LucasArts and Sierra games. King's Quest IV supported those older graphics modes, as well as floppy swapping. King's Quest V dropped support for CGA and Hercules modes even in the 16 color version, and required a hard drive.

Those separate 16 color versions of point-and-click Sierra adventures could however be made to work in CGA mode by copying over a CGA driver from an older SCI-based Sierra adventure game, but those of course don't count as CGA-compatible hard drive demanding games, since that was an unofficial hack. 😉

Reply 18 of 29, by Osprey

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Marek wrote:

That was quite common for early CD games although rarely with swapping. But I've never seen such a thing for floppy games. Makes sense considering the typical hard drive had a few hundred MB at the time games span multiple floppies. Also DOS and Windows only took a few MB, thus plenty of space for games to be installed.

I distinctly remember not having "plenty of space" to install games. Of course, part of that could've been that I was sharing the computer and was allowed only 25MB of our 100MB hard drive, but, if most other people had plenty of space, then games would've moved to full installations a lot earlier than they did, instead of still running off of floppies into the 90s. Hard drive space was very precious back then. I know that The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes, though it required full hard drive installation, gave the option to install the game files as compressed (requiring about 15MB of HD space) or uncompressed (requiring 25MB). The former was called "Save Disk Space" in the installer and the latter was called "Save Time" (since decompressing the game's resources during gameplay slowed things down).

I, too, don't remember any games that allowed for installing only a little bit and reading the rest off of the floppies, but it seems like a natural hybrid that some developer might've at least tried at some point. I remember that the worst part of disk swapping was the frequent need for Disk 1/A. You always needed it to run the game and often needed it again during play, even after you've moved onto the content on later disks. It would've made a lot of sense to install just the data from that disk to the hard drive, so that you'd never have to insert it again and would need only to insert the later disks as you got further into the game. I'd be surprised if no game ever had that option.

Reply 19 of 29, by bristlehog

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mrau wrote:

i don't think dos games require a hard disk; a big enough floppy will almost always do

Some games work with file cache and thus won't run without a hard drive. For example, Magic Carpet II: Netherworlds creates C:\NETHERW folder with some temporary files, and its location is not changeable AFAIK. Thus I think it won't run without a HDD.

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