Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Getting old DOS games working on modern hardware. (DOSBox topics belong in DOSBox areas below, not here).

Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-09 @ 08:24

I've recently imaged my old Amstrad system and bundled "game pack" (Prince of Persia, F-15 Strike Eagle II, Links) floppy disks from my PC5286 and am trying to get the software to run on emulators (PCEm, DOSBox, etc.).

The system utilities and OS stuff still works as I remember it (well, within expectations), however I am having issues with two of the three bundled games: F-15 Strike Eagle II and Prince of Persia. Both just return to the command prompt when started via their included .com files.

I know that PoP1 is freely available and I have a retail copy of F-15 SE II *but* I am curious about why these *specific* Amstrad bundled versions don't run, as well as preserving these versions for historical reasons (indeed, I can't find reference to the PoP version on any of the myriad of PoP fansites and archives anywhere!).

My suspicion is that either:
1) My floppy disk is damaged.
2) These are custom versions of the games that look for real Amstrad hardware and won't run without it

Case #1 would be unfortunate but is supported by Links (disk 2) working.

Case #2 would be interesting given the preservation aspect. Supporting Case #2 is the fact that in my comparing the .com files that run those games with the later DOS retail versions' exe files in a hex editor show the words "AMSTRAD" suspiciously near the start of the former files! Also, both games work when I replaced the troublesome original .com files with a retail f15.com file and a

Incidentally, PoP seems identical file-wise (file names and sizes) to the widely-available PoP v1.0 DOS floppy release once the old .com is replaced by the retail version's exe (indeed, there is a "gibberish symbols" named file in the Amstrad floppy disk's PoP installer that - when renamed to "prince.exe" will run the game without any new files being added, bypassing the com file!

F-15 SE II, on the other hand, needs a new executable (I replaced f15load.com with the retail f15.com and it runs). it is also missing several of the retail .pic files and has slightly altered title screens (a simple row of pixels down the bottom of the screen has been "cleaned up"). Was this an early F15SE II release perhaps different to my own copy or those found online? This is why I find these obscure versions interesting for historical reasons!

I am wondering if anyone out there has these disks from this bundle, though, and can report if their copies work or if it is indeed case #2 that's happening here. Sadly, my PC5286 is not in any state to be booted up to test on actual hardware, though that would be ideal (anyone with the actual hardware to do this, feel free to PM me). :(

I don't want to say the wrong thing, but PoP1 is apparently okay to distribute freely now, so if that's the case (and if not, no probs) I could also share my bundled copy of that game for others to try.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-09 @ 11:08

Sounds like exact same bundle I got with my 4386SX. Can't remember trying to get them working on another machine so I can't vouch for compatibility with other systems. If you like I could dig them out and image them if you want to have a look (assuming that is ok with forum rules about posting disk images of course).

Could they possibly be checking OS version and failing due to that (doubtful but who knows). The 4386SX shipped with DOS 3.3 if that helps.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-09 @ 12:48

gca wrote:Sounds like exact same bundle I got with my 4386SX. Can't remember trying to get them working on another machine so I can't vouch for compatibility with other systems. If you like I could dig them out and image them if you want to have a look (assuming that is ok with forum rules about posting disk images of course).

Could they possibly be checking OS version and failing due to that (doubtful but who knows). The 4386SX shipped with DOS 3.3 if that helps.

Great to discover someone else might have these in this format! I was surprised that a die-hard fansite like some of the PoP ones didn't seem to even mention this release existing.

Did yours come with a big thick multi-lingual manual too? (I've been planning to scan mine for posterity, as the only online scans I've seen are of non-english pages).

I would be *very VERY* grateful if you got chance to dig them out and image them to share with me (I'll happily share mine to compare... PM is fine if public posting of such things is frowned upon).

I'd be interested if you had the system disk(s) too and could share it? Mine says "Series 5 System Disk" on the label and is MS-DOS 3.3 plus custom HDD setup/auto-install (with cool Amstrad branded splash screens). Given your machine is a "Series 4" 386 (right?) with the same game bundle, I'm curious if the System Disk is the same or a "Series 4" variant?

Is your machine the one listed under Series 4 near the bottom of this page?

I know the later MegaPC (also a 386) had a different set of system disks to my 286 and additional game bundles as well (see attached image). It's possible your System Disks are the same as the 386 Mega-PC ones.

I've searched the web high and low for disk images to compare with my own, but this stuff seems pretty hard to find and niche!

Re: the Mega-PC bundle image below: the yellow and red manual and two red and white floppies is the game bundle I have. Mine also came with the Counterpoint floppy and a different (as mentioned above) single "Series 5" system disk. Looks like the 386SX machines had 8two* system disks, which I'm awfully curious about! I can't read the other disk labels, but if the MegaPC came with Windows, that means the 7 floppies on the right might me that, and the three with Counterpoint could be the other games (Steel Empire, Snooker, Elite Plus) bundle or vice versa. The purple label disks look to be MS-DOS (I think it shipped with MS-DOS 5.0).
Attachments
Amstrad_PC5286HD.jpg
PC5286 (not my photo)
amstradmegapcbundle.jpg
image of the Amstrad Mega-PC bundle; the games pack I'm talking about is the two-floppy red-and-white-label/yellow-and-red-manual/3-game one.
Last edited by Banjo on 2018-9-09 @ 13:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-09 @ 13:03

Judging from the images you have there the software bundle looks much the same as mine.

I had 5 (I think it was 5) setup disks for the basic OS install of DOS 3.3, Windows 3.0 (always considered odd as Windows 3.1 was available by then), CA-Compete Demo, CounterPoint. The games manual looks the same (yellow cover, red spine, multilingual), the operating system manuals were chunky as was the hardware manual (I miss having decent hardware docs).

I think you are right about which machine I have, it was reviewed in PCW Volume 14 Number 5 (May 1991) if you want to look it up.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-09 @ 13:09

Yes!!! Those are the same floppies and the same red/yellow (thick!) manual! I'd love images of them to compare with mine! I thought I was the only one with surviving disks and even then wondered if mine were damaged!

I'd also be forever indebted to you for images of your other disks, as those things aren't preserved anywhere I can find (again, privately is fine if need be). This stuff should be preserved, IMO.

Childhood me is jealous of your machine when I had my 286! That said, just looking at these images is making me incredibly nostalgic. I still have my old machine but it's not really in operable shape (the monitor cable is definitely broken, too) but I always loved the tiny form factor. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the odd electric scent it gave off when running and hear the hum of that tiny rear fan... :)
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-09 @ 13:21

Check your messages, you will find something in there you will like. If I can find they the rest will follow. Let me know if you got the files ok, not sure about the dropbox web ui when it comes to generating shares.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-09 @ 13:47

Thanks heaps! :)

A quick test decompressing the Prince of Persia (LHA) archive found on disk one gives the exact same corrupt "gibberish" file I got from my identical disk. I am wondering now if this was on purpose to prevent non-Amstrad users from playing this copy of the game (if indeed prince.com from the install requires Amstrad hardware be detected)! :(

I will test them later as a proper install, but I am now leaning towards Case #2 in my original post over my initial concerns of a damaged disk. Only way to be sure is trying them on real hardware, I'd say, though, unless someone can make sense of hex editing the code of those troublesome com files.

I've attached the Prince of Persia .com file in case someone wants to take a look at it (this should be no copyright problem, as you still need the rest of the game from another copy of PoP v1.0 for it to do anything); this file is the *only* different file compared to the commonly-available PoP v1.0 DOS release file list, so you could test it by putting that file in a PoP v1.0 installation and running it in DOSBox or on a real machine.
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amstrad_princecom.rar
The file "prince.com", included with the Amstrad Games Bundle version of PoP that you're expected to run instead of the usual "prince.exe" file. DOSBox won't run this, but the game works if you add "prince.exe" from another copy. Does "prince.com" need to detect real Amstrad hardware, perhaps?
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-09 @ 14:25

Found the system disks and counterpoint, I had them imaged on my external hdd.

I think the main problem with these machines is that they have so much proprietary or oddball hardware in them. The PSU in mine is definitely non-standard and probably impossible to replace. And what is it with that stupid 3 pin hdd power connector (see pic). Only managed to get a replacement drive because I lucked out working at a salvage place I was working at. And no standard molex on the psu either to add insult to injury.

My floppy drives belt (yes, it's belt driven) failed and took one of the drive heads with it. Can't find a replacement drive for love nor money so I had to resort to some extreme measures as you will see in the attached PDF.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-09 @ 14:52

Thanks so much! That's the same Counterpoint disk I have (still prefer it to early Windows as a DOS shell) and those system disks look like the same ones in that Mega-PC bundle image, so excited about those!

I agree about the proprietary parts being such an issue, and I remember Amstrad being a bit (in)famous for that even when I owned them. Now I think about it, I had a PC where the power supply when *CRACK* loudly one day (never forget that sound) and just blew and now I think it was my PC5286 (if so, I probably got it fixed but maybe that's when it died!). People don't believe me when I say my first computer (Amstrad PC1512) kept its clock running via a couple of regular AA batteries slotted under the monitor!

I'd love to renovate my old machines (got a few, including my two childhood Amstrads and a few "junkers" collected over the years) but the challenge of parts for the ones I actually care about makes me too wary to try. On the upside, I dug out my old "mega-beast" 486DX/66 the other week and was surprised to find it still had the (then state-of-the-art) Creative DVD drive and decoder card (with a big ugly external cable loop required to make it work) and AWE-32 sound card still in it.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-09 @ 15:02

Loud crack probably means a blown cap. My PSU is thankfully still operational even though the switch is jammed in the on position (better than being jammed off I guess). My replacement HDD sounds like a mini stone mason is chiselling the data onto a granite platter so I don't hold out hope for the machine being operational for much longer. But it has served me well, got it back in the mid 90's and it still lives so I can't complain too much.

And the keyboard LOOKS like a normal 5-pin DIN but isn't, which is a bugger because there is no real hope of connecting the machine to my KVM switch. Unless I find a busted keyboard and manage to work out what pin does what an cobble together an adapter.

Oh, and about the OS. I did read somewhere that it was slightly modified to accommodate something in the Amstrad BIOS. Not sure if it's true or not as I've had DOS 6.22 and Linux on that machine without problems but it might be something to keep in mind. Probably an urban myth but you never know when it comes to Amstrad kit.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-13 @ 15:11

Until someone reports testing the Amstrad Games Pack on a real non-Amstrad machine vs an Amstrad, I am going to assume that the issue *was* that two of the three games was specifically tweaked not to work on non-Amstrad machines.

For those who, like me, still have the Amstrad Games Pack as real disks or as image files, I am currently making a "patch" that will let you use it on non-Amstrad (real or virtual) machines, as well as install the games to DOSBox or similar.

If anyone reads this who is also an Amstrad PC owner, collector or fan, *please* get in touch as I'm very interested in the different system softwares (particularly the unique Amstrad GUI and "tutor" programs bundled with the later Mega-PC era machines)... though for me, the Holy Grail is finding someone who has the Amstrad Games Pack 2 (containing Elite Plus, Steel Empire and Jimmy White Whirlwind Snooker), to see what's different about those... and because I really want the Counterpoint icons from that pack! :)

gca wrote:Loud crack probably means a blown cap. My PSU is thankfully still operational even though the switch is jammed in the on position (better than being jammed off I guess). My replacement HDD sounds like a mini stone mason is chiselling the data onto a granite platter so I don't hold out hope for the machine being operational for much longer. But it has served me well, got it back in the mid 90's and it still lives so I can't complain too much.

And the keyboard LOOKS like a normal 5-pin DIN but isn't, which is a bugger because there is no real hope of connecting the machine to my KVM switch. Unless I find a busted keyboard and manage to work out what pin does what an cobble together an adapter.

Oh, and about the OS. I did read somewhere that it was slightly modified to accommodate something in the Amstrad BIOS. Not sure if it's true or not as I've had DOS 6.22 and Linux on that machine without problems but it might be something to keep in mind. Probably an urban myth but you never know when it comes to Amstrad kit.

I really need to dig out my old PC5286. I should still have the keyboard too, and I distinctly remember it having an odd DIN-style plug and realising I couldn't use a different one! Can't remember if the mouse was too.

This site and this thread has lots of info on the Amstrad "Series X000" machines but John Elliot here might be the person to ask about the keyboard, and I found this video fun... and it's one of the very few "Series X000" Amstrad PC videos on YouTube, where it's otherwise all either Mega-PC envy or PC1512 nostalgia! :)

I'm hoping those with the real machines (myself included!) might be willing/able to dump their bioses for PCem or MESS to use someday, and keep those quirky machines alive in virtual form!
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-13 @ 18:51

If the mouse on your 5286 is the same as the 4386 then it's classified as a bus mouse (D-sub connector, female I think, can't remember pin count). On the 4386 it attaches behind a flap on the front of the case above the keyboard. But that shouldn't be a problem as it has a standard serial port you can connect a normal mouse to. TBH the only standard connectors on these things are the serial, parallel and VGA ports. Everything else is just ... weird.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-14 @ 15:18

Had a chance to try the games under VirtualBox today using the OS as provided by Amstrad. Pop and F15 II just tank back to the command prompt, no error messages or hints as to what the problem may be. Tried several command line parameters from the F15 II manual but got nothing.

Links, on the other hand, just worked. No moaning, no arcane command line parameters it just fired up and did its job.

Not sure what patches are out there for Pop or F15 II. If there are any then maybe they could get them running?

Noticed an rather strange filename in the Pop directory, looks like a line of pyramids separated by spaces (see screen grab). Corrupt file or is that supposed to be there?
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-14 @ 19:24

Yup, that's exactly what I found in PCem and DOSBox, too, so it seems PoP and F15SE2 are indeed wanting real Amstrads to run, I think.
I've just finished my little patch and will post it tomorrow if you'd like to test it, but in the meantime, here's something interesting about that weird "glitchy" file you noticed... try renaming it to "PRINCE.EXE" and run it on your virtual machine... it's the game's freaking executable! :)

Another interesting thing, this time about F-15 Strike Eagle II... I installed the original retail from a floppy image and it *does not run* either. Just hangs at the prompt in a similar way to the Amstrad version. But when (as I did to fix the Amstrad version) I replace my retail floppy's F15.COM or the Amstrad's F15LOAD.COM with one I found online, the game runs. Peeking at the "found" .com file (which is much smaller than the retail one but the same size as the Amstrad one) in a hex editor shows it to be very similar to the Amstrad one.

My theory is that the retail game might require the original disk in the drive to play it; I haven't tested that yet. The "found" file is from a later release (later datestamp, too) that didn't require this. The Amstrad version *also* doesn't require the original disk as it's meant to be played off the HDD... but it *does* require said HDD to be in a real Amstrad! It's just a theory though, but links up with another post I saw on here about F15SE2 not working in DOSBox for someone who bought the disks off eBay while everyone else was baffled saying "it's not a hard game to run"... since they're likely only familiar with the later/widely-available-online version! If it's true, though... wow, we think DRM is crazy today! :)

In any case, I've made a patch to fix both games so they run on non-Amstrad (real or virtual) machines, and will give it to you to test tomorrow, since it's getting late here, and I want to add a quick readme file to it before posting.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-14 @ 20:08

Ah, disk based copy protection, oh I have missed thee (NOT). A necessary evil when games were just a diskcopy away. F16 combat pilot is the same way, it also needs the original disk in the drive to run. As if entering word x from line y on page z of the manual wasn't enough. Could be worse, the games could by on those disk with an odd format that simply refuse to be copied no matter how hard you try.

Didn't think to try renaming that odd file. I wonder why they didn't just remove it outright and save a little disk space. I'll try renaming it tomorrow and see what happens.

When it comes to links, run golf.exe instead of links.bat. links.bat adds a couple of parameters that does not agree with VirtualBox and it locks up. I still suck at that game though, never was any good at golf on a pc (even worse when it comes to the real thing tbh).
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2018-9-27 @ 14:56

Still working on getting my patch finished to upload, but it's been fun revisiting those old games and - more so - those nostalgic (for me) Amstrad installers!

What parameters were problematic for Links? I'll tweak my patch to fix them on emulated machines.

I have been trying to get another "needs a certain machine or it won't run" piece of software (for the Amstrad PPC) to work on non-Amstrad machines, so far with no avail due to a lack of skills, though someone kindly pointed out the basics of what to do. If I can achieve it, I might then return to these games and see if I can "fix" those problematic COM files so that they work on non-Amstrad machines without the need for executable replacements.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2018-9-27 @ 16:18

Amstrad provided a batch file called links.bat which simply ran golf.exe along with a couple of parameters (probably sound card and input device related) which caused the emulator to lock up due to those devices not being present in the emulator. If you run golf.exe on its own it works just fine.

The problem most likely does not stem from any Amstrad related modification to the main game files so far as I can see so no changes to golf.exe are required.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby Banjo » 2019-1-28 @ 12:01

Just thought you (or others) might be interested that I've posted some Amstrad related stuff on my game mod blog here! I'm in hospital tomorrow for surgery, but hope to be back in action soon and will be posting more Amstrad stuff (as well as updating those rather rushed posts with pictures, etc.) then.
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Re: Amstrad PC5268 bundled games (Prince of Persia and F-15 Strike Eagle II)

Postby gca » 2019-1-28 @ 14:21

Cool I'll check that out. Hope all goes well with the surgery.
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