Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

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Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby castiglione » 2011-10-25 @ 12:03

Has anyone had any luck getting Mindscape's The Colony to run on DOSBOX?

I've got two issues which may or may not be related:

Issue #1: The mouse cursor.

To interact with objects in the game, you bump into them which brings up a bitmap image of the object over which you should be move your mouse and click on things you want to do stuff to.

I can't seem to get the mouse cursor to show up. I've Cntrl-F10'ed and I know the cursor is SOMEWHERE because moving the mouse around randomly and left-clicking incessantly eventually causes something consistent with interacting with the object to happen so I'm guessing the cursor is just flickering so badly that it's not visible so I've tried setting cycles to a fixed number (I tried 3,000 and then 10,000) and then Ctrl-F11'ing but so far, I can't make the cursor appear. I've also tried dialing mouse sensitivity all the way down to 10 and that hasn't caused the cursor to appear.

The game also allows for mouse control when you're just moving around and that works although the way "center" is defined seems to be very narrow as it's very difficult to stop rotating or moving forward/backward once you start moving with the mouse. Dialing down the mouse sensitivity HELPS (you rotate slow enough so that you can use the feedback you get to "center" the mouse) but doesn't solve the problem. I'm not sure if this problem is related to the fact that the mouse cursor won't appear or not but I thought it might be relevant since it's possible the mouse may be all the "over" on one side of the screen or the other due to these "centering" issues.


Issue #2: The graphics.

The Colony for the PC is purported to be a monochrome (black and white) game but during one of the moments when I was mouse clicking and pressing every function key I could think of, the graphics suddenly became "color" (filled polygons with some color) as if I had toggled a graphics mode key or something. The graphics actually resembled screen images and/or movies of what I have seen of the Macintonsh version of the game. The graphics also allowed the game to be somewhat playable since they show things like doors, staircases, etc. which don't show up in the black and white mode. I'm running on OpenGL (the default surface results in a blank screen showing in DOSBOX). I'm not sure if this is a function of the game or DOSBOX but I have a feeling it's specific to the game since while I was pressing every key combo, I don't think I was Ctrl'ing them.

So far, I haven't been able to replicate this change in graphics mode. The only graphics key in the game is F8 which toggles whether the black and white wireframe objects are transparent or not.

I'm running Windows 7, 4 GB RAM - Windows 7, Intel Core i3 2.4 GHz CPU with an NVIDIA GPU.

To re-iterate, I've set cycles to a fixed number and tried F11'ing. I've also played around with machine type settings (the game was designed for EGA so I've been switching between EGA and SVGA_s3) but that hasn't seem to have done anything. I've also dialed down mouse sensitivity. Besides that, I don't know what else to try to get the mouse cursor to show up in "interact with object" mode in the game. I know the mouse is working within the game because you can use the mouse to move around and it works although the space defined as "center" seems to be really small.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby castiglione » 2011-10-25 @ 12:04

Forgot to mention - I'm running DOSBOX 0.74.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-25 @ 18:20

The Colony draws its own mouse pointer, but is not showing it. There is a show/hide counter that works like the one in MS mouse drivers. Guns & Butter, another game by Mindscape that uses the MetaWINDOW driver, does show its pointer. G&B uses v3.3A of the driver, The Colony uses v3.3B; and even if you exchange the drivers, G&B still shows its pointer but The Colony does not. It has the appearance of a game problem, but I suppose there could be a subtle DOSBox issue causing the counter to stay negative.

BTW, the left button on the console turns on the lights; that's why the 3D display goes from black and white to color.

EDIT: removed unnecessary workaround program.
Last edited by ripsaw8080 on 2011-10-28 @ 02:54, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby castiglione » 2011-10-25 @ 19:08

Thank you - that explains why the display changed; at the time I was randomly moving my mouse trying to catch a glimpse of its "flicker" while pressing the left mouse desperately. I must have pressed that button on the console.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby castiglione » 2011-10-26 @ 01:02

ripsaw8080: The TSR program worked like a charm! Thank you very much!
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby jomalin » 2011-10-26 @ 06:02

ripsax8080: Can this fix be included in DosBox SVN?

Not only to fix The Colony, but other that use the same driver too. I suppose this needs some kind of detection algorithm in DosBox to do what your TSR program does when those games are executed
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-26 @ 07:20

I would not suggest implementing this kind of game-specific hack in DOSBox's code; and I doubt the devs would even consider it. If an underlying problem can be identified, then a fix in DOSBox might make sense.

Guns & Butter does not exhibit the same issue with the mouse pointer, so it's not a generic problem with the MetaWINDOW driver. Please let me know if you're aware of any other games that use the driver; I'd like to test them as well.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby peterferrie » 2011-10-27 @ 01:03

The bug is game-specific. It occurs because the initial value for the count is -1, and the driver decrements it by one but then checks if the value is -1.
The initial value for the counter should be 0.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-27 @ 02:43

The pointer is shown in Guns & Butter despite having the same initial -1 counter value in the driver. I think it's up to the game code to tell the driver to show the pointer.

Owing to the game's 1988 release date there is hardware-level support (no mouse driver needed) for bus and serial mice. I got a serial mouse to work with the game through the serial port emulation in DOSBox, but the mouse pointer is not shown, so it seems the problem is not restricted to the mouse driver interface.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby peterferrie » 2011-10-27 @ 06:20

Guns and Butter shows the pointer *despite* the counter being -2. :-)
The two drivers are not the same version, so they changed something.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-27 @ 07:43

I guess it depends on how you define initial value:

v3.3A executable, word at offset 40EBh = FFFFh
v3.3B executable, word at offset 3329h = FFFFh

Looking at it this way they both have -1 as the initial value, although what the code does with it can obviously be different. However, as I pointed out before, using the v3.3A driver from G&B does not make the pointer appear in The Colony; which is why I think the game code (COL.EXE) is responsible for telling the driver to show the pointer.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby peterferrie » 2011-10-27 @ 15:12

I traced through the G&B code, I see the counter decremented to -2, -3, etc. and it still shows the cursor.
Whereas, Colony decrements to -2 and then doesn't show it.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-28 @ 02:46

The reported problem with The Colony is the result of a ham-handed hack to the game's code that bypasses the title, credits, an intro sequence, and the showing of the mouse pointer. AFAICT there is no copy protection, so one can only speculate on the motive for butchering the game like this. An unmodified copy of the game will display everything it should and generally work fine in DOSBox.

I thought about posting details on how to repair the damage, because it took some effort to figure out, and for the sake of preservation; but I think it might be against forum rules in that it would provide support for downloaded copies of the game.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby peterferrie » 2011-10-28 @ 20:32

Yes, I see it, too. Two byte patch, very ugly.
Is there a way to skip the intro? If not, then that's why the patch was made.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2011-10-28 @ 21:42

There doesn't appear to be a way to skip the intro with input or command line switches, and I suppose it can be a bit grating after you've already seen it. However, with the collateral damage it's a poorly targetted hack, to say the least.

I was mistaken, the game does have copy protection. There are symbolic codes for which you must look up associated numeric values in the game's documentation; but the hack does nothing about that.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby gmax3058 » 2017-10-30 @ 21:17

ripsaw8080 wrote:EDIT: removed unnecessary workaround program.


I'm trying to run The Colony with DOSBOX 0.74 on a Win7 64bit Core2 quad 4GB machine and I think the TSR patch/fix program is still needed :-)
The cursor doesn't appear in the bitmap images for activation of switches etc.

After searching the net for awhile, this thread appears to be the only discussion of this problem. What are the options:

-Find out why the TSR workaround program is unnecessary, can anybody explain this?
-Find the TSR program and install it
-Find a serial mouse and see if that works, my Core2 quad system does have a HW serial port
-Run The Colony on real DOS machine, but my old DOS system with Cyrix Cx5x86 processor needs repairs

I originally played The Colony on a Macintosh back in the late 80s and I thought it was a great game. So I'm motivated to get it working in DOXBOX if possible. Thanks.
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Re: Running Mindscape's The Colony on DOSBOX

Postby ripsaw8080 » 2017-10-30 @ 22:08

The problem is a side-effect, probably unintended, caused by a hack that bypasses the introductory sequence in the game. The hack is known to be in a copy of the game that floats around on the net, and this forum only supports original, unmodified copies of games obtained from legitimate sources. Ask for help where you downloaded the game.

It seems this thread is overdue for locking, so... locked.
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