Category: Modding Madness

PCGamingWiki, always a valuable resource.

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned the XL Engine on here before. It’s not a source port, per se, but an engine recreation using original assets. It started as a way to get Dark Forces working on Windows (the titular DarkXL), before branching out as a platform for several other early FPS’s with outdated engines (most notably, Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall).  It fell by the wayside a few years back though, and the website and forums have basically been overrun by Russian spam-bots.

The original dev threw it up on Github at some point, and the guys over at OpenMW (another valiant engine recreation project, focusing on Elder Scrolls III) have taken it and started to work on it on their own Github.  Sounds like they’re focusing mostly on Daggerfall engine stuff and fixes, but hey, progress is progress.

Anyways, with the engine not being at full compatibility yet, there are certain restrictions and problems with the XLEngine as it currently stands.  Apparently they all have workarounds and the game can be completed, but maybe not?  I’m cruising through it right now, and am just before “the big bugs” start to happen, so pray for me.

I did find another option while cruising around, in the form of Dark Forces + on the GOG forums.  It’s basically a scripting add-on for the DOSbox version of the game (GOG and Steam) that includes mouselook and a couple other quality-of-life enhancements, without sacrificing the original look or function of the game.  If you’re interested:

1. Make sure your “DosBox” folder and “Dosbox.conf” are inside the GAME folder in the Dark Forces root (should be as-is for GOG, might have to move the folders for the Steam version)
2. Extract the first patch into the GAME folder, overwriting files
3. Optional: Download and extract the second patch into the same place, overwriting files. This includes a couple tweaks like reversing mouse axis, and changing sound and video settings.
4. Run “DarkForces+.exe” which is a script file to load the program and add-ons. Apparently it might come us as a virus on some systems, this is likely a false positive.

You’ll likely still need to tweak bits and pieces to your liking, but instructions to do so are both in the original forum thread, as well as generic DOSbox config tweaking.  Personally, I amped up my mouse sensitivity and enabled double-buffering.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Save files between these two versions are incompatible. Dark Forces saves to “Game\DARKPILO.CFG”, but DarkXL saves to “DarkXL\DXL_Saves.sav”.

You have to choose a version and stick with it, no way to swap back and forth


Modding Madness!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love me some retro-gaming goodness.  As I child, I was enraptured by the growing video game scene, but I was pretty much restricted to handheld consoles in my home.  Most of my gaming was done vicariously, reading gaming magazines like EGM, watching and playing at friend’s houses, etc.  As a result, I developed a deep love for the early eras of gaming, wrapped in mystery as they were.  The rise of emulation in the late 90’s allowed me to play (and re-play) a host of games that I had never been able to get at before, and to a history buff, it was a treasure trove.

I’m very pro-retro gaming, but there are certain points in gaming’s evolution that it’s hard to jump into, particularly the early 3D titles.  While sprites can be easily categorized into a kind of artwork, the low-poly counts and jilted movements of early 3D titles tend to just be written off as ‘bad graphics’ in this world of 4K, FXAA, and high-quality shaders.

There’s definitely a certain charm to be had with early 3D, especially when it’s used with non-realistic art design.  Blockyness and and low color can be used like cartoon cells, making them almost like sprites in their own way, but early attempts to create ‘realistic-looking’ characters usually fall flat in the hardest way possible.

I was always more of a console guy.  Despite a computer being the only gaming machine in my home for many years, it was generally underpowered, far below the system requirements that kept shooting up year after year.  Consoles called to me for several reasons, the prime reason being their simplicity.  A game either worked, or didn’t.  1 or 0.  No system requirements, graphic settings, drivers, issues with hardware, or anything else that plagues PC gaming.  I’ve long preferred some sort of gamepad to a keyboard/mouse setup, although I do admit that K/M has it’s place in certain genres.  Also, genres I preferred (like JRPGS and platformers) tended to have a greater foothold in the console world.

The infuriating lack of backwards compatibility for old games was also a stopping point.  With an old console, you just dig out the console, or if you’re lucky, backwards compatibility is built-in to some extent.  Regardless, if you keep old games around, you usually keep the console, too.  But how many people had an extra computer kicking around for DOS games?  Virtual Machines and DOSbox were hit-and-miss, and even when they worked they gave mixed results.

For a while there, my passion was source ports. Stuff like Doomsday Engine or DarkXL brought classic games to current OS’s, with engine and graphics updates that made them way more playable than before.  Later, stores like would start packaging classic games with pre-configured DOSbox installations and the like, removing even more barriers to entry for old games on current systems.

Graphics are generally pretty secondary to me, but one of the big things that allured me to the PC scene was modding.  The ability to go into a game and change mechanics, make additional content, and upgrade graphics was pretty enticing, but I never really got into it until I discovered the mod scenes for Morrowind and Baldur’s Gate.  Two seminal CRPG’s that I’ve started countless times and never finished.  Maybe this, these modernized versions would give me the push I needed to finally complete them.  As it turns out, not so, but they definitely added some enjoyment to the time I spent with them.

Still, the obtuseness of the mod scene is highly reflective of PC gaming as a whole.  Untethered by the devs, the sheer amount of options available can be extremely off-putting, and can turn what was supposed to be a simple load-up of an old game into a time-consuming and patience-draining process.  As a result, I’m hoping to log most of my setups here on the blog, both as a resource for myself and for anyone else who would like to give an old game a fresh coat of paint.