Last night I had a memory jump back into my head of eagerly waiting every day after school for a new computer game. I finally remembered that it was Broderbund's The Ancient Art of War. For a game that came out in 1984(!) it still stacks up against the generations of war and strategy games that it inspired. I remember first seeing it on my friend Mike Segelken's Mac (with deluxe monochrome graphics, no less), and I was instantly hooked. It's no surprise then, that AAoW still has a strong fan following on the web, and the game itself is available as a free download from this fansite. Now getting old DOS games to run on a Pentium-based Windows PC is more complicated than you might think (since Windows is still built on top of old DOS code). One problem is graphics, the big problem is speed. While I was able to get AAoW to work with by tweaking some properties for its BAT file, the best solution is to use a DOS emulator called DOSBox. It's a bit tricky to set up the program switches at first (you'll remember why it was so easy to give up command line interfaces for GUIs), but once you have a working shortcut, you're off to the races. I was even able to set up a virtual floppy drive so I could edit my own campaigns. For those of you who want to try, here's my command line:
'C:Program FilesDOSBox-0.63dosbox.exe' c:aaowwaret.exe -fullscreen -c mount a c:aaowa
(The AAoW files are in c:aaow, and I created a subdirectory c:aaowa to be the virtual floppy).
Turns out that The Ancient Art of War isn't the only great old DOS wargame available as what is called abandonware. I also found another favourite, Command HQ. I think this was the first game I ever played with two players over a modem. I can still remember screaming at my mom not to pick up the phone when Jay and I were trying to establish a connection. It seems the game supports LAN/Network play (it came out in 1991), but I'll bet trying to figure out DOS layer network drivers and getting it to connect over the Internet will make me nostalgiac the simplicity of a modem-to-modem connection. But if Jay's up for it...? :)