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DOSBox game management


DOSBox game shortcuts
DOSBox game shortcuts

This is my suggested scheme for managing a large number of DOS games under DOSBox. This scheme can cover vanilla DOSBox, DOSBox-X and DOSBox Staging.


This is taken from my earlier Gunship 2000 setup, which I thought covered a little too much. This concentrates on my generic scheme for managing multiple DOS games.





Installing DOSBox


You can get the latest version of DOSBox-X from the DOSBox-X website. Installation is straight-forward so I won't cover it here. Likewise DOSBox Staging is available from the DOSBox Staging website, again it's a straightforward installation.


Once one or both are installed, remember to run each one, this will create a default configuration, which we will use later.


One of the advantages of this scheme is a single installation of DOSBox, DOSBox-X or DOSBox Staging which can be used by multiple games. However each game can have a specific DOSBox configuration.


DOSBox upgrades


The biggest advantage of using a single installation of DOSBox, DOSBox-X or DOSBox Staging is the ease in upgrading. To upgrade you simply need to download the latest version and install it in the same location as before, overwriting the old version.


As separate game config files are used, they can still be used with the new version. All that remains is to optionally tweak any existing game configurations to make use of any new enhancements or options in the new version of DOSBox-X or DOSBox Staging.


How I set things up


This bit is very subjective and based on my personal preference. I have a lot of DOS flight sims and this approach allows me to keep things organised while only using a single copy of DOSBox-X/Staging.


Firstly I have a folder where all the DOS games live, D:\games\dos


Within that folder there's another folder for the game, D:\games\dos\<game>


The <game> folder can contain spaces if you wish.


Within the <game> folder there are a number of sub-folders, each one has a particular purpose:


hdd folder

This is the folder that will be mounted in DOSBox as a hard disk drive, the C: drive in DOSBox.


cd folder

Stores the cd image of the game, the D: drive in DOSBox. I tend to rip my cd's to cd image files as who knows how long the cd or cd drive will last and it's generally faster. I normally use iso for data only (or cue/bin if there are audio tracks on the cd). For example .iso format is fine for Gunship 2000 as there are no audio tracks on the cd.


fdd folder

Stores the floppy disk images of the game (normally older games not found on cd) and acts as a floppy disk drive, the A: drive in DOSBox. We won't need this for games on cd.


conf folder

Stores the DOSBox-X/Staging configuration(s) specific to a game.


docs folder

Stores any game related documents, so manuals, reference cards, addendums, hints & tips, strategy guides, release/patch notes, etc. will be here.


patches folder

Stores any patches I've downloaded from the internet for a particular game. Once a patch is applied you may just want to keep the original patch .zip file here.


icon folder

Store an icon image (in .ico format) I use for a DOSBox shortcut for the game. I normally find the box art and convert it, giving me a very nice box art shortcut. I also use this folder to store the box art in it's original image format, eg. .jpg or .png. This is entirely optional and based on personal preference.


misc folder

For anything else game related I want to keep.


So using Gunship 2000 as an example we'll have a minimum of: hdd, cd, conf and docs folders within a D:\games\dos\Gunship 2000 folder.


This is all subjective and based on personal preference so feel free to use a folder/naming scheme that works for you.


Initial DOSBox setup


If you haven't run DOSBox-X or DOSBox Staging before, start them up, there will be a shortcut on your desktop. This will create default configuration files which we'll use next.


Next we'll want to copy the default configuration to the game configuration folder. The default configuration for DOXBox-X is:

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\DOSBox-X\dosbox-x-<version number>.conf

While the default configuration for DOSBox Staging is:

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\DOSBox\dosbox-staging.conf

You may have to set the file explorer to show hidden files and folders as AppData is hidden by default.


So in my case I'll be copying dosbox-x-0.83.15.conf and dosbox-staging.conf to the D:\dos\games\<game>\conf folder.


I normally change the name of the config file to something more descriptive, like <game>.conf. If you're trying DOSBox-X and Staging you might want to call them something like <game>-x.conf and <game>-staging.conf.


We now have a games specific configuration(s).


Next we want to Copy and 'Paste shortcut' (not Paste) the DOSBox-X/Staging shortcut on the desktop, we can also change the shortcut text to <game>, <game> in DOSBox-X, <game> in DOSBox Staging or whatever you prefer.


Now our new shortcut will still be using the default DOSBox config, so we need to tell it to use the game specific one. We need to go into the shortcut properties and in the Target box add a -conf option followed by the game config folder and game specific config.


So for me the DOSBox-X Target becomes:

C:\DOSBox-X\dosbox-x.exe -conf "D:\Games\Dos\<game>\conf\<game>-x.conf"

And for DOSBox Staging:

"C:\DOSBox Staging\dosbox.exe" -noconsole -conf "D:\Games\Dos\<game>\conf\<game>-staging.conf"

If there are any spaces in <game>, I need to use double quotes around the config.


We now have a game specific shortcut using a game specific config. If we start it up we won't see any difference because our game specific config is identical to the default one. Now it's time to make our game specific config suitable for the specific game.


Installation


The installation is game specific so I won't cover it in this general guide. I'll cover specific games installation in any game setup guides.


Further DOSBox setup


Right now if we wanted to play the game we would start DOSBox from our DOSBox game shortcut, then we'd have to go to the C drive and then we'd have to change directory to the game installation directory. Then we can start the game or run any setup utilities.


Having to change drive and directory each time would get a bit tiresome after a while, so we can tell DOSBox to do this for us by adding some commands to the end of the autoexec section in the DOSBox config. After doing so my autoexec section becomes:

[autoexec]
mount c "D:\games\dos\<game>\hdd"
imgmount d "D:\games\dos\<game>\cd\<game cd image>" -t cdrom
c:
cd <game install directory>

Where c: changes to the C drive.

And cd changes to the fame installation folder.

As DOS is not case sensitive lowercase or uppercase commands will both work.


Running the shortcut now takes us to the correct drive and folder to run the game or the setup utility.


If you have made a full install of the game and don't need to the cd to run it, we could remove the imgmount command, but it doesn't hurt to leave it where it is.


Getting the documentation


Now for something completely different. At this point it's probably a good idea to grab any documentation. This bit is entirely optional but I find it useful.


The manual


Depending on the release of the game you are installing the manual may be included as a document on the cd or cd image. This is normally the case for budget rereleases or compilations. Copying this to the docs folder can make referencing this manual a bit easier.


If the manual is on a physical cd and you have a physical cd drive you can just copy the manual into the docs folder. You can also use Windows Explorer if it is a cd image in a .iso format.


Windows Explorer doesn't support the .cue/.bin pair. So you can either obtain a 3rd party app to mount this kind of cd image and then copy it.


Alternatively you can mount the cd image using DOSBox and copy the manual from the D: drive onto the C: drive. You will need to be fairly comfortable in using DOS to change drive, navigate directories and copy files. Once copied you can use Windows Explorer to copy the manual from the hdd folder (mounted in DOSBox as the C: drive) to the docs folder.


An example


During the installation of Gunship 2000 the manual is copied from the cd onto the hard disk.

Windows Explorer can be used to copy the manual GS2000.PDF from the D:\dos\games\Gunship 2000\hdd folder into the D:\dos\games\Gunship 2000\docs folder.


Other documents


It's worth checking the installation directory for any useful documents. You can use Windows Explorer and go to the game installation folder and copy any useful .txt, .doc or README files.


It's also worth checking any zipped up patch files for documents that may be useful. You can use Windows Explorer to copy these documents to the docs folder.


Creating a shortcut


When playing a particular sim I like to keep the docs close at hand. To do this I'd copy the D:\dos\games\<game>\docs folder and 'paste it as a shortcut' on the desktop, making it easy to find. Open the shortcut and all the documentation is there!


Shortcut icon


As pretty as the DOSBox-X and DOSBox Staging shortcut icons are. I prefer to use some retro box art instead. After finding a suitable image, I use a suitable website service to convert it from it's original .jpg or .png format to a .ico format, used by Windows icons.


I think it makes for a nice flight sim collection!

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