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How to run your old DOS games in Ubuntu

Introduction

Remember the old days when you used to play for hours “Prince of Persia” in your old DOS system?, or how you played “Alone in the Dark” all night long? Maybe you still have a copy of those games sitting around there for decades, and of course, you want to enjoy them again. In this article you will follow step by step, how to install the DOSBox emulator in your brand new Ubuntu distro.

If someone would want to run an ms-windows program in Linux, the usual course of action is to run it with wine or even in a virtual machine. However, when we speak about old DOS games, the best way to do it is using DOSBox, a lightweight emulation program with a simple setup, designed to run your old games as you remember them.

This article is divided in two parts: Firstly a step-by-step guide describing how to install the program, and then tweak it using the command line. The second part shows you how to actually run the game, once the installation is finished. Although there are other ways to install it, the main focus of this article is in the command line installation, in order to show you later how to tweak it properly.

Installing and setting up DOSBox with the command line

Open your favorite command line, and type without the quotes the following command:

sudo apt-get install dosbox
Once your DOSBox have been installed, we will edit its configuration file.

In order to create your config file, you will need first to start DOSBox. You can do that by typing in your command line:

dosbox
Or executing it from your system menu. This will open another command-line-like environment with the emulated DOSBox emulator. Then terminate the program typing in the DOSBox prompt:
exit

Now to edit the config file, you only need to do it with your favorite text editor, in my case nano, with the command:

sudo nano ~/.dosbox/dosbox-0.74.conf

In there, you can change some emulator options, but only do it if you want to, like changing the fullscreen defaults from false to true, in case you want to play the games in full screen. Most modern systems won't have any problem with the config settings, so if you don't see any problem at all, just leave those options as they are.

The next mandatory step is to mount the game directory in DOSBox. Just go down the config file after the ”[autoexec]” section, and in there you will set your new game directory. Just type in the next line:

mount c /home/your_user_name/your_game_directory
And then in a second line:
@c:

The first one will mount your game directory as an old-school C: unit, and the second line will change automatically to that unit every time the emulator executes, making it ready to play. Make sure you saved your config file properly, and let's install some games!

Let's have some serious gaming in Linux!

Although you can load your games from a floppy or a CD, I recommend you to do it directly from your Hard Disk Drive if the game is not too big, because this will make the game run much faster. As an example, I will show you how to do it with an old copy of “Prince of Persia”.

In your command line make sure your game directory matches the one you wrote earlier in your config file. For that, you will use the command:

mkdir /home/your_user_name/your_game_directory
In that directory, you can store your game library. Now let's make another directory, called in this case “prince”, to store the old game copy. For that, use the command:
mkdir /home/your_user_name/your_game_directory/prince
Finally you will copy all your game contents from your floppy, CD or USB thumbdrive in there.

Open up now a DOSBox instance by typing in the command line:

dosbox
Or by clicking the icon in your menu system, and “navigate” as in the old DOS days, changing directories with the command:
cd prince
Once inside the directory run the game typing “prince” in the command line. If you got enough of it, you can quit your game pulsing CTRL+Q.

In conclusion, playing your old DOS games in Linux can't be easier! By following these instructions, you now know how to set up your old school games, and have hours of fun as you used to do it, when you were a kid. Happy gaming!

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