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Home of the Underdogs FAQ - Page 2

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Technical Issues

NOTE: This section originally existed to help users run the abandoned games hosted by Home of the Underdogs. While the games are no longer provided, we have preserved this part of the FAQ as a handy reference for those who are having technical issues with their games, even though they are no longer provided by this site.

The game's INSTALL program asks me to insert disks. What do I do?

You can do one of the following:

  • Copy the CONTENTS of the several folders or zip files (DISK1, DISK2, etc) to (corresponding) disks before installing; or
  • Use the "subst" command. After copying all contents of the disk-folders within one folder on your hard drive, access the MS-DOS prompt and type:
    subst a: c:[path of contents]
    This will trick your system into "believing", that the folder with your game contents is actually drive A:. Then run the install program and install normally (when prompted to insert disks, simply press return). After you are done, type:
    subst a: /d
    at the DOS prompt to "Unsubst" and return A: to your floppy drive.

Ok, the game unzips okay, but it doesn't work. What now?

First of all: if you are using Windows XP (or later), please read bill22's wonderful Guide to running old DOS/Windows games on Windows XP. It should answer every question you have about how to get games to run on WinXP and (possibly) on newer operating systems.

If your question is not covered in bill22's guide, or if you are not using Windows XP, read on...

If the game is a CD-rip, it might ask for a CD to be in drive when you start the game. Download a tool such as FakeCD and install it to your computer. Then, use the tool to emulate your CD-ROM drive before you start the game.

If a game is a CD-Rip, the zip usually includes an .NFO file-- they usually contain important information on how to install the rips properly. Since Windows thinks .NFO is the Windows info format file, you have to open .NFO files in NotePad, or use a proper .NFO viewer.

If you cannot play the game at all (e.g. the computer freezes, Windows displays an error message, etc.), the first thing to do is to download the latest patch for the game from the Internet. The Patches Scroll is a good place to start. Many games had numerous bugs in their initial release which were not patched until months later.

If you have the latest patch and still can't get the game to run, this could be due to one of many reasons: typically, not having enough conventional memory or EMS to run the game. If you need general help on how to run oldies on new computers (and answers to general problems such as not enough memory, missing sounds etc.), head over to our Discord channel and ask for some help! We play a lot of old games, and it is likely that someone has encountered and overcome your issue in the past.

If the game runs slowly and you don't hear any music, this is usually due to the game's 8-bit sounds being incompatible with Windows MIDI. Changing the executable file's properties to ignore Windows will usually solve this problem. Here is how you can do that.

Last but not least, try to turn off sound/music -- many games lock up because they are incompatible with modern sound cards. Sure, you won't hear anything, but it's better than nothing :) Before you do that, though, check our this section of our FAQ to see what you can do first.

If you have tried all the above and the game still doesn't work, or if you have any game-specific technical questions, please post your question in the "General" channel of our Discord server.

The game says some .DLL file is missing, or I need WING library. What are those files and where can I get them?

A .DLL file Dynamic Link Library is a file of code containing functions that can be called from other executable code, either another .DLL or an application. Many older Windows games (especially Windows 3.1/95) use back-then common .DLL files that were installed as a standard part of Windows. These files of course don't exist on newer Windows 98 or above systems.

To find the missing .DLL, just look for it on DLL-files.com. Copy the file to both your C:WINDOWS and C:WINDOWSSYSTEM and run the game.

WING library means the common WING.DLL or WING32.DLL files that are needed to run many Windows 3.1 games. You can download it from the archive above. Just unzip the file into your C:WINDOWSSYSTEM directory before running the game.

When I start the game, a copy protection screen appears. How can I pass it?

If you see a copy protection screen (e.g. "type word X from paragraph Y"), try hitting ENTER key, or type something then hit ENTER. You can also look for "Copy protection answers" or "Game crack" in the 'Extra' column of a game's info page. Also, sometimes you need to run a crack program before running the game. Make sure you run the game from the .COM (e.g. CRACK.COM) or .BAT file (e.g. RUNME.BAT) if there is one (instead of the .EXE file), because these are files that usually execute the crack to bypass copy protection. If nothing works, look on the internet for a game crack or ask about it on Discord.

The game runs way too fast! How can I slow it down?

Many of these games were designed for 386 or older systems, and will run so fast as to be unplayable on new computers. Therefore, you need a slowdown program such as Moslo to slow these oldies down. Make sure you read the instructions in each program on how to adjust speed manually, since the default speed setting may be too fast or too slow for your computer.

Why can't I hear any sound/music in the game?

This is another common problem that unfortunately has no easy solution. Most games that were designed for SoundBlaster 16 compatible or older simply will not work with SoundBlaster AWE or any newer soundcard. Check your soundcard manufacturer's website for possible drivers that allow compatibility with older games, but don't have your hopes up. Also, please be aware that some games on the site are CD-rip version, which by definition are devoid of any music or sounds.

If you are trying to run a DOS game in a DOS box in Windows NT or 2000, and are not hearing any music or sound, check out VDMSound, a nice freeware utility that provides SoundBlaster/Midi/DSP support for DOSBox games, as well as a gameport interface (for joysticks). It is being continually updated, and the newest versions promise AdLib support and more.

The last possible solution (before trying out the game in pure DOS completely) is to change the properties of the executable file to prevent it from detecting Windows. This will often enable sound for most games that support 8-bit soundcards but not Windows MIDI. For information on how to change those properties in Windows, read on ;)

I can only see the black screen/the graphics is messed up/the game says my video card is not VESA compatible/no SVGA card is found.

This problem most likely occurs because the game has conflict with your video card or display drivers. This is common problem for many early Super VGA (SVGA) games that were released before the current crop of 3D cards. If you can find one or more of the following (old) freeware applications, they may help solve this problem:

  1. Scitech Univbe VESA Drivers - updates your graphics card to the latest SVGA standards. If you have a Voodoo/NVidia card, use UniRefresh/VBEPlus (see below) instead.
  2. Univbe modified drivers - try these modified drivers if the above Scitech Univbe doesn't solve the problem. If you have a Voodoo/NVidia card, use UniRefresh/VBEPlus (see below) instead.
  3. noflb (NT/2k/XP only) - a small program that patches the VESA driver by fooling DOS programs into thinking the VESA 2.0 linear framebuffer modes aren't supported. Run this from the DOS prompt before starting the game.
  4. UniRefresh and VBEPlus - two useful graphics applications for Voodoo cards. VBEPlus is a TSR (Terminate Stay Resident) program that adds new VESA resolutions to your video card, and UniRefresh lets you set VESA VBE mode as well as DOS Glide refresh rates. UniRefresh supports all cards with VBE (VESA BIOS Extension) 3.0 including NVIDIA (GeForce, GeForce2, Riva 128 and 128ZX, TNT, and TNT2) and 3DFX (Banshee, Voodoo3, Voodoo4, and Voodoo5).

If the graphics is too dark for you and you have already set your monitor to the brighest setting, you can try NightVision, a handy freeware gamma control application.

I can run the game, but the text is all garbled! What now?

If the game in question is an interactive fiction title (i.e. text adventure), that means it needs a driver caled ANSI.SYS to be loaded in CONFIG.SYS. The best way, however, is to run these games (.DAT file) using modern-day interpreters such as WinFrotz -- see our Introduction to the World of IF page for more information.

If the game in question has graphics, but the text is all garbled up like gibberish, that usually mean it uses 8x14 font that most new graphics cards no longer support. Most manufacturers released TSR drivers to fix the problem, but which one to use depends on what kind of video card you have. Try FIX8X14. This is a freeware, general purpose program that claims to work with several different video cards. If that doesn't work, search the internet for one specific to your graphics card, or ask around on our Discord channel.

I can't use the mouse/my mouse cursor has disappeared!

Many DOS games require a mouse driver to run. The problem is, Windows 9x doesn't come with DOS mode mouse driver. You can get CuteMouse and run it before you start the game.

If your mouse is very slow in WinXP so that the game is almost unplayable, this old PC Magazine DOS utility called mousectl.com may help.

If you are playing a DOS game in Super VGA resolution, you might experience problems with the mouse cursor under Windows NT4, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. If that is the case, try this handy program called Mouse2KV that will confine the mouse cursor to the upper left-hand side of screen, thereby allowing you to play the game unimpeded.

When I click on the executable file, Windows says that the game "may not run well unless it is in MS-DOS mode." Should I believe it?

Well, it depends. When Windows says that, it usually means the game could be run under Windows, but that some conflicts (usually sound incompatibility with Windows MIDI) make it run sub-optimally or slower than normal. What you can do is change the properties of the game's executable to ignore Windows, by following three easy steps:

  • Step 1: Right-click on the executable file (i.e. the program you click on to start the game), and select "Properties" from the pop-up menu.
  • Step 2: Go to "Program" tab and click on "Advanced."
  • Step 3: Check the first box ("Preventing MS-DOS based program from detecting Windows") and un-check the second box ("Suggest MS-DOS mode as necessary"). Click on "OK" and exit.

You should see a new .PIF file (with the executable's name, with "MS-DOS" icon) in the game's folder now. That's the shortcut you should use to run the program. From now, click on this .PIF file to start the game. You should find that all sounds and music now work. If they still don't, then it means that the problem isn't with Windows MIDI anymore, and you should play the game in pure MS-DOS mode entirely, i.e. outside Windows.

If the above steps still don't help, you could try a number of DOS emulators for Windows; see below.

I have no MS-DOS mode/my MS-DOS mode doesn't work! Is there any other way to run DOS games in Windows?

You could try one of the following DOS emulators for Windows:

  1. DOSBox (freeware): "DOSBox an emulator of a PC with dos. The main focus of this project is emulating old DOS games using the local file system for files. [The program currently emulates a PC with] 286/386 CPU, VGA/EGA/CGA graphics, PC-Speaker/Tandy 3-Voice/Adlib/SoundBlaster, Keyboard/Mouse, and Directory FileSystem/XMS/EMS."
  2. Bochs (freeware): "Bochs is a highly portable open source IA-32 (x86) PC emulator written in C++, that runs on most popular platforms. It includes emulation of the Intel x86 CPU, common I/O devices, and a custom BIOS. Currently, bochs can be compiled to emulate a 386, 486 or Pentium CPU. Bochs is capable of running most Operating Systems inside the emulation including Linux, Windows 95, DOS, and recently Windows NT 4."
  3. VMWare (commercial): "VMware Workstation is virtual machine software for technical professionals. It lets you run multiple versions of operating systems simultaneously on a single computer."

Concepts and Glossary of Terms

Where did you come up with the name for Home of the Underdogs?

We intended from the start to create a site dedicated to underrated PC games, so including "underdogs" in the name was natural. "Home" connotes the warmth and coziness we want our visitors to feel, as well as the non-profit nature of the site...that, and we're providing a kind of virtual home to these down-on-their-luck pariah dogs eschewed by the gaming community!

What is abandonware?

The term abandonware was coined sometime in 1997 by classic game enthusiasts to refer to any game, regardless of age, that has been discontinued by its publishers. Due to the natural lack of organization in such a fringe area of the law, the concept has unfortunately, over time, been misused to refer to any game that is 5 years or older (or 3, in some cases) regardless of whether or not it has in fact been discontinued. We believe that the definition of abandonware as it was first conceived is the only viable definition that draws a clear and only line between abandonware and "warez": abandonware has been discontinued by the developers, while warez have not. While both are illegal, the motives and principles behind each are miles apart.

What is a CD-rip?

A CD-rip is an incomplete copy of a CD-ROM game that retains (i.e. "rips") only the playable portion while discarding "bells & whistles" content such as animated cutscenes, voices, and music. The technique has long been used by "warez" groups to digest CD-ROM games into smaller files that are easier to distribute, although it is declining in popularity as these groups now employ high-speed, high-capacity servers to distribute complete copies of CD-ROM games.

CD-rip games might ask for a CD to be in drive when you start the game. Download FakeCD and install it to your computer. Then, use FakeCD to emulate your CD-ROM drive before you start the game. Since FakeCD doesn't work in Windows, you'll have to play these games from pure DOS mode-- sorry.

What is freeware?

Freeware is any software that has been released into the public domain by its copyright holder[s], allowing anyone to copy and distribute it legally. The term was actually first coined in 1981 to refer to shareware, a confusion that was later resolved. Click here for a thorough history of freeware/shareware.

Freeware games typically belong to one of the following categories:

  • Hitherto commercial or shareware games that have been released as freeware, typically as part of the marketing campaign to promote their sequels. Examples include Dynamix' Betrayal at Krondor (released as freeware to promote Betrayal in Antara), and Infocom's Zork Trilogy (released as freeware to promote Return to Zork).
  • Games that were released as freeware from the start by their designers/developers. Traditionally, such games are products of amateur designer[s] who are not interested in monetary gains from their games. Most interactive fiction (IF) games are good examples of this category.

Freeware is treated on the site as a developer/publisher. You can see a list of all freeware games on our site by typing "freeware" in the search box, or by clicking on the term when you see it in the developer/publisher name box on any game's info sheet.

What is shareware?

Shareware refers to any software title that is distributed under a "try before you buy" concept: anyone can download the program and try it out, but either some features are disabled, or there is an expiration date after which the program will no longer work. To "unlock" all features or use the program after expiration, one needs to pay the publisher to obtain the "registration code" to enter into the game to make it a fully functional one, with all the features enabled. Shareware games typically let the player play only the first episode / level of the game before registering them.

Because shareware publishing requires much fewer screening steps and lower costs than commercial software publishing, it is a popular distribution scheme for small development houses and independent designers. Click here for a thorough history of freeware/shareware.


Who is behind Home of the Underdogs?

The creator, primary contributor, and webmaster of Home of the Underdogs from 1998 until 2009 was Sarinee (aka "Underdogs"), an investment banker from Thailand. She was (and still is) an avid gamer, all the way back to the days of Pong on the arcade and Kangaroo on the Atari. Her huge collection of games and uncanny memory of oldie information were the perfect combination that enabled this site to exist and thrive for so long. She has since moved on to other projects, but we strive today to maintain the look and feel of the site that Sarinee created.

In March of 2009, the company that was hosting Home of the Underdogs went bankrupt and literally pulled the plug overnight. All games were lost, though most can be found elsewhere on the internet if you look hard enough. Fortunately, Sarinee released the database of game information as open-source data, and Chris (aka Archibald) took it upon himself to re-code the entire site from scratch using his own server. With the help of his wife, Magdalena, they created a new social media presence for the site and moved the forum to Discord. Chris is an independent game developer from Poland, and you can check out his work at Silver Lemur Games . In 2014, LotBlind joined the fold as the site's content editor and has been providing new game reviews and updates to the site through present-day. In 2022, the staff was expanded to include more of the friendly faces you see on Discord today: Fuzzy, gibbousmoon_99, RayReaper, Tim.al, BulletRecon, Floating Dogs, and Che Guevara from the Abandonware Ring.

As you perhaps suspect, this site would not be where it is today had it not been for many oldie lovers who contribute their time, knowledge, and personal collections of classics. Our credits page recognizes those contributors as a modest way of expressing our gratitude.

Home of the Underdogs may be the brainchild of one person, but it has definitely grown to be a closely-knit community of like-minded people, all of whom share the same passion and principles about the preservation of classic games. We have no paid staff, no boss, no subordinates: just ourselves-- a group of people who have contributed so much to the site for so long that they're now an important part of it. And you can help us! Just reach out to us on Discord if you'd like to help keep Home of the Underdogs going for another 25 years.

Why did you create Home of the Underdogs?

Here's the story from Sarinee (in her own words):
I (Sarinee) got the idea for Home of the Underdogs after visiting some abandonware sites listed on the Abandonware Ring in 1998 to look for an intact copy of Sierra's Man Hunter 1 to replace my damaged disks. Although I finally found it, I was dismayed at seeing that many abandonware sites were merely a big list of games to download without any information about them. Worse yet, some of my favorite games ever (e.g. Sea Rogue, Perry Mason, The Robot Odyssey) were nowhere to be found on these sites. Thinking that it would be a shame for underrated games to fade into oblivion, I decided to start Home of the Underdogs to keep their memories alive in the gaming community. Although distributing abandoned underdogs is an integral part of the site, HOTU was designed from the ground up NOT as a games storehouse, but a tribute site; to provide as much information and relevant details about them as they deserve. This aim explains the wealth of content you see on this site: you will never, for example, find a game here that has not been reviewed, and you will often find links to manual, off-site reviews, fan sites, walkthroughs, and more useful information.

Read the site history page for a brief timeline of (relatively) significant events that have happened in the site's 25+ year history :)

How was Home of the Underdogs constructed?

Home of the Underdogs uses PHP to generate HTML pages on the fly (excluding a few hand-coded pages such as this FAQ), and MySQL for the database back-end. All queries to the database are made via standard SQL that PHP supports.

Where did all of the Home of the Underdogs database information come from?

From memory, mostly, as well as game manuals and various old magazines and catalogs. Reviews are written after the games have been played (or re-played). Occasionally, information about a game or company, and even the games themselves, are contributed by game designers or former employees of that company.

What's next for Home of the Underdogs development?

Since its inception, Home of the Underdogs has undergone three crucial stages: first as a static, manually coded site (October 1998 - May 2000), then as a robust, database-driven site (May 2000 - 2009), and finally as a downloads-less, game reference database (March 2009 - present). Despite big changes in the underlying design and infrastructure, the site remains largely a "passive" information-oriented site. For now, with limited resources and support, the plan is to keep adding new content every now and then, and keep the site online.


Can I request game reviews to be added to the site?

Sure, you're welcome to request games to be added on the appropriate channel in the Discord, and read our criteria for choosing games to add before you request anything. Please provide evidence of the quality of the game with references to reviews, analyses and such if available. Do not suggest games that have not been out for at least a year, or that are still in beta with active development ongoing.

Can I submit my own review?

We absolutely welcome guest contributions! You can either volunteer to review an underdog of your own proposal (after it’s been approved of by our content editor LotBlind), or to review one assigned to you in collaboration with her. Show her a sample of your writing if available. We try very hard to preserve the look, feel, and personality of HotU, and thus we control our content carefully.

Can I use the Home of the Underdogs database for my own purposes?

You are free to use any specific piece of information for whatever you like. All we ask is that you properly credit us in anything you publish, either by name (Home of the Underdogs) or site name (www.homeoftheunderdogs.net). Please contact us on Discord if you come across any website that uses our reviews without citation.

Is there a banner / button I can use to link to Home of the Underdogs?

First of all, thanks for your interest :) There are a couple of banners you can use to link to our site. Please get them from the For Webmasters page.

How often is Home of the Underdogs updated?

We try to put out at least one new game review every quarter. Site updates, bug fixes, and enhancements occur "whenever we have the time". Home of the Underdogs is a hobby site maintained by a few dedicated gamers in their spare time, all of whom have day jobs. While we try to update the site regularly, in reality it is very difficult to do, as our real lives are very unpredictable [EG]. But rest assured that this site will always be under construction-- we have hundreds more underdogs we can't wait to resurrect, so check back often :)

How else can I contribute to Home of the Underdogs?

First of all, thanks! Go over to our contribute page for a complete list of how you can help.

Thanks for reading this entire FAQ-- now go immerse yourself in some quality nostalgia :)

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