I’ve spent the better part of this weekend playing an old DOS-era game: Apogee’s Raptor: Call fo The Shadows. While I’ve played both this, and a subsequent Windows version, before, in both instances it was the level-, weapon- and feature-limited shareware version. But a friend cleaning out old software offered me the complete registered version on CD-ROM!
So my son (who’s supposed to be studying for exams) and I spent a weekend bonding by shout. Raptor doesn’t work over a LAN and we had to exchange notes of baddies found and destroyed, scores achieved and levels crossed by shouting between rooms! Daddy learnt he sure hadn’t lost his touch after all by managing better scores. Fewer crashes and more enemies toasted.
Raptor: Call Of The Shadows was released in mid-1994 and features highly-detailed, smooth scrolling VGA graphics, a maximum of 16 weapon and counter-measures modules, 27 missions each with at least one unique Boss enemy. And each pilot expertise level brings new enemies. In this first-person shooter you fly for MegaCorps and have to destroy all their enemies across 3 Sectors (Bravo, Tango, Outer Regions).
You have a ship but have to buy energy, early-warning modules, phase shields and weapons using money earned by destroying your enemies. There are 4 game play levels beginning from Trainer where you can fly Waves 1-4 before graduating to Rookie, losing all money and weapons accumulated at the previous level except your Magic Reaver machine guns. The Rookie level repeats Bravo Sector beginning from Wave 1 onwards but earning points and buying weapons. The next level is Veteran with the highest Elite. The last two levels offer the same weapons and counter measures. It’s just that there are more enemies to destroy. And hits to shields and ship are harder and consume more of your ship’s resources.
There are two key differences between the Shareware and Registered versions. In the former you are limited to Bravo Sector (8 waves/missions) as in your choice of weapons. The Registered version has no limitations. And once you complete each pilot level, you repeat the sectors at the next level. Until as an Elite pilot you complete the game. So far I’ve just about managed to get to Outer Limits Wave 6 (with 3 waves to go) as a Veteran before crashing in flames! My son’s a Veteran too. But is stuck in Outer Limits Wave 7.
Raptor is a one-dimensional shooter with simple controls. The arrow keys move you forward, back and side ways. Ctrl fires the chosen weapon or weapon combo (with Magic Reaver machine guns and Micro Missiles always available). Alt cycles through weapons available. And the Space bar drops Megabombs. Best of all you never run out of ammunition. But if your Phase Shields are exhausted, firing energy weapons depletes your ship’s energy levels with every shot. You can regain energy by avoiding enemy fire and not firing your own weapons. But the recharge level frequency is so low that you’ll probably die before that in any level other than Rookie!
To making this DOS-only work with full sound and weapon effects on the DOS-limited Windows 2000 was a real challenge. By default Windows NT (enterprise) and Windows ME (consumer) versions onwards, DOS support was considerably limited. Windows 2000 is no except even as Windows XP offers a slightly improved DOS interpreter. But even that can’t get the audio going.
If you don’t mind playing the game without aural (sound) effects you just need to download the shareware version (2 MB) and begin playing for your life.
Or like me, you could deploy the open-source VDMSound 2.0.4. This addresses Windows DOS sound support issues. And emulates an MPU-401 interface (for hi-quality MIDI), SoundBlaster (SB16, SBPro 2, SB2, SBPro) compatible digital sound effects and FM/AdLib music. As well as a standard game-port interface for games with joystick support (you need a Game/MIDI-out port on your PC to use this feature). And unlike Win9x SoundBlaster ‘legacy’ drivers, VDMSound is a self-contained software emulator that even works with computers without audio hardware. By outputting sounds to disk!
VDMSound is compatible only with Windows NT 4 SP3, Windows 2000 and Windows XP/2003. And won’t work with Windows 95/98/Millennium. And the utility will work with any audio hardware supported by Windows programs like Media Player and Winamp.
If you don’t have a VDMSound-compatible operating system, do try the open-source DOSBox, an Intel x86 PC emulator supporting sound, graphics, mouse and limited networking. The software is available for Linux, FreeBSD as well as Windows 32-bit. And you don’t need to use DOSBox just for games. Any DOS application will work with it.
And if you are looking to do more than just Windows stuff, have a reasonably-modern computer (Pentium III and later) with at least 256 MB RAM, you may want to check out PCBSD. A desktop port of the renowned server OS with a KDE-powered graphical user interface (GUI). As well as an improved package installation manager. Fellow blogger, Vijay Kiran D has gotten it running on his iBall laptop along with the bundled Windows XP.
So what are you waiting for? Go shoot!