DOSBox is an emulator of an Intel x86 PC running MS-DOS. It is geared towards running games originally developed for MS-DOS. In particular, DOSBox is able to run Stunts almost flawlessly, which is of crucial importance to Stunts racers, not only for allowing the game to be played under recent Windows versions or Linux, but also for making NoRH racing with video capture viable.
With a modern computer, it is likely that the following instructions will work straight away. For extra tips, or if problems arise, check the rest of the article.
Let's assume you already have installed DOSBox, that your Stunts directory is C:\Games\Stunts and that the main executable in your Stunts version is stunts_k.exe. Open DOSBox and enter the following commands:
mount C C:\Games\Stunts C: stunts_k
Stunts will then start. If you have not changed the default settings of DOSBox, you will soon notice that the game is sluggish. To fix that, first look at the title bar of the DOSBox window. It will display a number of cycles, something like 3000 cycles. Press Ctrl+F12 to raise that value to around 20000. If the game does not run fluently after that, use Ctrl+F11 to lower the value gradually (by about 2000 each time) until it works right.
The above covers the basics of getting Stunts to run. It is a good idea, however, to adjust a few DOSBox settings in dosbox.conf, the text file which stores its settings. The DOSBox Wiki explains where to find it in your system. Set aspect=true at the [render] section, so that the game graphics do not look shorter than they should, and cycles to the number of cycles that you ended up with, so that you do not have to adjust it with Ctrl+F11 and Ctrl+F12 every single time.
The process of getting Stunts to run under DOSBox can be summarized in a few basic steps:
- Installing DOSBox (official download page);
- Mounting the Stunts folder inside DOSBox and launching the game;
- Tuning the settings until the game runs fluently (number of cycles is of particular importance); and
- Making the application of settings and launching of the game semi-automatic via .conf files or using a frontend (optional, but recommended for extra convenience).
Racers using Windows who wish to use DOSBox video capture (for instance, for recording laps for NoRH racing) will also need to install the ZBMV movie codecs which come with DOSBox.
Those steps are better explained in a number of external resources, which will be presented now. We suggest you to start with the first two guides, follow their instructions and then check the others and the more specific tips ahead in this article in case there are doubts remaining.
- SDR Video Tutorials - probably the most didactic resource available, and the first you should check. "How to play Stunts with DOSBox" gives a rundown of installation under Windows and also explains how to mount the Stunts folder manually and launch the game from DOSBox. "How to make a DOSBox video..." is geared to NoRH racers, demonstrating how a competition lap should be recorded. The videos are available in four languages - English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Courtesy of Mark L. Rivers.
- Basic Setup and Installation of DOSBox @ DOSBox Wiki - pretty clear explanations of the fundamentals at DOSBox's official Wiki. Even though it's not Stunts-specific, it can serve as a text reference for the procedures shown at the SDR tutorial. Should you need more technical info on DOSBox, their Wiki is a good place to check.
- HOWTO: Stunts on WinXP, Win2000, Linux @ Stunts Forum - The first post by Zak explains briefly how to launch Stunts from DOSBox and also how to make a DOSBox .conf file to store settings. It also gives some pretty valuable further advice on configuration, which you'll probably want to check after following one of the tutorials. And most important, if you have doubts about DOSBox and need help, the HOWTO thread is the best place to ask... :)
- Running Resource Demanding Games @ Old DOSBox Wiki - Technical advice on how to lower the resource hunger of DOSBox. Check it if the tips on Zak's post or elsewhere in this article were not enough.
One of the main obstacles for many racers to get Stunts running properly under DOSBox is the need to manipulate and hand-edit .conf files in order to modify and store settings. Frontends are helper programs which simplify the configuration process of DOSBox a lot. They allow the user to create and manage profiles for different games, each profile being associated with a .conf file. The settings for that game in said .conf file can be modified through the frontend graphical interface, which can be a lot more comfortable than editing the files or Notepad directly. Furthermore, frontends usually provide a very practical way of launching the games from their interface, avoiding the hassle of launching DOSBox and mounting the folders manually. A list of frontends is available on this DOSBox Wiki page; most of them have very similar features. In particular, Duplode has tried DBGL, and it works flawlessly for all Stunts purposes.
Number of cycles
The number of cycles setting of DOSBox is, by far, the most crucial parameter for adjustment in order to get Stunts to run smoothly. It controls how fast is the virtual processor emulated by DOSBox runs. Since emulation is a quite inefficient process, the actual CPU load is much higher than one would suppose for the number of cycles of the emulated processor. That is the main reason why DOSBox is so processor-intensive. Finding the correct value for the number of cycles setting can be tricky, since setting it too low will make the game sluggish, as the virtual processor will not meet Stunts minimum requirements. Setting it too high, however, won't work either in most cases, as the real CPU of the computer will be overloaded. Therefore, the ideal value is an intermediate "sweet-spot". For instance, assuming one wishes to run Stunts with high-quality settings (scalers for 1024x768, maximum quality sound, etc.), the minimum reasonable number of cycles will be somewhere around 8000. The upper limit depends heavily on the actual processor; while a modern dual-core can easily deal with 20000 cycles, an early 2000's Athlon XP will call for lowering it to ~12000. In general, the slower the processor is, the harder it will be to strike a balance. If tuning only by the number of cycles proves impossible, further fine tuning of graphics and other settings may be necessary.
Among the sound devices originally supported by Stunts, PC speaker and Sound Blaster work straight away in DOSBox with no need of configuration tweaks. See the Sound article for setting up DOSBox to use MT-32 MIDI sound, as well as further information about the sound devices.
Example configuration files
Here are some sample .conf files for different computers submitted by Stunts racers. In order to use them, paste their contents on a text editor and save the resulting file either overwriting the dosbox.conf on the DOSBox folder (under Windows, in Linux it will be on the Home folder) or as a separate file (if you choose to do so, then launch DOSBox with the command dosbox -conf <path to the .conf file>). If you are using frontends, it is possible, and very convenient, to associate a profile with the .conf file you created that way. Observation: please note that there are some path locations in those files. They are signaled by the <> brackets. Before using the files, replace them by the appropriate paths for the folders you'd like to use - don't forget to put quotation marks should they have any whitespace.
- Core 2 Duo E6600, 2GB RAM, works flawlessly (submitted by Duplode):
[cpu] cycles=20000 core=dynamic [render] aspect=true scaler=normal3x [dosbox] captures=<insert the folder where videos and screenshots will go> [sdl] fullscreen=true windowresolution=640x480 priority=higher,pause fullresolution=1280x960 [autoexec] mount C <insert path of your Stunts folder> C: cd \ stunts_k.exe
- Pentium-M 1.4Ghz, 1GB RAM, Windows XP SP3, works flawlessly windowed (almost filling full-screen) not recommended for high resolutions. Flawlessly works on similar computers of Bonzai Joe and Akoss Poo. (submitted by zaqrack):
[cpu] cycles=max core=auto [render] aspect=true scaler=normal3x frameskip=0 [dosbox] captures=<insert the folder where videos and screenshots will go> [sdl] fullscreen=false output=surface [autoexec] mount C <insert path of your Stunts folder> C: cd \ stunts_k.exe exit
- AMD Sempron 2600+ 1.61 GHz; 1,00 GB Ram, Win XP SP2. Works smoothly in window mode, full screen might need some extra CPU Cycles. (submitted by Chulk):
[cpu] cycles=10000 core=auto [render] aspect=true scaler=normal2x frameskip=0 [dosbox] captures=<insert the folder where videos and screenshots will go> [sdl] fullscreen=false windowresolution=original priority=higher,normal fullresolution=original [autoexec] mount C <insert path of your Stunts folder> C: stunts_k
- AMD Sempron 2600+ 1.61GHz; 512MB RAM, Win XP SP2. Works smoothly in windowed and fullscreen modes. Just beware of heavy applications on the background - e.g. Firefox with a lot of open tabs. (submitted by Duplode):
[cpu] cycles=14000 core=dynamic [render] aspect=true scaler=none [dosbox] captures=<insert the folder where videos and screenshots will go> [sdl] fulldouble=true windowresolution=640x480 priority=higher,normal mapperfile= output=overlay fullresolution=640x480 [autoexec] mount S <insert path of your Stunts folder> S: cd \ stunts_k.exe
- Pentium IV 3.00GHz; 512MB RAM, Win XP SP2. Works quite well windowed. (submitted by Mark L. Rivers):
[cpu] cycles=9000 core=normal [render] aspect=true scaler=normal 2x [dosbox] captures=<insert the folder where videos and screenshots will go> [sdl] fulldouble=false windowresolution=original priority=higher,normal mapperfile=original [dos] xms=true ems=true umb=true [autoexec] mount k <insert path of your Stunts folder> k: stunts_k
Issues on running Stunts with DOSBox
With a good setup Stunts generally works very well on DOSBox: no gameplay bugs of any kind are introduced, and competitive racer performance is mostly unaffected. If the computer is too slow to support the required emulation or the settings are not appropriate, the gameplay experience can be quite unsatisfactory when compared with normal (pure DOS) execution with general sluggishness and reduced control response being the main complaints. As of 2010, however, computers built within the last five years should be able to run Stunts on DOSBox well with a minimal amount of configuration tweaking. Another point worth mentioning is that most veteran racers agree that, even with an ideal DOSBox setup, handling under pure DOS is still slightly superior thanks to better key press responsiveness - even if some racers eventually get so used to DOSBox they do not realize the difference anymore.
On a correctly configured DOSBox, the feature most subject to bugs while running Stunts is sound emulation. When restarting a race, car sounds may become partially or completely mute relatively often. Such behaviour often can be observed when DOSBox is left idle or on background for some time; pausing the emulation with ALT + PAUSE when switching tasks minimizes that and other related occurrences. Those sound bugs usually resolve spontaneously after a while or with some race restarts.