Developer talks Gog, Boxer 1.4

Boxer developer Alun Bestor discusses some of the challenges of making Boxer suitable for the distribution of Gog’s new Mac catalogue in a recent blog post:

When we were figuring out how to deploy GOG.com’s DOS games on the Mac, it became abundantly clear thatBoxer in its current form wasn’t gonna cut it. It sticks you with a folder full of sample games to help you figure out the emulator. Its gameboxes are document files that can’t be played without downloading a separate application. Its emulation is studded with peripheral features to help you install new games and configure them and add new drives to them and all that jazz. The entire app is designed around turning your box of old CDs into a games collection.

But GOG.com are selling games, not raw materials for someone else’s curated emulation experience. Their games already come ready to play, so they don’t need any of the features to help you get there. Each game needs nothing but to look and feel like a native Mac game.

Bestor went about creating a new (open-source) application to convert Boxer 1.3-compatible gameboxes and convert them into standalone applications. That done, he focused on creating a new launcher, that would allow “extras” such as setup utilities and campaign editors to be run in addition to the main game. Next, he addressed the issue of setting and save game locations, relegating them to the Application Support folder. Finally, he added shader support to OS 10.6 and above, meaning that you can switch between different rendering styles on certain games.

Gog couldn’t have picked anyone better to help bring their games to the Mac, but Bestor claims there’s still some limitations:

  • As mentioned above, there’s no UI for tweaking emulation settings.
  • For ass-covering reasons, the game apps do not come with Gravis Ultrasound music patches.
  • Similarly the game apps offer no way to add MT-32 ROMs, though they will find and use any MT-32 ROMs you’ve plugged into Boxer. You’ll still have to reconfigure the games to use MT-32 music, which will be tricky because…
  • The game apps remove access the DOS prompt, so you cannot run setup programs unless a launch option has been provided for them.

The Gog versions of the games themselves are still essentially gameboxes, and as such will run with Boxer 1.3.2 if you wish. There’s been some criticism of the cut-down version, but Bestor has high hopes for Boxer 1.4, which will bring a lot of features currently in the Gog version to the standalone version, and is currently in development:

If you don’t mind wet paint and you’re familiar with XCode, you could build Boxer 1.4pre from source and take advantage of all the new features.

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