Starflight Part 1: Harder Than I Thought

So obviously, you can’t just sit down and play a DOS game from 1986 on a modern system without doing your homework first. The first thing I had to do was get it running.

First things first: I downloaded and installed the Mac version of DosBox, a DOS emulator designed specifically with gaming in mind. After spending a few minutes trying to remember what the hell the old DOS commands were—and reminding myself that a “.com” file was an executable just as much as a “.exe” file, I managed to open the game—only to be greeted with this image:

Image

Now, those of you who have played Starflight before may recognize this screen, but I obviously did not. This is a dead stop—pressing any button at this point kicks you back to DOS.

It seems that what happened here is this: The original Starflight pre-dates the widespread availability of hard disk drives, meaning that the player had no ability to save a game anywhere but directly on the floppy disks. When you save your game on the floppy disks, it actually directly alters the game files, rather than just creating a separate “save file”.

In practice, this means that if your game saves incorrectly, you don’t just have a corrupted save file—you corrupt your entire installation of the game, and have to reinstall from scratch. Apparently the original policy was to make duplicates of your master game disks on blank floppies, and play the game on those. If anything went wrong, you would have to overwrite the copies with the master disks.

It also appears that a good way to “corrupt your save file” would be to “exit without saving ever.”

Since I’m playing on my hard drive, it looks like I’m going to be creating an entire duplicate installation of the game for every “save slot” I want to have. I suppose this would bother me if the entire game installation wasn’t 815k in size.

Join us tomorrow as we jump directly into the game without reading the manual, and then almost immediately afterwards decide to read the manual!

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About Malgayne

Community Manager at Google. Formerly at Sourcebits, Spark Plug Games, Zynga, and Wowhead.com. I like chiptunes and hefeweizen.

3 thoughts on “Starflight Part 1: Harder Than I Thought

  1. O, ye olde Worlde of Compyewting! The ancient druids and Celts and also guys in robes used to write code for this game using burnt twigs and strips of tree bark rubbed to a matte flatness on local boulders….

    But no, really, reading up on this game has me intrigued. I’ve been back-tracking through some ancient games m’self (Ultima VI, woo! Descent, woo!), but you take the cake. However, the game sounds fascinating. Gots to carve some time in my life to get some hours in… and then compare how differently our plays went. :D

  2. I nearly snarfed my coffee… oh those were the days eh? All I kept hearing in my head was “Oh it’s just a wee file.. just a wee little thing.” I don’t think I have a single picture file that’s 815K!? Okay well maybe something from notepad.

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