Day 220 – Back To Longbow 2

This is going to be a short (and mostly off topic) post as I spent nearly all of the time I had yesterday getting my Windows 98 PC up and running correctly. The single biggest problem with this was getting files onto it. It has a network card but I don’t remember the model so I haven’t been able to locate drivers for it. This means no Internet and no network drives. I’m so used to just plugging in a memory stick and having it work, that it’s something of a shock to go back to needing drivers for those also. In the end I managed to find a generic USB storage driver and transferred it across on a CD-R (since the drive also can’t read DVD-R’s). This driver failed to work with everything except my PSP so I’m having to use that to transfer files across which isn’t entirely convenient but it works.

My Thrustmaster joystick is one of the old 15-pin variety so I didn’t need to find drivers at least. It offers a lot more movement resistance than I’m used to. It’s the standard Thrustmaster arrangement with the 4 buttons + POV hat and screams 90’s quality despite the £3.50 price tag. It was still new and unused and came with a free copy of Tomb Raider of all things. Why you would give a copy of Tomb Raider with a flight sim joystick is anyone’s guess although it’s actually one of the games I’d quite like to play now I have a DOS PC with Glide so it works out well for me.

3dfx drivers are still readily available and there appears to be something of a 3dfx fan club out there all these years after their demise. The motherboard in my PC was made by MSI and they actually still have the Win 98 drivers for it on their website which is excellent customer support. I wish other companies would take a note from this. Creative Labs spring to mind here as I can never find their drivers when I want them.

Finding drivers for the Voodoo 3 went smoothly enough only for Longbow 2 to still crash the moment I started trying to fly. My first thought was that it was a problem with my 3dfx drivers so I tried installing a couple of other games like Prophecy and Starlancer and they both worked perfectly. It’s good news with Starlancer anyway as my last attempts to play it didn’t get very far.

It turns out that Longbow 2 is so unfriendly to modern PC’s that it didn’t even like the PC I’d built. Specifically, it won’t run if you have much more than 256 MB of RAM (I have 512), at least in Windows 98. There is however a fix for this if you add:-

[Backdoors]
HEAP_PERCENT=0

to the file CA.ini. A big thank you to the definitive Longbow installation guide at http://digitality.comyr.com/speichts/lb2/index.html for this one.
After that one change everything is working near enough perfectly. By way of testing it out, I replayed the basic flight training + the Blackhawk training. The shifting texture problem that I mentioned with the Glide wrapper was not anywhere near as evident using the real hardware. In fact there was a hard to describe difference with the graphics in general. They appeared more blurred which possibly helps with the lower textures rather than detracting. Better or worse, it does go to show that emulation is never quite the same as the real thing.

I went on to play the first of the campaign missions. There were 3 campaigns to choose from and I could give a maximum length to each and adjust each sides advantage. Suffice to say, I’m making things as easy as possible for myself. As soon as I took off, I realised I didn’t really know what I was doing as I was put into a helicopter that I’d not done the training for. Thankfully, it was a reconnaissance mission and I just had to fly to a waypoint which I managed easily enough. In fact, the helicopter felt a lot easier to control than in training. I’m not sure at this point if that was because of the easy difficulty or just because it was a different helicopter.

Since everything appears to be running well, the last thing I did was install Hypersnap so I can get some screenshots. I was surprised to see it has Windows 98 support but it will come in very handy from here on. After all the messing about getting this game up and running, I’ll finally get to have a good session on it today and start writing it up properly in the next post.

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