Playing Akalabeth on a Modern PC

Its no secret that I am addicted to all things Ultima, so I figured I would do a series of posts on getting all 14 games to run on modern hardware and, yes, I have beaten all 14 of them.  I know, I know, GOG is probably the path of least resistance to play these games on modern hardware, BUT I already own them and don’t want to pay again.  I will also be covering the installation of various official and unofficial patches that fix bugs and overall improve gameplay.  While not a exactly a true Ultima game I will cover Akalabeth first, or unofficially Ultima 0.

Acquiring the Game

First you will need the game files.  As far as I know Akalabeth was only release in two forms: the original on the Apple II and a DOS port that was bundled with various Ultima Collection releases.  I personally own a copy of this Ultima Collection.  Obviously there are other means to get the game files, but that is left as an exercise of the reader.  So my collection gets me all the files I need, but this collection is not without its problems.  It comes with a pretty concise “Reference Guide” for all the games, booklet of small black and white maps, a directory of unformatted text manuals and word document manuals for each game.  I have always considered reading the original Ultima manuals and maps as part of the Ultima experience, so that leads to are next task.

Acquiring the Manual(s)

Acquiring scans of the manuals can be tricky, but here is where replacementdocs.com comes in handy.  As luck would have it they have a scan of the original Akalabeth manual here.  Mission accomplished with one minor catch, if you look on the last page under “Movement” the move/turn keys reference an Apple keyboard layout, so the move/turn commands are actually the arrow keys on a modern keyboard.  Also you can save your game in the DOS version by hitting Q and Control-Q quits the game.  Restoring to your last save is done via Control-R.

Installing the Game

This one is simple.  Copy all the game files to your machine.  Choosing a path that only contains folders with less than 8 characters and contains no spaces will make your life easier in the next step.  For reference, I always choose “C:\Games\Akalabet”.

Playing the Game

So the elephant in the room is this game was designed for DOS and newer versions of windows are not backwards compatible.  Enter DOSBox.  Download and install the latest version from here.  Once installed fire it up and execute the following commands.

mount C C:\games\akalabet
C:
setup

AutoDetect Settings should get the job done, but go ahead and Test Settings.  Hit Exit and Save.  You shouldn’t have to do this again.  Now to play the game run AK.  To emphasize why I started this blog, I arrow down to “Create a Character”, choose my lucky number of “1337” and….the damn thing crashes.  SHIT!! How the hell did I get this working last time.  Time to google… and I found my answer here.  Of course the god damn download link is broken.  Now I have to scour the Internet for another place to download it.  Ok this shit is about to complicated.  I found how to generate a patched exe here.   So lets give this a whirl.  Download WDOSX from here.  Copy the files in wdosx097\bin to C:\games\Akalabet.  Fire up DOSBox again and execute the following commands.

mount C C:\games\akalabet
C:
stubit setup.exe
stubit ak.exe
ak

Okay now we are in business.  First things first hit Control-F11 until the cycles is ~10% (your mileage may vary, feel free to play with this value).  FYI control-F12 increases the cycles and Alt-Enter puts DOSBox in fullscreen mode.  That should get you running at about the right speed.  Also you don’t have to run stubit again when you come back to the game.  You are good to go play.  NOTE: DO NOT FORGET TO BUY FOOD!!  Also if you die before turning the speed down it will look like you just randomly return to the main menu.

Wrapping Up

Now to summarize when you want to play the game from now on, just run the following in DOSBox.

mount C C:\games\akalabet
C:
ak
Control-F11 until Cycles is at ~10%

Any questions or comments just let know.  Thanks!

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