Games I Wish Worked on Vista

Posted on 12th May 2009 at 10:08 by Joe Martin with 26 comments

Joe Martin
I only upgraded from Windows XP to Vista relatively recently – it was really only when I started at that I actually became concerned with keeping up to date. Until then I'd been happy to stay with whatever OS let me play the games I wanted to play, upgrading only as I needed to to play the latest games.

I’ve regretted the move to Vista ever since, though I was at least wily enough to ensure that my girlfriend’s PC ran XP still, ensuring I had at least one option when struck by the sudden need to play a classic game. You know the need I’m referring to – it usually comes when you’re doing some menial task and you’re somehow reminded of an old game you really liked. Quickly that flash of memory grows, flares into an obsession and you find yourself reinstalling games you haven’t played in years, usually Deus Ex.

That quick burst of obsession is something I experience fairly regularly, mainly because games are such a massive part of my life and I find it hard to break away from them. Some days I can’t cross the street without thinking that I should quicksave first. Oh, how I wish I was joking.

Games I Wish Worked on Vista
Oh, wow, it's System Shock 2! Joe never talks about that!

Vista is a frequent thorn in my side, responsible for ruining many of my weekends. That flash of memory will hit me and I’ll quickly find myself desperately longing to go back and play an old game like Outcast, but trying to get it to run acceptably will often be an uphill struggle. By the time I’ve finished patching, searching, altering .ini files and setting up DOSbox then the weekend is over and the urge is dead – the flame that burns twice as hot only burns for half as long, as they say. That’s assuming that the game will even run on Vista at all too.

I’m talking mainly about extreme cases here and admittedly there are a lot of games that can easily be configured to work under Vista. It can sometimes be as simple as setting the compatibility mode to Windows XP or 98…but usually it isn’t.

Nor do the compatibility problems affect old games only. The fact that Thief: The Dark Project (1998) doesn’t work under Vista 64-Bit (at least not for me) is to be expected. That game had troubles working under Windows XP, let alone Vista. Other games though, like Thief 3: Deadly Shadows (2004) aren’t nearly as old as all that. It may be a bit unreasonable given the colossal task that faces Microsoft when they design a new operating system, but I’m massively annoyed that a huge part of my games library isn’t easily playable.

Games I Wish Worked on Vista
Ah, crud

Every time that powerful urge rises and demands that I immerse myself in a good long session of No One Lives Forever or Grim Fandango or Tomb Raider 2 or System Shock 2 then all I get is Bill Gates tutting at me. Grr.

And yes, ostensibly I’m ending this blog post like this because I figured it’s a rant that a lot of people could share in and that a fair number of Vista-based gamers would also be annoyed with. There’s a deeper reason for this blog post though and that’s that I know bit-tech readers are generally a well-read and clever bunch and I’m hoping some of you will be able to make some suggestions to improve Vista compatibility.

Because I really want to play some Thief 2 right now – the cutscenes for those games were awesome.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Krikkit 12th May 2009, 10:13 Quote
Dual-boot a Windows 98 or XP installation? That way you can get the urge, reboot and install to an OS that actually makes the game work instead of fiddling about. :)
faugusztin 12th May 2009, 10:46 Quote
Sorry Joe, but you are knocking on wrong doors. Really, who is the one to blame ? MS, who is making the OS with public API, or the ones who created the game using millions of different hacks, expectations etc etc. If those games fail, it usually means problem like Y2K - i expect that some non-public thing is there, and that damn MS removed that non-public thing from later versions. Or they have problems with PAE - but that is not MS fault again, it's the fault of game programmer who expected that memory will never be bigger than 3GB... And we can continue, but the point is - if the game fails, you can be sure that game is at fault in 99% of cases.
liratheal 12th May 2009, 11:54 Quote

Hell, I got RA working on Windows 7 yesterday. The colours were a bit off, but hell, it was playable.

Or what Krikkit suggested.
phuzz 12th May 2009, 12:48 Quote
Or a VM, VMWare player or Server is free and works, and if you can find an old Win98 setup disk lying around.
That said I'm sure there's some Win98 VMs floating around the internets, not that any of us would do something that naughty...
tidu 12th May 2009, 14:03 Quote
Grim fandango is working in Vista (64bit too), you just need the "Grim fandango setup" from and imagecfg.exe (run "IMAGECFG.EXE -a 0x1 GRIMFANDANGO.EXE") to make it work on multi core CPUs.
NikoBellic 12th May 2009, 14:11 Quote
Dual Boot! (Vista x64 & XP x86)
sear 12th May 2009, 14:17 Quote
Not to advertise, but Good Old Games has dozens of classic games (albeit not so much the ones you've mentioned) that are reprogrammed to work properly on Vista, XP and presumably Windows 7 once it's out, plus they come with tons of features. Not quite the same as using your old disc, but hey, if it works, it works.
delriogw 12th May 2009, 15:41 Quote
i join the chorus of dual boot.

for me it's xp x32 and vista x64

because i have xp on my system, it allows me to run stuff as if in xp, but should that fail, i can just hop over to my other drive and bingo

my main problem was one of my favourite games doesn't work with pgi-e gfx cards - even the games makers can't figure it out
el_diablo_72 12th May 2009, 15:52 Quote
I know the feeling though - Dark Omen and Warhammer 40,000 Chaos Gate - absolutely marvelous but a swine to get running. I managed Dark Omen but I need to keep an old windows 95 laptop for Chaos Gate and that is getting a bit bust!
Dead Ghost 12th May 2009, 16:53 Quote
No easy solution for this. And a VM of Win98, like someone suggested, doesn't work for all games. The best solution is to have an old pc with AGP video card and Win 98 on it.
Cptn-Inafinus 12th May 2009, 17:17 Quote
In relation to the quicksave joke. Just yesterday in English my friend went to me "Do you remember quicksave?" as in the hideous old super market. I terrifyingly quickly replied "Yeah, it's normally F5 or F6."

I make my self die some days.
barack 12th May 2009, 17:25 Quote
its not a fault of windows vista, its a rare case when fault is on OS.And if it was in OS then definately an update would have solved it.
Aragon Speed 12th May 2009, 18:13 Quote
I am old enough to remember this problem with the change to XP from 98. And to those who say it is the fault of games programmers and not the OS developer, rubbish. 50% of most games would not run in XP at the time, and of those that did, another 5-10% crashed. A lot.

MS know what games are out there, and that the customer has spent a fortune on buying them. With the swap to XP I lost about £2000 because of games that would simply no longer work. (Before I used the solution I mention below to recover most of them into a playable state.)

The swap to Vista is not as drastic as the swap to XP was, but a lot of games that should work do not.

With XP it was the removal of a true DOS environment that caused a large chunk of the problems, with Vista is it another underlying problem. But the problem is still there never-the-less.

I am not saying those are the only reasons that games do not work under Vista, but fundamental changes to the OS are going to break things.

This is the price we pay for advancement, and while I understand the need for these changes, it really peeves me the way that MS seem to turn a blind eye to the problems they are going to cause.

I have no problems with OS changes, even if they stop me playing a game natively in a new OS, but what we should have had is better support for older games/programs with Vista from MS themselves. "Compatibility mode" is really just a joke and a waste of disk space.

To answer your questions Joe, the only real way around this problem has already been mentioned. Dual-boot XP/Vista, and then for really old 98 games use the free Microsoft VM software loaded on the XP side, and then load a copy of 98 onto it. With this set up I have managed to keep about 95% of all my games playable.
faugusztin 13th May 2009, 08:31 Quote
You didn't got it, Aragon... Yes, there are fundamental changes. No, it's not because of those changes - it's because those games uses bad, bad programming. Those games usually expect OS to behave in specific way, which isn't allways the case. If they use unclean programming methods (common when you program games and try to maximize performance), then they usually have problems when something doesn't work the way they expected - multiple cores, PAE, DEP, 64-bit enviroment or other changes all can make their previous assumption incorrect, thus game starts to fail, because something is not where it expected to be, or doesn't behave as they expected.

No, you can't make compatibility mode for hacks, because it's impossible. How do you want to make something compatible if it reads/writes something outside of their address space (DEP, PAE, 64-bit), uses some obsolete non-public method (those are not supported, no intented for public use - and sorry, MS doesn't have to check every damn software on this planet), also they can't support forever something they deprecated 10-15 years ago (or would you like to have a 80GB Windows installation for Windows after W7?)...

As i said, in 99% of cases the fault is at the game, better said on game developer. Why mostly only games and software using drivers have compatibility issues ? In case of drivers it's understandable, in case of games not.
Grimloon 13th May 2009, 13:54 Quote
It doesn't really matter whose fault it is, the fact that things simply don't work is the problem. Th game developers write for what the principle OS of the time is, the OS developers are always trying to create new. They can't always meet in the middle happily as sometimes a game is a bit of a kludge, sometimes the OS has to drop a certain degree of backward compatibility.

However, I do get frustrated by the urge to play old games periodically and Grim Fandango is right up there on the list. I think I feel a bit of tinkering to see if I can get it running on Win 7 is in order...
Jux_Zeil 13th May 2009, 14:09 Quote
Has anyone used DOSbox? I find it very good for running the old games. If you're in need of a little nostalgic trip then all it takes is a bit of MSDOS knowledge and you good to go. Other than that I find that Vista Ultimate runs most XP games in compatibility mode. Ive even got Final Fantasy VII Ultimate to run without crashing.
Blademrk 13th May 2009, 15:42 Quote
I had problems runnig Titan Quest on vista, seems it was expecting a particular Direct X file which isn't part of Microsoft's latest DX version (and wouldn't install the file from the disk as my Dx version was greater than the on-disk version).

I had a quick search round the developers website and there was a workround mentioned in the forums (the thread wasn't easily found, and didn't include a link to the needed file - which means more searching), but by that point I had just about given up.

I was running a dual boot system (XP) at the time, so Instead of figuring out exactly what I needed to do to get it running in vista I switched to the other OS.

I haven't tried to get it running in W7 yet (now that I'm not running a dual boot) but I'm not hopeful.
javaman 13th May 2009, 19:05 Quote
lol I understand what you mean. Ive had the desire to play deus ex recently too. Also I recently got timeshift to find it isn't compataible with vista 64 =( TBH I dont really blame the OS or designers tho. Things change and companies have to spend time on what the majority wants. I feel the same about BC ps3's. Ive a huge collection of ps2 and ps1 games.....but I still have a ps1 and ps2 to play them on.
salesman 14th May 2009, 01:20 Quote
Does anyone know how to get AVP 1 to work on a xp system?
SMIFFYDUDE 14th May 2009, 01:33 Quote
Thief 2, Gangsters: Organised Crime, Grim Fandango, Sudden Strike, Messiah, Jimmy White's 2 Cuball, Aliens vs Predator and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000. All are games I want to play but can't get to work in XP. Damn shame my Voodoo3 card died a couple of years ago, or i'd use the old Win 98 PC that my dad uses to play Championship Manager 2000/2001.
Whalemeister 14th May 2009, 12:40 Quote
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is the biggest pain to get working on Vista x64, such an awesome game and the only reason I've got an XP x86 dual boot set up
CardJoe 14th May 2009, 13:04 Quote
Originally Posted by Whalemeister
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is the biggest pain to get working on Vista x64, such an awesome game and the only reason I've got an XP x86 dual boot set up

Funny - I've been playing it just fine on Vista 64 lately. Installed it fine, dumped on the latest unofficial patch (Wesp 6.1) and it was fine. Just had to tweak it to work with a widescreen res.

What problem are you having specifically?
Dreaming 19th May 2009, 09:45 Quote
Originally Posted by faugusztin
And we can continue, but the point is - if the game fails, you can be sure that game is at fault in 99% of cases.

I would agree with faugusztin. A good example is Command & Conquer generals. They never figured the default /my documents path would change, so when it did in Vista, it no longer creates the necessary boot.ini files! All solved relatively quickly though by manual copy and paste.

Although I have to say Joe that your writing even in your blog is impeccable, were this written by any other journalist on any other website I would have gone to town I'm sure a Vista advocate (I would not say fan boy, as I'm rational about it :p) but it's the sincerety and honesty of your points that strikes home.

Ultimately however, I think it's one of these 'necessary evils' that follows technology and specifically hardware and software. When the industry, or the powers that be, update to a new platform / idea / methodology whether it be DirectX 10 or BTX or something else altogether, it generally renders a lot of what came before obsolete - because these paradigm shifting events are an opportunity to rewrite everything to the best of our collective ability.

In part it is Microsoft's recent campaign against the developer to do things properly that has caused a lot of problems. Who can forget the problems driver signing caused, despite it being a fantastic idea as most crashes in Windows XP were driver related. Who can forget that when Vista came out, it received universally bad press because of it's shoddy drivers - and it was Microsoft that received this criticism rather than Nvidia, the guilty developers. It's the same story with Microsoft Internet Explorer, because of it's prevalence and because previously it lacked standards, lots of websites were poorly coded and hacked just to get them working. That's fine while you are still using the correct version, but when it comes to using a standards compliant browser (as the user should be free to do) then all hell breaks loose.

Why should consumers be stuck with one product from one manufacturer because the developers only wrote for that platform (be it Windows XP or Windows 3.1 or Mac OS X), well the only reason really is the developers were lazy. Most sales happen in the initial business cycle so if it takes 3 months to get out a hacked version that works now compared to a version that takes 6 months to get out that works forever, then the business manager man will say obviously get the fast buggy version out, we'll just do another one in 6 months and double our sales! (That's basically EA's business strategy :p)

Obviously there are caveats, for example the API used by the developers has to be compatible with the operating system in question. And DirectX as far as I'm aware is just superior to OpenGL so only DirectX compatible operating systems get games (read: Windows).
CardJoe 19th May 2009, 09:51 Quote
M'eh. I'm not blaming Microsoft or game developers, not really. I don't care who is at fault. I'm just annoyed that it happens at all - and I really wish it was easier to pick up a legit version of old OSes like 95.
Fod 19th May 2009, 10:16 Quote
you can get thief 3 deadly shadows on the gametap free service, by the way.
DragunovHUN 22nd May 2009, 11:16 Quote
Originally Posted by Dreaming
A good example is Command & Conquer generals. They never figured the default /my documents path would change, so when it did in Vista, it no longer creates the necessary boot.ini files! All solved relatively quickly though by manual copy and paste.

That's not even a slight bit surprizing, seeing as they mistyped the name of the second disk of Zero Hour in the Delux Edition release, and thus the installer won't recognize it. And it went to the shelves like that. Fairly easy to get around but jesus christ!
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