An interesting DOSBox adventure: Installing Daggerfall

I haven’t payed Daggerfall in a while. It’s been almost 3 years since the last time I visited the Iliac Bay I know that’s a damn shame, but what do you want? I’m always busy.

After a long afternoon of coding on a personal project, a long time friend pestered me inquiring about the early installment of the “Elder Scrolls” franchise. After a brief discussion regarding Daggerfall, my friend asked how hard it would be to “crack” is and get it to run on modern hardware. I promptly told him that Bethesda in their infinite wisdom in a rare display of common sense made the game free a few years back, thus rendering the whole “cracking” part moot. I however warned him that installing the game was a complicated process but that I was ready to assist him in that process…

2 hours, a few cuss words and several trials and errors later, it was done.

Downloading stuff

As previously stated, Bethesda made the CD version of the game free to download in 2009 in honor of the 15th anniversary of the franchise. An archive containing the game can be found on this page. Download it, extract it somewhere and move on.

As the title may heavily imply, you’ll need DOSBox. You can grab it here if you’re on Windows or Mac OS. Download it and install it. If you’re on Linux, you probably know what to do to get the latest version… something like apt-get install dosbox or pacman -S dosbox depending on the distribution you’re using.

Installing Daggerfall

The fun stuff starts here.

Before going any further you’ll have to decide where to put the game. On Mac and Linux, maybe something like ~/DOS or ~/Games. Personally I have a Programs folder in my home to hold all emulated, statically linked and otherwise odd and weird applications. I keep a DOS sub-folder inside it to keep all my DOS games around. For Windows, I encourage you to use C:\DOS. It will keep things from becoming too complicated. Dealing with personal folders and files in Windows is very version specific and not fun at all.

For the rest of this post I will assume I’m installing it on Windows. Just replace C:\DOS with the path to your DOS games installation folder if you’re on another platform.

Before going any further, it’s a good idea copy the content of the archive (DFCD and DAGGER) in a easily accessible place. C:\DOS\CD would be a nice place to start.

Once this is done, launch DOSBox, mount the CD directory as well as the DOS directory with some free space in order to install the game in it. Then go into the d: mount point (the CD). This can be done with the following commands:

mount d C:\DOS\CD\DFCD

mount c C:\DOS -freesize 999999999

d:

This is how it looks like

Once this is done, type in install to launch the installation program. Agree to the terms and conditions. Start the installation, change the install size to huge.

This is how it looks like

Install the game in the default path, go ahead and install the game.

This is how it looks like

At the end of the installation process, you will be asked if you want to run the sound system setup. It is a good moment to do it. Just run the auto-detection option and accept the default values. Select a MIDI card in the Select MIDI sub-menu (Sound Blaster Pro is the right option). Test both the Digital and Midi sounds, headbang to the kickass music for a little while, then select OK to save the settings and exit the setup.

This is how it looks like

Keep that that DOSBox window open for a while. Copy and Merge the ARENA2 folder located inside the C:\DOS\CD\DFCD into the newly created C:\DOS\DAGGER folder. That will copy the content that would otherwise reside on the CD like the intro movie and the various in-game cinematics. While you’re at it, copy DAG213.exe from C:\DOS\CD\DAGGER to C:\DOS\DAGGER.

Go back to the DOSBox window. You should be inside the DAGGER folder. Run DAG213.exe. This will patch the game and fix a few problems with the game.

This is how it looks like

Bear with me, we’re almost done. The last thing you’ll have to do is to modify the Z.CFG file to point to the local copy of the ARENA2 folder. Open the Z.CFG file with a text editor and modify the following line

pathcd d:\dagger\arena2\  

to

pathcd c:\dagger\arena2\  

Go back to the DOSBox window. Type in fall z.cfg. If you see the animated Bethesda Softworks logo, you did everything correctly. Our trouble isn’t over yet, but you have a proper Daggerfall installation on your hard drive.

Nice isn't it?

You can delete the local copy of the CD (C:\DOS\CD) safely now.

Creating a launcher for convenience

To make it easier to launch the game without having to type in a lot of commands, you can create dosbox configuration file and create a shortcut pointing to it. That will automate the process a bit.

Creating the dosbox configuration file

If you’re on Window, you can download this configuration file. Put the configuration file inside the DAGGER folder. As long as you didn’t change the installation path of the game, this file should work “out of the box”. Otherwise, and if you’re on Mac or Linux, simply edit the path on line 246 to suit the path you have selected.

Windows

Create a new shortcut from your desktop. Access the properties of that shortcut (right click -> properties) and input the following line in the Target section.

"C:\Program Files (x86)\DOSBox-0.74\DOSBox.exe" -conf "C:/DOS/DAGGER/dosbox-0.74.conf" -noconsole    

To make the shortcut look even better you can chnage the icon for the one located inside of the DAGGER folder.

This is how we do it.

Linux and Mac OS

Create a bash script or an alias in your shell’s configuration file or something. You’re smart, you’ll figure it out. The command you want to run should look like this:

dosbox -conf <path to the configuration file>

That should do it.

Do yourself a favor, remap the controls

Great. Now that everything works, you should take some time to remap part of the controls, fiddle with the mouse sensitivity and toggle the fullscreen mode and the mouse look.

Once this is done, you are now ready to enjoy Daggerfall.

Rest well this night, for tomorrow you’ll sail for the kindom of Daggerfall.



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