Playing Games From The Archive

So, you've found the site, the memories have come flooding back and you're longing for a blast on Zalaga or Snapper, what do you do? You download the games of course! But wait? What are these strange files inside the zip's? They're raw bbc files thats what, and you can't just execute them like any other file, so here's my guide to running games from the archive.

Step 1. You need an emulator!

An emulator I hear you cry! Of course! Yes these little beasties allow you to run your old BBC games on your spangly new P4 3.2ghz system, thereby turning your 1500 beige box into something from 1981! Wait, thats not as bad as it sounds you know, you do get to play Exile and Elite again and all that stuff after all!

Ok, so where do you get one? Well, the good news is there's loads around that'll emulate the bbc, the bad news is:

  1. not all of them work at all
  2. most aren't finished
  3. you're going to have difficulty if you aren't running Windows. But never mind, i'm sure most of you do, so here's a few recommendations from me, depending on which OS you use

Alternatively, check out The BBC Lives! for a wider selection of emulators.

Windows

BeebEm - Has now assumed its place as the 'daddy' of Beeb emulators, this one has been ported to loads of differen OS's and machines, and is just about the most complete emulator available.

pcBBC - Once the top dog of the emulator seen this now seems to have been abandoned, and all that is left is the 10 minute demo edition. Its a fairly complete emulator but you may have trouble running it. Don't expect a Windows interface though, this thing runs in good old DOS.

MESS BBC Driver - a very promising emulator using the MESS engine.

Unix

There's less selection for Unix/Linux and I would go for XMESS, its really the only complete emulator available for Unix.

XMESS

XBeeb - An old bbc emulator, you'll be lucky to get anything running on it.

BeebEm for Unix - a direct port of Windows BeebEm 3.5, seems to work very well!

Macintosh

I don't use a Mac so I can't really recommend any emulators, but here are what are generally considered the best Mac BBC Emulators:

For MacOS 9:

Horizon - thats in a stuffit archive which i'm assured you Mac people all know about.

MacMESS

For MacOS X:

There is a reworking of Horizon for the new OS at:

http://www.bannister.org/software/horizon.htm

Step 2 - Convert your files

The files you get from this website are all raw bbc files with their headers attached. What you need is to convert these files into a BBC disk image file. I will explain how to do this:

  1. You will need tools to do this, if you have windows then I recommend BBC Explorer v2.01, or BBCIM. If you have unix/linux then the choice is down to Unix BBCIM
  2. Unzip the raw files into a directory of your choice, if you want more than one game in the image (the images can store up to 200k's worth of games on one disk)
  3. If using BBC Explorer, open up the directory containing the raw files in Windows Explorer. Then select 'New Image' from the file menu in BBC Explorer. Select all the raw files (and the header files) and drag them into the empty pane on BBC Explorer, an image will now be created.
  4. If using BBCIM then you will need to do this via a Unix Console or an MS-DOS Prompt box. BBCIM comes with full instructions on how to use it.

You are now ready to play the games!

Step 3 - Running the games

With your favourite emulator running, you need to load in the disc image. This should take a couple of seconds, then what you need to do in the emulator is type '*CAT' to get a directory listing. You should see the files you put into the image. To run one type CHAIN "filename" where filename is the name of the game you wish to run. If you get the message 'Bad Program' back, then try *RUN filename. If neither of this work, the file is probably not runnable by the emulator. Most games have a loader program with them so chances are you are trying to run a data file and not an executable.

Enjoy the games!