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0.81.1 release notes

Release date: 2024-05-12


The main focus of this maintenance release is to fix a couple of regressions introduced in 0.81.0, most of them related to game compatibility, and address a few long-standing issues.

This release was made possible by everyone who tried 0.81.0, submitted bugs and pull requests, and tested the updates. Thank you! 😎

Regression fixes

The release fixes the following 0.81.0 regressions:

  • Fix Wing Commander 3 videos and cutscenes appearing height-doubled.

  • Introduce vga_render_per_scanline = off workaround to fix the crash-at-startup regression in Deus, Ishar 3, Robinson’s Requiem, and Time Warriors.

  • Fix the Tandy version of Impossible Mission II crashing at startup.

  • Fix regression in Tyrian where pressing the arrow keys get registered twice in menus.

  • Fix starting In Extremis resulting in a black screen.

  • Fix wrong colours in Spell It Plus! (needs machine = svga_paradise).

  • Fix wrong colours and garbled graphics in Spong and Exobius.

  • Fix squashed video output in the text mode game Indenture.

  • Fix the DOSBox Staging window gaining focus on every emulated video mode change.

  • Fix crash when exiting DOSBox Staging while in fullscreen mode on macOS and Linux.

  • Fix not being able to disable OPL emulation with oplmode = none.

Enhancements and fixes

We’ve also backported a number of enhancements and fixes for long-standing issues:

  • Introduce vmem_delay = on to help with flickering graphics and speed issues in Hercules, CGA, EGA, and early VGA games. This has proven to improve compatibility with Future Wars, Operation Stealth, Quest for Glory II, Hostages, The Gold of the Aztecs, Crazy Brix, Corncob Deluxe, and Corncob 3-D so far.

  • Improve support for multiple joysticks/game controllers (the mapper could behave erratically if you had more than one controller connected).

  • Emulate a memory-expanded PCjr machine more faithfully. This improves game compatibility; for{ example, Space Quest (v1.0x and v2.2) and King’s Quest (1986 PCjr DOS version) now work instead of hanging the emulator.

  • CD Audio is no longer muted in certain parts of Time Warriors and Alpha Storm.

  • The batch file installer of Alpha Storm no longer fails.

  • Forcing single scanning via crt-auto-arcade should now work with more programs.

  • Fix various VGA double scanning related edge cases in demoscene productions.

  • Detecting “repurposed” EGA video modes with 18-bit VGA DAC colours has been made more robust when using the crt-auto shader (should result in a double-scanned VGA shader being picked).

  • Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese translations have been added, and most of the other translations have been updated.

Read on to learn about the details!

How to upgrade

Start by downloading the latest version, then make sure to upgrade your primary configuration as described below.


Upgrading your primary configuration

Since config settings might get renamed, altered, or deprecated between releases, it’s best to let DOSBox Staging write the new default primary config on the first launch, then reapply your old settings manually.

Start by backing up your existing primary config. This is where to find it on each platform:

Windows C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\DOSBox\dosbox-staging.conf
macOS ~/Library/Preferences/DOSBox/dosbox-staging.conf
Linux ~/.config/dosbox/dosbox-staging.conf

You can also execute DOSBox Staging with the --printconf option to have the location of the primary config printed to your console.

After backing up the existing primary config, simply start the new version—a new dosbox-staging.conf will be written containing the new defaults and updated setting descriptions.

Portable mode notes

In portable mode, dosbox-staging.conf resides in the same folder as your DOSBox Staging executable. The migration steps for portable mode users are as follows:

  • Unpack the new version into a new folder (this is important).
  • Create a new empty dosbox-staging.conf file in the new folder to enable portable mode.
  • Launch the new version.

DOSBox Staging will write the new defaults to the empty dosbox-staging.conf file. After this, you carry over your settings from the old primary config manually.

After upgrading

Look for deprecation warnings in the logs (in yellow or orange colours) and update your configs accordingly.

VGA double scanning fixes & improvements

  • The SVGA/VESA double scanning criteria has been refined, which fixes a Wing Commander 3 regression where the videos and cutscenes appeared height-doubled.

  • Some 320× } 200, 320 & times; 240 and similar tweaked double - scanned VGA modes were incorrectly identified as 320 & times; 400, 320 & times;480, etc., which was confusing in the logs and single scanning could not be forced on them (e.g., with glshader = crt-auto-arcade). Affected programs include Pinball Dreams, Show by Majic 12, and the Copper demo (see the issue ticket for the exact details).

  • Support “unorthodox” scanline repeats on VGA in forced single scanning mode. This improves compatibility with demoscene productions; for example, Show by Majic 12 sets up a custom 320×40 mode and then uses scanline-quintupling to repeat every line 5 times in the zoom-rotator part in the intro.

  • Support for double-scanned text modes was removed by mistake, which we’re now restoring. This resulted in the text mode game Indenture appearing squashed (half-height). The game sets up a custom 640×200 text mode using the 8×8 pixel CGA font with double scanning enabled.

  • Detecting “repurposed” EGA video modes with 18-bit VGA DAC colours on emulated VGA adapters has been made more robust. In these scenarios, the crt-auto shader should more reliably choose a double-scanned VGA shader instead of a single-scanned EGA shader.

Option to emulate video memory access delays

We’ve added the new vmem_delay setting to the [dosbox] section to more closely emulate the behaviour of old video cards. This approximates the CPU-throttling effect of accessing slow video memory via the ISA bus. The feature was adapted from DOSBox-X based on a tip by MX9000. Thanks man! 😎

To enable the feature, just set vmem_delay to on in your config. This can help reduce or eliminate flicker in Hercules, CGA, EGA, and early VGA games and “even out” emulation speed in speed-sensitive titles.

We recommend enabling this only when necessary on a per-game basis, as it slows down the emulation. You can also fine-tune the delay by specifying the access delay in nanoseconds (on sets 3000 ns).

vmem_delay = on fixes the flashing graphics and various speed issues in at least the following titles:

  • Corncob 3-D
  • Corncob Deluxe
  • Crazy Brix (vmem_delay = 2000 and cycles = 70000 makes the game run smoothly)
  • Future Wars (also needs cycles = 1000)
  • Gold of the Aztecs, The
  • Hostages (also needs cycles = 1500)
  • Operation Stealth (when VGA or EGA is selected in the game’s setup)
  • Quest for Glory II (fixes the too-fast vertical scrolling in the intro)

Option for legacy VGA rendering

In 0.81.0, we made accurate per-scanline VGA rendering the only rendering option available (previously, you could only enable this via machine = vgaonly). A minority of games, however, have regressed by this and would crash at startup.

As a workaround, until we improve the accuracy of the VGA emulation, we’re introducing the vga_render_per_scanline setting in the [dosbox] section. The setting is enabled by default, but you can disable it to restore the legacy rendering behaviour on a per-game basis.

Disabling vga_render_per_scanline fixes the crash-at-startup regression in the following Silmarils titles:

  • Deus
  • Ishar 3
  • Robinson’s Requiem
  • Time Warriors

Note that these games are also CPU speed sensitive and would crash with high cycles settings—see the issue ticket for config recommendations.

Option for legacy palette behaviour

The svga_paradise machine type now uses the legacy non-vgaonly palette behaviour. This fixes the wrong colours in some rare titles (e.g., Spell It Plus!).

Tandy graphics fixes

Fixed a regression where the Tandy version of Impossible Mission II would crash when starting a new game. This fix should restore our general compatibility with non-standard Tandy graphics modes as well.

Other fixes

  • Fixed the DOSBox Staging window gaining focus on emulated video mode changes.

  • Fixed crash when exiting DOSBox Staging while in fullscreen mode on macOS and Linux.

  • Fixed wrong colours and garbled graphics in Spong and Exobius.

Full PR list of graphics-related changes
  • Add vga_render_per_scanline option (#3507)
  • Do not resize if Tandy vertical rows register is zero (#3448)
  • Fix crash when quitting while in fullscreen mode (#3545)
  • Fix double-scanning behavior for SVGA/VESA games (#3428)
  • Fix Impossible Mission II transition effect (#3454)
  • Fix the width of VGA text modes being incorrectly set sometimes (#3611)
  • Fix “unorthodox” scanline repeats on VGA (#3441)
  • Improve VGA double scanning criteria (#3446)
  • Log OpenGL vsync state (#3553)
  • Only raise window when it is newly created (#3440)
  • Port video memory I/O delay tweak from DOSBox-X (#3597)
  • Restore double scanning support for VGA text modes (#3568)
  • Revert to legacy non-vgaonly palette behaviour on svga_paradise (#3589)
  • Simplify “EGA mode with VGA palette” detection & make it more robust (#3639)

Implement seeking in MSCDEX

A few games use the seek function of the CD-ROM but this was not previously implemented in our emulated MSCDEX driver. This resulted in CD Audio playing only sometimes in a few games.

The new seek implementation fixes CD Audio music in at least these titles:

  • Time Warriors — CD Audio music is now playing during the main menu and gameplay.
  • Alpha Storm — CD Audio music is now playing in the opening movie.

Fix not being able to disable OPL emulation

Fixed a regression where you could not disable OPL emulation with oplmode = none anymore (sbtype = none still worked, but that disabled the Sound Blaster as well).

Other fixes

  • Fixed crash when output filter cutoff frequencies are not below half the sample rate (e.g., by setting rate = 11025 and sbtype = sbpro1 which selects a 8 kHz low-pass filter by default).

  • Fixed FluidSynth and MT-32 crashing the emulator when the host sample rate is set to 8000 Hz.

Full PR list of sound-related changes
  • Fix not being able to set oplmode = none regression (#3565)
  • Fix various crashes when the host sample rate is set to low values (#3629)
  • Implement seeking in MSCDEX (#3516)
  • Use SB* and OPL logging prefixes consistely in all scenarios (#3587)
  • Fixed a keyboard handling regression in Tyrian where pressing the arrow keys get registered twice, making the menus very hard to use.

  • Fixed a keyboard handling regression in In Extremis where starting the game only resulted in a black screen.

  • Fixed various problems in the mapper when using more than a single game controller (e.g., with two joysticks connected, mapping the controls of the first joystick could randomly target the mappings of the second one and vice versa).

  • Fixed obscure regression where the timed = on joystick setting messed up the available free memory reported by the FreeDOS MEM.EXE command.

Full PR list of input-related changes
  • Deactivate IRQ if byte is read from i8042 chip (#3647)
  • Fix handling multiple game controllers (#3404)
  • Fix the ‘In Extremis’ game intro getting stuck (#3549)
  • Set BIOS_Destroy not changeable at runtime (#3420)

Improved expanded PCjr emulation

Now we’re emulating a memory-expanded PCjr machine more faithfully. This improves game compatibility; for example, Space Quest (v1.0x and v2.2) and King’s Quest (1986 PCjr DOS version) now work fine—these games resulted in the emulator hanging previously.

A new pcjr_memory_config setting has been introduced to the [dosbox] section, defaulting to expanded (the new improved behaviour). Setting this to standard restores the legacy memory model. You should only need this for a handful of titles, such as the DOS conversions of the Jumpman and Troll PC Booter games.

DOS shell improvements

  • Fixed a bug that caused the batch file installer of Alpha Storm to fail.

  • The help text of the IMGMOUNT command now mentions the very handy wildcard mounting option. E.g., you can use the IMGMOUNT A floppy*.img -t floppy command to mount multiple floppy images, then cycle between them with Ctrl+F4 at runtime (Cmd+F4 on macOS).

  • The LOADFIX command’s help text is more complete now (some options were not documented previously).

  • When a batch file was being instantiated, the echo state from the parent was not being transferred correctly if the parent was another batch file.

Full PR list of DOS integration related changes
  • Check the validity of leading path when checking device name (#3525)
  • Improve the IMGMOUNT command’s help text (#3551)
  • Inherit batch file echo state from parent (#3578)
  • Improve the help text of the LOADFIX command (#3221) (#3427)
  • Make PCjr application memory contiguous (#3460)
  • Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese translations have been added.
  • Updates to the Dutch, German, and Polish translations.
Full PR list of localisation-related changes
  • Fix incomplete integration of Brazilian translation (#3438)
  • New Spanish translation (#3317)
  • Portuguese (Brazilian) Translation (#3432)
  • Update br.lng (#3439)
  • Update br.lng (#3458)
  • Update de.lng (#3530)
  • Update de.lng (#3530)
  • Update Dutch (nl) translation (#3459)
  • Update English (en) translation for 0.81.1 (#3600)
  • Update German (de) translation (#3630)
  • Update Italian (it) translation (#3560)
  • Update Italian (it) translation (#3603)
  • Update Polish (pl) translation (#3463)
  • Update Polish (pl) translation (#3532)
  • Update Polish (pl) translation (#3633)
  • Update Portuguese (br) translation (#3469)

Miscellaneous changes

  • Attempting to change unchangeable settings via the CONFIG command at runtime is no longer silently accepted (without doing anything) but an error is raised instead.

  • Unknown command-line switches starting with dashes are now ignored and a warning is logged—DOSBox Staging will not try to execute them anymore. As a side effect, the current working directory was mounted as the C drive, which led to very non-intuitive behaviour.

  • The Windows installer now creates a Start Menu shortcut to launch DOSBox Staging without showing the console window (DOSBox Staging (no console window) menu item).

  • The Windows installer no longer starts DOSBox Staging automatically when the installation is completed.

  • Most config settings are now correctly reverted to their defaults when an invalid value is set, and their values are kept in sync with the active setting.

Full PR list of miscellaneous changes
  • Add “no console” start menu item to the Windows installer (#3510)
  • Better build version handling at runtime (#3556)
  • Config setting defaulting/syncing improvements & fixes (#3626)
  • Do not treat illegal command line switches as commands (#3621)
  • Drop Debian 10 (#3557)
  • Fix IPX config help comment (#3403)
  • Improve ‘keyboardlayout’ option description (#3409)
  • LTO build fix (#3538)
  • Throw error if user attempts to change an unchangeable setting (#3470)

0.81.1 commit authors

Complete list of commit authors who have contributed code, documentation, or translation changes:

  • altiereslima
  • bluddy
  • Burrito78
  • farsil
  • japsmits
  • FeralChild64
  • ftortoriello
  • johnnovak
  • kklobe
  • weirddan455

Thank you

We are grateful for all the community contributions and the original DOSBox project, on which DOSBox Staging is based.