Project of the Month, May 2009

DOSBox


Project Leaders:

Sjoerd van der Berg

Occupation: Software developer

Education: University

Location: Netherlands

Peter Veenstra

Education: University

Location: Netherlands

Key Developer:

Sebastian Strohhäcker

Education: University

Location: Germany

Why did you place the project on SourceForge.net?

It just seemed to be the most logical choice. There weren’t that many free hosting services at that time that delivered the features SourceForge offers and we haven’t seen any need to change afterward.

How has SourceForge.net helped your project succeed?

By letting us focus on coding and not have to bother with setting up the various support resources.

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:

The fast mirrors and the source versioning system.

Project name: DOSBox

Date founded/started: 2002

Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dosbox

Description of project:

DOSBox is an emulated x86 machine with integrated DOS for running old DOS games and applications.The emulated machine allows you to control the speed of old games and emulate old hardware like sound cards and video cards regardless of the host operating system. The integrated DOS also allows you to directly start games without first having to setup DOS in a virtual machine.

Why and how did you get started?

It was started around the release of Window 2000. This release was a serious break with the past of Microsoft and caused a lot of DOS games to become unplayable. There were some other ways of running DOS games under Windows 2000, but they didn’t offer the ability the run the games in a window, or improve the graphics with a scaler. Both were important points for us to create DOSBox as it is now.

Who is the software’s intended audience?

People who want to play DOS games and preferably already have a familiarity with DOS.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

It’s mostly focused on running old games, no real notable examples for that.

What are the system requirements for your software, and what do people need to know about getting it set up and running?

A 1 GHz processor and a good knowledge of DOS commands. Checking out the READMEs would also be a good idea.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

I was surprised how many people responded to my call for the creation of a beta testers group. This was an indication that there were a lot of people out there who seriously cared about the project.

What has been your biggest surprise?

The fact that companies like Id Software, Sierra, 2K Games and GOG.com are using our software to re-release their old games.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Maintaining compatibility has been and still is the biggest challenge. Every change can influence other parts. Sometimes the games themselves are broken and worked only by luck on some PCs. There is probably not a PC out there that could run all DOS games.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

Because it simply does what it is supposed to do and nothing else (the installer is only 1 MB). We run about 90% of all games submitted to our compatibility list.

What advice would you give to a project that’s just starting out?

Have fun creating it. You will probably be the one who is using it the most (at least initially).

Where do you see your project going?

To be the standard tool to run DOS games without a hassle.

What’s on your project wish list?

Savestates and a good GUI to provide easier access for people without a strong knowledge of DOS commands.

What are you most proud of?

Writing all the initial parts without having any idea if it would work, then finally seeing the first game work on the screen was very nice.

If you could change something about the project, what would it be?

Its name. We chose it because we couldn’t come up with something better.

How do you coordinate the project?

We have a group of beta testers which report problem games to us on a private forum. By doing it with a select group of people, we can eliminate the possibilities that a user configured either DOSBox or the game incorrectly. This saves a lot of unnecessary work. The games are then analyzed by both beta testers and developers. Either can post a patch and then the results are discussed. In the end, the developers decide whether and how to fix the particular problem.

How many hours a month do you and/or your team devote to the project?

Around 200 hours a month for the entire team of official developers.

What is your development environment like?

I am on 64 bit Linux machine using the default development tools, and Jed or Vim for editing depending on my mood. The other two programmers are on Windows XP and use Visual Studio. DOSBox comes with a built-in debugger so most debugging is done in there. For testing games on real systems, we have a range of old DOS machines with different hardware

Milestones:

Date Version Description
7/22/2002 0.50 First open source release
3/30/2006 0.65 Very stable release that’s still popular today.
8/27/2007 0.72 Latest release.
7/21/2008 Major milestone DOSBox downloaded 10,000,000 times!
05/2009 0.73 Upcoming release with lots of new stuff.

How can others contribute?

People can contribute by being active on our forum. Almost all development is focused there and you don’t need to be a coder to contribute. Helping out others with configuring their games under DOSBox is one of the biggest tasks.


Check out our previous projects of the month.