RollerCoaster Tycoon

by hobbitalastair

Overview:

Very... sandy.

RCT in action!

RollerCoaster Tycoon is one of the first games I ever played. We had recently purchased the Toshiba, our first computer, and had picked up a few applications – Microsoft Word, Encarta Encyclopedia, …
We did (eventually) finish it. It took at least 6 years, with a maximum of 20 minutes per night, and some new games occasionally distracting us. Still, it was and is one of the best games I have played. Not that I have played many…

Getting it working:

We still own the original disk and boxing, which is in surprisingly good nick. When we purchased our second computer, the iMac, we also purchased Parallels to play both of our Windows 98 games. As it turns out, Parallels was a real fiddle to set up – because we only owned Windows 98 as an upgrade to OEM Windows 95, it required somehow getting our copy of the original ’95 floppy and sticking it on our trusty Iomega 80GB ‘backup’ drive, and finally getting Parallels to use it. Add on top of that the complexities of Parallels as a whole – the requirement for additional drivers, for a start – and a real mess begins to emerge. Eventually, we managed to make it work.
Fast forward 7 years, and I also want to run those old programs on my Linux systems. Suddenly, a new method is required.

Firstly, I tried a Windows 98 VM, using VirtualBox. The first difficulty is that only basic VESA worked, as there are no dedicated drivers for Windows 98 guests. The only work around appeared to be to use some drivers that the internet at large had – that were released as freeware after the original company collapsed. That’s the current situation, at least on the Mac. They are less than ideal, as they lead to screen flicker, and the mouse vanishes when it is moved…

I almost wish I had stuck with Parallels!

Regardless, either solution would not work on my PC, as it is missing virtualising support. Hence, I turned to Wine, a piece of free and open source software that acts as an interface between Windows applications and the underlying OS, in this case Linux. In theory, it should also work on Mac OSX.

Wine’s app database describes the current state of affairs for each program, and is community driven. According to it, RollerCoaster Tycoon should work just fine, provided that it has been patched to a newer version. Guess what I had…
Atari no longer hosts the patches (except the US patch), so I had to go looking. Eventually, I found a source: some kind soul had zipped both files up and saved them, assuming that at some point it would become impossible to find. Good work! Although they are presumably under copyright…

After updating, I am now running 1.08.187. I’ve checked the zip file’s US patch against Atari’s, and they are identical, so I’m assuming that the UK version is safe. I’ll consider creating a PKGBUILD in due course, although I’m not sure how.

Atari also has some additional scenarios, as mentioned by Wikipedia’s article.

For those unlucky enough not to own RCT, or who would like the Deluxe version which includes both expansions, GOG sells the deluxe version for the princely sum of A$7.39.

Now, I can run RollerCoaster Tycoon as a ‘normal’ application on Linux – without all of the video driver issues for the VirtualBox and Qemu solutions, and on a 64 bit machine that is not capable of using KVM!

All I need to do now is start whacking away at all of the scenarios…

FreeRCT:

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention this commendable effort to produce a RCT clone. Personally, I’d prefer it if they had decided to modernise it while they were there – like 0ad – so the game had a flavour of it’s own.
As it is now, from the dev blog, it does appear to be making slow but steady headway, with a mostly working rollercoaster video online.

Something to watch, anyway…

Pros:

As you might be able to tell, I really like this game…

  • Retro feel 🙂
  • Graphics! Adds to the retro feel 🙂
  • Fun!
  • Low performance required 🙂 Originally, this game was written in a mixture of C and MASM (assembly language), enabling it to run on machines such as my Toshiba quite happily. Performance is still pretty stellar, although I haven’t tried it on anything other than my PC, and not in one of the intensive parks either. I’d imagine any computer less than ten years old would manage quite happily. Although it does use about 118% of my PC’s CPU – duel core, remember? You could get away with less at a lower resolution.
  • It has a good tutorial… something perhaps missing in many open source games.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon isn’t exactly a difficult game – it has a low entry barrier – but is complex enough to allow all sorts of strategies. Perhaps the best sort of game 🙂
  • Because it uses Wine, it can be saved away into .local/share/wine if you so desire. Or anywhere else 🙂

Cons:

  • Graphics. Some might dislike the dated feel.
  • Requires Wine. Despite being the best option, that still means it pulls in a whole stack of dependencies, mostly 32 bit libraries. Of course, most commercial games do too!
  • Launching is a bit awkward at the moment, and saved games are not saved to somewhere ‘smart’ – in my documents folder. This could be fixed, I believe, by a wrapper script, and perhaps a registry edit for the saved games issue?
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