Two versions of Ecstatica exist, the MS-DOS version released in 1994, and a much rarer Windows port released in 1997, neither of which runs out of the box on modern systems. This guide explains step by step how to get either version to run on modern versions of Windows, up to and including Windows 10.
Note: while the Windows version features some improvements, like a higher screen resolution, the MS-DOS version is recommended because the Windows port is known to have introduced several issues not present in the original version.
DOS version Edit
As an MS-DOS application, this version of Ecstatica cannot be run directly on any modern Windows version. Luckily a tool named DOSBox exists, which emulates an entire DOS environment and is able to run virtually any DOS application ever made. Sadly setting up DOSBox for the first time involves a bit of work but each and every step will be covered below. The upside is that if you've done this for Ecstatica, you will know how to do this for almost any other DOS game.
Note that this guide is specifically written for Windows 7 and later, but most of the steps will be very similar with any DOSBox version on any operating system.
Downloading and installing DOSBox Edit
The best place to get the current version of DOSBox (as of March 2015 version 0.74) is its official homepage:
Choose the version for your operating system from the list, run the installer and follow the instructions. It is not important where you install DOSBox.
Note that additional operating systems are available through custom builds around the web, many of which are not officially supported by the DOSBox community, however. Also the steps for setting things up may differ among builds. This guide assumes that you use DOSBox 0.74 and it is highly recommended to use this one if you have no prior experience with DOSBox.
Setting up DOSBox Edit
With DOSBox installed there are still a few basic steps that need to be taken. Several things need to happen after launching DOSBox before you can play Ecstatica or any other games but for increased convenience we will do things in a manner that will not require to repeat these basic steps every time you run DOSBox.
Setting Up the C Drive Edit
The first thing you want to happen in DOSBox whenever it launches is mounting a folder on your system as the C drive in your virtual DOS environment.
- Create a folder that will be your C drive in DOSBox. It can be pretty much anything, in this example it will be C:\DOSGAMES (like in the example in the official DOSBox Wiki). So, create that folder as you would normally do it on your operating system. Note that it is technically not necessary to create such a dedicated folder for DOSBox but it is highly recommended since it will make things more convenient later on and also eliminate any risk of messing things up on your system.
- Open your DOSBox configuration file. The most convenient way to access it is to open the start menu and go to DOSBox-0.74\Options and run DOSBox 0.74 Options. Alternatively you can browse to the directory where you installed DOSBox (C:\Program Files (x86)\DOSBox-0.74 by default) and run DOSBox 0.74 Options.
- Scroll down to the end of the file where you will find the section labeled [autoexec]. This section determines what commands DOSBox will automatically execute each time you launch it. Below append the following three lines:
mount c C:\DOSGAMES
The first line mounts the folder you previously created so it will serve as the C drive in DOSBox, the second line automatically browses to it, the third line just clears the screen so you don't see lots of irrelevant information each time you launch DOSBox.
- Save the file.
The most fundamental part of setting up DOSBox is done and since we used the configuration file's autoexec portion we will not have to repeat any of these steps unless we reinstall DOSBox or reset the settings.
Mounting an optical drive Edit
Unless you happen to own a pre-installed and cracked version of Ecstatica, which you can simply put into your virtual C drive, you will have to install the game from the original CD (or an image file) but for this you need DOSBox to recognize the necessary optical drive first. You can easily mount an optical drive much like you did with the C drive earlier. This method also works with emulated optical drives created via tools like DAEMON Tools and is practical in that it allows to conveniently switch discs externally the way you normally do.
To mount an optical drive just add this line to the autoexec section in the DOSBox configuration file, preferably just above "cls" line we added earlier:
mount d d:\ -t cdrom
Note that in this example our optical drive has the letter D on our Windows installation. If your optical drive's letter differs, change the line accordingly (if your optical drive's letter is E you would change it to mount d e:\ -t cdrom).
Mounting an ISO File Edit
Alternatively, if you have an ISO image file of the Ecstatica CD, you can directly mount that ISO file in DOSBox. You can do so by adding the following line (like mentioned before, preferably just above the "cls" line):
imgmount d c:\images\ecstatica.iso -t iso
Note that this example assumes that your ISO file is located in C:\Images on your disk drive and is called ecstatica.iso. Change the line accordingly, depending on your ISO's location and name.
Keep in mind that this method mounts a specific image file located on your disk drive and, if used in the autoexec section in DOSBox' configuration file, will do so whenever you launch DOSBox. If you plan on mounting other ISOs you will have to change the configuration file accordingly or re-enter the command with the corresponding changes within DOSBox.
Installing Ecstatica Edit
With everything set up so far (and presuming that you saved all your changes to DOSBox' configuration file) you're ready to install Ecstatica. It's time to launch DOSBox, either through its desktop shortcut, entry in the start menu or by running DOSBox.exe located in the DOSBox installation folder. Inside DOSBox' main window do the following:
- Enter d: to browse to your virtual CD-ROM drive in DOSBox.
- Enter install to launch Ecstatica's installation.
- Pick your preferred language.
- Pick a soundcard, the best default choice being General MIDI & Sound Blaster.
- Pick a directory. The default C:\ECSTATIC will do (keep in mind that this is the directory inside your emulated C drive, not on your actual hard disk drive).
- Choose "Full" (unless, for some reason, you can't afford the mindblowingly huge 60 MB of data) and wait for the installation to complete.
- Once the installer is done doing its thing click on "OK". The game will automatically launch after this.
Launching Ecstatica Edit
Of course you don't have to run the installer each time you wish to play Ecstatica. The proper method to launch Ecstatica after it has been installed is as follows:
- Launch DOSBox.
- Enter cd ecstatic.
- Enter ecstatic.
The game actually has two executables, ECST4MEG.EXE and ECST8MEG.EXE, the latter making full use of 8 megabytes of RAM. Typing ecstatic will automatically run the optimal one, with DOSBox' default configuration the 8 MB version.
Keep in mind that the original version of Ecstatica has copy protection and checks for the CD's presence. If you're using the original CD or use a tool like DAEMON Tools to mount an ISO, make sure that the CD is inserted or the ISO mounted when you launch DOSBox. If you're using DOSBox' internal image mount procedure the way it was described above, the ISO will be automatically mounted whenever you launch DOSBox. If Ecstatica keeps complaining about a missing CD please refer to the chapters above.
Also keep in mind that you can make DOSBox automatically run Ecstatica at launch by appending the lines described above to the autoexec section in DOSBox' configuration file.
Note that at this point the performance may still be off, the image too small or stretched etc.. Refer to the next chapter to take care of the remaining issues.
Here are some additional things you may want to do optimize your Ecstatica experience.
Increasing performance Edit
By default DOSBox is set to run at 3,000 cycles at launch which is far too low for an enjoyable Ecstatica experience and will result in a low framerate and long loading times. While DOSBox is running you can adjust the emulation speed by pressing CTRL+F11 and CTRL+F12 (the latter obviously increasing the amount of cycles per second). 100,000 cycles seem to be a pretty much optimal setting for Ecstatica which will allow for seamless transitions between different camera angles but feel free to experiment.
If you wish make DOSBox start at a specific cycle setting, so you won't have to adjust it each time manually, do the following:
- Open DOSBox' configuration file with either method described above.
- Search for the line that starts with cycles= in the [cpu] section.
- Change the line accordingly, for example to cycles=100000.
- Save the file.
Now DOSBox will always start with optimal performance settings for playing Ecstatica.
Playing in fullscreen Edit
You probably want to have DOSBox run in a full screen, especially considering Ecstatica's low resolution. On Windows you can switch between fullscreen and window modes by pressing ALT+ENTER (may only work with the left Alt) while DOSBox is running. You can also make DOSBox automatically launch in fullscreen mode by doing the following:
- Open DOSBox' configuration file.
- Search for the line that says fullscreen=false, already found at the start of the file in the [sdl] section.
- Change it to fullscreen=true.
- Save the file.
Now DOSBox will always launch in fullscreen mode.
Maintaining correct aspect ratio Edit
With the method described above you get DOSBox to run in a full screen but odds are that the actual game is still not going to fill the entire screen or that the image is going to be stretched. To address this do the following:
- Open DOSBox' configuration file.
- Search for the line that starts with fullresolution=, located in the [sdl] section.
- Change it to fullresolution=desktop.
- Search for the line that starts with output=.
- Change it to output=opengl if you prefer a softened image or to output=openglnb if you prefer an unfiltered crisp image.
- Save the file.
Setting the resolution to your desktop resolution guarantees that DOSBox draws upon the entire screen and thus is fully responsible for the aspect ratio, so it does not matter how your screen or graphics card drivers are configured. The OpenGL renderer always automatically draws games at the correct aspect ratio so now you should have the game running in its original aspect ratio.
Windows version Edit
The Windows version can by default not be run or installed on modern versions of Windows but luckily it takes only several steps to make the game work.
"Installing" the game Edit
The game's original Windows installer won't work on 64-bit systems but luckily it is entirely unnecessary. The only thing you need from the CD are the contents of the folder named "W". Copy these to any folder you like.
Patching the game Edit
A Russian user going by the nickname mihart has created a patch for the game that will make it work even on Windows 10, keep it from asking for the original CD-ROM and restore the MIDI music which would refuse to play even on Windows versions that still supported the game. You can download it from the following link (click on "http link" at the bottom of the page to start the download):
Simply extract the contents of the archive to the folder where you put the game files in the previous step, overwriting the original ecstatic.exe.
Note: We scanned this file with Avast and to the best of our knowledge it is perfectly harmless but we do not take any responsibility for any harm done to your computer.
Adding a DirectDraw wrapper Edit
After applying the patch, the game still suffers from some performance issues. Luckily a DirectDraw wrapper will take care of this problem. A very good and lightweight one can be found here:
Simply download the archive (link is at the very top of the page) and unpack it into the folder where you put Ecstatica. The only required files are ddraw.dll and aqrit.cfg.
Next open aqrit.cfg with an unformatted text editor like Notepad or Notepad++ and look for the line that starts with "ForceDirectDrawEmulation" and replace the 0 at its end with a 1. Just to be safe you should also do this with "NoVideoMemory".
Save your changes and you're good to go. Now Ecstatica should run perfectly fine even on Windows 10.