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Why do some Win95/98 games work on Windows 8.1, while others don’t?

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I dug up my collection of 90’s adventure games, and thought I might see if they would install and play on my Windows 8.1 box. I went in expecting nothing, and to my surprise, I managed to get several working. Yay for me! But it made me wonder; Why did some games install when others didn’t? Does anyone with a bit more knowledge than me have any idea?

For the curious, here are the games I tried.

Games that worked:

Schizm: Mysterious Journey

Atlantis: The Lost Tales

Beyond Atlantis

Beyond Atlantis II

Riddle of the Sphinx

Rhem

Limbo of the Lost (for review purposes, I assure you)

Carmen Sandiego: Treasures of Knowledge (the nostalgia!)

Divided


Games that installed but wouldn’t play:

The Crystal Key


Games that wouldn’t install at all:

Forever Worlds: Enter The Unknown (BSOD’ed my computer actually. What a great game!)

Dark Side of the Moon

Myst

Morpheus

Beyond Time

The New Adventures of the Time Machine


I had some other titles, but they were all even older (DOS games), or sequels to games I hadn’t yet played, so it felt pointless to try them.

Edit: I realized immediately after posting this that a few of these games are early 2000’s and do mention XP alongside Win95/98 in the system requirements. But the point still stands. Besides, one of those newer games (Forever Worlds) didn’t work when much older ones did.

     

Walking the fine line between being an original hardware nerd, and being broke from buying original hardware.

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The basic answer is that those games were written for hardware and software libraries that no longer exist and while some of that can be emulated it’s not a high priority for windows to ensure that items that ran on earlier versions of it’s software still do.

When you add in the mutitude of drivers etc for the variety of hardware that had to be compatible then getting these old games to run get much harder.

     

An adventure game is nothing more than a good story set with engaging puzzles that fit seamlessly in with the story and the characters, and looks and sounds beautiful.
Roberta Williams

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I understand that much, how Windows 95/98 and XP/everything after are built on different kernels, how ancient libraries disappear from later versions, how drivers go out of date, etc. All of those explain why many games don’t work. But what about the games that do? What made some of these games I installed work where others didn’t? Could the circumstances for each game could be esoteric enough that a broad answer is impossible?

Or, considering that I ran these games without emulation or compatibility mode, is at as simple as Windows just having the right old libraries to support the game?

One last question. Some of these are made with Quicktime, others with DirectX, others with Macromedia Flash. Does the third-party software used to make/play the game affect its chances of working? If so, how much?

     

Walking the fine line between being an original hardware nerd, and being broke from buying original hardware.

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BlakouttheMM - 22 May 2015 05:51 PM

I understand that much, how Windows 95/98 and XP/everything after are built on different kernels, how ancient libraries disappear from later versions, how drivers go out of date, etc. All of those explain why many games don’t work. But what about the games that do? What made some of these games I installed work where others didn’t? Could the circumstances for each game could be esoteric enough that a broad answer is impossible?

Or, considering that I ran these games without emulation or compatibility mode, is at as simple as Windows just having the right old libraries to support the game?

One last question. Some of these are made with Quicktime, others with DirectX, others with Macromedia Flash. Does the third-party software used to make/play the game affect its chances of working? If so, how much?

Do you have a 64 bit version of windows?

Edit: This is from the internet and it covers a few reasons why software does not run on modern versions of Windows. There are other reasons depending on the software/game, but you can get the gist from this list.

-Programs Refuse to Run: Some programs may refuse to install if they notice they’re being run on a version of Windows they don’t know about.

- 16-bit Programs: 32-bit versions of Windows contain a 16-bit emulation environment that allows old Windows 3.1 software to run. This was removed from 64-bit versions of Windows, so those old Windows 3.1 programs won’t run at all.

- DOS Software: Since Windows XP, consumer versions of Windows are no longer built on top of DOS. Complicated DOS software and games that depended on real mode DOS won’t be able to run natively on modern versions of Windows. The Command Prompt window is an incomplete compatibility feature, not a full DOS system.

- Old Library Dependencies: Some programs may have depended on ancient libraries that are no longer included in Windows or may have depended on other old programs that also don’t work properly on new versions of Windows.

- Security Issues: Old programs aren’t used to modern Windows security features and may not play nice with limited user accounts and UAC. Windows tries to trick old programs into running under limited user accounts, but this doesn’t always fix every problem.

     
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SoccerDude28 - 22 May 2015 06:53 PM

Do you have a 64 bit version of windows?

Yes, I do.

But my question isn’t why games don’t work. There’s a lot of articles on that. What I want to know is, why do they work? I had several games that ran perfectly fine. No problems. What was different for them that they worked okay?

     

Walking the fine line between being an original hardware nerd, and being broke from buying original hardware.

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Certainly if the games were mostly programmed with Direct X libraries then they would be more likely to run than if they use unique third party software.

     

An adventure game is nothing more than a good story set with engaging puzzles that fit seamlessly in with the story and the characters, and looks and sounds beautiful.
Roberta Williams

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BlakouttheMM - 22 May 2015 07:25 PM

But my question isn’t why games don’t work. There’s a lot of articles on that. What I want to know is, why do they work? I had several games that ran perfectly fine. No problems. What was different for them that they worked okay?

The short answer to that question is that some programs or games are better made than others. The better made the program was, the more likely it is to also run on modern versions of windows.

What you have to remember is that those old windows versions basically had no security at all, and a simple programming mistake could not only cause the program to crash but take down the whole OS with it. More modern OS has a lot of protection against those things, like running programs in separate memory spaces, or only allowing certain system calls with certain special rights.

A lot of those things was even back then considered bad practice, but was still used because it was dirty but fast, or simply because the programmer didn’t knew better. In some cases in is even outright bugs that just didn’t manifest themselves because the OS was more lenient.

It is not the full answer, and there is also other elements like third party dependencies, but it is a large part of the answer.

     

You have to play the game, to find out why you are playing the game! - eXistenZ

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Thanks Iznogood and Lucien, that helped out quite a bit. I think understand a bit better now.

     

Walking the fine line between being an original hardware nerd, and being broke from buying original hardware.

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