Category Archives: Windows 95

The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield

A look at Springfield in 1997

Simpsons Virtual Springfield

Released for both Mac and PC in 1997, Virtual Springfield puts you directly into Springfield where you can freely explore the Simpsons town, Springfield. Whilst promoted as being a 3D game, it’s actually 2D with a 3D-based perspective, using an engine built by Vortex Media Arts. This isn’t the first Simpsons game released, with previous titles being released on the NES and the Sega MegaDrive, and it wouldn’t be the last either.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Launcher where you can start the game

This game was an interesting look at Springfield since in the show, whilst there was never any continuity of the town itself, buildings would come and go and the layout of the town never remained consistent, not helping was the change of animation studio from the first few seasons. Still, a lot of references to the early seasons of the show are present.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Marge cooking the cat

The main object of the game is to collect all 74 of collector cards, which are hidden across 17 different locations. Some locations are locked and can be unlocked by collecting specific items. The game’s HUD is designed around the player wearing a VR headset and using it to navigate Springfield.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield

The game runs slowly on PCem when running it directly from the CD-ROM (being played from an external Blu-ray drive) so it’s usually based to create an iso image of the game, then mounting it into PCem. (Update: It seems that I had set the CD-ROM speed in PCem to 4x, which wasn’t fast enough for the game, since increasing it to 16x the stuttering issues have reduced, but you still get the odd delay, defiantly dump to BIN/CUE when running in PCem)

Simpsons Virtual Springfield

The game is navigated using a point-and-click approach, moving your mouse cursor to a specific area lets you either select or interact with an object or if it turns to an arrow, lets you move in that direction. If the game is left idle, random animations are played out.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Milhouse had a growth spurt

Some buildings (Like the Simpsons house) can be entered some have multiple rooms that can be navigated through. Some rooms/buildings are blocked and require an item to be in the inventory before it can be accessed, these can be obtained by picking up the item by clicking on it.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Who shot Mr. Burns – Part 3
Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Aye Caramba
Simpsons Virtual Springfield
RIP Krusty
Simpsons Virtual Springfield

It’s not really a game in the traditional sense, there’s no fail state or any challenge, except for collecting cards. It’s more of an application like the previous Simpsons Cartoon Studio. Nowadays you could probably build the same game within a modern browser, like Bing maps but for the Simpsons universe, and maybe leverage a VR headset for full immersion.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Sappy and Pelma

Being a long-time fan of the show (For seasons 1-9) and an obvious target for this product, my only gripe is that there weren’t more things to interact with per location. Sure the game will have a limited scope, imposed by the technology of the time.

There are the occasional mini-games featured in the Noiseland Arcade, but certainly more activities like this could have been sprinkled into the game.

Simpsons Virtual Springfield
Thought this was a banjo at first

Quite a few locations are missing like the Springfield dog track where they adopted Santa’s little helper, Krusty Burger (appears in-game but cannot be entered), Department of Motor Vehicles, Police Station (again cannot be entered)

Macintosh

Virtual Springfield uses a hybrid disc that allows the PC copy of the game to run on a Macintosh system. To get the game up and running, you simply insert the CD into the Mac and click on the Virtual Springfield icon on the desktop, the game will launch, providing you set the colour depth to 256 colours. No installation is required.

The game will run on a G4 PowerPC-based Mac, running on OS 9.2.2, but you must change the display colour depth to 256 colours, otherwise, the game will crash the system upon startup. Virtual Springfield will not change the display automatically. It also works by changing the resolution to 640×480 since the game will not scale for a higher resolution, resulting in the game being displayed in the center of the screen with black borders around, if run at a higher resolution. What annoys me is the game does not give an error message informing you of this, just crashes the Mac instead.

The classic environment on Mac OS X does not seem capable of playing the game, this was tested on both OS X Jaguar and Panther classic modes.

External Links

FOX Interactive

Virtual Springfield Technical Info

WipEout

A futuristic racing game released in 1995 for various platforms.

In Wipeout your mostly battling against the track itself, rather than the rival ships, and at fast speeds the game can become a challenge, requiring quick reflexes. Thankfully it comes with a banging soundtrack, something which is a staple of the Wipeout series of games.

2 Player mode exists for the console versions, but its one of those games that needs a serial cable, two PlayStation or two Saturn’s, TV’s and copies of each game.

PlayStation

Probably the best version, since it has all the graphical effects, and the sound effects when you enter a tunnel. Can also be played on the PlayStation 3 and PSP as part of the PS Classics. Only issue with this port is the low resolution and the pop-in textures on the track, poor draw distance. As a bonus the game supports the use of a NeGcon controller, allowing for an analogue control, useful for turning and for the airbreaks.

On modern emulators you can sort of re-create the PC effects such as higher resolution and texture filtering, but you are still stuck at 30fps. Overclocking the CPU results in the game running too fast.

Duckstation: Enhanced

The game clears up rather well compared to how it originally looked

Sega Saturn

Wipeout was released for the promising Sega Saturn, and serves as an example of the PSY-Q dev kit for the Saturn, which Psygnosis were trying to promote at the time as an alternative to Sega’s devkit (a version of PSY-Q was released for the PlayStation). The soundtrack has been altered with some songs being removed

Screenshots: SSF emulator

Windows

WipEout was ported to the PC a year later than the PlayStation release, and was designed exclusively for ATI video cards and was typically bundled with Windows PC that had those cards. It’s one of the games that supports ATI’s CIF API rather than Direct3D. This limits it to ATI Rage series 3D chipsets, the one in my Dell OptiPlex being one of them, but in order to play CIF games you need to use an older 1999 driver from ATI (The Windows 98 bundled driver has no CIF support), also CIF is only supported under Windows 98, there is no support for Windows NT 4.0. ATI later removed CIF support from its drivers from late 1999 onwards, so you may have to downgrade the driver order to play. A CIF wrapper exists for Windows 7 onwards, although I’ve not tested it.

Screenshots below are captured from a Dell OptiPlex GX1 with an Intel Pentium 2 350mhz and an ATI RAGE 2 with 4Mb of VRAM

The main difference is the ability to play the game in a higher resolution and with the ability to play at a higher framerate, it’s not exactly 60fps on a Rage2 but its a lot more smoother than the PlayStation version. However the sound is not has good as the console versions, with the PC missing the echo sound effects that play when you enter a tunnel. It’s also one of those games that’s stores the music as Redbook CD audio, and the game plays the audio back like a regular CD player would. This gives the option to change the CD (as the game runs from the hard disk) to play your own music.

MS-DOS

Very similar to the accelerated Windows version, but has a lot of enhancements removed, there’s no texture filtering, the framerate is lower and the resolution is reduced, likely because everything is being done on the CPU. You are limited to a low 320 resolution, 16 bit colour.

Personally I would stick with the PlayStation version, or the Saturn if you prefer more detailed textures. The PC versions sacrifice too much for what benefit they give, although you get the opportunity to run in a higher resolution, the missing sound effects are a huge setback and ruin the immersion of the game. besides with modern emulators you can run the game with additional filtering and upscaling, the FPS is still stuck at 30fps.

Hackers

A concept imaging of Wipeout appeared in the movie Hackers, which features slightly different gameplay with obstacles on the track, a crew that speaks to you instead of techno music playing. It was believed to be rendered on a SGI workstation and features perspective correct texture mapping

External Links

WipEout – Archive Website

WipEout – DOS Support

Microsoft Plus! 95

Sort of like an expansion pack to Windows 95, this adds additional features that enhance the Windows 95 experiences such as desktop themes, maintenance utilities and some bundled software like Internet Explorer which would be its debut.

Install

Looks like your typical Microsoft installer of the era

Post Install

The boot screen has changed!

Desktop Themes

A selection of themes from the Plus pack. Users of Windows 98 will find these themes look familiar as these themes later appeared in Windows 98 (Along with the Space and Underwater themes). These themes change everything, from the desktop icons to the toolbar layout and fonts (that carry over to the programs that you use), to the sounds and mouse cursor. Science and Inside Your Computer where my personal favourite, used to rock those a lot back in the day.

Utilities

DriveSpace: Compresses the entire dis to allow for more efficient use of hard disk space at the expensive of performance, only works on FAT16 volumes

Internet Starter Kit: Designed to help get users online

Task Scheduler / System Agent: Allows you to schedule certain tasks, such as programs being run at a specific time. Useful for maintenance tasks like Scandisk or the Disk Drefragmenter but also for anti virus programs. Also useful if you wish to run a program at a reoccurring time.

Visual Enhancements

These were designed for high performance systems of the time that supported graphics acceleration

High Colour Icons: By default Windows 95 only supports up to 256 colour icons, with the Plus! pack you can have icons with up to 65536 colours.

Window Dragging: The contents of the windows can be seen when the user drags the application window around the desktop. Previously only an outline of the window could be seen

Anti-Aliasing: Softens the edges of screen fonts and UI elements, similar to ClearType in Windows XP, using the hardware acceleration of the graphics card

Wallpaper Stretching/Scaling: Desktop wallpapers can be stretched to fill the screen if the image resolution does not match the display resolution, using the hardware acceleration of the graphics card

Product Catalogue

The multimedia catalogue, this isn’t installed onto the user system, instead its run straight off the CD-ROM. A showcase for other Microsoft consumer software and products.

Microsoft BOB, which was released from around that period.

Microsoft arguably made the most ergonomic mouses, and loved to show them off

Pinball

The Pinball game was originally developed by Maxis (Yes, the SimCity and The Sims Maxis) makes it debut here although the actual retail game had a lot more levels/machines, in plus pack only one level is featured.