Retro Gaming: The Ultimate Doom: Thy Flesh Consumed

In this article I am going to look at ways to play the daddy (probably a grandfather by now) of all FPS using a modern system. The Windows 95 version will still work on XP (as long as you don’t want to use a USB mouse, the DOS version has not worked since Windows Me) but if you have Vista or Windows 7 you can pretty much forget it, I can’t even get the launcher to work on 64bit Vista Home Premium. There are a huge number of ways to get it working, but I am going to limit myself to my favourite 3, PrBoom, jDoom and DOSBox. All three of them are good, they all have their benefits and disadvantages, but which is best? There’s only one way to find out!


For all these examples I am going to be using The Ultimate Doom: Thy Flesh Consumed, purely for the reason that I have the original disk, Doom, Doom II or either part of Final Doom will work just as well using any of these methods.


You see! I’m no pirate! I have an original disk! As Doom is not considered abandonware [1] you will not find it on a legal download site for free. All the methods described below require the original .wad files that contain the game data, but you can download the shareware version for free and use that.

DOSbox is the hardest to configure, but it is as close to the original game you are going to get. It is an emulator of DOS, so you need to know your way around it at least a little to get up and running.
It is worth noting that the WAD file alone will not be enough to play Doom in dosbox, you need the game executable as well, if you only have the .wad can try following the steps below using the shareware version and then copy your .wad over the top, but I have not tested this.
The first thing you need to do after installing DOSBox is to create a folder that DOSBox will mount and treat as your C: drive within the emulator, I called mine DOSGAMES. The Next thing to do is to set up a configuration file that will set up DOSBox when it is run, the default configuration file will work with Doom, but there will be a lot of typing to do each time you want to play. The picture below shows my DOSBox folder with my C: mount and custom configuration files in place.


Your best bet when setting up you configuration file is to read the documentation, I am however going to post some parts of mine that should save you a bit of tweaking. It is a plain text file with the extension .conf, so all your editing can be done with notepad. Simply make a copy of the default one, rename it and edit as you see fit.


This first section sets up screen resolutions and the output method, your required settings will vary based on the resolution of your monitor and weather you want to run in a window or not, for Doom, using OpenGL as the output gives the best results for me, though some other games don’t like it and it is likely that you will end up with lots of config files if you have lots of different games, but I digress, this is supposed to be about Doom, so I shall continue. The autolock setting simply captures the mouse movement after you click, otherwise you have to hit a key.


Like most emulators DOSBox has various different scalers available to stretch a the low resolution game across your shiny modern monitor. Some don’t work with some of the output methods, so a bit of experimentation is worth while once you have doom up and running (not during the game though). To begin with it is best to pick one of the “normal” settings or “none” and change it when everything else is working.


This is about the CPU emulation, the default settings are fine for Doom so I have kept them, other games may run at the wrong speed if you leave it at max and auto.


Gravis Ultrasound emulation, for legal reasons the DOSBox team couldn’t include everything to get Ultrasound working, and I am not going to go into detail here as it is optional, you could just use the sound blaster emulation which is built in. If you do want to use it there is a nice how to here that should help. One thing to note is that the ultrasound directory you type in is the directory as DOXBox sees it, not Windows, the C: is you mounted folder not your Windows drive.

mount D F:\ -t cdrom -usecd 0 -noioctl
mount C E:\DOSBox-0.72\DOSGAMES

The last part of the configuration file is the autoexec, these are lines that will be typed in and executed for you when DOSBox starts. The first line mounts my DVD drive F: to DOSBox’s drive as a CDRom, the second mounts my previously created folder as DOS Boxes C: drive, finally a switch to the C: prompt and clear the screen.

The next thing to do is to create a shortcut to DOSBox and add the command line switch “-conf dosgames.conf” where dosgames.conf is the name of my config file.

So now we can launch DOSBox from our configured shortcut and begin to install doom. This is where a little knowledge of DOS goes a long way.

I begin by typing D: to select my CD drive, I then change directory to doom (cd doom) and list the files there by typing dir. I then run the install program by typing install. The exact location of this will vary depending on the version of doom you are trying to run.


The install program will now run and ask you where you want to install doom, select C: and then type in a folder on the next screen, if the folder doesn’t exist it will prompt you and then create it.


When the install has finished it will launch the Doom configuration utility. Here you can select the sound card (Gravis Ultrasound if you have installed that) and configure your keys, if you want to use a mouse in Doom (who wouldn’t?) you select it here as well.

When you have finished select “Save parameters and launch Doom”. This is where the fun begins.


When you are too tired to carry on simply exit from doom back to the DOS prompt and type exit to close DOSBox. To play again you start DOSBox from your shorcut, change to the Doom directory and type Doom, you can edit your config file further to do this automatically using the autoexec section. If you need to get back to the doom configuration program, type setup in the doom directory. You might have noticed that I have a second .conf file in my DOSBox folder called Doom.conf, this is the one I use to play doom via a shortcut so I don’t have to type in the commands to load doom each time.


Unlike DOSBox PrBoom is a port of the original code that runs nativly in Windows rather than emulating the original executable. From Wikipedia.org

PrBoom is a Doom source port derived from Linux and Windows ports of Boom and MBF that includes an optional OpenGL renderer as well as options allowing it to restore the behaviour of earlier executables (such as Doom 1.9, Boom, and MBF) in essential ways. Initially designed for use in Windows and Linux, it has also been ported to Sega Dreamcast, GP2X, Nintendo DS, Wii, and Rockbox.

More on ports to other platforms later, I am going to talk about getting this one going on Windows. It is far easier to use than DOSBox, on Windows all you have to do is download the .zip file from the homepage and extract it to a folder of your choice. Of course it doesn’t come with the game data files so you still have to dump your own .wad file in the folder with it.

The main difference between this version of Doom and the original is the fact that you can run it at much higher resolutions. On DOS Doom was limited to 320×200, the Windows 95 version upped this to 640×480. I have had PrBoom running a 1280×1024, though this tends to look a little stretched vertically due to the aspect ration, so the resolution I settled on is 1280×900, which makes the game run at 1280×960 (Please don’t ask why), with 30 pixel black bars top and bottom.

The quote from Wikipedia mentions an optional OpenGL version. I don’t use this because it just doesn’t look right. I can’t fix the aspect ratio problem, and the sprites seem to float around never quite touching the ground (or even sticking into it depending on the offset you pick in the options). Feel free to give it a go, both prboom.exe and prboomgl.exe are included in the .zip so you might as well try them both to see which one you like. All of the screenshots of PrBoom here have been taken using the software rendering version. If you want a 3D accelerated version of Doom, jDoom is probably the one for you.

Click on the PrBoom screens to make them full size.


Most of the configuration of PrBoom can be done from within the game menu, the screen resolution has to be changed by editing the configuration file that is generated after the first run. If you have more than one doom wad and want to launch a specific one all you have to do is create a shortcut and use the command line switch “-iwad wadname.wad”. The default wad file the game will look for with out the switch is doom2.wad followed by doom.wad.

Command line switches are used quite a lot in PrBoom, but they are well documented in the various readme files that come with the engine. The main use I have for them is setting up a network game. PrBoom comes with a dedicated server, the settings of which are controlled by command line switches on start up, once set up players on the local network [2] can join the game by starting PrBoom with the switch “-net xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:xxxx” where the x is replaced by the server IP address and port number (default 5030).
Personally I have found this version of doom by far the easiest for setting up a quick game of cooperative. Oh and remember I mentioned covering other ports? Well not only does it work on other machines, once you get the server running on a Windows (or Linux PC) you can connect from just about anything.


Sorry about the bad photography, but you should still just about be able to see that I have set up a three way game (cooperative) between my PC (Windows Vista) my netbook (Ubuntu 9.04) and my Nintendo DS. It was a bit laggy, but I blame the poor quality Belkin router, it is impossible to play UT2004 over it [3] and files transfer at about 1Mbps rather than the 56Mbps they are supposed to. If you have a bunch of computers on a wired network you should have no trouble setting up a game. The OpenGL version will also connect to the same servers should you want to use that.


Of the three methods I am looking at jDoom is perhaps the most interesting. It is a full 3D render of the game with dynamic lighting and allowing for sprites to be replaced with 3D models. The base install is not all that different from PrBoom, the lighting is clearly better and you can look up and down (though this makes the sprites look stupid), where it gets interesting is the addons that give you the 3D models and high resolution textures. The following picture shows the files I downloaded from the jDoom site.


The ones that I would strongly recommend you use are the jDoom Resource Pack and the High Definition Texture pack, as well as the User Interface Pack, which I downloaded later when I realised that it wasn’t included in the resource pack. The rest you can leave, particularly the music as it is a large download and music is broken in the current release anyway. The lack of music was a big disappointment for me, I hope they get it working with the next release, I was looking forward to the .mp3 versions of the Doom music in the game.

After you have run the jDoom installer it will launch. On the first run through it will ask you a few questions starting with which doom games you will be playing, it will then ask you for the locations of the .wad files for the games you selected, I just pointed it at the .wad in my PrBoom folder from earlier.


Next it will ask you where your add-ons folder is. I skipped this step as I wanted to try it out without any first. It is easy to sort out your add-ons later using the launcher.


The jDoom fronted is fairly strait forward if allows you to select the game you want to play (note I only have one in the above picture) and allows you to configure all the options for each individually or using global settings, when you are done you can click play.


As I said, without any add-ons the sprites don’t really work with mouse look. Of course you can turn off mouse look and turn auto aim back on to play like the original doom.


As you can see the lighting has been improved drastically, with dynamic lighting on these fireballs and glow on the walls from the toxic waste.

OK, now it is time to turn on some add-ons.

First I created a new folder in the doomsday folder called addons, most addons can simply be placed in this folder, but the jDoom Resource Pack has to be unzipped, this is because it is a collection of addons that can be turned on and off individually if need be. The readme for each file you download should tell you what you need to do with it.

Now you can go to the Addons section in the launcher and click on the + symbol to add your newly created folder. There should now be a list of all the addons that you can turn on or off before launching the game.


The UI update includes detailed artwork for the game.


The Resource pack includes 3D models and particle effects to replace the sprites. the Lost Soul is particularly good.


A comparison shot, look up the page for the one from PrBoom. As you can see, the high definition texture pack really makes a difference.

Finaly a Conclusion
Personally I prefer DOSBox because of the authentic nature of it, I don’t know anyone who still wants to play online so the networking features of PrBoom are wasted on me, though if network games are what you want it is clearly the strongest of the three candidates. jDoom I am undecided on, on one hand it adds a much needed graphical update to the game but on the other, the 3D models are lacking something from the original sprites, and the current lack of music support is a real problem. Perhaps there is a place for all three of these versions on your computer, but not on mine [4]. jDoom has to go, I will keep PrBoom installed purely to save time if I want a network game but it is DOSBox with its authentic low resolution and impressive Gravis Ultrasound music that will be used for my Hell Spawn hunting in the future.

Have you used one of these ports/emulators? Or a different one? Which do you think is best? Let me know below.


[1] you can buy it on Steam, but at £5.99 each I think you would pick up a collectors edition, with all the games on one CD, cheaper on eBay or Amazon
[2] Or Hamachi in theory.
[3] It plays fine for about a minute and the goes really laggy or kicks you.
[4] Yes, technically I have plenty of space, but I don’t keep things I am not going to use.



13 Responses to “Retro Gaming: The Ultimate Doom: Thy Flesh Consumed”

  1. May 4, 2009 at 14:56

    Very nice.

    Only ever played the shareware version myself, but it seems there are a lot of options for those who have the original game.

    Too bad some other classics haven’t received this kind of treatment, but there is always DOSBox.

  2. May 6, 2009 at 14:31

    Never played Doom apart from shareware? I grew up on this so please excuse the shock. :)

    I can only recommend that you head to eBay and see what you can get. There is a collectors edition with all of the old ones in it, if they are not asking over the odds, or you could try Steam (which uses DOSBox, but you can pinch the .wad files for use with any other engine).

    DOSBox is good for old games, some work better than others though. I have used it to play Lemmings (few gfx glitches) and Quake (runs too slow even on my core i7). Hexen and Heretic work just fine though using the exact method I described for doom. Of course you can use jDoom for those two if you want.

  3. 3 Drug Crazed Dropkick
    May 13, 2009 at 14:22

    I found jDoom very useful, but that was mainly because you could put Heretic and all those old games on as well. DOSBox did confuse me fora period of time. The Incredible Machine is great fun tho. I suggest everyone play it :D

  4. May 13, 2009 at 16:19

    I didn’t cover the full extent of what jDoom can do (at 2700 words it was getting too long), but yes it can play all the games based on the original Doom engine. DOSBox, while confusing to start with does trump it by being able to play almost anything though.

    I will have to look into The Incredible Machine. I think there was a version of that on the Acorn computer they had when I was at primary school. Ah yes, the days when schools only had one computer. We did a lot more learning back then. Damn I’m getting old.

  5. 5 Javaguy
    May 14, 2009 at 19:07

    The third option that you misssed is the XBLA port. Costs money, sadly, but I actually preferred Doom with an X360 pad. Dual sticks make for good circlestrafing. That 3d model pack looks lovely, though. Descent is another old game with a range of updated engines, I do prefer the new ones :|

    Also, dosbox isn’t very confusing if you use it with a decent wrapper to eliminate the silly commandline skullduggery

    alternatively just whip up a conf file for your game and drag the game icon/exe/whatever onto the dosbox icon.

  6. May 15, 2009 at 09:28

    Yeah, doom is about the only FPS I can play with a controller (I spend most of the time looking at the floor or ceiling in Halo). It works quite well, and doesn’t even need that many buttons. really good fun on my DS (though it struggles speed wise on the larger levels), with the automap on the second screen.

  7. 7 Josh Carlson
    June 23, 2009 at 15:43

    I have the GUS drivers installed and the music will NOT work.

  8. June 23, 2009 at 16:32

    Did you follow the tutorial on the site I linked to? If you think DOSBox is correctly configured, have you run the setup utility that is in your Doom dir?

  9. 9 LestatV3
    August 28, 2010 at 23:36

    Skulltag for the Win.

    It remains the autenticity and lets you play online and MODs with ease.
    You can configure the controls (WASD and Mouse, for example, or the classic ones) and you may choose Software or OpenGL rendering.

    For it’s online mode, Skulltag adds 4 new weapons: The Minigun, an ubber fast Machine Gun; The Grenade Launcher, with the same power as of Rocket Launcher; The Railgun, wich kills other players in one well aimed shot; and the BFG10K, wich shoots fast Green Charged plasma bolts.

    Nothing too exagerated, the addicional weapons add an interesting gameplay to Online modes :D

  10. April 3, 2013 at 06:24

    Incredible points. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the good work.

  11. 11 Trena
    April 24, 2013 at 21:29

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