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Old 10-05-2019, 06:33 PM   #1
patastratos
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Default Merchant Colony (1991, Impressions Games)

I consider myself that Merchant Colony (1991, Impressions Games) is an underdog, as I have not found much information on the internet or videos in comparison with other video games from the same age that I also love.

I will go straight to the point of the technical issue I have with it. I have played it in DosBox and it runs much slower that the original game I remember. If I increase the CPU speed, it seems to run just a little faster, but I never gets the original speed. It is so slow that it makes game unplayable.

Some clues about the issue:

1) I remember that this game was slowed down when I was deactivating the Turbo key from my old computer.

2) This game seems to run normally in some screens, for example during naval battles with pirates, or the main menu (that looks like an office). When mouse hoovers the globe (on the left), it starts spinning in normal speed, and it seems to be sensible of the CPU speed variation. However, at the same time, days in calendar on the right draws on very slowly even if we speed up CPU. In the original game, one day was a second, or even less.



3) There are some in-game natural disasters (storms, plagues, etc.) that happen recurrently. However, it seems that this feature is not working as well, and it happens just once (first pirate sighting).

Any hints about if these issues can be solved?

The English version for the DOS game is available to be downloaded from myabandonware or gamesnostalgia. Unfortunately, it is not available in Abandonia. :/

"Merchant Colony" is a strategy game set in the 18th century in which you lead an European nation to the colonization of the other continents, by building colonies and trading with natural resources and manufactured products. The other nations colonies and pirates makes your life a bit more complicated. It may sound as the same premise as "Colonization", but this game was released three years before and most important, it was real-time based. I always expected a newer version that improved the original, but it never arrived.

I would appreciate your help to be able to play this game as it was meant!

Last edited by patastratos; 10-05-2019 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 11-05-2019, 08:27 PM   #2
zirkoni
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A 1991 game should not require many CPU cycles in DOSBox, 5000-10000 should be enough.
That said, to get the most out of DOSBox run these commands (or edit the config):
core dynamic
cycles max

Are you sure the game doesn't have a speed setting?
Or maybe you played it originally on a really fast system (>300MHz CPU)?
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Old 12-05-2019, 01:32 AM   #3
patastratos
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zirkoni View Post
A 1991 game should not require many CPU cycles in DOSBox, 5000-10000 should be enough.
That said, to get the most out of DOSBox run these commands (or edit the config):
core dynamic
cycles max

Are you sure the game doesn't have a speed setting?
Or maybe you played it originally on a really fast system (>300MHz CPU)?
Thanks for your reply zirkoni.

I have been trying with the different core values (auto, dynamic, simple, etc.) and all of them give the same result as before. I also tried "cycles max", and there was the issue I explain below.

The problem is that it seems that there are two speed paces (one normal, the other one too slow) inside the same game, and this didn't happen in the original game as I remember. A few screens in the game run at correct speed with default cycles (text scrolling, naval battles, globe spinining) while others (units movements, calendar drawing on... the most importants) seem to be slowed down in comparison to the original system where I played it. How is it possible these in-game differences? Could it be related to the way they were programmed?

The problem is that if I speed up cycles, "normal" events will look too fast while "slow" events will be almost OK. However if I don't speed it up, "normal" events will be OK but "slow" events will be too slow to play.

I remember playing the original game on 133 MHz, with the Turbo button on. If I am not wrong, value was 66 Mhz when turning Turbo off. I guess because of these values that this computer was already a Pentium, though I remember playing it in an older computer (486 or 386) as well.
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Old 12-05-2019, 08:44 AM   #4
zirkoni
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Try these:

ALT+S Slow speed
ALT+R Normal Speed
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Old 13-05-2019, 09:18 AM   #5
Smiling Spectre
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I bet, your problem is somewhere there:

Quote:
Originally Posted by patastratos View Post
I remember playing the original game on 133 MHz, with the Turbo button on. If I am not wrong, value was 66 Mhz when turning Turbo off. I guess because of these values that this computer was already a Pentium, though I remember playing it in an older computer (486 or 386) as well.
Game of 1991 definitely is not aware of Pentium that appeared in 1993. And the best available 80486 of 1991 would give you huge 50MHz.

So it's not DOSBox that is too slow - it's Pentium that is too fast (have sense, actually, because if day takes less than 1s, it means that you cannot react precise enough). I can guess also that game is auto-set speed at the start, so can be "speed up" with increasing cycles right in the game, just as you do it with "Turbo" button. (Try Alt+F12 for that)

Also, check zirkoni reply above.
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Old 13-05-2019, 11:22 PM   #6
Scatty
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Try changing the following setting in dosbox-x.xx.conf file under [cpu]:

from cputype=pentium_slow to cputype=386_slow


And see if that changes anything.
Also you could try lowering the setting memsize=16, 4 or 8mb should be more than enough for a 1991 game. Some older games get problems with 16mb or more memory.


Another thing to try, at the very bottom under [dos] there's 3 settings:
xms=true
ems=true
umb=true
You could try to set ems=false first, if that doesn't change anything, try to also set xms=false, as such an old game probably wouldn't use any extended memory and some games might go wonky with one or the other setting enabled.
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Old 14-05-2019, 11:31 PM   #7
patastratos
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Many thanks for all the replies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zirkoni View Post
Try these:

ALT+S Slow speed
ALT+R Normal Speed
That was exactly the solution! Thanks zirkoni! It was an on-game setting that controls the speed of some screens, it was nothing about DosBox' CPU speed.

How did you get to know about these keyboard shortcuts? I don't remember using them, I guess normal speed was set as default in the Europe/multilingual version I played. In addition, I have discovered today that this game could be quit by pressing Alt+X; I usually switched off or reset my computer.

Random disasters in the game are also restored when enabling normal speed.

One weird thing about this version of the game is that purchase prices are 1 for most goods in foreign ports. I guess it is a bug, because getting money is as easy as loading a ship with cheap gold and selling it in one of the main ports.

Another difference I remember from the version I played is that you could choose if pirate fights were automatic or manual from one of the screen in the main menu. When manual fight was selected, you could use cannons in order to try to beat your opponent; it was pretty difficult and I never mastered it. The alternative was that battles were automatic and one of the adversaries was sunk randomly. In the version from abandonware sites, there is only one mode and is a mix of both, as user has the control of the boat but there are no cannons and one of the ship is sunk in an apparently random way.

Last edited by patastratos; 14-05-2019 at 11:52 PM.
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