ScummVM is a cross-platform set of multiplatform game interpreters. The authors describe it as “a `virtual machine’ for several classic graphical point-and-click adventure games.” It’s named after the Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion (SCUMM) engine used in classic LucasArts adventure games, including Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and Full Throttle, but it’s diversified somewhat; it now handles Revolution games such as the Broken Sword series.
ScummVM is particularly clever because it interprets the original Scumm source files, whatever the platform. In other words, it doesn’t try to emulate the original hardware platform, but like the Inform text adventures ( [Hack #85] ), it takes the information in the source files and interprets it independently of the platform. Obviously, each individual hardware platform’s version of ScummVM then has the information necessary to turn that information into pictures and sounds.
Let’s consider the Windows version of
Download it from http://www.scummvm.org/downloads.php, install
it, and then run
You’ll see a straightforward windowed menu system to
which you can add games by navigating to the directory the datafiles
are in (even if they’re on a CD).
It’s really as simple as that, although there are a
host of command-line and in-game options.
To play a game, you need the original media. Sources for this vary: perhaps you have floppy disks stashed away in your closet from the DOS versions of some of these games, or perhaps you can hunt around online and pick up the CD versions on eBay or other online auction shops. We’ll discuss ways to pick up multiple games a little later.
You won’t need every file from the original media to play the game. The ScummVM site has a handy page that summarizes the necessary data for each working game (http://www.scummvm.org/documentation.php?view=datafiles). It may be wise to copy the files to your hard drive to prevent wear and tear on the floppies.
If you can’t find originals, you can test ScummVM with demos that various collectors have put online for your downloading pleasure. See http://www.scummvm.org/demos.php.
Best of all, the wonderful folks at Revolution Software have made their classic graphic adventure, Beneath A Steel Sky, available from the same downloads page (http://www.scummvm.org/downloads.php). Although it’s not for the Scumm engine, this is a majestic, adult, brooding adventure title worth your while. Kudos to Revolution for allowing free redistribution.
You’re not running Windows, you say? Well, as ScummVM’s web site says, “Currently tested platforms are Win32 (Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP), Linux i386 and PPC, BeOS, Solaris, Mac OS X, Dreamcast, MorphOS, IRIX, PalmOS and WinCE,” so there’s plenty of choice. The previously mentioned downloads page has binaries available for all these systems.
What if you just want to run ScummVM despite whatever platform you have installed?
That’s the realm of the Scumm LiveCD (http://www.scummlinux.org/). As with some of
the other Linux self-boot CD distributions (KnoppixMame, for example;
), it runs
independently of the operating system. It’s
distributed as an ISO that allows you to copy games into the
distribution and burn it onto a CD. There’s also a
special version with USB memory stick support. Copy the games you
want across, run the special
generator.exe (or its
Linux equivalent), change your BIOS to boot from the USB stick, and
Bob’s your uncle.
So far, we’ve assumed you’re trying to use the files from the Windows or DOS version of the original LucasArts games. You can also use files from the Mac OS originals, but there’s an additional complication: you need to “rescumm” them to extract the relevant datafiles. In the Mac versions, the entire game is packed into a single file, so the interpreter can’t access individual files.
There’s an excellent FAQ on how to fix this problem
but it’s really as simple as downloading the
finding the datafile on your LucasArts game CD, copying it to your
hard drive, opening the Terminal window, and then running the
rescumm utility on the file.
It’ll magically extract all the datafiles you need
to add that game to your ScummVM install. This is particularly
felicitous because there are major compatibility problems with
classic LucasArts titles and Mac OS X.
Let’s reiterate, since this is a little confusing. You can use your Windows datafiles from your Windows CD version of the game to play LucasArts Scumm-totin’ games on your Mac. If you’re trying to use an original Mac version of one of the games on ScummVM, you’d better rescumm it. Got it?
What is there to say about Sam and Max? It’s one of the best graphic adventures of all time. Steve Purcell’s crime-solving bear and rabbit team have the most absurd, wry, odd, and delightful adventures of any anthropomorphic crimebusters, ever. “You know, Max, I can’t help but think that we may have foolishly tampered with the fragile inner mechanisms of this little spaceship we call Earth.”
“Guybrush. Guybrush Threepwood.” The original Monkey Island game has classic puzzles, amazing dialog, and a tremendous sense of fun, in addition to its stand-out sense of humor. There’s no need for talking skulls to liven up this original piratical jaunt. Apparently, you can always press Ctrl-w to win the game on many versions of it; in that case, there’s no need even to play!
Brian Moriarty’s haunting, otherworldly experience was underappreciated at the time, featuring musical notes that created spells. Don’t miss the CD-ROM version. If you’re really an insane Loom freak, the MixNMojo page (http://www.mixnmojo.com/php/site/gamedb.php?gameid=14) points out that the 256-color Japanese FM Towns version is a direct conversion of the 16-color PC version, including all the cool cut-scenes left out of the PC CD-ROM version for space reasons. It’s not cheap or easy to find, mind you, though it’s very much worth it.
Okay, this isn’t a Scumm game, but it is a stylish and funny classic graphic adventure that richly deserves banding with the LucasArts titles for ScummVM compatibility. It’s also freely downloadable, courtesy of John Passfield and Steven Stamatiadis, the original creators. Some reviews describe it as Monkey Island meets Indiana Jones.
When you analyze the titles supported by ScummVM, notice some odd non-LucasArts titles that apparently use the Scumm engine. These children’s adventure games, developed by Humongous Entertainment, came about because Ron Gilbert, the Monkey Island cocreator and one of the original programmers of Scumm, founded Humongous and actually went to the trouble of licensing his engine back from LucasArts! Although heavily modified, you can at least load titles such as Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, in ScummVM. That’s the kind of thing that can win you a geek bar bet.
If you can find it, the LucasArts Classic Adventure compilation (http://www.mobygames.com/game/sheet/gameId,2477/) from way back in 1992 is the best way to find multiple games at once. It includes Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Loom, and The Secret of Monkey Island. That’s some seriously good retro mojo.
The new Scumm engine (but not ScummVM!) using LucasArts Entertainment Pack is also good; it includes Sam & Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle, The Dig, and Grim Fandango. Aaron Giles’s page (http://www.aarongiles.com/scumm/) has more information on this enhanced Windows engine. As of press time, it’s available only in the United Kingdom.
Although you can’t run it in interpreted form in ScummVM because it’s stuck on a cartridge, highly modified, and unreleased, Video Fenky has a web site that exposes the unedited Nintendo Entertainment System version of Maniac Mansion (http://www.video-fenky.com/features/rg/maniac.shtml). Apparently, the Big N wasn’t too happy with dialog such as Dr. Fred telling Sandy about “getting your pretty brains sucked out,” as well as Nurse Edna’s rather suggestive speeches. Fortunately, what was a little much for poor sheltered NES users ended up being fine for those unmoderated PC users.
How about creating brand new games for ScummVM? Isn’t that possible? Possibly, but the Scumm construction tools have never seen the light of day. It’s clear the engine was extensively hacked to construct the games, so construction sets such as AGS ( [Hack #79] ) do the job a lot better. As the ScummVM FAQ says:
While it is theoretically possible to write a new game that uses ScummVM it is not advisable. ScummVM has many hacks to support older games and no tools geared towards creating content usable by ScummVM.
Maybe we’re just lucky that some of the all-time classic graphic adventures have already been created using Scumm. It’d almost be a shame to create more and ruin the Scumm reputation.