You've reached the Frequently Asked Questions About Timer Related
Problems, or FAQATRAP for short:
- What is this chapter all about?
- Old games run too fast. Why?
- When will timer related problems occur in the
Space Quest series?
- How do I know if it is a timer related problem
- How can you solve the timer related problems?
is this chapter all about?
This chapter will help you with timer related problems. A timer
related problem is a problem that occurs in the game's puzzles because
your computer is too fast. You should get these problems if your
system is faster than 250 Mhz. I've received mails from people had
problems with even slower computers. There wasn't really anything
Sierra could do back then to prevent timer related problems, because
there simply weren't any computers that produced them! But they
could with the release of the newest Space Quest collection
in 1997. It was still the same Space Quest 4, the same Space Quest
1 VGA, the same Space Quest 5 and the same Space Quest 6! All these
games have timer related problems. By that time computers were fast
enough to produce timer related problems. And yes, they supplied
the Mo'Slo program (an utility to slow down your pc), but they should
have known that computers would only get faster and faster. So what
can YOU do about timer related problems? Well to answer that, we
must ask ourselves WHY our good old DOS games are running too fast
on modern machines.
games run fast. Why?
It has a lot to do with crystals. Crystals run a lot of things:
digital watches, computers and other stuff that I can't think of.
They keep time, that's all they really do. But some crystals are
more important than others, take the three crystals in your computer,
in ascending order of importance:
1) Clock Crystal
2) BUS Crystal
3) CPU Crystal
First, the clock crystal - this keeps track of time, and it's somewhat
better than a cheap digital watch, on my computer if I reset the
clock every week, I'm only 15 minutes off the atomic clock. This
crystal is not often used because it has a low resolution, this
is what makes it "not that accurate", basically this means
it sends out a signal that a certain amount of time has passed (on
my machine its something like ever 54 milliseconds).
The next crystal is the BUS crystal. OK, I honestly don't know what
its called, but it takes care of some pretty important stuff, like
the PC speakers, RAM and front side BUS. This crystal does not like
to be disturbed (actually, the crystal doesn't mind, it likes having
something else to do once in a while, it's the operating system
that doesn't like it!). This crystal can be considered a medium
or medium-high resolution crystal. I don't know how often it gives
off a tick, but its less than every 10 milliseconds.
The last crystal is the CPU crystal. This is what old games have
used all the time to keep track of timing in games, and this is
pretty much what you overclock when you overclock (when you overclock
you tell the crystal to speed up). This crystal, as you probably
have guessed, runs the speed of the CPU. This crystal can be considered
high, or ultrahigh resolution. On my machine it gives off a tick
every 0.00000000000548 milliseconds. Trust me, that's a lot of ticks.
So many ticks that it's a lot more than a 486 would've given off.
Which is why so many older games run... Awkwardly... They rely on
this crystal for timing (now you know why Roger spins his head like
an assclown in SQ4 and SQ1VGA and SQ4).
But you'll notice that this only controls certain functions in old
games. For example, in Space Quest 4, Roger's head moves like a
hypochondriac skitzo on speed, yet the little pink bunny and the
Droid o' Death and the mutant zombies don't move like prostitutes
trying to hit on Bill Gates for one night.
And that is what as always confused me... If it was the speed of
the processor defining how fast a game moves, shouldn't Roger be
walking faster than Sonic the Hedgehog runs with Dr. Robotnik hot
on his trail with a raygun? Something else must be the culprit then,
Well as it turns out, both the regular clock crystal and the CPU
crystal are used. Common events, like walking, or certain objects
moving on the screen (note: the skate-o-rama sequence is a different
story), only merit the use of the clock crystal - this saves memory
because you don't need a large variable to store the number of ticks
(remember, were not talking about 128 MB of RAM here, we only have
640 KB to work with!). Other events, such as animation of stuff
that requires precision timing (ie: the skate-o-rama sequence),
need the use of the CPU crystal.
So that means stuff like Roger's head moving (to this day I don't
understand why they connected his head movement to the CPU crystal),
the skate-o-rama sequence and other various stuff will run exponentially
will timer related problems occur in the Space Quest series?
occur in Space Quest 1 VGA, Space Quest 4 (CD-ROM version) and in
Space Quest 6. Some also count the Space Quest 5 EVA Cliffy Rescue
scene as a timer issue.
do I know if it is a timer related problem I'm facing?
You'll know, trust me. The biggest problem with timer related problems
is the fact that they will ruin the game, or at least a few puzzles.
The pain really is that you might be trying very hard to solve a
puzzle, but the timer related problem will simply stop you in succeeding.
I've tried to compile a complete list below. If you have additions,
let me know.
problems in Space Quest 1 VGA:
Arcada, you'll notice the screen is shaking and shaking. And it
should (every once in a while). Your ship is under attack, remember?!?
But on faster computers, it just won't stop. And that's incredibly
will dehydrate in the desert way too soon. A message will pop
up almost immediately when you've landed, telling you you need
to drink. You'll die of thirst before you can even think of exploring
spider droid will come too soon. Thus giving you little chance
toexplore the planet.
will be unable to get past the falling acid drops in the cave
on Kerona because the drops fall very rapidly. A tropical rainstorm
is nothing compared to it!
Some animations in the game are too fast. The droid that passes
Roger in the hallway at the start of the game rushes by at the
speed of light. Roger looks like he's headbanging or something.
But in fact, on slower computers he looks around every now and
then. Also, the Cartridge retrieval droid moves way too fast.
Probably, there are more of these small, but annoying, animation
problems in Space Quest 4 (CD-ROM version only):
Roger enters a screen where the "droid-0-death" can/will
appear, it will come almost immediately. It will be very hard
to get the rope, the unstable ordinance, the PocketPal and to
hide yourself from this droid, not to mention successfully entering
the sewer grate. The biggest problem is, of course, that the game
doesn't give you any time to explore and look around carefully
because you're too occupied escaping the droid. The droid should
not appear for at least a full minute.
the transport shuttle on the streets of Xenon is almost impossible.
The Sequel Police are already standing there, waiting to kill
you. When playing the game on a slower computer, the Sequel Police
will only appear after some seconds, giving you enough time to
examine the shuttle and to enter the landing gear compartment.
same goes for entering one of the time pods on the Sequel Police
dispatch. They will kill you almost immediately after they finished
talking. You won't have time to do anything, how frustrating!
Normally, you have at least some seconds to move. If you move
downwards towards the time pods, the game will give you even more
time to solve the puzzle. With a faster machine, you virtually
don't have any time at all.
Estros, the timepod of the Sequel Policemen will almost come immediately
after you've landed. You will never have the time to "trigger"
the Pterodactyl to pick you up. And, you just don't have time
to walk around and explore the planet... You'll think you are
stuck (that is, if you have the time to think that at all, you
might be dead already), and will run to the nearest walk through
paradise. While in fact, it's a timer related problem. When using
a slower pc, the game will give you about 1 to 2 minutes before
the Sequel Police arrive.
of course the Skate-O-Rama scene. The Sequel Policemen won't give
you any time to make your move. They will shoot their laser weapons
like an AK47 and will hit you within the second. Solving this
puzzles without knowing it just a stupid timer related problem
is IMPOSSIBLE. There's still a grand prize of 100000 dollars for
the person who passes this scene without dying on their first
try. Normally, the Policemen miss quite a few times before they
hit you, leaving you with enough time to evade them.
the end of the game you're supposed to use the Super Computer
to "flush" the droid and the brain icon. When you've
flushed the brain icon, the countdown will begin and you're supposed
to make your way to Vohaul's room. On today's computers, the countdown
will happen so bloody fast that you won't have the chance to leave
the room and go back out to the maze.
animations go too fast (have I mentioned Roger's head already?),
scrolling screens that doesn't look like they are scrolling (because
of the speed), the Pterodactyl that moves even faster and so on.
Space Quest 4 is infested with timer related problems! The game
simply sucks on modern pc. Nothing less, and surely nothing more.
If you manage to finish it anyway, you'll find yourself being
more frustrated than a Orat on a Stick! And why can't I get full
score with this game? Is that a timer related problem too? ....
No, that's a bug. :) The conveyer belt at Monolith Burger is not
a timer bug either. It's supposed to move faster after a while,
making it impossible to make any new burgers. You can solve this
by changing your game speed. This will slow down the belt again.
problems in Space Quest 5
as I know, the only timer problem in Space Quest 5 is the EVA
scene were you need to rescue Cliffy with the pod. The controls
are very hard to handle because the ship moves too fast. Normally,
this puzzle is already very hard. Not only is it already fast,
but you have little fuel. This puzzle requires some mouse skills,
so don't whine if it doesn't work right from the start.
spotted some small animation problems, most notably the GradeMaster
2000 sequence. Maybe some scrolling screens effects are eliminated
by timer problems, but so far I haven't found any.
problems in Space Quest 6
Quest 6 actually behaves different to fast computers. It doesn't
run any faster, but it gets unstable and/or behaves rather weird.
won't be able to get the Endodroid Runner guy to talk with you.
Later on, you'll find Elmo and bump into the same problem. Normally
you just have to talk to them twice, but Roger only says "Hey"
and they walk away without talking back.
THE most notorious bug of the entire Space Quest series; the Error
47, aka the Compost Crash and Sickbay Sickness.
It happens when you try to use the datacard in the ComPost in
Sickbay. The game will crash and output: "Error 47: Not an
object: $0 script 64994/$f29".
the game scrolls, it scrolls to a black screen, leaving you impossible
to interact with the game.
can you solve Timer Related problems?
most important part of this article is of course solving the problem.
Just use ScummVM?
These days, ScummVM natively support all six official Space Quest games (technically seven, 'cos it also supports SQ1VGA). Running the games in ScummVM fixes the timer issues.
Patches for SQ1VGA, SQ4, SQ5 and SQ6!
Rising Sun has developed some awesome fixes that COMPLETELY
ELIMINATE the timer problems. Check out his
webpage, which includes enough information how to install
the patches correctly. These patched are HIGHLY recommended and
preferred in favour of slow down utilities and emulators.
a saved game
can download "Jeysie's saved games", which are saved
games for SQ1 through SQ6. They are offered on this website at
any of the "Game Help sections". They won't solve the
timer problems but you can load a saved game just beyond the timer
Use an old computer
option might feel kinda sucky to you, but you must understand
the Space Quest games simply aren't designed to work with your
Pentium 4 3 Ghz Windows XP machine. You can try any slow down
utility to help you through the timer bugs, but it won't prevent
most of the bugs from happening anyway. You'll get a game in return
that doesn't act like it should. Not to mention using slow down
utilities make the animation rusty and degrade game play. And
who wants to use stupid utilities anyway? You just want to play
the games, without any hassle. So your best solution is simply
to play Space Quest on a fast 486 computer or early Pentium. I've
written a very complete article about how to get your ultimate
Space Quest computer and how to make it work. I urge you to Read
the best DOS emulator around. This program will work on your Windows
2000 and XP machine and even the Apple Macintosh. All of the Space
Quest games will work terrific, even if you own a state of the
art heavy duty computer.
a slow down utility
is how we used to tackle timer problems in the old days, before
there were and patches and emulators.
utility was included in the Space Quest Collection CD called Mo'Slo.
Read the txt and doc files provided with Mo'Slo and you will be
able to slow down your computer. It works with DOS only and is
recommend for 350 Mhz machines and slower. You might want to download
it here (9kb) if you haven't
got the Space Quest Collection. Please visit the official
Mo'Slo website for the latest version, which should work with
even the fastest computers!
provided with your Space Quest Collection CD is a program called
It's designed for Windows 95 and 98, but will also work with newer
versions. It's much more powerful than MOSLO, but makes the game
rusty. This program is recommended for 800 Mhz and slower. However,
it might already be too difficult getting past the timer bugs
using a Pentium 3 500 Mhz machine.
can also use a program called CPU Killer. The name might sound
scary but it doesn't hurt your computer in anyway. It's much more
efficient than Turbo. Get the latest version from the
CPU Killer site. It's available for free, but will only work
for 20 minutes per session, unless you register your copy for
5 bucks. Highly recommended. It's compatible with Windows XP.
utility program called Bremze
is a good option too. I've tested this program myself (using Win2000:
sq4 and sq1vga) and it worked good enough. It tackles the timer
bugs much more efficient and even solves some problems Turbo couldn't
while keeping animation running more smoothly. Roger's head, for
instance, stopped shaking like a mad man. It also slowed down
the droid-o-death and the Sequel Policemen a lot better and solved
most of the Space Quest 1 VGA problems. Sadly, this program runs
under DOS and not under Windows. It'll work under Windows using
the DOS PROMPT, but less efficient. The program is available for
free and will run one complete month without any restrictions.
After that, you'll have to cough up 10 bucks to continue using