Immobilised by wine and hams, I declared it a fine idea to doll up the sample games with custom disk images.
The first and foremost is Ultima IV, which I remember from the tender age of 7 as my first proper game. The Ultimas came with such fabulous feelies, including cloth maps and hand-illustrated manuals, and I wanted to give those a proper tribute:
I’m afraid that Tyrian is the runt of the litter for now, as I had no great attachment to the game itself. If I remember a game I’m more emotionally attached to (and legally permitted to distribute), I may replace it in the lineup.
While I don’t plan to make a habit of this, I’m open to suggestions for other freely distributable games to offer (just not Beneath a Steel Sky, I’m afraid I think it's rubbish.)
Because I love you, Boxer 0.85 is now available. Yes, this was called Boxer 0.81, but then I skipped a few versions out of vanity; there were so many improvements that a teeny 0.01 bump felt terribly meagre. Full release notes are here, but in brief this version is prettier, smarter and (I hope) more reliable in every respect. The new version will also be rolled out by automatic update in the next couple of days, once all you early adopters have stubbed your toes on it.
This release was made possible by me managing to install a copy of OS X 10.4 to a USB stick, so I could finally do proper testing. It’s amazing what you can do with these computer things these days.
Have a merry non-denominational holiday everyone, and please don’t give me any bug reports for christmas.
Now that Boxer’s feature set is fairly stable, it's high time I picked up a Cocoa handbook, pulled my finger out of my ass and learned to write proper Mac applications.
I’ve developed Boxer this far in Applescript, a MacOS scripting language intended for inter-application communication. Initially this was a quick and dirty way to tell DOSBox to do what I wanted; the codebase grew shambolically from there, as Boxer matured from an ad-hoc wrapper script to a released application, and by now Boxer’s humble beginnings are a ball and chain.
Applescript was not meant for yoking to the plough of a fully-fledged app. The language itself is long-winded, fussy and brittle; more relevantly, its libraries lack support for proper interfaces or persistent application behaviour. Hence each session of Boxer has a very short lifetime, with no interface to speak of—it relies on Applescript’s built-in dialog functions—nor any facility to store application preferences beyond the configuration files for DOSBox itself.
These limitations have helped to keep the application brutally simple: but they have also obscured a lot of Boxer’s behaviour, because the application has few ways to expose features or communicate progress.
I have grander plans for what Boxer will become once I migrate it to a proper framework, though I'm conscious not to lose sight of what makes Boxer work well. My main concern is to provide a more elegant interface for the installation/package creation workflow, and provide more feedback about what Boxer is doing in general. A proper menu system and welcome pane for common tasks would help expose Boxer’s feature set and make interactions more fluent and obvious.
It also needs a simple preference pane for tweaking common options: Boxer’s folder locations, whether to start in fullscreen or a window, whether to lock the mouse when you click, whether to apply any graphics filters, and things of that ilk. DOSBox itself will pick up some additional hacks along the way to make it cooperate better, but those are beyond the scope of a single post.
Other DOSBox emulation settings will remain strictly auto-configured for now, as I have yet to find any configuration issue in Boxer that warranted a GUI for such settings. Such interfaces are disaster areas in every frontend I’ve used; reconfiguring a game requires so thorough a knowledge of DOSBox’s inner workings that a “user-friendly” interface for doing so inherently isn’t, and Boxer’s raison d’être is to save you from having to care what things like dynamic core emulation mean. It was bad enough in the old days.
Further along the road, I’d like to offer an elegant game browser complete with shelves à la Delicious Library. This would allow me to do a few extra tricks that aren't possible through Finder: such as dragging an image onto a package to apply it as cover artwork, and grouping games by tags and other metadata.
For now though, Finder + Spotlight does a much better job as a game browser than any frontend I've seen; the last thing I want is for some overbearing iTunes-alike interface to usurp that simple and flexible approach.
A little prematurely to be sure—I had intended to launch the new site once 0.81 was out—but Google's ravenous, unslakeable hunger for new pages to index has forced my hand. So here we are: a swanky overreaching website for a humble little app.
My astute readers and robotic overlords will notice that the new website sports an Appcast feed, which delivers timely announcements of new releases to your inbox or feed aggregator. Or would do, were there any new releases to announce. (Boxer 0.8 also checks every few days for updates itself, so as soon as the next version comes out it should notify you when you start it up.)
The new release is plump and lusty, raised on a diet of cleverness and interface refinements. All it’s waiting on now is OS X 10.4 testing, so if you have 10.4 and are able to help out, please get in touch so I can kick the damn thing out the door already.
Design by 40watt.