Support us on Patreon to keep GamingOnLinux alive. This ensures we have no timed articles and no paywalls. Just good, fresh content! Alternatively, you can donate through Paypal, Flattr and Liberapay!

The Speedy Staging 0.5.3 of Boxtron is out, further improving this Steam Play compatibility tool for DOSBox gaming on Linux.

As a reminder of the what and why: Just like how Proton enables you to play Windows games in the Linux Steam client, Boxtron is a tool that can be manually added to the Linux Steam client to run a native version of DOSBox. It's supposed to give you the best experience possible with DOS games on Steam. Rather than running them through Proton you get lower input lag, working Steam integration, better fullscreen support and so on.

Last night, Boxtron 0.5.3 was released. Here's what came with it:

  • Makefile updated to support system-wide install (system-wide installation only available in Steam Beta client at the moment). Boxtron can now be properly packaged in distro repositories.
  • Improvements to CUE sheets handling (fixes e.g. music and video cutscenes in Carmageddon using software renderer - the game now runs perfectly when combined with dosbox-staging test build).
  • Tweak for Lords of Realm.
  • Documentation updates and other small fixes and cleanups.

It also includes a newer test build of DOSBox Staging you can also try out.

Since it wasn't too clear exactly what DOSBox Staging is and if it's officially part of the DOSBox ecosystem I spoke to the developer to find out. From what they told me, it's a collaborative effort to improve DOSBox while keeping it in sync with the main DOSBox code and hopefully they will get patches accepted into the upstream project.

Here's what's changed in the second test build of DOSBox Staging:

  • Merged with upstream SVN trunk@4272
  • Implementation of dynamic core for 64-bit systems by jmarsh, which significantly improves DOSBox performance on Linux
  • Workaround for NVIDIA-specific OpenGL rendering bug by Qbix
  • Updated version of krcroft's audio patch
  • Slight update to splash screen by me
  • More compiler optimizations turned on, which significantly improves DOSBox performance compared to previous test build
  • Various smaller fixes for type safety, removing memory leaks, addressing compiler warnings and static code analysis issues, etc.

Easy to install! Simply download the latest release, extract it and place the extracted folder into your Steam "compatibilitytools.d" folder, usually located here:

~/.steam/root/compatibilitytools.d/

Once done, restart Steam and you can select it as your choice of Steam Play tool when going into the Properties of a game on Steam. See this section at the bottom:

To try out DOSBox Staging you need to download that separately, extract it somewhere safe and then point Boxtron to it. All the details can be found on GitHub.

Great to see it continue to get better!

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
19 Likes, Who?
We do often include affiliate links to earn us some pennies. We are currently affiliated with GOG, Humble Store and Paradox Interactive. See more information here.
About the author -
I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
See more from me
hardpenguin 21 October 2019 at 4:29 pm UTC
Can someone please explain to me, how is this better than running Windows version of DOSBox with Proton?

Performance is not an issue in majority of DOSBox titles on modern systems. What can native DOSBox possibly offer me opposed to DOSBox in Wine/Proton?
Liam Dawe 21 October 2019 at 4:59 pm UTC
hardpenguinCan someone please explain to me, how is this better than running Windows version of DOSBox with Proton?

Performance is not an issue in majority of DOSBox titles on modern systems. What can native DOSBox possibly offer me opposed to DOSBox in Wine/Proton?
It's all there in the readme on GitHub.

QuoteLower input lag (compared to DOSBox inside Proton)
Steam features working as expected (e.g. Steam Cloud, Controller settings or recording of time played)
Better fullscreen support, especially on multi-monitor setups*
Steam Overlay working out of the box*
More configuration options and better defaults*
Automatic detection of MIDI hardware, with software synthesiser used as fallback
Automatic MIDI setup for supported titles (click Play and enjoy pre-configured MIDI music)
* - compared to vanilla DOSBox
I imagine plenty of DOSBox powered games on Steam will never upgrade the version used, so no matter what this would give you a better experience overall with newer features and support.


Last edited by Liam Dawe on 21 October 2019 at 5:00 pm UTC
WorMzy 21 October 2019 at 5:22 pm UTC
View PC info
  • Supporter
  • Top Supporter
hardpenguinPerformance is not an issue in majority of DOSBox titles on modern systems. What can native DOSBox possibly offer me opposed to DOSBox in Wine/Proton?

Well, to give an example from the changelog, Lords of the Realm wouldn't even launch with proton, presumably because it uses a wrapper rather than calling the Windows dosbox executable directly. It also ships with dosbox 0.74, but config files for dosbox 0.72, which caused some audio stuttering. In cases like this, telling Steam to open the game with Boxtron will make the game automagically Just Work™ (assuming you have dosbox installed).
dreamer_ 21 October 2019 at 11:21 pm UTC
hardpenguinPerformance is not an issue in majority of DOSBox titles on modern systems.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. During development, I had a chance to compare ~70 DOS games (65 games in my library and several GOG titles), and see how do they work through Boxtron vs Protonized DOSBox or Native DOSBox included with the game. In the slight majority of cases, the performance via Proton suffers… sometimes a lot… and that's not all. Some examples of games and issues they had:

  • X-COM series - performance in Proton 4.11 is so bad, that game is unplayable; in the past game was "playable" but crashed with Steam Overlay on. Bad performance is actually caused by DOSBox config bundled with the game - Boxtron fixes that by ignoring some bad options picked by the game distributor… and turns on MIDI music by default.
  • Descent 3 2 - game refuses to start and hangs at "black screen". With Boxtron it runs perfectly.
  • Tomb Raider I - game does not work via Proton at all - Boxtron starts game in software mode (but it still suffers from DOSBox bugs); Boxtron + dosbox-staging fixes those bugs and is able to play the music in-game as well (via bundled mp3 decoder)
  • X-Wing, Tie-Fighter - both suffer from DOSBox being misconfigured - in Proton the games have maybe 15-20FPS during flight, in Boxtron it is smooth 70FPS during flight
  • Stargunner - the game suffers from DOSBox problems (on Windows and Linux), causing the game to run too fast - by changing cycles you can make the game run at ~30FPS, but it won't be smooth experience. Boxtron + dosbox-staging offer smooth 70FPS.
  • Alone in the Dark series - input issues, Boxtron + dosbox-staging resolve it
  • Larry games - do not go fullscreen properly, they work perfect in Boxtron
  • Hexen: Deathkings of the Dark Citadel - game is missing music because distributor uploaded unpatched version to Steam, Boxtron applies patch on the first run
  • Retro City Rampage DX - this is NOT a DOS game, but it includes DOS prototype version (except you would need to unpack it manually and run outside of Steam). When you'll select Boxtron, it will run DOS prototype for you
  • Fallout - Boxtron downloads an official game patch and brings back DOS version removed by Bethesda
  • Megarace 2 - distributor uploaded broken, untested files as "Linux version" - Boxtron makes the game playable (but it suffers from DOSBox bugs), Boxtron + dosbox-staging makes the game perfectly playable

etc, etc…

Interestingly, GOG games can also be improved - e.g. GOG version of Mortal Kombat 3 does not have Linux version (I suspect because there are severe performance issues in DOSBox - they are visible between fight rounds). With Boxtron and dosbox-staging it is perfect - the game is as responsive as it was on my 486DX2 in 90s .

Out of my 65 Steam DOS games, only 3 are not playable out of the box (2 games from mid-80s, which work too fast and 1 game, which refuses to start (The Dame Was Loaded) - but this one works in Proton, I hope to address this for future Boxtron version.


Last edited by dreamer_ on 22 October 2019 at 1:42 pm UTC
hardpenguin 22 October 2019 at 7:27 am UTC
Liam Dawe(...)
WorMzy(...)
dreamer_(...)

These are all great answers, thanks!
VodkaChicken 22 October 2019 at 9:35 am UTC
DOSBox Staging is definitely a welcome repo. The development is currently insanely fragmented and hunting down patches from the forums is a massive pain in the ass. Not to mention SVN feeling janky when you are so used to git's branching.
razing32 22 October 2019 at 9:41 am UTC
Shouldn't dreamer_ get a dev tag or something Liam ?
Since he seems to be running the project.
michaldybczak 29 October 2019 at 10:09 pm UTC
How do I know that a certain game is better to run with Boxtron? Is there some indicators that suggest us to check a specific title on some list?
dreamer_ 30 October 2019 at 6:01 am UTC
michaldybczakHow do I know that a certain game is better to run with Boxtron? Is there some indicators that suggest us to check a specific title on some list?
I hope any DOS game will work a bit better via Boxtron than other methods ;)

Here's a list of all DOS games we found on Steam: "Powered by DOSBox" curator page.
You can also check our compatibility reports list.
While you're here, please consider supporting GamingOnLinux on Patreon, Liberapay or Paypal. We have no adverts, no paywalls, no timed exclusive articles. Just good, fresh content. Without your continued support, we simply could not continue!

You can find even more ways to support us on this dedicated page any time. If you already are, thank you!

You need to Register and Login to comment, submit articles and more.


Or login with...

Livestreams & Videos
Community Livestreams
See more!
Popular this week
View by Category
Contact
Latest Comments
Latest Forum Posts