Total Mania (game)

2023, Aug 06    

What a way to get back into technology after taking a break to recharge, than trying to get a classic game running under Windows 98 in a VM...

So why do this at all? Well, weird dreams make for strange hobbies... With my recent (and prolonged) lack of sleep I found myself dreaming of a game that I used to play many years ago. Normally I'd have such dreams after playing for many hours (I'm looking at you Fallout NV), but in this instance there was no playing of any games prior.

To begin this adventure we start with the game in question, Total Mania (also known as Total Mayhem). It was published in 1996 and it was one of the first PC games I owned (purchased from the bargain section of a shop for £3.99 if memory serves). It was released both for Windows 3.11 and Windows 95, so by the standards of today it isn't "resource intensive".

First step: Get a Windows 95/98 system running, how hard could it be? As it turns out, very...

My first attempt was to use the Windows 98 SE ISO and perform a clean installation under Fusion. The first hurdle, the VGA driver isn't compatible with that of Fusion and so the installer crashes.

Not a great start to an OS installation

My second attempt was to use a pre-built Windows 98 image and update it instead. In theory this should work as there are a few images available online, so far so good. Thanks to the WindowsUpdateRestored project I can also get the available updates for the system, starting with Internet Explorer 5.5.

At least something is finally working

As with all good things, getting the updates installed also didn't want to work... For some reason the WUR portal couldn't load the required control (even after trusting the root certificate), and even removing IE5.5 didn't fix the issue.

You can trust the certificate but it still won't work

Attempting to use the different versions of the WUR portal resulted in kernel32 errors, not something you ever want to see.

It ain't getting past this sadly

To the rescue comes the unofficial W98 SP3, which provides an offline method of updating the system (and adding in a few stability patches for good measure). This part worked, getting the system updated and in theory ready to try the game.

At least something finally worked

Time for the first launch of the game, using the default options in the hope that things just behave (you can guess how this went)...

I'm no expert, but I don't think it should look like that

OK, a few changes to the game settings and it actually loads :-) The menu is there and everything looks good, aside from the mouse cursor cannot be moved (you can click randomly and it works, but you can't see what you are clicking on as the pointer is stationary. Seems this game doesn't want to be played...

It finally loaded, but sadly it's still not playable

At this point, common sense would say to walk away and play something more modern, but about that Windows 3.1 version...

As there are a few Windows 3.11 images available online, this part should be a piece of cake? Right? Down the rabbit hole I go again..

The first hurdle: all of the images get stuck when himem loads... A few forum posts later and I see that a few VMX tweaks are needed to make things behave. No biggie, let's try again.

Stuck at himem, fun times...

One tweaked VMX file and I now have a loading screen, hurrah! Except, it now hard panics because the wrong network driver is installed (the QEMU image doesn't play nice under Fusion). Back to the internet I go...

What a nostalgic flashback to the days of old

Ah yes, driver support was more problematic back then

Onto the next image and no kernel panic this time (hurray!), however the networking stack doesn't work because the driver isn't there. At least this image actually loaded (better than the last).

Still has the incorrect driver, but it hasn't kernel panicked yet

Finally, a working desktop!

After some experimentation / frustration it became clear that while I had an image that loads it was missing a few things required to make the game run. Given the effort to get them in, it's off to the internet to find another image I go. As luck would have it there is a pre-built W3.11 image for VMware that contains the required drivers / some additional applications etc, and comes as an OVF. What could go wrong?

Thanks VMware for not updating Fusion to support the OVF2.0 format

OK, more tinkering required, including manually importing the disk image and building the virtual machine from scratch. Thankfully, this actually worked :-) Windows booted with the increased resolution / network support, and things looked promising. That was, until I tried to run anything...

Stability was not a strong point of this OS

At this point my common sense started to return, realising the amount of time I had lost in trying to make this work in comparison to the Steam library I have that contains a large quantity of unplayed games. While this was a somewhat frustrating trip down memory lane, some things are better left in the past, and this is definitely one of them!