September 17, 2022
Flosha: 'Finster' is a demo created by the Mad Scientists in 1996, namely Dieter Hildebrandt, Ulf Wohlers and Bert Speckels. Three students with the dream to create a game on their own. This is the demo they created as a pitch, which was shown to Greenwood Entertainment (among others), finally leading to the creation of GOTHIC with Piranha Bytes, when the Mad Scientists developed the ZenGin, the Engine of GOTHIC. In this sense, it is a Proto-Gothic Demo. We assumed for a long time it may by lost, but here it is, published with the permission of the original authors. Before we could even think about publishing it though, we had to find a way to make it work.
Vaana: Getting old games to run can be hard work, especially if the game predates modern operating systems. You often need to fiddle with various emulators and API wrappers just to get it started, not even counting what other issues you'll encounter ahead. As with any game written for DOS, this was the case with the Finster demo, kindly provided to us by the Mad Scientists.
At first, we thought that simply downloading a popular DOS emulator, DOSBox, would be enough to do the job. Sadly, the dreams of an easy out were quickly crushed, as Finster wouldn't even start. We proceeded to try other forks and versions of the said program, but to no avail. At this point, we began questioning whether or not Finster would even work at all. With no other options left, we reached out to the authors of these emulators, seeking help with Mad Scientists' ancient demo.
Thankfully, John Campbell of the DOSBox-X team quickly came to the rescue. Very shortly after examining the demo, he was able to diagnose the issue and come up with a fix. Without his swift response, this would not have been possible.
It is perhaps a bit ironic that Ulf Wohlers, one of the authors of the Finster demo, later co-created the DOSBox emulator, yet it would require patching DOSBox in order to get his own creation working.
Flosha: At July 1st 2022, DOSBox-X was patched specifically for the Finster demo. Until that point the Mad Scientists were not able to play the demo themselves for years and were happy to finally be able again. After we managed to get it to work and suggested a publication, Bert decided to simplify the installation even further and wrote a little guide (released in addition to the one by Vaana), which I would describe as a manual for Finster. You should read it first. We are very thankful for the permission to publish the demo and want to express our gratitude to Bert Speckels in particular for his great help and his ongoing passion. Have a nice play.
- Flosha & Vaana