Playing Space Quest III with digitized sound effects

Maybe you’ve noticed: I’ve started playing Space Quest III on my YouTube channel.

In the first episode, I talk about how Space Quest fans playing on an MS-DOS PC were jealous of those playing on an Amiga, because the Amiga people got to enjoy the game with digital sound effects.

Most famously, being able to actually hear Roger actually speak the words, “Where am I?” in the intro (even though the line is actually in a thought bubble, but never mind that).

Turns out that the MS-DOS version actually did ship with all the digital sound effects in the game code. They were in the game files when the game was released in 1989, and they are still in the game files if you buy the game on GOG or Steam today.

What it didn’t ship with was a working SoundBlaster driver.

UPDATE: Well, actually, it did … sort of.

Since writing this post, I’ve had a few people tweet me to tell me they did hear the digital sound effects when they played the game back in the day. That was quite surprising, as I was under the impression that the SoundBlaster driver for the game was just faulty regardless of circumstances.

Turns out, the SoundBlaster driver does work, but only on specific cards, and only with specific settings. Here’s one chap who got it working on an official Creative Labs brand SoundBlaster 8-bit card with IRQ 7:

But let’s continue, anyway, because for most people, it didn’t work.

Sure, the game supports SoundBlaster. But the driver is faulty, and will only play music (using the SoundBlaster’s OPL chip).

Luckily, intrepid fans have created a working SoundBlaster driver for the game. The patch used to reside on the old SpaceQuest.net website, which has since undergone some restructuring. I did, however, manage to rescue the driver from it, and use it for my YouTube playthrough.

Click here to download the fixed SoundBlaster driver for Space Quest III

You will need to be at least somewhat proficient in DOS to use it, as it was made for people who purchased the old Space Quest Collection anthologies on CD-ROM. If you’ve purchased it from the aforementioned digital outlets (GOG or Steam), be prepared to get down and dirty with DOSBox.

The patch includes fixes for two types of SoundBlaster cards, depending on what IRQ they used. If you are using DOSBox to apply the patch (which I was), just go for the one that says “IRQ 5/7” (which were the most common IRQ values for SoundBlaster cards, and therefore the ones that DOSBox emulates).

Now, as I also explain in the video, Space Quest III is from an era where it was unfathomable that someone would have two sound cards installed in their computer. Therefore, Space Quest III only natively supports one sound card at a time.

That’s a slight problem because if you have an MT-32 emulator, you would definitely want to play this game with MT-32 music! It sounds fantastic!

But if you enable MT-32 audio, then you won’t get to hear the digitized sound effects. Can’t select more than one sound card at a time!

UPDATE: It turns out that a dedicated Sierra patcher known as NewRisingSun (whom you’ll be hearing a lot more about when I get around to playing Space Quest IV) also made a patch for Space Quest III that lets you select both MT-32 music and SoundBlaster sound effects!

I have archived the patch myself (in case Vogons.org ever goes off-line or something). You can download the MTBLAST patch here.

Thank you, Petey Gee, for bringing that to my attention.

Then again, you could just play the game using ScummVM. Yes, ScummVM supports Space Quest III — and lets you select both MT-32 audio and digital sound effects at the same time!

This eliminates the use for the above patch … but it’s also arguably less rewarding to get working. Regardless, I am going to do that for the remaining episodes of my Space Quest III playthrough because, hot damn, that MT-32 soundtrack. So good.

And before you ask, no, I am not supplying you the ROMs for the MT-32 emulation. You’ll have to go find those on your own.

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One thought on “Playing Space Quest III with digitized sound effects

  1. I’ve just grabbed ADF disk images of Space Quest III for Amiga and still need to get the game for DOS. But I’m going to play it both in DOSbox with that patch, and in ScummVM with MT-32 and the sound effects, once I do. 🙂

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