Launching Games with Unusual Formats (including DOSBox) in Steam

So maybe you are like me and you have 50+ games on your Steam account and you are using the rest of Steam’s functionality enough that you want to launch all of your games from Steam’s neatly organized and alphabetized library. Or maybe (also like me) you just think it’s fun to let your friends know when you’re playing 5 Days a Fuckfest or Tales of Game’s Studios Presents Chef Boyardee’s Barkley, Shut Up & Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa.

It’s easy as hell if your game launches with an .exe file, as most games these days do. But what about older shit? Or ROM dumps? Steam doesn’t permit importing of most proprietary formats just by the usual way, nor links to webpages. As such, how to launch browser games or anything in an emulator, especially the clusterfucks that are DOS-based games, is not something readily obvious in Steam.

But you can do it and here is how.

Importing Regular .exe Games

The usual way of importing a non-Steam game is to go to your Library and click the “+ Add a Game” link at the bottom left side. From there, you would browse to the .exe’s of the games you want in Steam’s explorer window, select them, and then click the “Add Selected Programs” button. You may have to fix the title of the game by right-clicking its entry in the Library and then editing it in the Properties, but adding freeware and other shit that happened to fall off a truck is that simple.

Importing Emulated Games

The problem with trying to do this with a ROM-dump file is that Steam will not let you import weird file formats. Since most ROMs are going to be in the format of whatever console the game plays on (.gbc for Gameboy Color, .a26 for Atari 2600, etc.), therein lies your problem. But there’s a simple workaround.

First, you want to make sure that those filetypes are associated with the emulator that runs them. For instance, I use Stella to play Atari 2600 games, and so my .a26 files are associated to it. Without associating that filetype to that program, if I were to double-click on an Atari 2600 ROM, it would pop up that error message asking what program I wanted to open it with. Once the file is associated, you can double-click the ROM itself and it will open the emulator and play without having to be loaded manually.

To associate your filetype, double-click on it. It’ll open up a windows saying it needs to know what program you want to open it with, and it’ll give you the option of using the web to find a program or selecting one from a list of installed programs. Pick the list.

Odds are, your emulator won’t be listed in that menu so you’ll have to browse for it.

Navigate to the emulator, select the application, and then click Okay. The emulator is now listed and selected. Make sure the checkbox that says “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” is checked. Then, from now on, anytime you doubleclick a file of that kind, it will open in that emulator.

However, one caveat. I’ve noted that sometimes Atari ROMs will not come in their own format, but as a .bin file. Do not associate these or any other filetypes that are not clearly specific to your game’s platform with a program. .bin is a pretty common Windows file and if you associate your game .bin’s with an emulator, it could cause trouble with all the .bin’s in the rest of your computer. Instead, try to find a ROM that is in the proprietary format or use the method I discuss further on when importing DOS games.

Ght, so you’ve got your filetypes associated. Now you just need to import the ROM’s into Steam itself. But Steam won’t let you import a .a26 file or any of that other horseshit. Buuuuut it does not prevent you from changing the path once you already have added a file.

What I typically do is add a copy of the emulator’s .exe. From there, I select the shortcut I created in Steam and edit the properties. When you click the Change button in the Properties page, you’ll need to go down to the File Type field and change it from “Programs (.exe)” to “All Files (*.*)”. This makes it show all the files present and not just the ones Steam likes by default. Change the target path to point to your ROM file instead of the emulator. Also change the name to the game so the title is listed in the library. If you want to be super fancy, you can also create and change the icon to actually be that of the game instead of the emulator, but that’s a thing of deciding whether or not anyone got time for that.

This replacement trick works with all kindsa shit. Even things that aren’t even executables.

Importing Browser Games

I am personally not a fan of this because even though it technically works, Steam itself will give you an error saying that your game didn’t launch and it won’t set your status as in-game. And really, that’s the only reason I’d want a link to Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars in my library. But some people are still into this idea and it helps to understand how it works, so here is how to add links to webpages.

Let’s say I want to add Rose & Camellia. First off, it’s a million times easier to do this if you start in Internet Explorer. Yeah, I know, piss and moan, but Firefox is jackassed about created shortcuts and IE puts that shit all nice and neat in your user profile’s Favorites folder for you. And since your .url’s are associated with whatever browser you actually use, it won’t matter that you made them in IE. So what I would do is go into IE and favorite Rose & Camellia‘s webpage. Actually, favorite ALL the games you want to add. I’m gonna assume you know how to do that and not make pictures showing how. If you don’t want to use IE, you can figure out how to make a shortcut in your browser yourself.

Once you have all your links, select them all and put them wherever you want those links to stay. I would put them in a subfolder of the one you keep your non-Steam games in, but wherever, it doesn’t matter. You can even leave them in your Favorites folder if you don’t mind also having them in your Favorites in IE.

Now Steam won’t let you just add those links, you have to trick it like you did with the emulated games. So add to an .exe to your library, doesn’t matter what, and then edit the properties so it points to the .url file for Rose & Camellia. Change the title and ta-da. As I said, it’ll give an error in Steam, it won’t tell people you’re in-game, and it takes twice as long as just opening it in the browser in the first, but you’ll be able to open it from Steam if you so want.

Importing DOS Games

Now DOSBox is a finicky motherfucker as it is even without trying to make it play nice with Steam, but lo, I have tamed the beast and I will tell you how to do so too.

The thing of DOSBox is that it acts as a virtual drive and not a program in the normal sense. Ye olde DOS games had to be launched from a disk separate of the operating system. What this means for us is that the games have to be “mounted” in DOSBox before they’ll play. Where a ROM is to a Word .doc and the emulator is to MS Word itself, DOS games are to MS Word and DOSBox is to Windows. As such, DOS games tend to have .exe’s as the main program, but you can’t associate .exe’s to DOSBox without fucking up your whole computer. You have to run DOSBox first and open the .exe in it to mount it.

What a pain in the ass.

Here’s how to get around all that horseshit and make it so the game does just play and people will know when you’re playing Police Quest II: The Vengeance.

Right click your desktop and hover over “New” in the dropdown menu, then select “Shortcut”. What you’re going to do is put two file directories in here. The first will be to DOSBox’s .exe and the second will be around the game’s launcher. Sometimes the game is not an .exe, so be aware of that. You need to put quotes around both, separately. It should look something like this, except with your file directories:

“C:\Program Files\GamesEmulators\DOSBox\DOSBox.exe” “C:\Program Files\Games\Police Quest II\SIERRA.exe”

Now hit Next. Rename the shortcut to the name of your game and drop it in your game’s folder.

Now go into Steam and add your game’s launcher or any other .exe. Open its properties back up, change the File Type to All Files, and then select the shortcut you created. Hit Okay.

The entry in your Steam libary should now launch your DOSBox game, with DOSBox itself in a separate window, and it shouldn’t require any mounting or other bullshit.

And with that, you now have the most PROSHIT Steam library next to mine. Congratulations.

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August 2017
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