Installing (some) CD software
Most people who are reading this will want to install CD software (i.e. fully voiced porn games) into the emulated HDD. There is no official standard or system-wide installer, but due to the peculiarities of the PC-98, most game publishers ended up implementing a similar method of installation, which involves these steps:
- Boot DOS from HDD and run an installer EXE
- Tell the installer where your DOS files are, and which floppy drive you will use to create a boot disk
- The installer formats the floppy disk, and copies DOS files and sometimes a few needed drivers (NECCD.SYS, MOUSE.EXE, AVGDRV.SYS...) to the disk.
- Boot the system from the floppy disk; the installer will appear again and ask which drive letter is your HDD (remember that thing about the letter order? this is where it comes into play). It will then copy game files into the HDD.
- Reboot again, and the floppy disk will now boot straight into the game.
To illustrate this, we'll see how to install the classic visual novel "Desire: Haitoku no Rasen" by C's Ware.
First, run MAME with all the hardware attached. For example:
mame pc9821ce2 -hard1 pc98.chd -cdrom desire -cbus0 pc9801_86 -ramsize 14M
(by the way, you can persist most of those options by putting them into an INI file; for example. create "ini/source/pc9801.ini" and add the line "cbus0 pc9801_86" to always have an 86 sound card attached)
Once DOS has booted, mount a blank floppy into the first drive as read-write, switch to the Q: drive and take a look. In this case there are two files called DESIREFD.BAT and DESIREHD.BAT.
These are the installers (one to just use the floppy and run everything from CD, and the other to also install the game into HDD). You will see similarly named files in a lot of PC-98 software, though sometimes the names are less intuitive (e.g. ZZZCDF.EXE and ZZZCDH.EXE). In this case, we run DESIREHD.BAT.
First it will ask for the kind of CD-ROM drive we have. This is needed in order to know which driver it has to copy. For the emulated drive in MAME you should always select anything related to a standard NEC drive, in this case option 1.
Now it's asking for the drive our DOS files are in, so we choose A.
And finally, it asks where the blank floppy disk is, so we choose B. It will warn you that all data inside the floppy disk will be lost. Just press ENTER.
Now it's formatting the disk and copying the system files. Just wait, and it will eventually show this:
It will send you back to the command line. Now reboot the PC-98 and let it boot from floppy. If everything is right, the installer will run again.
This is just a confirmation prompt to install the HDD part of the game, which will take up 6 MB of disk space. Press Y.
Now this is the mind-bending part. We need to tell the installer where the HDD is, but since we are booting from floppy, the HDD is now drive C: instead of A:. Yes, it's insane, but that's how it works.
Specify a directory to install into, and...
It's over. Reboot again, and you will be in the game.
Other possible situations:
In some cases (e.g. Data West games) you don't need a blank disk, and instead they include their own installer floppies, which modify themselves to include the necessary system files and drivers. Generally the user is expected to make a backup copy of that disk before running the installer.
In some other cases (a lot of Nihon Falcom games), there's no floppy involved. You just run the installer from the CD, it copies files to the HDD, and you are expected to run the game directly from your DOS installation. This isn't very common, though.
Sometimes, you also get additional options to select the type of graphics and/or sound hardware you have. Those are usually intuitive enough if you know the basics of how the platform works (which I just taught you!).
And in some other cases... well, there can be unexpected things. If you can read at least basic Japanese you should be able to make some sense out of them, but if not... well, good luck.
That's it for now! Good luck on your adventures in the PC-98 world!