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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:23 pm

A couple of weeks ago I decided to give Adventure CRPGs a bit of a break and opted for the gorgeously crafted Elvira: Mistress of the Dark by Horror Soft (1990) - a horror game I’ve never fully played.
This big-box game comes with no less than 5 floppy disks. Naturally I looked up how to install it to my hard drive before doing anything else.

And as is typical for the Amiga, hard drive installations are completely Wild West Random Sauce. It seems like every single company - particularly game companies - had no real clue on how to write the Amiga installation routines. There is virtually no standard pre-1992 on how to place games from floppies to hard drives. And so it was often a bit of an adventure from the consumer's standpoint. Even the legendary Gold Box games can be bafflingly all over the map in this department.

And Elvira is no different. Here’s what the original instructions look like, all innocent-like batting their eyelashes sweetly.
Pay particular attention to step #4 in bold:

(where x indicates the hard drive,
i.e. dh0;, dh1:, etc.)
I wanted to install this game to my early-release 16Mhz Amiga 3000, which has both KS 1.3 and 2.0 built-in from the factory. One of the very strange oddities about this setup is that the machine has no numbered hard disks (e.g. DH0:, DH1:, etc.).

It only has 3 partitions, and it creates these when you do a fresh install (no matter what) if you keep the Kickstart ROM tower intact and original, which I have. Thus the partitions look like this:
- Work:
- WB_1.3:
- WB_2.0:

And again, those partitions are the only names the machine has. That’s it!

The instructions state - as an example - that I should type the path where I want “Mistress” to be installed. I assumed those examples were just that - examples. I soon came to discover that they were literal. If you didn’t use DH0: or DH1: the install would go through the motions. But after launching the game it would ask for floppy disks to play the game!

I sat there staring at my screen for a moment.

Note: inside Work: I have a Games folder for all of the games on the machine I’ve installed. I didn’t want to install Elvira to DH0:’s root. But I was willing to do that in a worst case scenario. But first I just wanted to try and get the Disk ID numbers thing figured out.

That’s when I decided to use the ASSIGN command in my user-startup to give each partition its own ID number that most games are looking for once and for all.

What I wanted to do was something like this:

Work: would be DH1:
WB_1.3 would be DH0:
I didn’t really care about WB_2.0 since I rarely use it.

What I wanted to do was tell the Amiga that DH1: is the same dang thing as Work:, and vice-versa. After some research and experimentation, I was able to do it like this.

In User-Startup (or Startup-Sequence) I created each drive separately with comments to keep things organized and as user-friendly to my future forgetful self as possible.

Here is how I did it.
I focused on just the main drives I really use first.

I soft-rebooted and made sure the machine didn't lock up. So far so good! Then I dropped to the Shell and tried to change directories to the new DH1:. It worked!

Next, I begrudgingly installed Elvira to DH1:'s root. The installation was successful. So then I thought, "What if I gave it a path as part of the definition?"

I went back to my User-Startup file and did the following:
This seemed like the logical next step for me so I could drop to Games just like a partitioned drive (like most people have).

Unfortunately, that didn't work. So I started to experiment more. It wasn't intuitive to me writing it backwards, but when I got to this:
it worked!

So even though in my strange A3000 world 'Games' is a directory I can now hit it like a fully fledged drive with the Disk ID of DH2:.

Super cool!

After testing the new "Drive" in the Shell, I went back to the Elvira floppies and installed it yet again. And the new Assign worked flawlessly.
There she goes!

I held my breath when I launched the game for the umpteenth time praying it wouldn't ask me for the disks, and it didn't! Elvira is now fully installed and working on my weird old A3000.

And I owe it all to the ASSIGN command in Amiga OS.

Technical Side note:
If I were to eliminate the Kickstart Tower and just put 2.05 in there (or whatever) this would not be an issue. It would let me install hard drives galore and create partition names with any name I wanted. This issue is specific to the very early A3000 and how they shipped to market without HDD ID numbers and how this machine NEEDS these very specific partition names to work. In fact, the rabbit hole goes even deeper. If I ever want to install a second hard drive (or even an external SCSI drive) I'm currently screwed. The factory settings put the boot drive on Drive ID 6 - the end of the chain. If I try to put, say, my Iomega SCSI drive on ID 5, it gets in front of the boot drive and locks things up. It's a fixable problem, but I don't want to undo the Kickstart Tower. It's a small price I'm willing to pay for now as this is quickly becoming my favorite machine.

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Posted Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:33 am

Interesting that you use the A3000 in KS1.3 most of the time. I never pictured doing that, if I had one.

I run the A1000 (2MB FAST, SCSI HD) on 1.3 and my Amiga 2000 ('020 14MHz, 5MB FAST, SCSI HD, HxC2001 floppy emu) on 3.1. But then, I do most gaming on the A2000 via WHDLoad. I watch a lot of demos on the A2000 (the A1000 won't go PAL like the A2000 will), mainly from WB 3.1/CLI but some via ADF boot.

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Toronto, Canada

Posted Mon Jul 22, 2019 11:00 am

thanks for posting <3

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Posted Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:24 pm

Hi, thanks a lot for all these informations and the little explanation.

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