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eXo, the author of eXoDOS
First of all I’d like to make special note of what an amazing amount of work has gone into the eXoDOS project. I went back into the 90s and I enjoyed games from my childhood with just a few clicks. This is a masterpiece of video game preservation work, thank you for that!
eXo: Glad you enjoy it. The entire purpose of the project is preservation first and foremost, however I believe the best way to preserve games is by making them playable\accessible.

How old are you, and are you working in IT in real life? Studies?
eXo: I am 44 and I do work in IT, although I actually went to college to get away from computers. I ended up getting degrees in geoscience & GIS mapping, but I just couldn’t escape computers.

When did you start working on eXoDOS and what was the main inspiration to do so? Maybe some other emu launcher?
eXo: eXoDOS started humbly enough. Originally I just wanted to play Discworld one night back in 2006, so 17 years ago now.. I couldn’t get it running on my XP machine, so I found some software called DOSBox that claimed it would allow me to run DOS games on modern machines. It took all night for me to get it figured out, so by the time I got it running properly I didn’t even have any time to play it. At that point I decided to get all my old DOS games setup in DOSBox so that the next time I wanted to play them, I wouldn’t be stuck waiting.

I noticed during this process how scattered information on DOSBox was. And frankly, how standoffish their help forums could be. Unlike most emulators, DOSBox requires knowledge of the MS-DOS operating system as well as the emulator itself. The combination of the two can create a fairly cryptic scenario for someone who isn’t coming into the situation with any pre-existing knowledge.

Combine that with the fact that less than 3% of all commercial DOS games can actually be purchased on store fronts like GOG or Steam, and you have a recipe for lost media.

At the time I started eXoDOS, there wasn’t anything else like it. There were giant ROM packs full of every console game for various systems, but nothing that was presetup in a front end with manuals, scans, metadata, etc. As a matter of fact, clean looking frontends like HyperSpin were just starting to take off at the time, and one of the primary challenges people faced was trying to get all of their media named properly so it would show up.

Favorite emulators for other systems apart from DOS?
eXo: I think I generally view emulators as tools to access software. The best emulators are generally the ones with the best software to back them up.

Tell us a little bit about the current eXoDOS team or maybe also for other teams as well for other projects currently in the works.
eXo: The team is made up of volunteers from all over the world. I started the Discord server back in 2018, and slowly people started showing up that found various ways to assist the project. Most of the team members exclusively work on eXo projects, however a handful also source archives for projects like TDC (Total DOS Collection).

Python is one of my main guys, and he puts a lot of time into assisting with the composite CGA work, as well as our ScummVM project. He has also put a lot of time into getting extended MIDI added to our next release of the eXoWin3x project.

Timber is my other main guy. He is a wiz with python scripts, and has helped put together several utilities that make the pack run smooth, including some amazing scripting that links our magazines to the games mentioned within them. He is also heading up the German Language pack with fellow team member Eulisker. This is our first add-on language pack for eXoDOS (with several more languages also in the works). As our German contingent, they are also quite adept at assisting on the documentation side of things. Who said stereotypes aren’t true, lol

Bigjim and Smiling Spectre are two stand out team members when it comes to sourcing games. Bigjim is able to dig up games and software that aren’t archived anywhere online. Meanwhile, Smiling Spectre is able to dig up alternate versions and clean files of hacked versions of almost anything we are looking for. And when he can’t find it online, he is always quick to find me an eBay link.

Jemy Murphy has helped with several aspects of the project over the years, but most recently he has been behind an effort to find every Win9x game from 1994-2003 for a future eXoWin9x project. We are talking terabytes worth of data, mainly in games that have long since been forgotten about.

Boohyaka and Thorogin are both quieter team members, but very active on the back end. Boohyaka keeps our synology running, so the team has a shared workspace and Thorogin assists heavily with DBA work and macros. A large part of a project like this is documenting every game, researching metadata, and then synchronizing that data from our databases to the XML’s that power the front end.

Then there is mgoddard, who is one of our more recent additions. He has spearheaded a project to create 30 second video clips of every single game in the pack, which is a herculean effort. Which is evidence by the simple fact that before now, there has never been a complete collection of video snaps for any DOS collection.

Last but not least, is Xavier_Velo who has been massive at locating missing manuals and other documentation, while also leading the creation of our Czech\Polish\Slovak language pack.

Then of course there are dozens of other volunteers who aren’t listed as actual staff members, but contribute all sorts of odds and ends to the project.

If you could give a percentage about the completion (and by complete I mean as you see fit) for eXoDOS, what would that be? Also what are the short term/long term plans for eXoDOS in general (if any)?
eXo: eXoDOS has captured a very high percentage of all commercial DOS games. While we find a handful of missing commercial games each year, the predominant area we are trying to fill out are registered shareware games and other freeware. A majority of this comes from websites like cd.textfiles or the TDC collection. However, it is not a simple task as many games were simple modifications of existing games. As in, a kid would just change the title screen and call it his own.

From a commercial stand point, I would say eXoDOS is 95% complete. If we are to try and get every unique shareware title in… then maybe 60%. This last iteration, my focus was less on getting shareware in as it was on getting magazines, books, catalogs, soundtracks, commercials, trailers, and other aspects added that round out the era.

That said, there is a TON of work to do on our Windows 3x pack, and I could likely spend the rest of my life on eXoWin9x when the time comes for that. We also have an Apple IIe pack we are working on, an Apple IIGS pack that is currently out, and the eXoScummVM and eXoDREAMM packs we maintain. Honestly, any computer is fair game. Python and I have looked into a dozen or so different machines, from the Acorn to the Amiga.

So I gather that after eXoDOS, the main project will likely be eXoWin9x right? Can you tell us more about the win9x project that is already underway?
eXo: Win9x is the frontier that needs the most attention. I was speaking with Aaron Giles about this just last week. A proper portable windows 95\98 emulation solution simply does not exist right now. You can use PCem or DOSBox to spin up a single instance. PCem and x86box though are massive CPU crunchers, and many games simply don’t run well in that environment, even when on a beast of a machine. Meanwhile, DOSBox simply isn’t stable enough. There is VMware, but that isn’t portable. Then sometimes people suggest Wine or OTVDM, but these don’t work with third party software like quicktime or direct-x, which many games of the time needed.

This has been a very frustrating thing for me, as I have people come to me weekly to tell me how “easy” it is to get Win9x running in an emulator. But what isn’t being considered is the difference between running a handful of games in a 9x emulator and running thousands of games in a 9x emulator. Each game needs its own clean OS. It’s own clean registry. Those who grew up during this time remember how one game would stop running when another game changed the color depth or the screen resolution. Or one game wants Quicktime v 1.2 and another wants 2.1.2, and neither works with the other.

A clean solution should, in my opinion, use parent child relationships on dynamic sizing disk images. Basically, a handful of “gold” 9x installs (95, 98, 98se, etc) and then each game installs to its own child image that reports at the max size but only takes up as much space on disk as the contained files. PCem has functionality like this, but the performance just isn’t there yet.

It is important to remember that to get thousands of 9x games running is going to take years. And I am not inclined to begin that process on emulators that aren’t up to the task. It just means I’ll have to redo all of my work when better software comes along. Having put as much time as I have into eXoDOS, I can’t imagine starting over 5 years in.

So the question is not, can Windows 9x be emulated. The question is can it be emulated with good performance, without redundant OS images, in a portable manner that doesn’t require software to be installed to the host machine. Once those have been satisfied, I will likely begin  work.

Alright, let’s assume for a moment that  DOS, Win9x, Win3x and Mac are all done by the eXo team. Do you think that this kind of (marvelous) work can be applied to other systems like consoles for example? Could the eXo recipe be a panacea for launching games of many other platforms with great respect to preservation?
eXo: Yes! A big part of my work on eXoDOS for the past 2 years was rebuilding the backend to create something that can easily be used to support any system. My launchers and installers are designed to be universal. As long as the system has an emulator that accepts command line arguments, my back end can be adapted to work with it.

I actually built the eXoDREAMM project in under 2 weeks using the framework from eXoDOS 6. Granted, DREAMM has a fairly limited scope currently, but that allowed me to spend that time maximizing the data for each game. I was able to add novels, soundtracks, documentaries, strategy guides, and even design documentation for each game. The process of getting them all to install and launch took an hour or so.

I was able to come up with some new techniques while working on eXoDREAMM that auto populate the menus. So all I have to do is drop games into folders, and the menus fill themselves out. Using scripting like that, it makes it very easy to adapt the back end to any computer system.

I would love to find people as passionate about systems like the Amiga and Spectrum (etc..) as I am about DOS, and use this back end to create similar projects.

One other question that comes to mind about eXoDOS - to me at least - is about the possible licensing issues for all the games that are covered. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the fact that we can enjoy all those gems from the DOS era with such ease and incredible level of detail in terms of the variants and gfx/sound configurations. Personally I played the Red Guard, GTA and Nascar games which I own physical copies from back when they were released. That said, are all the included games abandonware or at least in a gray area that it is safe to distribute?
eXo: This is a good question, and one I am happy to answer. As mentioned above, by my calculations, about 3% of all commercial DOS games are currently available on store fronts like GOG and Steam. That leaves 97% of the commercial games out there to rot and be forgotten. Of the 3% that are available, many of them are butchered. And by many, I mean like 75%. And by butchered, I mean they have had their setup files and drivers stripped out of them. Most of GOG’s releases are no better than the scene rips that used to float around in the 90’s. When you buy a Sierra game, like King’s Quest 4, from GOG you get a presetup version that only plays the SCI build with adlib music. You don’t get access to the AGi copy. You don’t get access to the setup files or drivers to enable Roland MT-32 music, even though the games score was composed on it. And why not? How hard would it be for these things to be included? My team and I are able to add these options to every single game, along with other ease of use options like auto network multiplayer scripts. GOG is actually making money off these games, and yet they have no interest.

GOG is actually horrible for preservation. Imagine a situation where the GOG copies of games are all you can find. All of the other sound cards, lost. Drivers for other video modes? Lost. Original media? Not included. Disc images get stripped down, redbook audio gets stripped and compressed to OGG, manuals get butchered and digitized and often important parts of them are left out.

On top of that, GOG has sourced their files from eXoDOS several times in the past. We have found our marker files in their releases on several occasions. So, it seems they rely on projects like this for their source material. I mean, it’s not like Activison has any of the old Sierra games laying around. They never had them. Like most games being sold by GOG, these are major publishers that have simply gone around buying each other up over and over until the actual developers who made these games are so far removed from what is being sold that there is practically no relation.

Now. With that said, I am not saying people shouldn’t purchase from GOG. I am GLAD someone out there is making an attempt to keep these games alive. I simply feel they could be doing a much better job of how they present these games.

eXoDOS in Greek means exit Smile Was that a coincidence?
eXo: Hah. Yes. I have gone by eXo for decades now online. When I started doing a project based on DOS games, it occurred to me that there was a bit of a play on words I could take advantage of. So I did. And I think it paid off, as the name seems fairly memorable for a lot of folks.

Can you please tell us what are the best ways for eXoDOS fans to support this kick-ass project?
eXo: The best way to support the project is to join our discord and follow along. Every single team member started as just some person in the channel.I let people find niches that they want to work on, and that seems to lead to passionate work. So far it has been a great formula, as the team we have built over there is full of great people. 

The projects website can be found at, along with links to download the projects, join our discord, link to my youtube channel where I talk about the projects, and other fun stuff.

Thank you very much for the interview and we wish you all the best in your future project adventures!
eXo: Thank you for your interest in the project and sharing this with your readers.

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