This is a collection of logs and discoveries around the FMV (Full Motion Video) Video game from 1994 released for the PC under MSDOS "The Lawnmower Man" and the attempt to extract assets from it.
This effort started 03/02/2022
Rather than dig out my likely scratched CD copy, I decided to take a look at archive.org to see if I could find myself an ISO image of the game. https://archive.org/details/TheLawnmowerManMSDOS With that out of the way, I mounted the image, made sure it was what I remembered, and made sure I could run the game under dosbox.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's make sure it runs, since I remember going through heck and back just to load it on a real machine. I guess I should build a computer to run this "game", but that can be a distraction for later.
Perfect. I didn't have to muck with anything, and although it's choppy, I recall the same thing back in the day. It has two modes of operation, booting from the CD directly and installing some files onto the hard drive and presumably running it from there. Let's do that now having proven the CD method works fine.
THE LAWNMOWER MAN - (c) The Sales Curve Ltd
If you wish to play the game with the default settings direct from the
CD-ROM, simply log onto your CD-ROM directory and type 'LAWNCD X' where
X is replaced with the drive letter of your CD-ROM drive.
However, it is highly recommended that you use the INSTALL program which
will copy about 200k of files to your hard-drive, and allow tuning the
game to the speed of your PC.
In addition you may also use the INSTALL program to place extra data files
on your hard-drive to improve the speed of the game if you have a slower
A small batch file is also created during installation, which allows
removal of all installed files simply by typing 'REMOVE' in the installation
Make sure you re-run the INSTALL program if you change your hardware
configuration after installing the game.
The game is controlled from the keyboard using the following keys:
Up - Cursor/Numeric Keypad Up & 'Q'
Down - Cursor/Numeric Keypad Down & 'A'
Left - Cursor/Numeric Keypad Left & 'O'
Right - Cursor/Numeric Keypad Right & 'P'
Fire - 'Space' & 'Enter'
Quit to DOS - Esc
As with most games, the faster the better! The minimum configuration
is a 386.
You should have minimum TSRs & drivers loaded before running the game.
If you get an 'Out of Memory' error, the game ran out of Base Memory and
you should remove any drivers etc not required.
1000k of Extended memory (XMS) is required, and HIMEM.SYS should be used
in your CONFIG.SYS.
On a 2 megabyte machine, you should disable the BIOS option that uses
'Shadow RAM' to speed up the ROM. This memory will be required by the
A 16Bit Register Compatible VGA Display Card is required.
A CD-ROM with SUSTAINED THROUGHPUT of 150k/sec is required. The INSTALL
program will measure the speed of your CD-ROM.
The Microsoft CD Extensions should be supplied with your CD-ROM Drive. Version
2.1 or above of MSCDEX is required. You should specify at least 20 buffers
to be used with MSCDEX. (ie the parameter "/M:20" should be on your MSCDEX
line in your AUTOEXEC.BAT).
The DigPak SoundBlaster Driver from "THE Audio Solution" is used for
digital audio. Creative Labs Sound Blaster, Pro and 100% hardware
compatible clones are supported.
The configuration is read from the BLASTER enviromental variable if
set, as described below. Otherwise an auto-scan will be attempted to
find a Sound Blaster.
Example configuration of the BLASTER variable, as it should appear in
your AUTOEXEC.BAT file:
SET BLASTER=A220 I5
This defines a sound card address of 220 and use of interrupt 5.
The above statement must be in upper case and in the order shown.
A message from Advanced Gravis for UltraSound Users
Mega-Em is a new utility that enables you to emulate the...
So I want to take you back to 1994 to set this up right
My father decided to continue his education at college, and my parents collectively purchased a computer since the typewriter was not cutting it and the computers at the college were notoriously unreliable.
$2,300 got us a brand new (and FDIV Bugged) Socket 5 Pentium 75MHZ with 8MB of ram, a S3 Vision864 Super VGA Card, a 15" monitor, a brand new 2X NEC CDROM drive, a Vibra16 sound card, a staggeringly large 795MB hard drive, a 14.4 US Robotics internal modem, a floppy drive, a keyboard, and a mouse. The printer was also not cheap, but it's not relevant to this story.
Bundled with the computer were things like Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Microsoft Word, Excel, Bookshelf 1994, and a plethora of mostly terrible CDROM video games, one of which stuck in my mind and is the subject for this experiment. It certainly was not because it was easy to play or even run, I remember fumbling my way through and needed to make a special modified config.sys and autoexec.bat to even have enough conventional memory to run the program without it crashing with an out of memory error.
The game was "The Lawnmower Man" based on the movie and took place after the events of the original movie.
I recall it had some really awesome concepts, awesome "graphics" for the time (although somewhat choppy), disturbing visuals, and a killer soundtrack. It was impossible for me to complete, as it the slip of paper that came with the game didn't give many hints I could understand. Controls didn't seem to do what they should, there were time limits. It also did not help that the entire game was based on what would later be coined 'quick time events' and very hard puzzles. You had 3 chances at failure, there was no save system, no password system, some of the minigames had time limits, and the success or failure was often cryptic, all of this AND if you accidentally pressed the <ESC> key, it would exit to DOS and you'd have to start it right from the beginning. Again, I never beat it.
It's 2022 now so I thought about this game... Looking at it now and knowing more, I can now say it's similar in concept and execution to the arcade game "Dragon's Lair".
Bothering me and at the top on my mind though: How did they do what they did using DOS?! It was WAY overambitious for the time! Not too many games from that day attempted similar.
With that in mind, I figured that I could find a copy of this old game and see if it's possible to dump the awesome music, maybe some of the visuals out of it, and see if there are hints to how it was made/developed.