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Codename: OUCHMAN

So I’m making my own install/setup program for The Dating Pool, that also happens to be 100% compatible with Sierra’s games. Fun, fun. What’s was particularly funny to me is the size difference.

Sierra’s installer is at minimum three separate files. One is the installer proper @ 74.4 KB, one is the on-screen text @ 9.21 KB, and one is the driver database @ 17.2 KB, totaling 100 KB. Add to that the “install to hard drive” script file for another 1.80 KB if you want, but that’s optional.

Mine is, with all the features it has to offer so far (and I can certainly add more) a mere 34.4 KB. This includes every single bit of on-screen text. It is almost entirely self-contained. The presence of a single extra file switches it into “install to hard drive” mode, and that file merely specifies the standard target directory and the number of disks. Add another four kilobytes if you build with -DISOFONT for 256×16 bytes of extra font data, subtract about a half if you build without -DNORTON.

But then I wondered, how does Sierra’s installer do a bunch of things exactly? Like how does it know it’s being run from CD so it knows to invoke that script at the end, among other things? It’s not the presence of the script file, since that’s copied right along. So I opened it up in IDA… and was told it was compressed.

Turns out install.exe is actually a whopping 167 KB. You’ll excuse me for my curiosity…

17.7 KB. With everything but the disk install trigger file built-in. Sweet Christmas.

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Sierra’s setup/install program

Let’s summarize!

First of course we had this subdued thing. It doesn’t state its version number, and has no main menu – it just goes through all the different driver selections, then offers to copy the game to your hard drive. I got this from The Colonel’s Bequest. King’s Quest IV (1988) has the same, but with a different caption: “3D Adventure Game Setup/Installation Program”.

Unstated version, goes through a fixed script asking which driver you want and if you want to copy the game to your hard drive at the end, exactly like the original… but in color! Found this one in Space Quest IV (disk version).

Version 3.15b looks like the SQ4D version, but actually has a proper menu like those from later on. This one is from the Leisure Suit Larry 1 SCI remake.

Version 3.31 brings the finalized style. This copy is from the Space Quest I remake.

Version 3.569 is pretty much the same, but the copyright box is taller.

Version 3.681, again not much to write home about. The copyright has been amended. I got this from Space Quest III, which is chronologically confusing to me. Version 3.690, from Freddy Pharkas, bumps it up to 1991-94… but to add to the confusion, the diskette version of Freddy Pharkas is version 3.644, with a 1991-93 copyright. To round out the confusion, the SVGA version of Leisure Suit Larry 6 has installer version 3.670, copyright 1991-93 as well. What ever!

Rounding out the official installers we have King’s Quest 7′s installer, now called inst.exe, version 3.758.

And finally, because nobody asked for it…

…there’s my from-scratch rewrite. Functionally on par, this is still missing a few features such as viewing a readme file, making a boot disk, detecting if a given driver is supported to begin with (it only shows known drivers that it can find the DRV file for, like the B/W installers, but doesn’t do the “supported by your system” tick marks), only showing options in the main menu if there’s a choice – if you only have VGA320.DRV, it shouldn’t show “Graphics”. The minimal menu should only show “Mouse”, “Memory”, “Make boot disk”, “Accept”, and “Cancel”, and actually installing the game to HDD (at least, the same way Sierra’s does). But other than that, it’s basically a drop-in replacement.

That version number will reach 1.000 soon enough, mark my words.

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