Every time I get a new game of any complexity, I usually create a menu for it using the freeware standalone launcher PStart. For me, it’s part of the fun of getting a new game, and it also consolidates a bunch of game resources in a single executable more attractively than the Start menu. Here’s my menu for the newly re-released Master of Orion from GOG:
As you can see, the GOG package includes both Master of Orion I and II, manuals, and the open source DOSBox emulator pre-configured to properly run both games. It’s a fairly complex setup that GOG has taken some decent steps to simplify for the average player. Putting all these resources into a single menu makes it (for me), even simpler. For example, I’ve been playing around with the various DOSBox settings to get the game to run the way I like, so it’s useful to me to have access to the dosboxMOO2.conf file you see in the above menu.
So, just quickly, here is how you put together such a menu system, for just about any game, for free.
- Pegtop’s PStart launcher
- An attractive icon set. For alien greenishness, I’m using Iconfactory’s Matrix Rebooted icons
- Something worth launching, in this case, Master of Orion I and II
- Optionally, dud.exe for the “Quit” button (I’ll explain this later)
Let’s get started!
- Download and install PStart. I suggest the portable installation option, and installing PStart directly in the MoO folder. A single executable, PStart.exe, is the result.
- Launch PStart. It’ll initially be blank, and we’ll change that. First, though, change your preferences in Setup->Settings. Poll through the options and set the menu behavior to your preferences. I like using small icons, for example, and prefer to trim off the About and Search menus.
- Adding items to the menu is as simple as drag-n-drop. You can add as many items as you like, and organize them into folder-like groups. (Add groups by selecting Edit->Add Group.)
- Adding the actual game launch executable is more tricky, since you must first call DOSBox.exe, and reference the proper configuration file for the game of your choice.
- MoO I and II will not run properly on modern hardware and OSs, so DOSBox provides an emulated DOS environment for the game to run in. The shortcuts included with the GOG installation refer to a DOSBox environment pre-configured for MoO I and II.
- All we have to do is find those shortcuts and add them to the PStart menu.
- Locate the game launch shortcuts (by default, in your Start menu and on your desktop) and drag-n-drop them onto the PStart menu, like any other file.
- You’ll note that the menu item changes to “DOSBox DOS Emulator” rather than taking on the shortcut name “Master of Orion.” This is because the actual shortcut is to the DOSBox executable. We’ll change that in the next step. For now, test the menu by launching the game and verifying that it works.
- Let’s change the look of the menu. Right click on any menu item and select Edit.
- The File Properties dialog appears. Here, you can observe the command line parameters for the shortcut, and change the Name that appears in the menu.
- Click the Advanced tab. Here, you can change the icon that appears in the menu, among some other options. Connect.ico looks kind of like an alien planet, so I’m using it as my game launch icon for Master of Orion I.
- The icons for groups can be similarly changed. You can also elect to have the group expand automatically on startup, so the whole submenu is visible.
- Keep modifying the menu until you get it just they way you like. Here’s what I ended up with:
- To create a “Quit” menu item, add dud.exe as a menu item. Dud is a program that does nothing, it simply executes, then closes itself.
- Modify it like any other menu item, but also use the On Execution option to trigger PStart to exit when Dud/Quit is launched.
- And you’re done! Play some Master of Orion!