Syndicate Wars Finally Works Natively In Windows

If you’re a fan of the Syndicate sequel but find the experience of playing ancient Bullfrog titles through DOSBox a little impractical, then I have a port for you.

It’s a fan project that makes Syndicate Wars, a DOS game from 1996, more practical to play. Syndicate Wars has been available for users through Good Old Games for a while, but it relies on DOSBox to run — which doesn’t always provide the greatest experience.

Syndicate Wars Port improves on that by replacing much of the DOS-specific code with alternatives designed to play more nicely with modern systems. And getting it to work natively with Windows was, well, a challenge:

The project was in many ways challenging, it took us two attempts and a considerable amount of effort to understand the LE executable format, write a disassembler that would produce re-compilable code, understand the old DOS interfaces, Watcom register calling conventions and recognise its statically-compiled C library functions; we had to analyse the disassembled source code, interface the assembler code with C code by using automatically-generated function wrappers and fight with Apple compiler bugs; all this before we could provide our own C replacements for the DOS-specific assembler parts and finally make it all work (after endless hours of debugging the assembler code with gdb, of course); months of tediousness and uncertainty before we could even see the mission screen pop up (and crash).

There’s one catch, of course: you’ll need to have the original files to get the port to work. You’ll also be able to get it going on GNU, UNIX or OSX, although doing so a far trickier task, so follow the instructions closely.

The creators also noted that they’d be happy to take down any offending code “should the original copyright holders complain”. EA released the original Syndicate for free through Origin, although Syndicate Wars hasn’t been made available as of yet. You can pick the sequel up for $8 through GOG, although the programmers haven’t said whether the unpackaged GOG files will work with their fan patch.

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