Running Star Trek Generations [PC] in VMWare Workstation

ST: Generations is and old FPS/Space Combat game from 1997 by MicroProse.  It was the first ever proper “big-box” PC game that was bought for me by my parents back in Christmas of that year and as such I have very fond memories of playing it.  It’s not a particularly great game, but the sentimental value gives it something that made me want to come back to it recently.  I attempted to run this game several different ways, and I’ll quickly summarise the ones that didn’t work here.

  • Windows 7 – Installer doesn’t run, 16 bit applications not supported.
  • Windows 7’s XP Mode Virtual Machine – Game installs but runs at 640×480, XP Mode has no “stretch” function to play at full screen.  Also, videos don’t play and game crashes often.
  • Windows 9x in VMWare Player – Game will install but there is no way to stretch the screen, stuck with 640×480 resolution.

It’s worth noting that with the “no stretch” complaint above, some people might not mind this or would be happy to set their “host” OS resolution down to 640×480 temporarily to get the game to run in full screen, but I am not happy with that as it’s a pain and it plays with your desktop icons etc.  No, I wanted to find a way to play this game in it’s native habitat and at full screen.  After much searching around and testing, I ended up getting it working on Windows 98 running in VMWare Workstation 10.  The main advantage with Workstation is that it is able to stretch the guest operating system to fit your monitor, no matter what resolution your host OS is running on.  Continue reading for a quick guide on how to make this possible.

Step 1 – Install Windows 98 SE on VMWare Workstation 10

I’m not going to cover this here, because I have a separate article on how to properly install and setup Windows 98 SE on Workstation here.  If you don’t know how to do this then read my article and come back when your done.

Step 2 – Install ST: Generations

We’re in business

OK, this should be simple enough but let’s go over it anyway.

First, insert the first disc of ST:G or mount the image and the Autorun should kick in and give you the option to install the game.  If it doesn’t then run Setup.exe from the disc directly.

Install the game as you would normally – choose the “Maximum” installation and feel free to install the DirectX 3 components.  You’ll have to swap your discs/images a couple of times during the installation process.

Once it’s done you’ll need a quick restart but then you should be all set to go after a couple of tweaks:

Step 3 – Tweaks (IMPORTANT)

ST:G is a very fussy game, and requires the colour scheme of the OS to be 16 bit depth – the game will refuse properly to run otherwise.  You MUST apply the optional 16 bit colour depth tweak described in my article on how to install W98 SE on Workstation (here again).

After applying the tweak, restart the virtual machine.  You should now see in the display settings that the colour depth is 16 bit.

Last of all, set the screen resolution in the virtual machine to 640×480 exactly (using the display properties dialog) and then in the View/Autosize menu in Workstation you must unclick the “Autofit Window” option and also select “Stretch Guest”.  Note that the stretch guest option may not be available until you go to fullscreen.  This now means that even when you go to fullscreen, the VMWare Tools will not adjust the resolution of the guest OS, and this allows ST:G to run as normal.

That should be it!  Now the game should run fine and in all its original fullscreen glory.  I hope this guide helped, I tried several different things before I came across the solution and the problem with the 16 bit colours eluded me for a while so I was glad when I got that straightened out.  I find that the game is still prone to the occasional random crash but I think this is totally unavoidable and it was probably present on the original hardware, regular saving means this isn’t a problem though.

– Jaska

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