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Timer Issues > This article explains why there are timer problems, helps you locate them and (most importantly) helps you solving them. Thanks to a set of new patches it is possible to completely eradicate the timer problems!

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Timer Issues
You've reached the Frequently Asked Questions About Timer Related Problems, or FAQATRAP for short:
- What is this chapter all about?
- Old games run too fast. Why?
- When will timer related problems occur in the Space Quest series?
- How do I know if it is a timer related problem I'm facing?
- How can you solve the timer related problems?


What is this chapter all about?
This chapter will help you with timer related problems. A timer related problem is a problem that occurs in the game's puzzles because your computer is too fast. You should get these problems if your system is faster than 250 Mhz. I've received mails from people had problems with even slower computers. There wasn't really anything Sierra could do back then to prevent timer related problems, because there simply weren't any computers that produced them! But they could with the release of the newest Space Quest collection in 1997. It was still the same Space Quest 4, the same Space Quest 1 VGA, the same Space Quest 5 and the same Space Quest 6! All these games have timer related problems. By that time computers were fast enough to produce timer related problems. And yes, they supplied the Mo'Slo program (an utility to slow down your pc), but they should have known that computers would only get faster and faster. So what can YOU do about timer related problems? Well to answer that, we must ask ourselves WHY our good old DOS games are running too fast on modern machines.


Old games run fast. Why?
It has a lot to do with crystals. Crystals run a lot of things: digital watches, computers and other stuff that I can't think of. They keep time, that's all they really do. But some crystals are more important than others, take the three crystals in your computer, in ascending order of importance:

1) Clock Crystal
2) BUS Crystal
3) CPU Crystal

First, the clock crystal - this keeps track of time, and it's somewhat better than a cheap digital watch, on my computer if I reset the clock every week, I'm only 15 minutes off the atomic clock. This crystal is not often used because it has a low resolution, this is what makes it "not that accurate", basically this means it sends out a signal that a certain amount of time has passed (on my machine its something like ever 54 milliseconds).

The next crystal is the BUS crystal. OK, I honestly don't know what its called, but it takes care of some pretty important stuff, like the PC speakers, RAM and front side BUS. This crystal does not like to be disturbed (actually, the crystal doesn't mind, it likes having something else to do once in a while, it's the operating system that doesn't like it!). This crystal can be considered a medium or medium-high resolution crystal. I don't know how often it gives off a tick, but its less than every 10 milliseconds.

The last crystal is the CPU crystal. This is what old games have used all the time to keep track of timing in games, and this is pretty much what you overclock when you overclock (when you overclock you tell the crystal to speed up). This crystal, as you probably have guessed, runs the speed of the CPU. This crystal can be considered high, or ultrahigh resolution. On my machine it gives off a tick every 0.00000000000548 milliseconds. Trust me, that's a lot of ticks.

So many ticks that it's a lot more than a 486 would've given off. Which is why so many older games run... Awkwardly... They rely on this crystal for timing (now you know why Roger spins his head like an assclown in SQ4 and SQ1VGA and SQ4).

But you'll notice that this only controls certain functions in old games. For example, in Space Quest 4, Roger's head moves like a hypochondriac skitzo on speed, yet the little pink bunny and the Droid o' Death and the mutant zombies don't move like prostitutes trying to hit on Bill Gates for one night.

And that is what as always confused me... If it was the speed of the processor defining how fast a game moves, shouldn't Roger be walking faster than Sonic the Hedgehog runs with Dr. Robotnik hot on his trail with a raygun? Something else must be the culprit then, shouldn't it?

Well as it turns out, both the regular clock crystal and the CPU crystal are used. Common events, like walking, or certain objects moving on the screen (note: the skate-o-rama sequence is a different story), only merit the use of the clock crystal - this saves memory because you don't need a large variable to store the number of ticks (remember, were not talking about 128 MB of RAM here, we only have 640 KB to work with!). Other events, such as animation of stuff that requires precision timing (ie: the skate-o-rama sequence), need the use of the CPU crystal.

So that means stuff like Roger's head moving (to this day I don't understand why they connected his head movement to the CPU crystal), the skate-o-rama sequence and other various stuff will run exponentially faster.


When will timer related problems occur in the Space Quest series?
They will occur in Space Quest 1 VGA, Space Quest 4 (CD-ROM version) and in Space Quest 6. Some also count the Space Quest 5 EVA Cliffy Rescue scene as a timer issue.


How do I know if it is a timer related problem I'm facing?
You'll know, trust me. The biggest problem with timer related problems is the fact that they will ruin the game, or at least a few puzzles. The pain really is that you might be trying very hard to solve a puzzle, but the timer related problem will simply stop you in succeeding. I've tried to compile a complete list below. If you have additions, let me know.

Timer problems in Space Quest 1 VGA:
In the Arcada, you'll notice the screen is shaking and shaking. And it should (every once in a while). Your ship is under attack, remember?!? But on faster computers, it just won't stop. And that's incredibly annoying.

You will dehydrate in the desert way too soon. A message will pop up almost immediately when you've landed, telling you you need to drink. You'll die of thirst before you can even think of exploring the planet.

The Sarien Spider DroidThe spider droid will come too soon. Thus giving you little chance toexplore the planet.

You will be unable to get past the falling acid drops in the cave on Kerona because the drops fall very rapidly. A tropical rainstorm is nothing compared to it!

Some animations in the game are too fast. The droid that passes Roger in the hallway at the start of the game rushes by at the speed of light. Roger looks like he's headbanging or something. But in fact, on slower computers he looks around every now and then. Also, the Cartridge retrieval droid moves way too fast. Probably, there are more of these small, but annoying, animation problems.

Timer problems in Space Quest 4 (CD-ROM version only):
When Roger enters a screen where the "droid-0-death" can/will appear, it will come almost immediately. It will be very hard to get the rope, the unstable ordinance, the PocketPal and to hide yourself from this droid, not to mention successfully entering the sewer grate. The biggest problem is, of course, that the game doesn't give you any time to explore and look around carefully because you're too occupied escaping the droid. The droid should not appear for at least a full minute.

Boarding the transport shuttle on the streets of Xenon is almost impossible. The Sequel Police are already standing there, waiting to kill you. When playing the game on a slower computer, the Sequel Police will only appear after some seconds, giving you enough time to examine the shuttle and to enter the landing gear compartment.

Two TimepodsThe same goes for entering one of the time pods on the Sequel Police dispatch. They will kill you almost immediately after they finished talking. You won't have time to do anything, how frustrating! Normally, you have at least some seconds to move. If you move downwards towards the time pods, the game will give you even more time to solve the puzzle. With a faster machine, you virtually don't have any time at all.

On Estros, the timepod of the Sequel Policemen will almost come immediately after you've landed. You will never have the time to "trigger" the Pterodactyl to pick you up. And, you just don't have time to walk around and explore the planet... You'll think you are stuck (that is, if you have the time to think that at all, you might be dead already), and will run to the nearest walk through paradise. While in fact, it's a timer related problem. When using a slower pc, the game will give you about 1 to 2 minutes before the Sequel Police arrive.

Roger Wilco biting the dustAnd of course the Skate-O-Rama scene. The Sequel Policemen won't give you any time to make your move. They will shoot their laser weapons like an AK47 and will hit you within the second. Solving this puzzles without knowing it just a stupid timer related problem is IMPOSSIBLE. There's still a grand prize of 100000 dollars for the person who passes this scene without dying on their first try. Normally, the Policemen miss quite a few times before they hit you, leaving you with enough time to evade them.

Near the end of the game you're supposed to use the Super Computer to "flush" the droid and the brain icon. When you've flushed the brain icon, the countdown will begin and you're supposed to make your way to Vohaul's room. On today's computers, the countdown will happen so bloody fast that you won't have the chance to leave the room and go back out to the maze.

Some animations go too fast (have I mentioned Roger's head already?), scrolling screens that doesn't look like they are scrolling (because of the speed), the Pterodactyl that moves even faster and so on.

Conclusion: Space Quest 4 is infested with timer related problems! The game simply sucks on modern pc. Nothing less, and surely nothing more. If you manage to finish it anyway, you'll find yourself being more frustrated than a Orat on a Stick! And why can't I get full score with this game? Is that a timer related problem too? .... No, that's a bug. :) The conveyer belt at Monolith Burger is not a timer bug either. It's supposed to move faster after a while, making it impossible to make any new burgers. You can solve this by changing your game speed. This will slow down the belt again.

Timer problems in Space Quest 5
As far as I know, the only timer problem in Space Quest 5 is the EVA scene were you need to rescue Cliffy with the pod. The controls are very hard to handle because the ship moves too fast. Normally, this puzzle is already very hard. Not only is it already fast, but you have little fuel. This puzzle requires some mouse skills, so don't whine if it doesn't work right from the start.

I've spotted some small animation problems, most notably the GradeMaster 2000 sequence. Maybe some scrolling screens effects are eliminated by timer problems, but so far I haven't found any.

Timer problems in Space Quest 6

Space Quest 6 actually behaves different to fast computers. It doesn't run any faster, but it gets unstable and/or behaves rather weird.

You won't be able to get the Endodroid Runner guy to talk with you. Later on, you'll find Elmo and bump into the same problem. Normally you just have to talk to them twice, but Roger only says "Hey" and they walk away without talking back.

Probably THE most notorious bug of the entire Space Quest series; the Error 47, aka the Compost Crash and Sickbay Sickness™. It happens when you try to use the datacard in the ComPost in Sickbay. The game will crash and output: "Error 47: Not an object: $0 script 64994/$f29".

If the game scrolls, it scrolls to a black screen, leaving you impossible to interact with the game.


How can you solve Timer Related problems?
The most important part of this article is of course solving the problem.

Just use ScummVM?
These days, ScummVM natively support all six official Space Quest games (technically seven, 'cos it also supports SQ1VGA). Running the games in ScummVM fixes the timer issues.

Timer Patches for SQ1VGA, SQ4, SQ5 and SQ6!
New Rising Sun has developed some awesome fixes that COMPLETELY ELIMINATE the timer problems. Check out his webpage, which includes enough information how to install the patches correctly. These patched are HIGHLY recommended and preferred in favour of slow down utilities and emulators.

Download a saved game
You can download "Jeysie's saved games", which are saved games for SQ1 through SQ6. They are offered on this website at any of the "Game Help sections". They won't solve the timer problems but you can load a saved game just beyond the timer problem.

Use an old computer
This option might feel kinda sucky to you, but you must understand the Space Quest games simply aren't designed to work with your Pentium 4 3 Ghz Windows XP machine. You can try any slow down utility to help you through the timer bugs, but it won't prevent most of the bugs from happening anyway. You'll get a game in return that doesn't act like it should. Not to mention using slow down utilities make the animation rusty and degrade game play. And who wants to use stupid utilities anyway? You just want to play the games, without any hassle. So your best solution is simply to play Space Quest on a fast 486 computer or early Pentium. I've written a very complete article about how to get your ultimate Space Quest computer and how to make it work. I urge you to Read more.

Use an emulator
Try DOSBox, the best DOS emulator around. This program will work on your Windows 2000 and XP machine and even the Apple Macintosh. All of the Space Quest games will work terrific, even if you own a state of the art heavy duty computer.

Using a slow down utility
This is how we used to tackle timer problems in the old days, before there were and patches and emulators.

A utility was included in the Space Quest Collection CD called Mo'Slo. Read the txt and doc files provided with Mo'Slo and you will be able to slow down your computer. It works with DOS only and is recommend for 350 Mhz machines and slower. You might want to download it here (9kb) if you haven't got the Space Quest Collection. Please visit the official Mo'Slo website for the latest version, which should work with even the fastest computers!

Also provided with your Space Quest Collection CD is a program called Turbo (52kb). It's designed for Windows 95 and 98, but will also work with newer versions. It's much more powerful than MOSLO, but makes the game rusty. This program is recommended for 800 Mhz and slower. However, it might already be too difficult getting past the timer bugs using a Pentium 3 500 Mhz machine.

You can also use a program called CPU Killer. The name might sound scary but it doesn't hurt your computer in anyway. It's much more efficient than Turbo. Get the latest version from the CPU Killer site. It's available for free, but will only work for 20 minutes per session, unless you register your copy for 5 bucks. Highly recommended. It's compatible with Windows XP.

The utility program called Bremze is a good option too. I've tested this program myself (using Win2000: sq4 and sq1vga) and it worked good enough. It tackles the timer bugs much more efficient and even solves some problems Turbo couldn't while keeping animation running more smoothly. Roger's head, for instance, stopped shaking like a mad man. It also slowed down the droid-o-death and the Sequel Policemen a lot better and solved most of the Space Quest 1 VGA problems. Sadly, this program runs under DOS and not under Windows. It'll work under Windows using the DOS PROMPT, but less efficient. The program is available for free and will run one complete month without any restrictions. After that, you'll have to cough up 10 bucks to continue using it.


All original content (c) 2018 Brandon Blume & Troels Pleimert. All Space Quest related material (c) by Sierra Entertainment.