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Tutorial: HeXen Quickstart in 2021 on Windows

Here’s a quickstart 10-step guide to installing the old game HeXen: Beyond Heretic (aka Heretic II), in 2021 on Windows. Not to be confused with the later Hexen II, note.

HeXen was a DOOM variant and the successor to the Heretic videogame in the 1990s. Think of it as “fantasy DOOM” with a liking for Mage-class gamers. It is fondly remembered by many (except those who had to wrestle with its initially very buggy release). Here’s my tested downloads/install workflow for 2021. This install-and-mod workflow should also work for DOOM and the other 1990s DOOM variants, when played on Windows under the master Doomsday Engine.

1. Get the 2021 GOG version of HeXen, which includes expansions and CD quality music and is said to be superior to the Steam version. Install.

2. Get the free Doomsday Engine installer. This is a relatively hassle-free way to run HeXen and other early DOOM variants on a modern Windows PC in a modern way, and it includes an automatic widescreen option.

“Doomsday enhances this classic game with many features including 3D graphics, fully customizable controls and client/server multiplayer, making HeXen more accessible to modern gamers.”

At the site, to get the .ZIPs and files you right-click, save as… to download. Seems to be a method of blocking bulk downloader-bots, as there’s no sign-up required.

3. Once installed, the GOG install of HeXen may be automatically detected by the Doomsday Engine. But mine was not. In that case the Help’s instruction to find the WAD file(s) was deeply misleading. HeXen GoG has no visible WAD files. All the Doomsday Engine actually wants to know is the install folder for HeXen. One it is told about C:\GOG Games\HeXen it will be fine.

With that done, launch and test. Kill a few monsters. Exit.

4. Now get all three enhancing Hexen Community Packs here from the Doomsday Engine site. (Again, you right-click, save as…).

Sadly, no installation instructions at all. But this is what I figured out…

i) Cut and paste the “HeXen Community Compilation Pack (jXCCP)” extracted folder, so that it is under C:\GOG Games\HeXen

ii) Now get the other two .pK3 files, and give them each their own folder. Then cut and paste these folders under C:\GOG Games\HeXen

5. Now launch the Doomsday Engine (C:\Program Files\Doomsday 2.3.1\bin\Doomsday.exe) and it will know to re-check C:\GOG Games\HeXen and will thus ‘see’ the three Hexen community addons…

6. OK, you can now at least load the game as it used to be. But first… screenshots? The GoG/Doomsday Engine HeXen does not appear to play well with the third-party old-school FRAPS. You do gets the FPS in the corner of the window. Not that you need that, since this is an old game, for which FPS watching is not now needed. But the game always goes into an un-escapable PAUSED mode, in order for FRAPS to take a screenshot.

7. Solution: ditch FRAPS. You’ll remember that HeXen had its own screenshot maker – just press F12 on the keyboard. This works, but good luck in then finding the screenshot. Turns out they are dropped into the obscure…

C:\Users\YOUR_USER_NAME\AppData\Local\Deng Team\Doomsday Engine\runtime

… so you probably want to make a Desktop shortcut to this location. Or even a .BAT file to auto copy .PNGs from here to somewhere else.

8. Now about those screenshots… are not as pretty as they might be? Then it’s time for the AI upscaled textures pack and learning how to actually activate the mods. We’re in luck on the AI upscaling. This pack just hit version 4.0 (July 2021). For the Doomsday Engine you want to download from the Dengine link as seen here…

Again this texture mod is a bundled as a raw .PK3 file, and so you do as before. Make a folder, put the .PK3 file in there, cut-paste the folder under C:\GOG Games\HeXen.

Now if you run the vanilla game then it might appear that the pixelated HUD doesn’t get a makeover, and the mods are not doing much…

Ah, that’s because you’re not loading it right. It’s a bit tricky. Here’s how to do it…

Thankfully you only need to do this once, and in future the game should load pre-loaded with the mods you highlighted and selected. From now on you run it from the box icon, not the ‘play’ arrow.

9. OK, that’s it. You can now play HeXen again, stable and also modded and up-scaled.

10. It’s a difficult game and you may want the HeXen Manual and the HeXen Walkthrough. The manual will inform you, for instance, how to get a more minimal HUD.


How to change…

After, with full mods and texture makeovers running…

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“Hoots mon, the noo!”

Inkle (80 Days, Heaven’s Vault) are working on a new “Untitled Highland Game” involving walking the hills and lochs. And it’s a musical. Sounds great, and I imagine Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, learning how to play the bagpipes and sing some great show-tunes.

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Microsoft buys Bethesda in a megadeal

A new $7.5 billion deal today sees Microsoft buy out videogame makers Bethesda and id, giving Microsoft all-time classic titles such as the Elder Scrolls series (Morrowind, Skyrim etc), DOOM and Quake. Also Bethesda’s forthcoming Starfield space-epic game.

What could this mean for Morrowind? A more permissive regime for re-makers, perhaps?

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GOG’s got GoTY

The Game of the Year Edition of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind is now on sale at GOG, apparently 75% off. Sadly the Web page for it seems to have been trampled by the eager Guar-herd, but here’s the Archive.org backup of the page. This all-time classic game and its expansions, which is what the GoTY version is, usually sells DRM-free for $15.

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theHunter: gone Wild

It seems there are now two versions of the excellent PC hunting game theHunter (now re-named theHunter: Classic). There’s now a new version called theHunter: Call of the Wild, which appeared in the spring of 2017 for retailers.

They appear to be identical, and it seems that theHunter: Call of the Wild just has a DVD box able to sit on a shelf in a mall and gets on Amazon at £18. According to a comment on Amazon theHunter: Call of the Wild apparently requires Steam, even though it ships on a DVD. And so far as I recall theHunter: Classic doesn’t require Steam but does need an Internet connection to prevent cheating.

Other than that, I just can’t work out how they’re different. I had a look at the theHunter forums and there’s no FAQ or thread there on the matter. At £18, does the DVD version ship with all sorts of pay-for addons for free? Exclusive items and areas? I would presume so. But the gaming magazines obviously have no interest in the game beyond a few puzzled reviews and print-the-press-release items. So it’s all very mysterious.

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Titan Quest: Ragnarok

A decade after the most-excellent game Titan Quest, all of a sudden comes a large expansion Titan Quest: Ragnarok. It’s out now on Steam and switches the Mediterranean setting for the Northern… “realms of the Celts, the Northmen and the Asgardian gods”. Sounds good, very good.

My review of Titan Quest Gold Edition is here. This has now been mildly superseded by the 10th anniversary edition.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind – PC Gamer review

PC Gamer has a quite positive review of the MMO The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

“… one of the most encompassing and charming repositories for great stories I’ve played in a long time. Morrowind is an essential excursion for those of a certain gaming vintage, loaded as it is with reverence for that 15 year-old adventure.”

Sadly the review doesn’t mention that vital stat: how long it’s going to take a complete newbie to grind through the training levels, so they can get to the point where they step off the boat at Seyda Neen and not get nibbled to death by a small pack of Guars. Judging by my very limited past experience of MMOs (Ryzom, Lord of the Rings Online) all the potential joy of playing the game has evaporated by the time you’ve killed spider #276 or collected crystal #153 in your bid to level-up and thus actually get into the main game.

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After Nehrim, Enderal

The Nehrim guys have their huge Skyrim total-conversion out, and now have it pretty much nailed down. It’s called Enderal, is free, very well reviewed, and as pretty as you’d expect. Released last summer it’s now available in a full English version, which is currently patched to a 1.1.9 release — it’s now reported to be fairly stable. Which to me = it’s now playable.

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Skywind preview

Loving what I’m seeing of the Skywind world (a Morrowind total conversion mod for Skyrim) in this late-autumn 2016 preview. It appears that 2017 is the team’s “big push” year and the voice-acting appears to be well underway too. I’d love to think this might be “main quest playable” by early 2018, but that’s just my guess on the timing…

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“My god, it’s full of bugs…”

Oh dear, The Escapist review of the new Mass Effect: Andromeda game is in

“Unfortunately, Andromeda misses the mark”

The story… “quickly devolves into something that’s going to sound all too familiar to fans of the series”.

“… the game’s writing seems oddly out of sync, varying from quests that feel agonizing and meaningful to those that feel worth ignoring entirely. Worse, the moments that did feel important had little lasting impact.”

“… a ton of quests that feel like busywork”

“… the planetary scanning is just as tedious and annoying as it was in previous games. Even worse, the planets you do land on feel empty.”

“… poor animations detract from the enjoyment”

And predictably “… the PC version of Andromeda has got its share of technical issues. … Four times, the game crashed to a black screen.”

“My god, it’s full of bugs…”