EDIT – As is common with older games, as time has passed some of my original information works, some of it doesn’t. In particular, I think the compatibility toolkit has changed since this post was published.
In any case, GOG has come to the rescue and has a digital version of Cataclysm for sale under the name Homeworld: Emergence.
All you should need to do for their installer is perform a few widescreen tweaks. The $10 spent is worth saving the hassle of messing with the disc install!
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of How to Run, the series where I share methods I’ve used to get old games running on modern hardware.
As much as I love playing older PC games, the harsh reality is that they sometimes don’t like to work on modern computers. This usually comes down to conflicts between the game itself and the current build of Windows. Homeworld Cataclysm suffers from such conflict. Cataclysm was developed by Barking Dog Studios and released in 2000 as a spin-off to the groundbreaking Homeworld. While it never got the mainstream attention that it deserved, Cataclysm effectively combined a space-based strategy game with an organic B-movie horror plot. Though it sounds odd, it worked remarkably well and has stayed in my memory for the past sixteen years. It’s a game that I had lost all hope of playing again. Until a few weeks ago.
It was earlier this month when I discovered a YouTube channel created by Noah Caldwell-Gervais. One of his delightfully in-depth reviews is of the Homeworld Series, and tucked at the end of it is a set of detailed instructions for getting Cataclysm running on Windows 8.1. I tried the same instructions on my own computer and can confirm they work for Windows 10 64-bit. Here’s the video, scroll down below it for the instructions and links.
Instructions for installing and running Homeworld Cataclysm on Windows 10:
Just to be clear, I take no credit for figuring this out for myself. I give credit to Noah Caldwell-Gervais, and I’m passing this on in hopes that as many people as possible will have a chance to play this wonderful gem of a game for themselves.
- Install Cataclysm from the game disc. It’s not possible to legally obtain a copy of the game digitally. Thankfully, there are plenty of items available on eBay around the $15 range. Once you have a physical copy of the disc, the initial installation won’t give you any trouble.
- Download and install the patch to upgrade Cataclysm to version 188.8.131.52. Here’s the link: http://sierrahelp.com/Patches-Updates/Patches-Updates-Games/HomeworldSeriesUpdates.html
- Next you’ll need the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit version 5.6. There is a newer version of the tool available, but this one is easy to use: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=7352
- Start the 32-bit version of the Toolkit (since Cataclysm is a 32-bit application)
- Create a new database, and name it for Cataclysm. Click the Fix button, this will bring up the Program Information box. Enter the name of the program and the vendor, then click ‘browse’ to locate Cataclysm’s installation directory and main .exe file. My directory looked like this: C:\Sierra\Cataclysm\cataclysm.exe
- Clicking next will take you to the Compatibility Modes window. Select Windows NT 4.0 and check three additional compatibility modes from the list: RunAsAdmin, RunAsHighest, and RunAsHighest_GW.
- Click Next twice and then finish; you don’t need to change anything on those screens. The entry for Windows Compatibility Administrayor should now look like the screenshot below:
- At this point, click the giant save button! This will create a database file which has saved the profile you just created.
- When you want to play the game you’ll have to launch it by pressing the Run button in the Compatibility Administrator. The game will not function if you try to run it any other way.
- Congratulations, you are now able to run Homeworld Cataclysm on your Windows 10 PC! Once you’ve started the game, you’ll want to navigate to the video options and select “D3D” as the render mode.
How to Play Cataclysm in Widescreen:
If you try to play Cataclysm on a widescreen monitor at the default resolutions with the 4:3 aspect ratio, you’ll probably run into some weird distortion effects when moving the camera around. Thankfully, this can be fixed with a fairly simple change to the registry.
Mandatory Warning: If you don’t know what you’re doing, editing the registry can really mess up your PC. Please take extra care and create a backup of your registry before making any changes. I’m not responsible for anything bad that happens to your PC as a result of any errors made.
- Open up the Windows start menu and type ‘regedit’ to bring up the registry editor.
- Navigate to the directory for Cataclysm. In my case, it’s located at Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Sierra On-Line\Cataclysm
- Open the screenHeight and screenWidth values, click the button that says ‘decimal’, and enter the desired resolution.
- Cataclysm does have hard limits for the maximum functional resolution. I’ve found these to be 1600 x 900 for 16:9 monitors, and 1440 x 900 for 16:10 monitors
- When you’re finished, the registry should look something like this:
And that’s it! Now go and enjoy the weird and wonderful story of Homeworld Cataclysm! I’d like to extend a special thanks to Noah Caldwell-Gervais, as well as the Homeworld community on Reddit, and especially to Sajuuk and Sastrei on the Homeworld Discord.
If you run into any issues or have a correction to the instructions I’ve listed here, leave me a comment and I’ll edit as necessary.