How to Run: Homeworld Cataclysm

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.

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 Here’s the link:
  • 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:
  • 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. 



19 thoughts on “How to Run: Homeworld Cataclysm”

  1. Can you help me please, i’ve tried your solution but when i launch cataclysm, i have a windows with the two video and the game crash with this message : couldn’t initialize default rendering system.
    I do not understand because the game still fonction on my system 2 days ago…
    sorry for my bad English…


    1. ​Francois, thanks for reading! Sorry to hear of your problem with the game. Have you changed any settings since it was working before?

      I asked the HW community on Discord, and got this response from a helpful user named Sajuuk:

      “For Homeworld and Homeworld: Cataclysm on modern operating systems, running under OpenGL is (by default) not possible, due to the games requiring access to something that doesn’t exist from Windows 8 to present. You can restore this functionality by using the Homeworld Hardware Acceleration Fix, described in this link: The best way to apply this fix is using the Microsoft Application Compatibility Tool.

      Note: These instructions apply to the CD copies of the game, not the RM bundled copy. Additionally, if you have an nVidia GPU and are running the games at 1920×1080, you will likely need to run as admin and (for nVidia GPU users) ensure the nVidia Control Panel is open while playing, and set to GPU Scaling and “Override the scaling mode set by games and programs” enabled (see attached screenshot). If you don’t set these modes in the nVidia Control Panel, the games will probably stretch and malform across the screen (most likely zooming into the top-left quarter of the game resolution and be unplayable). ”

      If you want to check out the Discord community for yourself, here’s the link:


      1. First off, you are awesome for posting this! I was able to get it to FINALLY work with the help of your instructions and adding the 16BitColor check box to the compatibility modes list. You made my month man! Thanks again for the post and I hope adding that 16BitColor option helps other people,

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m having a problem my self the game loads but but gose to black screen I can hear the menu music and stuff but sins I cant see I cant do much

    I have tried the things you have put up they work except I get a black screen at the menu and music is playing


    1. Anora, I hope you don’t mind but I combined both your comments to make things streamlined. 🙂

      A black screen as you describe is usually due to issues with the drivers for your video card. Try downloading the latest version and reinstalling.

      It could also be the result of conflict between integrated and dedicated graphics cards.


  3. I have the same issue exepet i get a white screen so i cant see my ships unless im in the map mode and when i try to build the game lags badly I’m using an laptop windows 10 version I don’t know what can be done to fix it DX i need help please


    1. Hmm, it sounds like this might be an issue related to your graphics card and its drivers. I’m not sure what kind of card your laptop has; if it has one at all. If it does, try making sure you’ve got the most recent drivers for your GPU.

      There may be some tips on the PCGamingWiki to help you diagnose what the issue is:

      If neither of those work, you might consider buying Homeworld: Emergence from GOG. It’s a re-branding of Cataclysm that should work on Windows 10 with no fuss:


  4. well, its 2019 now, and there is a newer version of the ACT – v10.1.. i used that, and it looks the same, but when i hit run, it doesnt do much – a couple windows start to draw but disappear quickly, as there is a small dialogue window that says “waiting for application to finish” and then.. nothing.

    thats as far as I got.. Id love to play this again. I bought the remastered pack, and was saddened to leard cataclysm isnt included, and supposedly the dev lost the source code?


    1. I recall that the newer versions of Microsoft’s compatibility tool obscured some of the settings needed to get this to work correctly. That’s why I recommended using an old version of the tool.

      It’s been a while since I tried to do a fresh install of Cataclysm, so I’m not 100% certain if this guide is still accurate.

      Cataclysm has been released digitally on GOG, rebranded as ‘Homeworld: Emergence’. I think it’s worth the $10 to get it running with less hassle.

      Good luck!


      1. @kdk_warhead, that version of the compatibility tool has been removed from Microsoft’s websites; it’s no longer available. I may upload an older version of it somewhere, but I think the better thing to do is buy HW: Emergence from GOG and just use the registry to modify screen resolution.


  5. My game works fine but, there is super bad lag when I open the build menu in the game or the other menus like research and system ect. Ideas?


  6. hello, i bought cataclysm from GOG, but have been unable to get it to work. I tried to download the application compatibility toolkit version 5.6, but it is no longer available on the windows website. any other suggestions as to how I might still get this game working? I am using a 64 bit version of windows 10 and I have already tried running it as an administrator, changing the /noswddraw to /sw under the target section of the .exe file, downloading it with gog galaxy, deleting it and downloading it with GOG downloader links, and I downloaded it with download and backup game installer which is right below the Gog galaxy link. I even tried dusting off my old copy on CD (i had the security code and everything). Every time I try to launch the game (i have tried launching the game with the .exe icon and launching it through gog galaxy) I get a small black box in the upper left hand corner of my screen for a few seconds and then the game crashes. My Video card is a NVIDIA GeForce GT 630. any help would be greatly appreciated.



  7. Thanks Joseph, yeah I tried running emergence from Gog first, which gave me the above error and then I got desperate and tried to use the cd which also gave me the same error. (it wasn’t downloaded the first time). I have since uninstalled both versions and started clean. I re-downloaded emergence from GOG and made sure I ran it as an administrator, I Made sure my windows virus and firewall’s had an exception for it, I re-downloaded the June 2010 DirectX runtime package, I enabled direct play on the legacy components list, and I checked that my Nglide screen resolution was set to “by app” as gog requested from me when I contacted them. Also about 5 days ago I put a fresh copy of windows 10 on my computer hoping that the fresh install would change the problem that I was having with emergence, but I am still having the same problem with it as I had before I put the new copy of windows 10 on my computer. I have also already tried Shukaku’s suggestions (from the link that you recommended) with no results. Any other Idea’s?

    Thanks for your speedy reply i had expected to wait a while ha-ha also thank you for all of your help



  8. found a fix that I thought I would share with the rest of the group in case anyone else has a similar issue. I put ” -window -noBorder” after the Noswddraw in the target section on the shortcut tab for the properties of the shortcut that I used to start the game and it ran fine! thanks guys again for your help and I hope this helps someone else!


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