Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel Dune is set in a science fiction universe where computers are religiously outlawed due to an artificial intelligence led rebellion. Conventional warfare with guns, projectiles and explosives is obsolete due to the invention of impenetrable, wearable force-fields. It’s fair to say then, that most of the Dune computer games take some artistic license with the source material. Emperor – Battle for Dune is the sequel to the genre-defining Dune II. The game was generally well received, but criticised by some for failing to innovate or move the genre forward in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, if you hanker for some old-school RTS action and prefer the sci-fi setting of the desert planet Arrakis to the battlefields in Command and Conquer, then then Emperor – Battle for Dune is unlikely to disappoint.
Most of the problems with this game stem from its use of an outdated copy protection mechanism. Your first challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to get the game to install. Firstly, try the regular way, that is, placing the games disc into your PCs DVD drive and following the on-screen prompts. If the installer doesn’t start automatically, browse to the disc in Computer/This PC and run the “AUTORUN” or “AUTORUN.exe” file manually. Note that there’s no reason to install the Westwood online components and the online registration no longer works.
If the installation goes okay, then you can proceed to the section that covers patching the game. If not, proceed to the alternative installation instructions below.
Alternative installation instructions
If the installation process won’t start, try this fixed installer that was released by Westwood Studios themselves. First of all, visit this page and download the “EMPEROR_INSTALL_FIX_1.0.rar” file.
The file is a .rar archive, which means you will need to extract the contents. The free 7-Zip program can do this for you, you can download that here. If you have never used 7-Zip before, there are tutorials for it here.
Once you’ve extracted the .rar file, you should see three files, EMPEROR.EXE, EMPEROR.TXT and SETUP.EXE. We will need those in a moment, but first, insert your installation CD if you haven’t already, then browse to the CD in computer/This PC.
On the Emperor CD, you should see a folder called “INSTALL”. Copy this folder to any convenient location on your PC. The instructions given in the “EMPEROR.TXT” file suggest the Desktop, but anywhere will do.
Once the folder is copied, go back to the files you extracted from the .rar archive and copy the SETUP.EXE file into the SETUP folder you copied from the CD-ROM, overwriting the file that’s already in there.
If your computer has more than one optical drive (including virtual or emulated optical drives), you must ensure that the Emperor install CD is in the optical drive which has the first drive letter alphabetically. If you need to check and change drive letters, see this tutorial.
Once you’ve checked your drive letters, run the “SETUP.EXE” file you copied over previously. If the installation now starts, great, skip ahead to “My game is finally installing!”. Unfortunately, on some systems the installer will now fail and display this error.
In this instance, you need to install the dgVoodoo2 wrapper package into the “SETUP” folder (the same one you copied the replacement “SETUP.EXE” into). Follow the tutorial here if you’ve never used dgVoodoo2 before. Since the installer is using DirectX, use the dgVoodoo2 .dll files from the MS sub-folder.
Once that’s done, run the SETUP.EXE program again and it should now work without errors.
My game is finally installing!
Now that the installer is working, follow the on-screen prompts to install the game. Note that there is no reason to install the Westwood online components and the online registration since they no longer work. Once installation is complete, there’s one more thing you need to do.
To finish up the installation, go back to the files you extracted from the .rar archive and find the “EMPEROR.EXE” file. Copy this into the games installation directory (C:\WESTWOOD\Emperor by default), overwriting the existing file that is in there.
With that, the installation process is complete and you can proceed to “Patching”.
Before you start your campaign of intergalactic warfare, you will want to install the latest patch. There were several patches released for the game, but you only need to install the latest one. Simply download the patch from this page and run it, the patching process should then be automatic.
With the games official patch installed, you can try to run the game. However, on many systems the game will crash before starting up. Don’t worry, you simply need to download and install the PC retro-gamers friend dgVoodoo2. Follow our tutorial here if you are unfamiliar with this tool. Emperor – Battle for Dune is a DirectX game, so use the dgVoodoo2 files from the MS sub-folder.
As we said in the installation instructions, most of the problems with this game stem not from the game itself, but its outdated copy protection. If you’ve installed the latest patch and dgVoodoo2 and you cannot start the game, the issue is likely to be with the games copy protection.
The way around this is to find a version of the game with the copy protection removed. Sadly, due to copyright law we cannot link to files like this. We can tell you however, that the cracked executable we used was from the hacking group MYTH and the supplied executable file (Game.exe) had the MD5 file hash of 480265ACC58FE4ECC53362C18AB47104.
As always, be careful poking around in the seedier parts of the internet. Ensure your browser is up to date, don’t run an administrator account and always virus check anything you download.
Tweaking graphics settings
Graphical settings must be configured from the main menu before starting a game. From the main menu, choose “Options” and then “Graphics”.
Here you will find a graphical quality setting. Drag the slider all the way to “Custom” and then click on the “Advanced Options” button.
You will now be able to tweak the individual graphics settings. Since this is an old game, you can put all the settings to maximum quality, even if you have a PC that’s relatively modest by modern standards.
At the bottom of these options are the screen resolution options. Emperor – Battle for Dune is a 4:3 aspect ratio (non-widescreen) game and you won’t be able to choose widescreen resolutions. You should usually choose the screen resolution that is closest to your monitors native resolution. The game should appear with black borders at either side of the screen. If it does not, the graphics will be distorted. If you’re running the game using dgVoodoo2, you should open the dgVoodoo control panel (dgVoodooCpl.exe) and make sure the scaling mode is set to “Stretched, keep aspect ratio”.
If you’re planning to play the game on your HDTV rather than computer monitor, you might want to choose a lower screen resolution since the games text is very small when running in higher resolutions.
Multiplayer and other notes
The internet multiplayer service for Emperor – Battle for Dune shut down a long time ago. However, you should still be able to play over your local network with other PCs in your home by selecting LAN mode. It may also be possible to use services like GameRanger or Evolve to play over the internet, though we haven’t tried this.
When using dgVoodoo2, you can use some in-game overlay tools such as Nvidia Geforce Experience. For some reason we could not get the Evolve in-game overlay to work with the game and trying the Steam overlay caused the game to freeze.
There is a map editor and various mods for the game available here.
Game settings lost on exit – If you find you have to reconfigure the graphical settings each time you start the game, try running the game as administrator and then changing the settings. You do not need to run the game as administrator every time, only when you want to make a permanent change to the games settings.
Click on any screenshot to enlarge it.