Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to run a Warcraft II LAN party using modern-day computers

Since 2006 or so, I've hosted a Warcraft II (Battle.Net edition) LAN party at my house every year, usually right around Groundhog's day. There's no particular significance to that day, though there could be worse days to relive. We play for around 7 hours, stopping only to switch up teams, grab some pizza & chips to refuel, and then back to the bloodlusting. It's almost too much fun, hence limiting ourselves to once per year.

However, with each passing year, the 1995 PC Gamer Game of the Year becomes a little more difficult to get working correctly. Microsoft mercilessly removed support for the IPX/SPX protocol in Windows Vista (and 7/8), so you can no longer get Warcraft LAN games to run natively. And each year fewer and fewer people show up with laptops running Windows XP. There are ways to get Warcraft to run in XP using VirtualBox, but that itself has some "gotchas".

So, in case there are any others out there who would love to relive some memories with friends, I figure I'd post what I've learned. This is stuff gathered through hours of scouring forums and hours more of good old-fashioned trial-and-error. Honestly, I don't know WHY some of this even works, but it seems to nonetheless. If anyone can shed more light on the topic - or can suggest easier ways to do this - please comment!

Zug zug,


Setup under Windows XP (virtualized or not)
Warcraft may send IPX packets to the wrong network connection.
The solution is to enable IPX over only ONE connection.

Follow these steps:
  1. Install IPX protocol
  2. Disable NetBIOS (as it's unnecessary)
  3. Disable IPX protocol on all interfaces you *won't* use (leaving one – the connection you'll be using)

The IPX protocol properties should be set as following:
  • Internal network number: 00000000
  • Frametype: Ethernet 802.3
  • Network number: 00000001

If that doesn't work, uninstall the protocol and start over. Also check for "Client for NetWare Networks" and remove it.

Note: Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 do not support IPX! However...

Setup in VirtualBox (v4.1.8, running virtualized Windows XP)
  • Windows XP VM Settings > Network > Attached to “Bridged Adapter”
    • You MUST use a wired connection. Wireless won’t allow you to see the other games. Not sure why. Perhaps Windows places an abstraction layer over wireless protocols that drop IPX packets?
  • Windows XP VM Settings > Display > Disable 2D Video Acceleration
    • Otherwise you may get "Black screen of death" when switching to scale-mode, and you won't be able to get out. Even rebooting the VM doesn't necessarily help. It's bad.
  • Start Windows XP VM
  • Run Warcraft; it'll run in 640x480 resolution
    • VM Menu > View > Scale Mode (or Host-C; also Host-C to switch back)
      • If you get "black screen of death":
        • VM Menu > Machine > Insert Ctrl-Alt-Del > Switch back to Warcraft