freesci — free interpreter for SCI bytecode


FreeSCI is a portable interpreter for SCI games, such as the Space Quest series (starting with SQ3) or Leisure Suit Larry (2 and sequels); see below for a complete listing.

freesci is the main executable which loads, links and runs SCI bytecode.


freesci [options] [game [savegame]]


An identifier describing the game to start. This identifier (GAME_ID) must be declared in the configuration file. If omitted, the interpreter will attempt to read resource files from the current working directory (or the directory specified by the --gamedir option). If that fails, it will present a graphical game selection screen for the games listed in the config file and the games located under ~/.freesci/games (or the directory specified by the --menudir option).

If this option is specified after the game name, the interpreter will attempt to quickload the savegame with the specified ID (see the --list-savegames option). This is technically different from restoring a savegame from within the game (as it does not re-start the game script state afterwards), but it should work just as well.

--version, -v
Display version number and exit. Also the supported graphics drivers, sound servers, midi and midiout drivers are reported.

--help, -h
Display a short help text and exit.

--run, -r
Do not start the debugger; only run the game. This is the default action.

--debug, -D
Start up in debug mode.

--list-savegames, -l
This option instructs the interpreter not to run the game, but rather to list all savegames stored for it, including their in-game descriptions where available. This is relevant to figure out savegame names for quickloads. The usual in-game savegames are labelled ``save_0'' through ``save_j''.

--gamedir dir, -ddir
With this option, games resources will be read from the directory dir. Default is the current directory, unless a directory has been specified in the config file (see below).

--menudir dir, -Gdir
This option sets the directory that the graphical game selection menu recurses to look for SCI games. Default is ~/.freesci/games, unless the menu_dir option is set in the config file (see below).

--sci-version version, -Vversion
This option sets the SCI version for freesci to emulate. Acceptable version numbers are of the form x.yyy.zzz, where x is the major number, yyy is the minor number and zzz the patch level.
Note that currectly only SCI0 and SCI01 (major/minor=0/000) games are supported.
Normally, the version will be autodetected from the game resource files.

--disable-mouse, -m
Many SCI games handle the mouse pointer differently if no mouse is present in the system. This option instructs the interpreter to tell the games that no mouse is present whenever they ask for one; the actual effect depends on the individual game.

--scale-x xfact, -xxfact
--scale-y yfact, -yyfact These options allow to explicitly specify the horizontal and vertical scaling factors. The resulting size of the game window will be 320*xfact x 200*yfact, plus any window decorations.

--color-depth bpp, -cbpp
This sets the number of bits to use per pixel. Some visuals/graphics drivers support several color depths, so that auto-detection may not yield the desired effects.

--graphics gfx, -ggfx
With this option, you can specify which graphics driver is to be used.
In this release, sdl, ggi and plain xlib are supported.

--midiout driver, -Odriver
This is the output driver or interface to use. Currently, unixraw, alsaraw, null, ossopl3, and ossseq (an OSS sequencer driver) may be available on your system, ossseq being the default.

--mididevice driver, -Mdriver
SCI was designed to support a variety of physical output devices. FreeSCI currently supports the Rolant MT-32 (mt32, the default), an Adlib device (adlib) and it also offers an MT-32 to General MIDI translation layer (mt32gm).

--sound-server server, -Sserver
This option may be used to explicitly specify a sound server to use. The sound server is an asynchronous process or thread that issues sound output events and reports sound cues back to the interpreter; if you have both possibilities (unix and sdl) for your system, you may have to experiment to find out which works best for you.

Config file

When run, FreeSCI will create a directory called .freesci in your home directory (unless this directory already exists). If you run an SCI game, this game will create another directory inside the .freesci directory, to store its save games in.

Also, if a file called config exists in this directory, it will be read and parsed by the interpreter after the game has been loaded. This configuration file can be divided into a global section and various game-specific sections. Within the config file, comments must be preceeded by a hash ``#'' sign. Empty lines are ignored.

Game-specific sections are marked by a text string like [GAME_ID], where GAME_ID is an ID to use for the game. If the section also contains a resource_dir entry, the ID may be passed to freesci as a parameter to start the game by its name.

The config file section before the first game-specific section is the global configuration section; anything specified here will be used as the setting for any game that does not explicitly request different settings.

It is possible to include other files with the %include<#> directive. FreeSCI will automatically detect and warn about circular inclusions.

Here is a complete listing of all options supported:


Read the game's resource data from the specified location. Must not be used in the generic part of the config file.

menu_dir = dir
Specifies the directory that is recursively searched for SCI games when the game selection screen is invoked. Should only be used in the generic part of the config file. Defaults to ~/.freesci/games.

version = x.yyy.zzz
Emulate SCI version x.yyy.zzz. The version number is sometimes printed on game discs, or can be found out by grepping your main executable for "0.000." (for SCI0 games). It is also displayed if the built-in debugger is activated in the Sierra SCI engine. See also the --sci-version command line option.

Sets a logging file for FreeSCI's console output (by default, this is disabled).

mouse = yes | no
Specifies whether the interpreter should report to the game that it has a mouse.


pic0_dither_mode = dither | flat | dither256
dither: draw in 16 colors, same as Sierra SCI; flat: interpolate colors (256 colors); this improves some graphics; dither256: dither in 256 colors; a compromise between dither and flat.

pic0_dither_pattern = scaled | unscaled
scaled: perform picture dithering to blocks with a width of the horizontal and a height of the vertical scaling factor; unscaled: dither single pixels (same as scaled if the game is being run unscaled).

pic0_brush_mode = scaled | ellipses | random-ellipses | more-random
Affects how semi-random brushes (used mostly for dirt and foilage) are drawn in SCI0 background pictures. scaled: scale every semi-random pixel to a rectangular block; ellipses: scale every semi-random pixel to a filled ellipse; random-ellipses: as ellipses, but slightly shift ellipse offset and size; more-random: add more random pixels to the whole area.

pic0_line_mode = correct | fine | half
Specify how lines are drawn when background pictures are rendered in SCI0. correct: draw lines appropriately scaled; fine: don't scale lines (thin lines, may cause problems); half: draw lines at half width (may cause problems).

dirty_strategy = 1 | clusters
The ``dirty strategy'' is the strategy used to collect modifications to the screen content. Modifying this may affect performance on slow or networked systems. 1: collect everything in one dirty region; clusters: cluster non-overlapping modified regions into a set of regions.

pic0_scaled = yes | no
Whether SCI0 background pics should be scaled (may look better) or not (faster, looks more like the original games). By default, it is disabled.

pic_buffer_size = #
Number of background pics to store in an LRU buffer. Increasing this value will increase the amount of memory used, but may considerably speed up changing back to rooms you visited not too long ago.

view_filter = none | linear | trilinear
Specifies the way views (non-background images) are scaled (this obviously does not affect unscaled images): none: no filtering is performed (default); linear: a simple linear filter is applied; trilinear: views are passed through a trilinear filter.

pic_filter = none | linear | trilinear
Specifies scaling for background images; see view_filter for a description of the options.

cursor_filter = none | linear | trilinear
Specifies scaling for mouse pointers; see view_filter for a description of the options. This option does not apply to graphics drivers which handle the mouse pointer explicitly (currently, only the GGI driver is affected).

text_filter = none | linear | trilinear
Specifies scaling for text; see view_filter for a description of the options.

pic_antialiasing = none | simple
If activated, this option will do an extra pass over background images to anti-aliase them, usually improving the overall picture quality. This is set to none by default.

animation_delay = #
This chooses the amount of microseconds to wait between each sub-element of a transition animation (also see animation_granularity). Setting this to zero will disable transition animations completely. The default is 5.

animation_granularity = #
This sets the amount of steps to execute simultaneously for each transition animation. If transition animations seem too slow on your system but you don't want to disable them completely, you might want to try increasing this value. The default is 4.

alpha_threshold = #
When using filtered images (specifically views, text, and cursors where used by the graphics driver), this value is used to determine when a part of the image should be drawn and when it should be omitted. The definition space of this value is 0 to 255, where larger values cause more to be drawn. This value does not affect unfiltered images or images drawn with alpha blending. Default is 129.


midi_device = driver
Chooses the default MIDI device; this can be mt32 for plain MT-32 output, or mt32gm to use FreeSCI's MT32 -> General MIDI mapping algorithm. Also Adlib (adlib) is supported. This defaults to mt32gm.

midiout_driver = driver
Selects the output device to use. Available options are alsaraw (using ALSA's raw MIDI output devices), unixraw (using /dev/midi-style raw MIDI output devices), ossseq (for OSS sequencer devices) and win32mci on Win32 systems. The default on UNIXish systems is ossseq.

sound_server = server
This chooses one of the asynchronous sound servers. For sound output, FreeSCI uses an asynchronous process or thread; currently two implementations of this mechanism are available: unix, which forks off a separate process, and sdl, which uses libsdl's threading mechanisms. Defaults to unix, where available.


gfx.xlib.disable_shmem = yes | no
Can be used to disable support for MIT Shm support on the X11 Windowing System in cases where detection fails. This is off by default, enabling SHM support.

gfx.sdl.swap_caps_ctrl = yes | no
This option instructs the SDL driver to swap caps lock and ctrl when reading input. Disabled by default.

gfx.sdl.fullscreen = yes | no
Toggles the SDL graphics driver's fullscreen option. Disabled by default.


midiout.alsaraw.card = #
This specifies the ALSA card to use for raw MIDI output; the default is 0.

midiout.alsaraw.device = #
Specifies the ALSA device, relative to the card, for raw MIDI output. It also defaults to 0.

midiout.unixraw.device = device
Sets the device file to use for raw UNIX MIDI output. This defaults to /dev/midi.

midiout.ossseq.device = #
Selects the OSS sequencer device number; this defaults to 1.

midiout.ossseq.recorder = file
Chooses a file the OSS sequencer should print debug output to. This is not particularly helpful for everyday use, and disabled by default.


FreeSCI allows the brightness and hue of in-game images to be customised. A complete description of this mechanism can be found in the accompanying README.


Here is an exemplary configuartion file:

# FreeSCI configuration file # For FreeSCI version 0.3.5 # default values: console_log = /home/user/.freesci/log pic_buffer_size = 4 pic0_brush_mode = more-random pic_antialiasing = simple pic0_dither_mode = dither256 pic0_scaled = yes pic0_line_mode = normal pic0_dither_pattern = scaled text_filter = trilinear cursor_filter = trilinear pic_filter = trilinear view_filter = trilinear midi_device = mt32 midiout_driver = alsaraw alpha_threshold = 140 sound_server = unix gfx_driver=ggi animation_delay = 1 animation_granularity=4 gfx.ggi.swap_caps_ctrl=yes gfx.xlib.swap_caps_ctrl=yes gfx.sdl.swap_caps_ctrl=yes midiout.alsaraw.device=0 midiout.unixraw.device=/dev/midi midiout.ossseq.device=1 midiout.ossseq.recorder=/tmp/recorder [LSL3] resource_dir = /usr/share/freesci/lsl3 [KQ4] resource_dir = /usr/share/freesci/kq4 version = 0.000.502

Supported games

The following games have been tested with FreeSCI and are known to give some level of interactivity. In theory, FreeSCI should be able to let you complete all of these. Games marked with [c] have been completed using FreeSCI.

(*) Due to differences between the way Sierra SCI and FreeSCI handle graphical widgets, these games may cause an accumulation of widgets in the widget subsystem, resulting in a slowdown and some increased memory usage.


This release has the following limitations (plus some bugs):

Please refer to's bug list section for a listing of all known and current bugs.


FreeSCI is copyright (c) 1999-2006 by the following people:

This man page was written by Bas Zoetekouw <> and Christoph Reichenbach.