Anatomy of an SCI game

SCI games consist of the following things:

  • An interpreter
  • A package of game resources, including scripts which compile to byte-code and are run by the interpreter. This is where all the game-specific stuff is.
  • A configuration file
  • Drivers
  • Source files, for games created with SCIStudio or SCICompanion

The interpreter

The Sierra interpreters included in the template games are named sciv.exe (for SCI0) and sierra.exe (for SCI1.1). They are both 16-bit DOS programs, so they won’t run natively on a modern 64-bit Windows operating system. In this case, there are two primary options: DOSBox and ScummVM.


DOSBox is a DOS emulator that can be used to run SCI games. A version of it comes with SCI Companion, and by default the template game is set up to use this. You can also point your game to a version of DOSBox that you have already installed.


From the ScummVM website:

ScummVM is a program which allows you to run certain classic graphical point-and-click adventure games, provided you already have their data files. ScummVM just replaces the executables shipped with the games, allowing you to play them on systems for which they were never designed!

When you run the game using ScummVM, Sierra’s interpreters aren’t even used. ScummVM also has additional features, like a built-in debugger, the ability to render the dithered palettes from SCI0 games with better fidelity, and the ability to play multiple digital audio files at once.

The game resources

This is where the actual game code, graphics, and sounds are. These files generally consist of a .map file that serves as an index, and then a package file where the actual resources are. Older games that came on multiple low-capacity floppy disks generally have a package file for each disk, but this isn’t needed anymore.

The file structure varies quite a bit over the various versions of SCI, but here is a table of what they are in the template games:

Resource files in the SCI0 template game:

SCI0 template game
Map file Package file resource.001

Resource files in the SCI1.1 template game:

SCI1.1 template game
Map file Package file Comments resource.000 Non-audio resources
_ resource.sfx Digital audio sfx
_ resource.aud Digital audio speech

Audio package files have their own map (index) associated with them. In the template game, this is actually included as a resource in resource.000, but some Sierra games split this out as a separate file.

Some Sierra games split out the message resources too, so you’ll see (the message resource index) and resource.msg (the actual message resources). In the SCI1.1 template game, message resource index is included in

Configuration File

In the game’s folder is a resource.cfg file. This specifies which driver files to use for video, MIDI sound, digital audio, keyboard, and the mouse (these are used if you’re running natively in DOS, or in DOSBox, but would be ignored if you’re running in ScummVM). Most users won’t need to change anything in this file, but more advanced users might want to change the sound drivers, for instance, if they are using MIDI sound resources that only sound correct with a certain sound driver.


You notice a plethora of .DRV files in the game folder. These comprise the DOS drivers used by Sierra’s interpreter. If you want, you can remove the ones that aren’t listed in resource.cfg.

Source Files

If you’ve created a game with SCIStudio or SCICompanion, you’ll see a src folder in your game’s main folder. This is where the source files (*.sc) and object files (*.sco) exist, in addition to any game-specific header files (*.sh).

In addition, if you created an SCI1.1 game with SCICompanion, you’ll see the following folders:

  • msg: This is where the message header files (*.shm) exist. See Message editor.
  • poly: This is where the polygon header files (*.shp) exist. See Polygons.
  • lipsync: This contains files that tell SCICompanion how to map phonemes to mouth cels, and which talkers use which mouth view/loops. See Lip-syncing.
  • audiocache: This is where SCICompanion keeps Audio file management..

Other files

You’ll notice a few other stray files in the game folder. In the SCI1.1 template game, INTERP.ERR and VERSION are essential for the game to work with Sierra’s interpreter, so don’t change or remove them.

INSTALL.EXE and the other files that begin with INSTALL comprise a DOS app that lets you configure resource.cfg via a series of menus. These can be removed.