VOGONS


First post, by draetheus

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Greetings vogons! I'm ready to attempt my first retro build to relive my prime Win 9X gaming years as a kid. But unlike the thift store hardware I ran at the time, I'd like to go overkill and run games at glorious 1600 x 1200 resolution (where possible). I've done a bit of research but I'd like opinions from people who've actually built this stuff recently. Here are the things I'm looking for:

  • Excellent Win 9X compatibility (1996 - 2002). The main reason I'm building the system.
  • Good mid DOS compatibility (1990 - 1996).
  • Don't care about early DOS compatibility.
  • Don't care about period correctness.
  • Want to run games as high res as possible.
  • Want to avoid rare/expensive components.
  • Ability to run XP for late gen games that respond well to updated drivers. A nice bonus but not mandatory.
  • Ability to run emulators. Another nice bonus but not mandatory.
Last edited by draetheus on 2020-12-14, 15:15. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 14, by Warlord

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1990 is early dos gaming. Consider 1994 to be the start of late dos gaming with the launch of DOOM. Games before DOOM were not CPU or graphics demanding at all. Post doom you are getting into dos games that require a Pentium to run well.

Maybe you just have your dates mixed up but if you really wanted to play games from 1990+ than you should care about early dos compatibility. I am thinking you are not, so I just want to clear that up, id suggest editing your post to somthing like 1994+ Dos compatibility.

I'd suggest building around P4 Northwood since you want to run a game of 2001 or 2002, and XP. Pentium III is really getting long in the tooth here, and even if you can get a game made in 2001 to run on it it wont run at that high resolution you said or at good FPS.

So do like P4 Northwood, becasue this is the least crappy P4, and 1024 ram, Geforce 4200, then some PCI sound card that has some decent late dos compatibility with driver tricks, like Yamaha XG then that should be a perfect rig for you. You can get a patch so 98 will run on 1024 mb of ram. Off wayback machine. XP will not run well with less than that.

Id probably get the slower northwood like 1.6 ghz because I am thinking it has better multipliers for down clocking to run the early DOS games.

Reply 2 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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I would normally suggest an AthlonXP build similar to mine but SocketA motherboards with ISA slots are becoming rare nowadays.

You can still achieve pretty good compatibility with a KT333 motherboard if you use a PCI sound card such as an ESS Solo-1 or a Yamaha YMF724. Motherboards based on VIA chipsets support DDMA which is important for making PCI sound cards work properly in DOS games. It's also easy to slow down a rig like that to 386 or 486 levels using ACPI Throttle and SetMul so that speed sensitive games can run correctly.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 3 of 14, by Warlord

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He said he doesn't care about about early DOS compatibility, so he would never need to go slower than a Pentium 133.

SIS chipsets also support DDMA, so something like a ASUS P4S533-e, with a northwood might be really great or a board with a SiS 645DX that supports northwood. I think that board even has a onboard c-media chip that will work in DOS. the . C-Media CMI8738 So you might be able to get away with just that.

Reply 4 of 14, by RandomStranger

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When it comes to Windows 98 I'm really biassed towards the Pentium III-S and Geforce 4 Ti. Windows 98 SE has some level of DX9 support, but I don't think it's important for W98. If I want DX9, I'd go for WinXP and more powerful hardware, like my 3GHz Prescott based build. Or maybe even Core2Duo. I'd also consider an Audigy 2ZS sound card. I'm currently running my W98 build with a Live 5.1 SB0100. (note to myself, I really should log in and update my gamesystemreqs acc)

But as an alternative I could imagine an Athlon XP based build like Jojo suggested, and a 1.6GHz Northwood can be nice to. A had the latter laying around, maybe some time I'll make a comparison with the PIII-S.

sreq.png yt.png

Reply 5 of 14, by chinny22

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Good DOS compatibility demands and ISA slot for sound.
Personally I'd recommend a Slot 1 P3. Pair it with a GF4 TI card and It'll run late dos and any Windows game that doesn't work on XP just fine although later games may struggle at 1600 x 1200
Socket A based system still have ISA and are faster but suitable PSU's are harder to find.

If you drop the dos requirement, it'll open up a lot more options.
Intel side of things you can go with a S478 which has nice things like AGP and official driver support or S755 with PCIE and unofficial drivers both stupid fast for anything Win9x.
You could get sound in dos but you have to decide what's more important. the SBLive though Audigy 2 or Vortex 2 are great for Windows, not so much in dos.

Reply 6 of 14, by fosterwj03

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If you're truly going for overkill, I'd bias the build toward high-end Win98 components.

If you're good with PCI sound only, than try a board with LGA775 and Intel ICH 5 like the Asus P5PE-VM. The latest BIOS supports Conroe Core2 processors as well as the last Pentium 4 processors (so you'll have plenty of processor options). The ICH5 still has DMA support, so you'll have plenty of options for PCI sound cards under DOS. The ICH5 also supports AGP 8x.

As for PCI sound cards, I like the sound of the Sound Blaster Live!. I understand the Audigy cards work similarly under DOS. I have had the best DOS sound compatibility with a card featuring the Yamaha YMF7x4 chip (it also has true OPL3).

Nvidia supported the 6000-series video cards on Windows 98, so you can get some killer DX9 gaming with a high-end Nvidia AGP card like the GeForce 6800 line.

Added: The ATI Radeon X800 series also has Win98 drivers and AGP variants. I really like my X800 XL (PCI-E version) with my Win98 overkill system. Much more stable drivers than the Nvidia drivers for the 6800.

1GB of dual-channel DDR memory will suffice for Win98. You can go with 2GB, but you'll need to artificially limit the memory in Windows and use HIMEMX.EXE.

If you want an ISA sound card for the best DOS sound, you could go with a Socket 478 board with the Intel 800-series chipset. These boards support Northwood Pentium 4 processors up to about 3 GHz. You would have your choice of ISA sound cards. If you want, you could pair it with a PCI sound card in both DOS and Windows. My early-2000s overkill PC has both a Sound Blaster 16 and the YMF744 card so I have multiple sound options and extra compatibility options.

Again, you could use a high-end AGP card with a Socket 478 board for use in Windows.

Reply 7 of 14, by dirkmirk

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For many years I considered ultimate win98SE/High end dos machine that needed an isa slot but I'd forget about it and go pci sound card.

Main reason?

If your running high end dos that means general midi so you only need digital sound + good midi interface, genuine OPL3 your looking back to 486 Era stuff you might as well have a proper old school machine anything from a 386-pentium.

Video cards I'd be suggesting Geforce 4TIs or even FX series(not 100% for compatibly with win98SE/Dos).

You get the horsepower with powerful GPUs but you start to loose reliability/compatibility, that's the main issue you'll run into.

Reply 8 of 14, by fosterwj03

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You could also pair a PCI Aureal Vortex or Vortex 2 with a MIDI daughter board. I sometimes pair a Vortex with a Dreamblaster S2 for some light DOS gaming. Decent SB emulation in DOS with very good general MIDI. You would also get A3D in Win98 if you want surround sound effects in supported games.

Reply 9 of 14, by draetheus

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Warlord wrote on 2020-12-14, 08:28:

1990 is early dos gaming. Consider 1994 to be the start of late dos gaming with the launch of DOOM. Games before DOOM were not CPU or graphics demanding at all. Post doom you are getting into dos games that require a Pentium to run well.

Maybe you just have your dates mixed up but if you really wanted to play games from 1990+ than you should care about early dos compatibility. I am thinking you are not, so I just want to clear that up, id suggest editing your post to somthing like 1994+ Dos compatibility.

Generally I'll be playing games from 1994+, but it would be nice to have compatibility with earlier Apogee titles going as far back as Commander Keen. Would that absolutely require an ISA sound card + motherboard?

Reply 10 of 14, by Warlord

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Thats the problem many of those games are CPU speed sensitive as well as needing ISA cards. Those 2 things blow a hole into your whole plan there. you are not going to be able to make a overpowered rig that runs XP games at 1600x1200 and do that too. If you want to just do like 1994+its doable.

Reply 12 of 14, by fosterwj03

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Generally speaking, if you plan to play a DOS game that requires a 386 or 486 to run properly for timing, you're going to have difficulty using any processor in the 1 GHz+ range. Even with slow-down utilities, you won't have a good experience.

One the other hand, CPU timing doesn't matter as much if you play games from the Pentium era. Slow-down utilities can help with many of these games if you run into problems.

For me, most DOS games I like to play from the Pentium era run just fine on 2 GHz+ computers. I do have to use slow-down utilities for a couple of Lucas Arts games (The Dig, for example).

I also find that some early games work better with my Yamaha YMF744 in SB emulation than they do with the real SB16. Carmen San Diego and the Dagger of Amon Ra both have issues with the SB16 in my Pentium 4 machine, but work with the YMF744.

Reply 13 of 14, by Joseph_Joestar

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fosterwj03 wrote on 2020-12-14, 22:06:

Generally speaking, if you plan to play a DOS game that requires a 386 or 486 to run properly for timing, you're going to have difficulty using any processor in the 1 GHz+ range. Even with slow-down utilities, you won't have a good experience.

This is true in most cases. However, on certain motherboards with VIA chipsets ACPI Throttle can do some pretty amazing stuff.

My KT7A motherboard has a VIA 686B southbridge which seems to be particularly liked by the Throttle utility. I can easily go from 386 (caches disabled), over late 486 to early Pentium speeds by choosing different throttling percentages. Never experienced any stuttering or similar issues with that method.

Using Audigy drivers with a Sound Blaster Live
Installing DOS drivers on an Audigy2 ZS
OPL3 vs. ESFM vs. CQM vs. SBLive
OPTi 82C930 review

Reply 14 of 14, by alvaro84

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Just my 2 cents, of all the ISA systems I tried Blood in 1600x1200 on, I found only one really playable: a Soyo p4i845PEISA with DDR333 and a Northwood 3.06. Even my KT7A with a ~2GHz Barton (+SDRAM) couldn't cut it.
This is already an anomalous system. Of course I could make it run even better with any Core2 duo, but I had serious problems with (perhaps) the PCI sound. Namely, it froze like in every minute. Maybe it's another project for another time.

Shame on us, doomed from the start
May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts