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Is Pentium 1 too fast for early 90s DOS games?

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First post, by koleq

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I have a Pentium 133 is there any way to play games from 1989 - 1992
or are the games thar require 8088 / 8086 or a 286 just unplayable?
I tried running Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars from Windows 98 SE and it only printed some garbled text and stopped.

###HP Vectra VL 5/133 Series 4, D4644B###
CPU: Pentium 1 133Mhz
RAM: 96 MB EDO RAM (4x8MB, 2x32MB)
GPU: ELSA Victory 3DX (S3 Virge/DX 4MB)
Sound: Avance Logic ALS100 Plus+ REV 2.0
HDD: Seagate 20 GB (need to boot OnTrack)
OS: Windows 98 SE

Reply 1 of 77, by bloodem

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Commander Keen is not really a speed sensitive game.
Haven't tested it many times since it's not exactly a favorite of mine, but it has worked for me even on very powerful PCs.
Now, I never test DOS games from Win98 (unless we're talking about late era DOS games, like Duke Nukem 3D), so this might be your problem. Try and run it from DOS.

The Pentium 133 with both L1 and external caches disabled should have the speed of a slow 386. If there are any games that require even slower speeds, then the only option is to use other software tools like Mo'Slo.
If you have a motherboard with a VIA chipset, then Throttle is also a very good option.

The classic Pentium also supports a multiplier of 1.5, so if your motherboard has a 50 MHz FSB option, you can probably hit 286 speeds as well.

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Reply 2 of 77, by leileilol

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The only big concerns would be:

- Sierra SCI games (Space Quests, etc) with sensitive gameplay timing and/or sound hardware detection
- Wing Commander 1 and 2 (including the Win95 kilrathi saga release)
- Turbo Pascal'd games (133mhz should be low enough for all of them however)
- the whole "XT" era where 4.77mhz wasn't expected to change for a while.

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Reply 3 of 77, by RaiderOfLostVoodoo

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koleq wrote on 2022-04-05, 10:01:

I tried running Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars from Windows 98 SE and it only printed some garbled text and stopped.

Commander Keen is known to be very picky with graphic cards.
Maybe that's your problem?

Reply 4 of 77, by koleq

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My machine currently has no OS since I am waiting for a soundcard and some RAM, but once I have that I will try Commander keen and other old games in DOS mode and if my PC supports it I will disable cache to make my cpu slower for these games.

###HP Vectra VL 5/133 Series 4, D4644B###
CPU: Pentium 1 133Mhz
RAM: 96 MB EDO RAM (4x8MB, 2x32MB)
GPU: ELSA Victory 3DX (S3 Virge/DX 4MB)
Sound: Avance Logic ALS100 Plus+ REV 2.0
HDD: Seagate 20 GB (need to boot OnTrack)
OS: Windows 98 SE

Reply 5 of 77, by Jo22

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Commander Keen doesn't even support VGA as a mode, if memory serves.

I mean, it was developed on old ISA VGA cards and with VGA cards in mind, but uses an rarely used EGA mode/an EGA feature.
That mode allows using a secondary screen page, so the game engine can draw two picures simulatanously and switch to the finished one.
Unfortunately, EGA and its screen modes had been obsolete for a while when PCI VGA cards arrived.

Here's another program that uses that used two EGA pages simulatanously.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2q5r3aNIyA

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 6 of 77, by Jo22

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leileilol wrote on 2022-04-06, 02:13:

The only big concerns would be:
[..]
- the whole "XT" era where 4.77mhz wasn't expected to change for a while.

True, but I assume even in the 4,77MHz days, the NEC V20/V30 wasn't totally unheard of in the early days.
I have no sources to rely on right now, but I dare to believe that a huge (dark) number of users bought them
out of sheer frustration after they found out how horrible slow, but highly expensive their IBM PC/XT was.
It was the only quick fix, available to them after all. And it was reversible.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 7 of 77, by chinny22

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Some games will work, others not depends on how they were written.
You can find a list of speed sensitive games below. You still maybe able to play them if you run slowdown utils, disable cache, etc but even still some simply wont work.

https://www.vogonswiki.com/index.php/List_of_ … sensitive_games

Reply 8 of 77, by Cuttoon

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As some have pointed out: There's always the question of how many special and elaborate tricks you're willing to apply and whether you'd still consider all that actual "support" for a game by the same machine.
I mean, where's the clear border to "use you modern machine and DOSbox", eventually.

Or, whether at some point you'd go "let's acquire a dedicated 286 for some games because it's less trouble".
If you do, maybe the sweet spot may rather be a 386 with a turbo switch. Pretty sure those are easier to source and set up.
(And then you could consider somewhat maxing out the socket 7 with a faster CPU)

Example dear to my heart: You haven't seen the golden age of DOS gaming if you haven't played the original X-COM or "UFO - Enemy Unknown" from 1994.

For the authentic experience with the essential, time-honored bugs, you'll need the DOS floppy version.
That will feel just fine on a 386. Scroll speed on the tactical screen is the key.
(the close successor, "Terror from the deep" will already give you trouble with slower ISA VGA)
And I think I've played it on a P133 as well.
The list on vogonswiki says p90, maximum.

So, with that range of games:
- Maybe clock the machine down to 1.5 x 50 MHz FSB. It's possible to attach front-mounted switches to jumper headers, if you want to tinker.

With UFO, the cheap way out is the "Gold" edition for Windows... That should be right at home on a p133. Then, very much the same problem on, I'd say, anything past a GHz.

I like jumpers.

Reply 9 of 77, by Gmlb256

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RaiderOfLostVoodoo wrote on 2022-04-06, 04:26:

Commander Keen is known to be very picky with graphic cards.
Maybe that's your problem?

I never had issues running Commander Keen games with S3 video cards and didn't need to slow down the CPU for these games.

koleq wrote on 2022-04-06, 04:59:

My machine currently has no OS since I am waiting for a soundcard and some RAM, but once I have that I will try Commander keen and other old games in DOS mode and if my PC supports it I will disable cache to make my cpu slower for these games.

Does your S3 Trio64 happens to be Diamond branded? For some reason it has problems that S3 cards from other manufacturers doesn't exhibit.

Reply 11 of 77, by leileilol

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keenerb wrote on 2022-04-06, 14:37:

My understanding is that Dosbox can run on a Pentium 1/Windows 95 install

Not well. It would have trouble playing 320x200 CGA games (nevermind early 90s games that wouldn't be that) and that's after setting all the rates and cycles low. Don't get your hopes up.

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Reply 12 of 77, by Cuttoon

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leileilol wrote on 2022-04-06, 23:05:
keenerb wrote on 2022-04-06, 14:37:

My understanding is that Dosbox can run on a Pentium 1/Windows 95 install

Not well. It would have trouble playing 320x200 CGA games (nevermind early 90s games that wouldn't be that) and that's after setting all the rates and cycles low. Don't get your hopes up.

No point in using an emulation on a slightly more advanced computer, he can do that on a modern one?

Think the original question was about running Commander Keen on a p133 and maybe stuff like Wing Commander.

My point about DosBox earlier on was merely that if he needs to employ all kinds of fuzzy tricks to slow down a p133, then he might as well go ahead and get a 386.
Since he already decided not to abuse a faster machine for old games with workarounds and tricks (or emulators), when he got that p133.

As long as one has a job to finance it, it basically boils down to a problem of space, but additional hardware beats software experiments, simply by time invested, imho.

I like jumpers.

Reply 13 of 77, by Jo22

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Ok, my memories maybe play tricks on me, but I vaguely remember playing Keen IV on a Pentium 75 back in ~2000.
So maybe it's enough to disable external cache to play the Keen series on a P133 ? L

Please forgive my ignorance, but Keen I was a bit before my times.
I mean, I *did* play it back then. But it looked so pale against Keen IV that I didn't play it so much. 😔

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 14 of 77, by leileilol

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Keen4's absolutely fine with fast CPUs (a Pentium 4 can play it without any need for throttling or emulation), it's the post-2D video cards that often break it. There's a chart about that.

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Reply 15 of 77, by keenerb

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Cuttoon wrote on 2022-04-06, 23:16:
leileilol wrote on 2022-04-06, 23:05:
keenerb wrote on 2022-04-06, 14:37:

My understanding is that Dosbox can run on a Pentium 1/Windows 95 install

Not well. It would have trouble playing 320x200 CGA games (nevermind early 90s games that wouldn't be that) and that's after setting all the rates and cycles low. Don't get your hopes up.

No point in using an emulation on a slightly more advanced computer, he can do that on a modern one?

I would disagree greatly. There's a whole thread or two dedicated to emulating old systems on slightly newer hardware. I do all my Apple II gaming on my Tandy 1000!

In any event I do suspect a pentium 1 would be far too slow for any real usefulness...

Reply 16 of 77, by enaiel

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leileilol wrote on 2022-04-07, 10:51:

Keen4's absolutely fine with fast CPUs (a Pentium 4 can play it without any need for throttling or emulation), it's the post-2D video cards that often break it. There's a chart about that.

Are you talking about this: https://gona.mactar.hu/DOS_TESTS/

The only speed-sensitivity I found with Keen games is the adlib detection code. Doesn't always detect it unless I slowdown using SetMul.

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Reply 17 of 77, by Gmlb256

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enaiel wrote on 2022-04-07, 14:41:

The only speed-sensitivity I found with Keen games is the adlib detection code. Doesn't always detect it unless I slowdown using SetMul.

Increasing the 8-bit I/O recovery time could also help if the motherboard BIOS has that option.

It also depends of the OPL implementation used on the sound card, OPL3 is faster than OPL2 thus requiring less delay code. Clones such as CQM and ESFM are even faster.

Reply 18 of 77, by BEEN_Nath_58

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leileilol wrote on 2022-04-06, 02:13:
The only big concerns would be: […]
Show full quote

The only big concerns would be:

- Sierra SCI games (Space Quests, etc) with sensitive gameplay timing and/or sound hardware detection
- Wing Commander 1 and 2 (including the Win95 kilrathi saga release)
- Turbo Pascal'd games (133mhz should be low enough for all of them however)
- the whole "XT" era where 4.77mhz wasn't expected to change for a while.

I have Kilrathi Saga WC1 and WC2 installed now but I couldn't remember if it's running at the correct speed on my 3.7GHz Ryzen machine. Could you link a gameplay of the Windows version?

previously known as Discrete_BOB_058

Reply 19 of 77, by koleq

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This is the issue with keen1
image.png
I also disable all of my caches to slow down the cpu.

###HP Vectra VL 5/133 Series 4, D4644B###
CPU: Pentium 1 133Mhz
RAM: 96 MB EDO RAM (4x8MB, 2x32MB)
GPU: ELSA Victory 3DX (S3 Virge/DX 4MB)
Sound: Avance Logic ALS100 Plus+ REV 2.0
HDD: Seagate 20 GB (need to boot OnTrack)
OS: Windows 98 SE