Mid-90s Sierra Games

Getting old software/games running on older hardware.

Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby viper32cm » 2019-6-08 @ 18:40

I am trying to figure out what would be the best system to play some mid-90s Sierra 3d games such as Earthsiege 2 and Command: Aces of the Deep.

When those games were new I played them on a P100 with 16MB ram, Win95, and a 1MB Cirrus Logic video card. They seemed fine at the time with all options on, and, given the time frame those games came out (95-96), that computer had decent enough specifications.

Today, however, they seem a little sluggish on my current P100 with 32MB ram, Win98, and a 1 or 2MB Trident video card.

Is there a better processor and/or video card choice for these games? Should I switch to Win95? Any other ideas?
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby Jo22 » 2019-6-09 @ 11:41

Hi! I was about going to say "try a Macintosh", but then I realized these games are Windows-only. :sweatdrop:
Well, accoring to Mobygames game database, thse games do require a 486DX2 or higher.
- So your Pentium 100 seems to be fine accordig to this.

However, if you like to have better frame rate, you can
a) try using Windows 95B/C.
b) try using the very lightweight Windows 3.11.
c) try to install a Pentium 133 or 166 MMX.
d) enable DMA for the HDD and CD-ROM in device manager.
e) experiment with an early Windows Accelerator (Trio 64V+, ET4000 W32, Cirrus, etc)
f) experiment with an early 3D accelerator (S3 ViRGE, ATI 3D Rage).
g) install more cache memory.

Upgrading the processor to a 166 with MMX should give the highest performance, as it contains a bigger cache and a newer CPU design.
Please check if the supply voltage matches with your mainboard, though. It's been a while since I tinkered with this.

Trying the older Windows releases might be also worth a try.
When my sister got her first Pentium PCs aeons ago, I changed between Win95 and Win98 many times.
Win95 was indeed quicker in simple Windows games (semi-3D games like SRB2 were among of them)..

I've found a history of 3D cards here: https://www.techspot.com/article/650-hi ... f-the-gpu/ .

Edit: You may also like to check http://vintage3d.org/ . :)
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby Jo22 » 2019-6-09 @ 16:30

Also interesting..

Win95c vs. Win98se for gaming ?
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=63983

Best PCI VGA card for Windows 3.11 performance?
viewtopic.php?f=63&t=48762

Best PCI graphics card for Windows 98
viewtopic.php?f=63&t=53456

Video cards and 2d acceleration
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=42133

2D, Acceleration, And Windows: Aren't All Graphics Cards Equal?
viewtopic.php?p=510317#p510317
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby Jo22 » 2019-6-09 @ 16:38

I did forget.. If you're into early 3D Windows games (Win32 rather than Win16) - a Pentium 133MHz (Edit: 150Mhz) with S3 ViRGE was the very base configuration of Final Reality. :)
In case you're curious, you may want to have a look at several older comparison I made.. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM_rzw ... al+reality
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby leileilol » 2019-6-09 @ 19:53

Keep in mind that even many Win95 Sierra games from this time period had speed problems... Birthright for example
by the way, DOSBox is not for running Windows 9x
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby viper32cm » 2019-6-09 @ 20:30

I tried enabling DMA mode. Now I can't boot Windows anymore. My Mobo is a late-97 vintage 430TX board. Hard to believe it won't support DMA mode.

I suppose it's a good excuse of try installing Windows 95.

As far as the two specific examples mentioned above, I was able to identify the options that cause the games to slow down most significantly. For ES2, disabling the textured terrain causes a significant increase in performance but makes the game look like crap. For Command: AOD, disabling the "rough seas" option (the U-Boat rises and falls with the waves) seems to increase performance noticeably.

Keep in mind that even many Win95 Sierra games from this time period had speed problems... Birthright for example


Yeah, I remember some Metal Jesus episodes on YouTube (a former Sierra employee) where he mentioned that the Earthsiege team had very little concept of the systems people actually owned when those games released. Apparently when he received a pre-release version of one of the games the quoted system requirements called for 32MB, which was a massive amount for most people back then. Maybe the games were released with some room to grow so to speak.
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby Jo22 » 2019-6-10 @ 10:49

viper32cm wrote:I tried enabling DMA mode. Now I can't boot Windows anymore.

I'm very sorry, didn't know it would cause any issues. :depressed:

viper32cm wrote:My Mobo is a late-97 vintage 430TX board. Hard to believe it won't support DMA mode.

Found some specs..
Chip.....PIIX4 (82371AB Controller)
Busmastering Support.....Yes
UltraDMA Support.....Yes
Max. Theoretical Transfer Rate.....PIO Mode 5/DMA Mode 3 (33.3MB/S)

Source: https://www.anandtech.com/show/72/6

So it should do DMA/Multi-Word DMA as used by Windows 9x, at least.

viper32cm wrote:I suppose it's a good excuse of try installing Windows 95..

It's worth a try. If you've got the WIn3.1 releases, then Windows 3.11 isn't bad either, though.
You can also try to fix your Windows via safe mode.
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby rasz_pl » 2019-6-10 @ 11:39

viper32cm wrote:I tried enabling DMA mode. Now I can't boot Windows anymore. My Mobo is a late-97 vintage 430TX board. Hard to believe it won't support DMA mode.


might help https://www.philscomputerlab.com/window ... -mode.html
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby viper32cm » 2019-6-10 @ 16:58

Jo22 wrote:I'm very sorry, didn't know it would cause any issues. :depressed:


No worries. That's life with these old machines sometimes.

I was able to get it to boot with DMA mode enabled after I installed an updated driver pack from intel (3.20.1008). Performance now, however, is painfully, dreadfully slow. Perhaps the drivers are too new. The readme said 32MB was the least amount of RAM I should run with the drivers installed.

In any event, I think that my P100, while quite nostaligic for me, isn't the best option. Looking through my spare parts bin, I'm going to updgrade the system to 64MB of SDRAM and either a P200 (non-MMX) or K6-200 processor. I could go either way with the processor, but I bet I'm not that far off my performance goals at 100Mhz. Going to 133Mhz (underclocking the P200) would probably get me there. However, with setmul, there's no reason no to go for full Windows performance and then disable caches for older DOS games.

Eventually I'll add a RIVA 128 and a Voodoo to the system.

And, yeah, I'm going Windows 95 for this sytem now. I have a few Win95 games that don't like Win 98 or the newer versions of DirectX, so Win 95 with this setup should cover me for those titles throuh 1997 or so (at 640x480) and, with setmul, allow me to run the DOS games I currently run.
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby viper32cm » 2019-6-12 @ 03:11

The K6-200 appears to have done the trick. Both games are playable now without noticeable slowdown.
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby clueless1 » 2019-6-12 @ 03:23

Depending on the model, the Trident graphics card may have been part of the problem. But glad you got things running well with the K6-200. :)
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby viper32cm » 2019-6-12 @ 04:00

clueless1 wrote:Depending on the model, the Trident graphics card may have been part of the problem. But glad you got things running well with the K6-200. :)


Windows 98 says it's a "Trident 9685/9680/9682/9385/9382/9385-1." I'm searching for a replacement card, but this mobo is picky about PCI cards. (viewtopic.php?f=63&t=67544)

However, the K6 isn't as useful in DOS. Disabling L1 cache still creates symptoms of overspeed in some games (e.g. Falcon 3.0) that are not present with a Pentium 200. I might wind up switching to the P200.
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Re: Mid-90s Sierra Games

Postby dickkickem » 2019-6-12 @ 19:14

I'd honestly suggest to replace that Trident with an early ATi card with 4MB of VRAM. Tridents were and still are considered notoriously shit.
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