VOGONS


First post, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Configuring drivers is such a nightmare.

After reading reams of posts here from users who are much more experienced with Vortex and Santa Cruz cards, I managed to find a driver setup that works on XP with most games. According to 'sensinfo.exe' I have Sensaura v 1.10 (2216) and 4.12.01.2216. This works for Thief 1 and 2, System Shock, Half Life, Tachyon: The Fringe, Unreal, Freespace 1 and Freespace 2 (both volition games like Descent 3) but Descent 3 with a similar setup utility just will not detect A3D. In fact it only detects Direct3D. I'm wondering if there's some way to adjust the game files without making a global system change, since I'm worried about breaking everything else and having to do all this work all over again... I don't even really remember how I got it working as well as it is so I don't want to play with it if I don't have to. But maybe Descent 3 is looking for a specific file or has some config problem that I can fix?

Anybody know enough about this game to comment on how it finds A3D support?

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Reply 1 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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I found Sensaura compatibility with A3D 2.0 games to be hit and miss, at least with my Yamaha YMF724.

I didn't try Descent 3, but some other A3D 2.0 games like Half-Life simply refused to enable 3D sound when using Sensaura. On the other hand, all A3D 1.0 games that I tried worked fine.

EDIT - according to this list Descent 3 needs the 1.1 patch (or higher) for A3D 2.0 support to work.

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 2 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Maybe I can help you with Half-Life. My half-life seems to work fine with A3D. I mean it's hard to tell subjectively but both the A3D and EAX boxes are checked and positional sound is clearly working in game. I believe you need a very specific version of half-life where A3d isn't broken and then you need the drivers to work properly on top of that. How do you know yours is not working?

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Reply 3 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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Gahhhrrrlic wrote on 2020-10-01, 03:20:

I believe you need a very specific version of half-life where A3d isn't broken and then you need the drivers to work properly on top of that. How do you know yours is not working?

When I tick the A3D checkbox in options, it won't stay on. It turns off the next time I enter the options menu (without exiting the game). I was using the retail CD of the game and some patch, not sure which version (don't have it installed atm).

That said, the same version worked fine on a genuine Aureal Vortex 2 card (Montego II) which I got a bit later, so I never bothered with testing any of the other patches.

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 4 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Ok so if the checkbox doesn't work, A3D is not being detected. You have to put the dlls in your HL root folder. These are A3D.dll, Audio3D.dll and A3DAPI.dll. The version of these dlls will dictate whether and how well the effect works. Also your HL version should be 1.1.0.10 or whatever version where the last 2 digits are a 10. That's what I have. This post will help:

Best Sensaura Implementation

If you launch HL.exe with -dev -console, you can press the tilde key to get the console in game and type s_a3d to see if it's a 0 or a 1. Same with s_enable_a3d, s_geometry, s_occlusion, and see if these are on and you can toggle them if they are borked. The exact versions of the dlls takes some experimentation but if you just throw different ones in there you should eventually stumble upon ones that work.

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In other news, I tried updating Descent 3 to version 1.4, which does support A3D. The setup panel still has the option for it (just as it did before) but still it is grayed out. This is both in 98 and in XP. Now call it a theory or a hypothesis or w/e but I think this has to do with the fact that I don't have an actual vortex card. The game shouldn't care about that, since Sensaura enables A3D by masking the files somehow to look like vortex files BUT Descent 3 seems to be figuring this trick out because on my other rig with a sq2500 in it (real vortex), the option is enabled no problem. This suggests to me that some file trickery is necessary to make D3 think the card is a vortex, so it will detect and use the DLLs. Thoughts on this?

Swaaye or Zanquance are the experts on this topic.

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Reply 5 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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Gahhhrrrlic wrote on 2020-10-01, 18:55:

Ok so if the checkbox doesn't work, A3D is not being detected. You have to put the dlls in your HL root folder. These are A3D.dll, Audio3D.dll and A3DAPI.dll. The version of these dlls will dictate whether and how well the effect works. Also your HL version should be 1.1.0.10 or whatever version where the last 2 digits are a 10. That's what I have.

Cheers! I'll give that a try the next time I play around with Sensaura. I'm kinda curious to hear how HL sounds on it compared to my Montego II.

Now call it a theory or a hypothesis or w/e but I think this has to do with the fact that I don't have an actual vortex card. The game shouldn't care about that, since Sensaura enables A3D by masking the files somehow to look like vortex files BUT Descent 3 seems to be figuring this trick out because on my other rig with a sq2500 in it (real vortex), the option is enabled no problem.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere about certain games that were capable of detecting a genuine Vortex chip and would only enable A3D on that hardware.

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 6 of 23, by ZanQuance

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I'm going from memory here since it's been a while since I last played around with this.
Descent 3's launcher wont enable A3D with a Santa Cruz. period. To get it to work I had to place the A3DAPI.dll v3.12 in the descent 3 dir, then launch the game manually with a command line switch to force A3D mode on. Or edit some settings file? I'll check it tomorrow and see how I got it working.
I think the game sounded really buggy after all that work so I never posted a howto for D3 when talking about the Santa Cruz back then.

Reply 7 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Lol. D3 doesn't want to work. And that allegedly was one of the best games to play with it, especially if you had a voodoo card as well. If you can figure it out, that would be great.

I fought with HL and Unreal Tournament tonight. I believe I got HL fully working with 2.0 features and UT99 partially working (maybe 1.0 features only?). Ultimately I would like to create some sort of easy to use matrix with games on the left and file combos or setup instructions on the right, so that myself and others can have a reference table for the future so we never forget. It's so time consuming doing trial and error to get these things working but so worth it when it does work.

BTW... in a previous post of yours didn't you say not to use the 3.12 file because it gave you trouble? I took your advice and got HL working with the older one. Maybe D3 also doesn't like that file.

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Reply 8 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Do you know what the command line switch was by any chance? Maybe I can reproduce your earlier attempt to see if I can duplicate the results on my side. If I get success, then maybe it wasn't a dead end after all.

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Reply 9 of 23, by ZanQuance

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Ohhhhhkay I've figured it out.
It can't be done easily on Win98.
Descent3 tries to enable A3D 2.0 by testing for hardware reflections caps in the driver through the IA3D interface.
Only works on WinXP using that stupid A3D-live dll wrapper, it fakes the IA3D interface the game tries to load thus making it work.
And thus why I recall it sounding like poo, the reflections are messed up all over the place since the DLL doesn't try to emulate them properly.

The command line is "Main.exe -launched -nointro" for quick testing.
You can force A3D selection but it will ultimately still fail by editing the registry
HKLM\software\outrage\descent3
look for the key "SoundMixer" and change it to 4
That selects in order of the setup menus 1-5, software, directsound, ds3d, a3d 2.0, eax

Reply 10 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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I'm not sure how you determined all this but it's impressive as hell 🤣!

So are you saying that there's no real way to actually use the hardware but just some fake software work-around? Why does it work with a Vortex card, when vortex chips use the same API? Does the vortex chip have its own hardware accelerated IA3D or something?

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Reply 11 of 23, by ZanQuance

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Game->A3D->A3DAPI.dll->iA3D[bind to Vortex driver]->Driver->reports is an A3D accelerator card
iA3D->asks driver if card does hardware reflections

Yes->A3D enabled
No->A3D greyed out

Sensaura fails at the A3DAPI's iA3D call since it's drivers don't expose an entire wrapping of that function. So hardware reflections don't get reported to the game.

I'm not sure why they decided to check for a Vortex card like this when other games are content with the a3dcreate() call succeeding and then an A3DCaps report.
I have no solutions on hand at the moment for it.

Reply 12 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Very good to know this... I have another rig, a PII with V2 SLI and SQ2500 so that will also be very good to play D3 with. I had just hoped to get that quadraphonic HRTF with altitude that the Santa Cruz has.

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Reply 13 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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While doing sound card research I managed to find your youtube channel Zanquance. Incidentally this clued me into the fact that despite my games sounding quite nice for the most part they still aren't working properly. I recall your Half Life video, you go from the tram into the first room, get the egg heads to talk and then run to the corner and there is a distinct echo. I could not reproduce this so either reverb/geometry isn't working properly or you've tweaked something that I didn't?

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Reply 15 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Ah.. actually that's a clever way of performing diagnostics.

At least in XP I seem to have things as good as they'll get... mostly. Half-Life is definitely doing occlusions, which is a 2.0 feature but it's really hard to tell if it's doing wavetracing since that's a combo off occlusion and reverb and neither are very pronounced at distances.

Unreal based games are totally not working for me right now. In DX, underwater sounds the same as above and every voice seems to be direct from the source. I've screwed with the ini, put dlls in the game folder... I dunno. Something was working once upon a time but now it just sounds like D3D. I get the same generic sound in Anox, Unreal, UT99 and DX.

With space games like Tachyon or Starlancer I basically have no clue if anything is working. In all cases, everything detects just fine in the setup utility and then it sounds fine playing the game but since there are no walls anywhere I'll be damned if I can tell what's actually different about it.

Halo sounds like it's trying to work but failing in the process. Enabling A3D sounds like ass right from the menu music, when things get quite muffled. Any sound coming from behind me sounds muffled and destroyed, cortana's helmet babble is the same and there are stuttering glitches every so often. However things ahead of me sound pretty good so something is working.

I did what you said and put audio3D 2008, a3d 2009 (audio3d 2009) and a3dapi 225 in the system directory except for halo's game dir having the newer one. That got me where I am above.

98 is another story. It's the only OS that will play certain things like Q3 stuff. 98 was working even better until I tried to install VXD drivers (because I didn't think I had that version but I actually did) and now the damn speakers won't go into 5.1 mode. This is another problem I ALWAYS have: That software responds randomly based on nothing. Sometimes redoing the exact same setup will break everything that was working for no good reason. I can't tell you the number of times I've redone the same damn procedure with different results, on all sorts of things, especially Creative products. So now I guess I'm going to have to reinstall the drivers yet again just to get my 5.1 back. I wish I just had a disk image where everything works. Doing forensics on retro audio has its appeal and novelty factory until it doesn't. Now it's just a pain in the ass.

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Reply 17 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Oh I will. My objective here is to try to see the distinct advantages of the Sensaura API in terms of 4 position HRTF with altitude and chaotic wavetracing. I believe those are both better than what a Vortex does ( I think I got that from you actually 🤣 ). It's looking like the only way I'm every going to experience that difference is in Half-Life. Halo is just too buggy to be immersive and enjoyable and Unreal based games only seem to be doing D3D, which is a shame because there are several games that use this engine and only 1 half-life. If I absolutely have to, I'll just play my Unreal stuff on my P2 machine, assuming that I don't have the same problems there. It would just be nice if I could get it working on the Santa Cruz. Unlike graphics, where wanting to play games on a Voodoo2 is mostly for nostalgia reasons, I don't think acoustic simulation has ever been as good as it was at the turn of the century so there is an impetus to get it working... I'm sure you would agree 😀

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Reply 18 of 23, by Joseph_Joestar

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Gahhhrrrlic wrote on 2020-10-14, 07:39:

Unreal based games only seem to be doing D3D

Are you sure?

I get the Sensaura startup logo/sound effect when running UT99 GOTY, Unreal Gold and Deus Ex GOTY on my Yamaha YMF724. They all had HRTF at the very least. See here: Re: Sensaura on Yamaha YMF 7x4 cards

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 19 of 23, by Gahhhrrrlic

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Then we should compare notes because I NEVER get the splash screen for unreal games but my Half-Life works and while it was working without the splash screen it just recently started displaying it. My bet is you have a driver config that I don't have.

Can you summarize your dll setup (what version your files are and where you put them?) and also what version number your unreal is? Also how is your ini configured? I have tried 3d hardware sound and surround sound and have also tried just 3d hardware, though I have 5.1 speakers. Is this 98 or XP? I'm testing both on a dual boot and HL works in both cases.

From my post above:

"I did what you said and put audio3D 2008, a3d 2009 (audio3d 2009) and a3dapi 225 in the system directory except for halo's game dir having the newer one. That got me where I am above."

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