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SMP enabled games (pre-2005)

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First post, by sgt76

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Prior to the multi-core era, what retro games actually make use of more than one thread?

I know Quake 3 has an SMP mode, and I've heard that AoE2, AoM, Dungeon Siege- i.e. Microsoft games support SMP as well.

What other old SMP enabled games are out there?

Reply 3 of 22, by swaaye

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SMP support in games isn't something that has turned out very well. Even today after years of very smart people working at it, games are mostly about 1-3 CPUs. Games just aren't typically very parallelizable and problems with thread synchronization cause significant overhead.

Quake4 tends to stutter with SMP enabled and I'm not sure there's any tangible benefit from it. This is probably why it is in the options menu. So you can easily disable it.

The oldest SMP game that I know of is Quake 3. That was a little experiment at id. It is disabled by default.

Last edited by swaaye on 2012-01-03, 18:43. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 4 of 22, by Svenne

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'Juiced', developed by Acclaim and THQ, supports multi-threading. It even indirectly advertises this on startup by displaying the 'runs great on Pentium 4'-animation.
The game was released in the same time period as Quake 4 (approx 2005). However, it was supposed to be released in 2004, but Acclaim went bankrupt before it happened.

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Reply 5 of 22, by sgt76

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Hmm, I would have thought there'd be more games that benefited from multiple threads. I frequently hear about Quake3 and discussion on various fps', but what about strategy and RPG games?

Can anyone confirm if the early Microsoft games support multi-threading, i.e. AoE, AoE2, AoM, Dungeon Siege? What about Diablo 2, WC3?

Or how can I test reliably that a game is indeed using more than one thread? Then I can do my own tests and create a list here.

Reply 6 of 22, by Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman

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I can't believe nobody mentioned Falcon 4.0. 🙁

Never thought this thread would be that long, but now, for something different.....
Kreshna Aryaguna Nurzaman.

Reply 7 of 22, by GL1zdA

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Many chess engines offered an SMP variant (Deep Fritz is the one I know). Probably Flight Simulator 2000 and later also make use of many CPUs.

I dream of testing Q3 on various SMP rigs (from PII 233 to PIII 1GHz) - it seems the game benefited from SMP on slow processors (when Carmack developed it on his Intergraph or SGI Visual Workstation 320), but there is no advantage on the fast ones.

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Reply 8 of 22, by ratfink

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I'm pretty sure diablo2 and warcraft 3 are single processor only. WoW of course is multi-capable nowadays at least, though it's not really retro even if it is 7 years old now [dx10 water effects ftw].

Iirc quake 3 gained about 10-20% fps from running on 2 rather than 1 cpu. Have my results notebook somewhere still, from my dual p3 I had 5 years ago.

Reply 11 of 22, by sgt76

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So far we have 2 games from before 2005 confirmed to use SMP:
Quake III
Falcon 4.0

This does not bode well for dual cpu retro gaming. Looks like the old builders were right in retrospect. For 1995-2005, just concentrate on building the fastest single core you can.

Reply 12 of 22, by SquallStrife

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It's worth having two CPUs on Windows 2000+ even if your game is single threaded, because even if the game is using 100% CPU time, other threads can still execute.

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Reply 13 of 22, by McMick

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All the id games back to Quake 1 support SMP (well, multithreading at any rate). Another is Rowan's Battle of Britain (it's playable if you get the BDG -- BoB Developer Group -- patch). Also MiG Alley by the same company.

Reply 14 of 22, by Concupiscence

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McMick wrote:

All the id games back to Quake 1 support SMP (well, multithreading at any rate).

This is incorrect, at least in the "nearly linear performance scaling with plural cores" sense. Quake I and II were very much single-threaded rendering games, and Quake III Arena's SMP support was quite glitchy out of the box, frequently failing to deliver much improvement at all. The ioQuake3 source port has come a long way in helping to fix this, but the last time I tried it only seemed to work properly in Linux; enabling the setting under Windows resulted in a screen full of gibberish.

Doom 3's renderer is not multithreaded; a single optimized transform pipeline was implemented to ensure good performance across a majority of systems which existed at the time. Quake 4's SMP renderer was a cooperative effort between id and Raven, who developed the title. Speed gains are nice: my Athlon II X2 250 gained around 30% performance just by toggling on SMP in Win7 x64. It seemed to have notable problems in Linux, alas. Rage appears to be the first id game that's shipped with a well-optimized, multithreaded renderer necessary for good performance.

In the realm of non-id games, UT2004's audio handling is separated into two separate threads (one for decompressing Ogg Vorbis audio, and another for playback), so multi-CPU and Hyperthreading-capable systems will see a 5-15% performance boost. The Source Engine's SMP support was relatively recent, first introduced with Left 4 Dead and progressively backported to Team Fortress 2, then the rest of the Orange Box. And, to my surprise when I reinstalled it last month, Valve ported the current SMP-capable Source engine all the way back to Half-Life 2 some time fairly recently.

Reply 15 of 22, by sliderider

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sgt76 wrote:
So far we have 2 games from before 2005 confirmed to use SMP: Quake III Falcon 4.0 […]
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So far we have 2 games from before 2005 confirmed to use SMP:
Quake III
Falcon 4.0

This does not bode well for dual cpu retro gaming. Looks like the old builders were right in retrospect. For 1995-2005, just concentrate on building the fastest single core you can.

Which for most purposes would be the Athlon 64 FX-55. The P4EE was faster at some tasks like audio encoding and running apps, but for games the FX-55 delivered faster framerates across the board in most games under most conditions.

Reply 16 of 22, by sgt76

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sliderider wrote:

Which for most purposes would be the Athlon 64 FX-55. The P4EE was faster at some tasks like audio encoding and running apps, but for games the FX-55 delivered faster framerates across the board in most games under most conditions.

That is the penultimate representative of that era.

Reply 17 of 22, by Concupiscence

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sgt76 wrote:
sliderider wrote:

Which for most purposes would be the Athlon 64 FX-55. The P4EE was faster at some tasks like audio encoding and running apps, but for games the FX-55 delivered faster framerates across the board in most games under most conditions.

That is the penultimate representative of that era.

I think you mean ultimate - penultimate means second-to-greatest.

These days there are very few single core CPUs for sale, but I'm close to pulling the trigger on a Sempron 145 for a legacy project build I'm attempting. When the time comes I'll post info to the System Specs subforum. 😀

Reply 18 of 22, by jaqie

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This is too new to be directlyo n subject, but the dungeon defenders game is DEFINITELY heavily SMP capable, and even required for high settings. I have never seen a game take so much cpu that was cartoony looking... but it looks and plays great if you have enough horsepower. 😀

Also, minecraft with third party addons (especially things like rei's minimap) definitely use multi cpus quite well.

Reply 19 of 22, by sgt76

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Concupiscence wrote:

I think you mean ultimate - penultimate means second-to-greatest.

Definitely penultimate 😉 . Ultimate single-core s939 A64 was FX57.

jaqie wrote:

This is too new to be directlyo n subject, but the dungeon defenders game is DEFINITELY heavily SMP capable, and even required for high settings. I have never seen a game take so much cpu that was cartoony looking... but it looks and plays great if you have enough horsepower. 😀

Also, minecraft with third party addons (especially things like rei's minimap) definitely use multi cpus quite well.

Thanks...but still the pre-2005 list is looking very sparse indeed. I started this thread primarily because I was pondering building a P3 duallie, and whether it would have any advantages over my collection of very fast single core P3, P4 and A64 rigs. So far, I haven't found evidence of this.