VOGONS


First post, by mrzmaster

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Hey all! I grew up computing with PC's in the 386-Pentium III era and was an avid and passionate gamer as a young person from about 1990-2001. After I went to college in 2001, I fell out of PC gaming, sadly didn't keep my PC's from the past, and have since only been a very casual console gamer. Now that I'm getting old(er), I have some more free time on my hands and would like to replay my favorite games from my heydays. After lurking among you Vogonians for a quite a while and trying to learn as much as I can about vintage builds appropriate for that era of PC gaming, I decided that it's time for me to pull the trigger and do my own Win98SE build.

One of the favorite threads I've come across on the forum was the one started by batmansquarepants , because he seemed to have a similar build goal to what I envision. I have some questions and I'm looking for some feedback as I get started on this project.

Here's the top titles that I have in mind that I'd like to run on this Win98SE system (and I've bolded the ones that are most important to me):

  • King's Quest V-VII
  • Torin's Passage
  • Leisure Suit Larry V-VII
  • Half-Life
  • Unreal
  • Unreal Tournament
  • Quake
  • Quake 2
  • Fallout 2
  • Doom 1/2
  • Rise of the Triad
  • Wolf3D
  • Sim City 2K
  • Grim Fandango
  • Diablo I/II
  • Duke 3D
  • Heretic
  • Hexen I/II
  • Shadow Warrior
  • Blood
  • MDK 1/2
  • SiN
  • System Shock 2
  • Indiana Jones & The Fate Of Atlantis
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
  • The Curse of Monkey Island
  • Full Throttle
  • Baldur's Gate 1/2
  • UO

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few but these are the ones that I'm most excited to play and relive on a proper system. Due to affordability and availability, I decided to go with a Pentium 4 system similar to what pixel_workbench proposed in batmansquarepants' thread. Here's the parts I've already acquired:

And this is what I plan on potentially picking up to complete the build:

  • Sound Blaster Live! or Aureal Vortex 2
  • 2x256 MB DDR400 SDRAM
  • Gotek Floppy Emulator or 1.44 floppy
  • Modern ATX case (hey, since it's 2021, some cable management would be nice 😀 )
  • 19" CRT monitor that supports up to 1600x1200

So here's my questions:

  • Do any of the parts (either ones that I've already acquired or plan on picking up) seem wildly inappropriate for a majority of the games I have in mind? I'll understand if some of the games I mentioned will be tricky to get to work properly with this hardware, but if I can play 80% of them, I'll be pleased.
  • I've noticed that some versions of the SB Live! (such as the SB0100 and 0600) are recommended over others. Is this really important? It seems that those versions are scarce and/or more expensive. Which card will ultimately be better for the majority of games I listed (Live! vs. Aureal Vortex 2 or something else entirely?)
  • The motherboard I obtained (Intel 865PE/ICH5 chipsets) has a number of "quality of life" features that I'd like to take advantage of, such as SATA (for the boot SSD) and USB2. Are there any concerns regarding these features in Win98SE?
  • Will a USB keyboard and mouse work right out of the gate for Win98SE or will they not work until I install the chipset drivers (will I need PS/2 ones on hand just to install Win98SE?)?
  • The circa ~2008 500W ATX power supply does not have any molex or FDD power connectors which I'll need for the IDE DVD+RW and Gotek/1.44. I found some SATA power to molex+FDD adapters on Newegg. Are there any other concerns for using this PSU?
  • Do I need to disable HT in the BIOS for the P4 2.8 HT? Or will it work fine with Win98SE as-is?
  • I've been looking around locally and CRT's seem very, very difficult to locate. Are there suggestions on where to pick one up? If this is going to be a unicorn, what type of 4:3 LCD will be best? I have a spare 1080p 22" 16:9 LCD as a temporary solution, but I really don't think this screen will be an optimal way to re-experience these games.
Last edited by mrzmaster on 2021-09-14, 17:06. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 1 of 16, by khyypio

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- You should be able to run pretty much all of those games with this setup.
- Manufacturers like Dell used have its own version of SB Live in their computers and they didn´t work very well. I have used both SB0100 and SB0060, I recommend either one of them. Just make sure you use the right drivers.
- If your mobo isn´t broken it should work perfectly fine. USB 2.0 will work only after chipset drivers nusb36e.exe are installed. SSD will work, you just need to format it to FAT32. Here´s how I did it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCOWvABTykA
- USB keyboard and mouse will after USB 2.0 drivers are installed but you should have PS/2 variants just in case. Also if you want to use DOS, USB wont work.
- If you are determined to get a CRT but have difficulties finding it, there´s nothing wrong with using an LCD while searching. Get a used one, they´re cheap.

Reply 2 of 16, by foil_fresh

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a P4 will be great for a Windows 98 build but will be limited in it's compatibility in DOS. Older games that are speed sensitive will bug out, not load, or be too fast to play. Newer DOS games might be better. edit- Many dos games will still work, it will just be a coin toss as to which ones don't.

some versions of the SB live are driver hell (From what i've read). I have used the OEM SB live cards, they can be a pain but the new meta of installing Audigy drivers is the way to go.

the i865 chipset is mainly a requirement in this build as it's going to give you decent dos audio compatibility. SATA should run fine (but it might depend on the SSD being used, rather than the ports). USB 2.0 is supported by Windows 98 SE (not earlier versions), but you still need to have the USB mass storage drivers (ripped from WinME?) available on the net/vogonsfiles.

I'd like to say that there's a compatibility option in the BIOS for these USB keyboards but I wouldn't bank on it. It might work but may not be great. Not sure, haven't really tested or read much about it. PS/2 is just perfect the way it is.

I'd get a new PSU but if it's still fine to use, get some adapters for molex, ezpz.

Win98 won't even know there's another core/thread to be used. You can turn it off in BIOS (if it's an option) and you probably won't notice a change.'

As for CRT, everyone's going to have a different opinion. I'd say look for anything that works. Being picky with CRTs is never good, they always die. Enjoy the phosphors while they are lit. 4:3 LCDs are rare, 5:4 is what you're probably going to find. 1280x1024 is a good res, you might run into DOS problems tho - LCDs might be 60hz and give choppy output with 70hz dos games.

I have a 2.4ghz P4 machine - ICH4, 845 chipset. It's using a Geforce 4 Ti4200 and an Aureal Vortex 2 for decent Soundblaster compatibility. I had speed issues with DOS quake, some games didn't seem to load (might be a VESA issue with the Geforce 4). It's a great Win98 machine with all that power (it's rather overkill for Win98 and insanely overkill for DOS). DOOM runs fine, I had issues getting the CD version of system shock to understand that 640x480 was possible. Blood, Duke3d, Shadow warrior ran like butter. It was very hit-and-miss for DOS games. I fall back on my trusty Pentium MMX 166mhz with Soundblaster 16 and S3 Virge for DOS games. I've got a CRT but this P4 is so fast that it makes more sense to run it at 120hz at high resolution on my main LED monitor (25" AOC 240hz that has DisplayPort x2, HDMI, DVI, VGA) with 1:1 scaled 1280x960.

Good luck on your P4 build!

Last edited by foil_fresh on 2021-09-14, 05:56. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 3 of 16, by Anonymous Coward

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Most of the games you have listed are for DOS. You'd better go with a Socket7 build instead.
You can always build a second more powerful system for the few 3D games on your list.

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Reply 4 of 16, by mothergoose729

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I think some of the King's Quest games have speed sensitive bugs at certain sections. You can work around that though with tools like moslo. Everything else should run jut fine, although you will definitely want to make use of general midi when you can because SB FM emulation either won't be available or will sound pretty ass. The Aureal Vortex 2 has a built in wave table that sounds pretty decent and works just fine under windows, and it also has passable SB emulation for things like sound effects and what not.

If you reach back too far in DOS you will run into issues but everything here should run natively in windows or a in a DOS window just fine.

Reply 5 of 16, by gerry

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foil_fresh wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:09:

a P4 will be great for a Windows 98 build but will be limited in it's compatibility in DOS. Older games that are speed sensitive will bug out, not load, or be too fast to play. Newer DOS games might be better. edit- Many dos games will still work, it will just be a coin toss as to which ones don't.

i thought if i had this pc how would i play those games - then i realised, those older games would be ok on DOSBox anyway given its a 2.8 P4 it should run fine and hopefully the newer ones like duke3d would work natively

Reply 6 of 16, by mrzmaster

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Thanks for the replies, everyone! It sounds like my mileage in DOS mode will vary. For the things that will have issues in DOS mode due to speed issues, will running them in a DOS window in Win98SE make any difference or will it just be the same experience in both? Back in the day, I remember the main purpose of rebooting into DOS mode was to free up RAM for specific RAM hungry games.

I intentionally went with the GeForce3 because my research led me to believe I'd likely have better compatibility with older titles than a GF4 or FX. I also have a GF2 Pro on hand that I can switch to if necessary. I got really lucky and found a local Craigslist seller who had a Riva TNT2, GF2 Pro, and GF3 and he sold them all to me for cheap.

khyypio wrote on 2021-09-14, 04:49:

- USB keyboard and mouse will after USB 2.0 drivers are installed but you should have PS/2 variants just in case. Also if you want to use DOS, USB wont work.

foil_fresh wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:09:

I'd like to say that there's a compatibility option in the BIOS for these USB keyboards but I wouldn't bank on it. It might work but may not be great. Not sure, haven't really tested or read much about it. PS/2 is just perfect the way it is.

It sounds like PS/2 will be the way to go. Is it possible to use a modern USB keyboard and mouse with a PS/2 adapter?

Anonymous Coward wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:21:

Most of the games you have listed are for DOS. You'd better go with a Socket7 build instead.
You can always build a second more powerful system for the few 3D games on your list.

I already had some of the parts for the P4 build on hand, so we'll see how this works out and if too many things are unplayable, I'll look into a P1/Socket 7. I'm also hoping this will be my first of a few vintage builds. 😀

mothergoose729 wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:26:

Everything else should run jut fine, although you will definitely want to make use of general midi when you can because SB FM emulation either won't be available or will sound pretty ass. The Aureal Vortex 2 has a built in wave table that sounds pretty decent and works just fine under windows, and it also has passable SB emulation for things like sound effects and what not.

Does the SB Live! support general midi? Or just the AV2?

Reply 7 of 16, by Almoststew1990

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I use USB keyboards and mice in Windows 98SE no problem - especially as it is a modern motherboard make sure USB keyboard is enabled in the bios. I would suggest hanging onto a ps/2 mouse for DOS.

If I reboot into DOS from w98 it's hit or miss if the keyboard will work. If I use Phil's DOS starter pack configuration (Google that, it's definitely recommended) that does a full reboot, the USB keyboard does work all the time (but the mouse doesn't work).

In terms of your build, I would go for the lowest watt P4 you can find. All will be overkill for your uses and any heat saved will be good! I tracked down a 2GHz Northwood which is a 55watt CPU. Regardless, be prepared for noise!

It's a bit late now but it's worth considering Socket 754 because you can stick a modern heatsink on it.

SB lives do General Midi. The Sound Blaster sound effect emulation is good, the FM synthesis is, eh, adequate for OPL2 FM synthesis that doesn't require much processing power (e.g. monkey Island, it will at least play at full speed). OPL3 FM synthesis will be poor. When configuring your games select ablib or 'sound blaster compatible' (ie not pro or 16) for OPL2 music. Otherwise just use General Midi.

DOS on a P4 and SBL is entirely do-able but isn't going to give the first class experience that some people are after. Of course, a P4 and SBL costs about 5x less than desirable older hardware.

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Reply 8 of 16, by BitWrangler

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gerry wrote on 2021-09-14, 08:36:
foil_fresh wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:09:

a P4 will be great for a Windows 98 build but will be limited in it's compatibility in DOS. Older games that are speed sensitive will bug out, not load, or be too fast to play. Newer DOS games might be better. edit- Many dos games will still work, it will just be a coin toss as to which ones don't.

i thought if i had this pc how would i play those games - then i realised, those older games would be ok on DOSBox anyway given its a 2.8 P4 it should run fine and hopefully the newer ones like duke3d would work natively

Yah it should be at least as fast as the Celeron M 1.6Ghz that I've got a DOSbox install on, and that copes up to needing faster pentium. So best guess is about a quarter of the games, basically the oldest will need DOSbox, the middle 50% might run okay either native or in DOSbox, and the later 25% probably best on 300Mhz+ native, and should run great on a P4.

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Reply 9 of 16, by mothergoose729

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mrzmaster wrote on 2021-09-14, 15:01:

Does the SB Live! support general midi? Or just the AV2?

Yes, and it works under DOS as well.

I don't have any experience with the SB Live!. I do own the Vortex 2 and it does support SB emulation and a built in wavetable, and think most versions of the card have a wavetable header. If you use the digital out with a decent DAC the quality is quite good.

The SB Live! can apparently emulate SB 16 in DOS and has DOS drivers, but I can't say much beyond that. There are many versions of the SB live!, and some of them support different features. Probably the best SB Live! cards are just as good or better than the Vortex 2 cards.

Reply 10 of 16, by mrzmaster

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Almoststew1990 wrote on 2021-09-14, 15:48:

I use USB keyboards and mice in Windows 98SE no problem - especially as it is a modern motherboard make sure USB keyboard is enabled in the bios. I would suggest hanging onto a ps/2 mouse for DOS.

If I reboot into DOS from w98 it's hit or miss if the keyboard will work. If I use Phil's DOS starter pack configuration (Google that, it's definitely recommended) that does a full reboot, the USB keyboard does work all the time (but the mouse doesn't work).

In terms of your build, I would go for the lowest watt P4 you can find. All will be overkill for your uses and any heat saved will be good! I tracked down a 2GHz Northwood which is a 55watt CPU. Regardless, be prepared for noise!

Can I just use ps/2 adapters for USB mice/keyboards and expect full boot/DOS usability?

This particular P4 Northwood just fell into my lap, but it has a TDP of 70W, which isn't bad especially considering the clock speed. Some of the other P4's run at 115W - yikes!

mothergoose729 wrote on 2021-09-14, 16:19:

Yes, and it works under DOS as well.

I don't have any experience with the SB Live!. I do own the Vortex 2 and it does support SB emulation and a built in wavetable, and think most versions of the card have a wavetable header. If you use the digital out with a decent DAC the quality is quite good.

The SB Live! can apparently emulate SB 16 in DOS and has DOS drivers, but I can't say much beyond that. There are many versions of the SB live!, and some of them support different features. Probably the best SB Live! cards are just as good or better than the Vortex 2 cards.

This is probably a stupid question, but when you say "digital out", are you talking about the SPDIF out on the card? And what DAC are you using? I don't think I've ever connected anything but computers speaker to the regular old 1/8" on a sound card, but definitely interested in a better way if it'll improve quality.

Reply 11 of 16, by mothergoose729

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Yes, SPDIF out. I use a pretty inexpensive DAC from amazon. Digital audio isn't always better than analog but when you are talking about mid/late 90's era capacitors and amplifiers it often is.

Reply 12 of 16, by dormcat

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Wow, I've played more than half of them! 😁

IMHO the most resource-demanding games in your list are Unreal Tournament, MDK 2, and System Shock 2, while many other games belong to the DOS era. P4 2.8GHz and GF3 Ti500 are overkill for sure -- along with the price of decreased DOS compatibility and low energy efficiency. A P3 Tualatin / Coppermine or Athlon Thunderbird-based system (with at least one ISA slot on MB) would give you much better DOS compatibility (and, in the case of P3, much less wattage requirement) without sacrificing too much performance.

And you listed Sim City 2k twice. 😉

mrzmaster wrote on 2021-09-14, 16:29:

Can I just use ps/2 adapters for USB mice/keyboards and expect full boot/DOS usability?

Modern MS mice that come with PS/2 adapters in their boxes work perfectly fine under DOS, but I've never tried that with keyboards (maybe I should). New PS/2 keyboards like Logitech K100 are still readily available.

Reply 13 of 16, by mrzmaster

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mothergoose729 wrote on 2021-09-14, 16:36:

Yes, SPDIF out. I use a pretty inexpensive DAC from amazon. Digital audio isn't always better than analog but when you are talking about mid/late 90's era capacitors and amplifiers it often is.

Can you link me to the DAC? I'm just curious. Thanks!

dormcat wrote on 2021-09-14, 16:40:

Wow, I've played more than half of them! 😁

IMHO the most resource-demanding games in your list are Unreal Tournament, MDK 2, and System Shock 2, while many other games belong to the DOS era. P4 2.8GHz and GF3 Ti500 are overkill for sure -- along with the price of decreased DOS compatibility and low energy efficiency. A P3 Tualatin / Coppermine or Athlon Thunderbird-based system (with at least one ISA slot on MB) would give you much better DOS compatibility (and, in the case of P3, much less wattage requirement) without sacrificing too much performance.

Modern MS mice that come with PS/2 adapters in their boxes work perfectly fine under DOS, but I've never tried that with keyboards (maybe I should). New PS/2 keyboards like Logitech K100 are still readily available.

It'll be awesome to run UT at balls-out FPS and quality - it's absolutely one of my favorites. I will keep in mind looking at a P3 build in the future, but just scanning the online marketplaces, there seem to be slim pickings for compatible boards with an ISA slot.

Reply 14 of 16, by foil_fresh

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mrzmaster wrote on 2021-09-14, 15:01:
khyypio wrote on 2021-09-14, 04:49:

- USB keyboard and mouse will after USB 2.0 drivers are installed but you should have PS/2 variants just in case. Also if you want to use DOS, USB wont work.

foil_fresh wrote on 2021-09-14, 05:09:

I'd like to say that there's a compatibility option in the BIOS for these USB keyboards but I wouldn't bank on it. It might work but may not be great. Not sure, haven't really tested or read much about it. PS/2 is just perfect the way it is.

It sounds like PS/2 will be the way to go. Is it possible to use a modern USB keyboard and mouse with a PS/2 adapter?

it's possible to do, but there are many keyboard makers that don't support PS/2 via adaptors at all. I'm looking into Leopold mechanical keyboards as I have heard they do support PS/2. Apparently FILCO do too. My current keyboard is a Steelseries 7G mechanical which is native PS/2 (no usb at all). I got it for 30 bucks on a local marketplace deal. You might be able to score a deal as well if this sounds like it's up your alley.

Reply 15 of 16, by pixel_workbench

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Nice to see my recommendation in action. The SB Live has decent FM music emulation in DOS, not 100% authentic, but better than some other attempts. If it doesn't sound right using the "sound blaster" option in a game, it typically sounds more authentic using the "adlib" option. Just be sure to disable the MT32 emulation in DOS driver if you aren't playing a game that specifically uses MT32.

There are two types of drivers for it - VXD and WDM. There also may be an addition DOS driver you may need to install and configure so the card works in pure DOS. You can find plenty of info about this on these forums, but I find the VXD driver with the pure DOS additional configuration works well for both FM and MIDI music in DOS games.

And if you run the DOS game under Windows, you can load soundfonts that make MIDI sound much better.

Also I find that the SB Live under DOS can avoid some of the speed sensitivity problems of early games. For example Sierra quest games can have problems detecting a sound card on a fast CPU, but with SB Live I can get sound in these games on a P4 without problems.

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Reply 16 of 16, by mrzmaster

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pixel_workbench wrote on 2021-09-15, 13:21:

Also I find that the SB Live under DOS can avoid some of the speed sensitivity problems of early games. For example Sierra quest games can have problems detecting a sound card on a fast CPU, but with SB Live I can get sound in these games on a P4 without problems.

It's great to hear that, since some of those Sierra games have absolutely phenomenal MIDI scores that make them timeless.