"classic" PC configurations?

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"classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:22 am

If you could go back in time and build a PC purely for the games of that era, what spec would you choose?
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:03 am

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This system can handle pretty much any classics you throw at it, including dos.

Anymore though, you can just buy the games off GOG, and run it on a modern system.
Last edited by l33t-g4m3r on Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:09 am

well now i'm jealous!! always wanted the Tualitin P3 myself. but definitely NOT windows ME. maybe a 3dfx Banshee card for me also.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:46 am

awakeningcry wrote:NOT windows ME

Win ME had some key improvements that made it superior to 98. The reputation is ill deserved, because problems mostly stemmed from other sources, like drivers and pebkac. The bloat is easily disabled, too. It's a smoother experience overall, with more updated software and features. 98's more for dos mode, and retro for the sake of retro.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:24 am

axeman wrote:Another classic piece of hardware would probably be the TNT2.


TNT2 *ULTRA*, that's where it's at. And get one of the ones by Creative Labs, for perversity's sake.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:27 am

Vooodoo 2 FTMFW. I think that 12mb monster is still somewhere in it's original box at my parents house....
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:29 am

Prestige Worldwide wrote:Vooodoo 2 FTMFW. I think that 12mb monster is still somewhere in it's original box at my parents house....


Well, yes, of course. 2 of them, I would imagine.

So a CL TNT2 Ultra with a pair of Voodoo2s in SLI.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:41 am

How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:43 am

Sir, I salute you.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:51 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:
awakeningcry wrote:NOT windows ME

Win ME had some key improvements that made it superior to 98. The reputation is ill deserved, because problems mostly stemmed from other sources, like drivers and pebkac. The bloat is easily disabled, too. It's a smoother experience overall, with more updated software and features. 98's more for dos mode, and retro for the sake of retro.


Regardless of what caused the problems it was a horrible experience. When I had Win ME my PC crashed at least once or twice every single day. Win98 was much more stable for me. If you got lucky and had a hardware configuration without problems then I guess Windows ME might be okay, but that was really down to luck more than anything.

Win2k made both 98/ME look like bad jokes though, although it's not great for a "retro" gaming box since it's WinNT-based.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:18 am

I think for me it was the Celeron-A and early days of 3DFX vs Nvidia.

That era spanned the fun, mod-filled end of Quake II, the launch of Q3A and proper LAN gaming over broadband, Unreal Tournament with it's co-op assault maps, Half-Life (which of course had some great mods, the king of them being the original CS).

The Celeron's were fun to overclock, we replaced them with Durons with similar headroom and all the while we had Glide/OpenGL/DirectX all competing and pushing tech forward at an alarming rate, compared to today's console-derived stagnation.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 11:48 am

Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


Never thought of that, now I'm really curious! :-?
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:14 pm

Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


It was really dependent on what you expected it to do.

The good: Framebuffer size was doubled, so you could actually run in higher resolutions, or at lower resolutions with Vsync + triple buffering enabled. Raw fillrate was also effectively doubled, so framerates would jump accordingly in most games of the time.

The bad: The implementation of SLI required that texture memory contents be identical between both cards, as they'd be used to work on scanlines with identical data. Thus, a 12 MB Voodoo2 SLI would function like an 8+8 MB card, with 8 megs of framebuffer space but only 8 MB of effective resource memory. There was also no notable improvement to geometry throughput, if I remember correctly.

The ugly: This may have been an apocryphal rumor, but the implementation of multitexturing via separate TMU chips might have effectively halved available texture memory again when multitexturing was enabled. I read that somewhere once but haven't been able to source it in years. Also, the image quality of Voodoo2s wasn't the greatest, and all the usual pre-VSA100 3dfx limitations applied - maximum 256x256 textures, basically no texture compression except for palettized textures, 16-bit color, 16-bit z-buffer, no anisotropic filtering, no trilinear filtering, mediocre blending mode support, &c.

Overall: For games released when the Voodoo2 itself was viable SLI definitely made a difference, but by any reasonable objective measurement you'd be better off with a Voodoo3. I remember my 12 MB Voodoo2 SLI setup being near its wit's end trying to handle Serious Sam: The Second Encounter with the WickedGL driver about a decade ago. It might be interesting to see if it works any better with that crazy MesaFX driver released a while back.
Last edited by Concupiscence on Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:23 pm

As for my ultimate legacy gaming config, I'd hop into the wayback machine and snag the following parts:

* hacked MS-DOS 7.10 install (hex-edit a Windows 98 command.com on a boot floppy, sys c:, copy over a mix of files from Win98's C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND directory and an MS-DOS 6.2 install, and you're set with FAT32 support and more)
* Windows 3.1 (why not, there were some nice adventure games that'd run on it)
* Slot A Athlon - clock speed almost doesn't matter, it'd shred through anything made before 1997
* 256 MB PC133 RAM
* solid motherboard (I have a fondness for the weird-as-hell FIC SD11, weird AGP port and all)
* Tseng Labs ET6000 PCI graphics (awesome VESA 2.0 support)
* 12 MB Voodoo2 (no real need for SLI)
* Gravis Ultrasound
* Intel 10/100 PCI NIC
* my binder full of MS-DOS games
* a nice big hard drive

And I think that'd be a good way to get started. Lord, nostalgia's sweet - I'd put it into this monstrosity I've got lying around here. http://i178.photobucket.com/albums/w241/actionpc2/STK7618/STK7618blue01.jpg
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:31 pm

drfish wrote:
Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


Never thought of that, now I'm really curious! :-?


I don't know how FCAT would have worked, because back then SLI was literally two cards each rendering half of the screen. In a way it is superior to current SLI, because two 12MB cards would combine to have an effective 24MB ram, and you could run resolutions that would otherwise be impossible without SLI.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:39 pm

jihadjoe wrote:
drfish wrote:
Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


Never thought of that, now I'm really curious! :-?


I don't know how FCAT would have worked, because back then SLI was literally two cards each rendering half of the screen. In a way it is superior to current SLI, because two 12MB cards would combine to have an effective 24MB ram, and you could run resolutions that would otherwise be impossible without SLI.


Ah, yes. I forgot that it rendered different parts of the screen way back when. I suppose this is really an apple and oranges thing.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:27 pm

I'm actually happy NOT going back in time anywhere before the summer 2013 system guide, although my system is already an ancient 6 months old, and not including the GPU is using tech a year older than that. I think it's almost time for an upgrade. So there. :P
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:57 pm

BIF wrote:I'm actually happy NOT going back in time anywhere before the summer 2013 system guide, although my system is already an ancient 6 months old, and not including the GPU is using tech a year older than that. I think it's almost time for an upgrade. So there. :P


That may change if you want to play a favorite game in 10, 15, or 20 years. Fair warning.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:13 pm

My current games are Civilization V and Sim City 4, with small smatterings of Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations II. It's not likely that I will need to go back to a Pentium II with a couple of Voodoos running in SLI in 10, 15, or 20 years. Everything else old from Good Old Games or Steam should run on my current hardware. Good enough for me. :lol:
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:21 pm

Concupiscence wrote:As for my ultimate legacy gaming config, I'd hop into the wayback machine and snag the following parts:

* Windows 3.1 (why not, there were some nice adventure games that'd run on it)
* Slot A Athlon - clock speed almost doesn't matter, it'd shred through anything made before 1997
* 256 MB PC133 RAM
* solid motherboard (I have a fondness for the weird-as-hell FIC SD11, weird AGP port and all)
* Gravis Ultrasound


Not Windows 3.11 or WFW 3.11?

I had that same mobo and Athlon 500. Why not 512 MB of RAM? That's the max that Windows 9x could handle without hackin', right? And I think the SD11 only took PC100 but it's not like going faster would be a problem in that system. Not like really old stuff where 60ns versus 70ns RAM would totally jack your system up. What was weird about the AGP?

Last comment is that you want either a SB16 + WaveBlaster and a GUS ACE with the memory expanded to 1 MB or a SB16 + WaveBlaster and a GUS PnP Pro with 8 MB or 16 MB of RAM. Feel free to substitute the WaveBlaster with a WaveBlaster 2 or one of the compatible Yamaha cards, the DB50XG or the DB60XG. I never had any experience with the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 (PAS 16) or Turtle Beach cards. I don't think they were supported well with games, they were more for doing DA and MIDI stuff. Likewise I'd probably skip out on a Roland LAPC-1 or MT32. Tried it once, it sucked for gaming.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:51 pm

Scrotos wrote:
Concupiscence wrote:As for my ultimate legacy gaming config, I'd hop into the wayback machine and snag the following parts:

* Windows 3.1 (why not, there were some nice adventure games that'd run on it)
* Slot A Athlon - clock speed almost doesn't matter, it'd shred through anything made before 1997
* 256 MB PC133 RAM
* solid motherboard (I have a fondness for the weird-as-hell FIC SD11, weird AGP port and all)
* Gravis Ultrasound


Not Windows 3.11 or WFW 3.11?

I had that same mobo and Athlon 500. Why not 512 MB of RAM? That's the max that Windows 9x could handle without hackin', right? And I think the SD11 only took PC100 but it's not like going faster would be a problem in that system. Not like really old stuff where 60ns versus 70ns RAM would totally jack your system up. What was weird about the AGP?

Last comment is that you want either a SB16 + WaveBlaster and a GUS ACE with the memory expanded to 1 MB or a SB16 + WaveBlaster and a GUS PnP Pro with 8 MB or 16 MB of RAM. Feel free to substitute the WaveBlaster with a WaveBlaster 2 or one of the compatible Yamaha cards, the DB50XG or the DB60XG. I never had any experience with the Pro Audio Spectrum 16 (PAS 16) or Turtle Beach cards. I don't think they were supported well with games, they were more for doing DA and MIDI stuff. Likewise I'd probably skip out on a Roland LAPC-1 or MT32. Tried it once, it sucked for gaming.


Hey, I ran an Athlon 500 too!

To be honest I never played much with 3.11 or WfW; figured 3.1 was enough for playing old video games. :P SimLife forever!

512 MB RAM might be enough to make Windows 98 choke without the Cacheman software to assist in fixing the problem with whatever .SYS file choked when system memory climbed above a certain threshold. I don't remember the particulars, but for me "classic" gaming was DOS-heavy, and this would have been pretty close to a dream config for gaming there. I was never big on the PAS kit myself, and Roland was WAY out of the price range for a teenager growing up in the sticks. SB16 + WaveBlaster & GUS ACE would have been a great setup, you're right.

It may have just been my motherboard, but almost any graphics card I put into the FIC SD11's AGP slot malfunctioned unless I told it to run in PCI mode. The Irongate northbridge always had problems with signal quality above AGP 1x, and sometimes even there. For DOS AGP didn't matter at all, hence the choice of the Tseng ET6000. And if you wanna talk about the fun of old RAM, we can always reminisce about how important it was to have matching metals for the memory's pins and the motherboard's contacts...
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:12 pm

Concupiscence wrote:
Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


It was really dependent on what you expected it to do.

The good: Framebuffer size was doubled, so you could actually run in higher resolutions, or at lower resolutions with Vsync + triple buffering enabled. Raw fillrate was also effectively doubled, so framerates would jump accordingly in most games of the time.

The bad: The implementation of SLI required that texture memory contents be identical between both cards, as they'd be used to work on scanlines with identical data. Thus, a 12 MB Voodoo2 SLI would function like an 8+8 MB card, with 8 megs of framebuffer space but only 8 MB of effective resource memory. There was also no notable improvement to geometry throughput, if I remember correctly.

The ugly: This may have been an apocryphal rumor, but the implementation of multitexturing via separate TMU chips might have effectively halved available texture memory again when multitexturing was enabled. I read that somewhere once but haven't been able to source it in years. Also, the image quality of Voodoo2s wasn't the greatest, and all the usual pre-VSA100 3dfx limitations applied - maximum 256x256 textures, basically no texture compression except for palettized textures, 16-bit color, 16-bit z-buffer, no anisotropic filtering, no trilinear filtering, mediocre blending mode support, &c.

Overall: For games released when the Voodoo2 itself was viable SLI definitely made a difference, but by any reasonable objective measurement you'd be better off with a Voodoo3. I remember my 12 MB Voodoo2 SLI setup being near its wit's end trying to handle Serious Sam: The Second Encounter with the WickedGL driver about a decade ago. It might be interesting to see if it works any better with that crazy MesaFX driver released a while back.

The voodoo2 rendered games internally 24-bit then downsampled to 16 with dithering, which looked vastly superior to the competition's 16-bit. It wasn't bad, considering that most game's textures weren't hires or very colorful. Unreal was probably the greatest looking game in that era, and it also performed best in glide. The new open source driver and mesafx removed the resolution and memory limitations by using main memory for texturing, much like AGP cards, and it runs much smoother than the outdated wickedgl. You can now run Quake3 with max textures and 1024x768 resolution on a single Voodoo2. Using multitexturing didn't affect resolution, it affected trilinear filtering. The voodoo3+ had a fake trilinear mode via dithering, don't remember if the v2 supported it. The voodoo2 is also the most versatile 3dfx card, being an optional 3d accelerator. You can use a radeon as a primary, and the v2 solely for glide. Win/Win. SLI is also smoother than a Voodoo3, provided your system is fast enough to drive 2 cards.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:29 pm

jihadjoe wrote:
drfish wrote:
Prestige Worldwide wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:


Never thought of that, now I'm really curious! :-?


I don't know how FCAT would have worked, because back then SLI was literally two cards each rendering half of the screen. In a way it is superior to current SLI, because two 12MB cards would combine to have an effective 24MB ram, and you could run resolutions that would otherwise be impossible without SLI.


Negative- they did not combine. It's actually no different than what we have now, except that the output combining happens internally, and digitally, and that today's games are so very friggen' complex that there's no 'good' way to do multi-GPU scaling; all methods have their drawbacks. The 'best' setup is with a GTX690, which would still be awesome if they'd put more RAM on it.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:27 pm

Many people, broke nested quotes wrote:How well did SLI actually work back then, though?

Would be pretty interesting to see if frame pacing could be tested on FCAT to see if it's actually worth it. :wink:

Never thought of that, now I'm really curious! :-?

I don't know how FCAT would have worked, because back then SLI was literally two cards each rendering half of the screen. In a way it is superior to current SLI, because two 12MB cards would combine to have an effective 24MB ram, and you could run resolutions that would otherwise be impossible without SLI.

Negative- they did not combine. It's actually no different than what we have now, except that the output combining happens internally, and digitally, and that today's games are so very friggen' complex that there's no 'good' way to do multi-GPU scaling; all methods have their drawbacks. The 'best' setup is with a GTX690, which would still be awesome if they'd put more RAM on it.


Actually, you're wrong, jihad joe was much closer to the mark. original SLI (the only REAL Scan Line Interleave) would do, say, 800*600 by having each card render 800*300, and have card one do the odd lines and card 2 do the even lines. In this way, you did have to have the same texture memory (8MB of the 12MB total), but you could use a smaller framebuffer, or more of them, since you only needed to have an 800*300 buffer instead of an 800*600 one. Back in those days, with tiny little memory, things like the size of a framebuffer for a given resolution could actually limit you. It's hilarious now, but it was Srs Biz back then.
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Re: "classic" PC configurations?

Postposted on Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:31 am

Forge wrote:Actually, you're wrong, jihad joe was much closer to the mark. original SLI (the only REAL Scan Line Interleave) would do, say, 800*600 by having each card render 800*300, and have card one do the odd lines and card 2 do the even lines. In this way, you did have to have the same texture memory (8MB of the 12MB total), but you could use a smaller framebuffer, or more of them, since you only needed to have an 800*300 buffer instead of an 800*600 one. Back in those days, with tiny little memory, things like the size of a framebuffer for a given resolution could actually limit you. It's hilarious now, but it was Srs Biz back then.


That's true, though you still have to account for the z-buffer. Like you say, back in the days when RAM was skimpy and lossless color and z-compression were at least a half-decade away, that was Very Serious Business™.
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