Let's talk about old (PC) space sims for just a moment

imported_Kiwi

Golden Member
Jul 17, 2004
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Right up front, I always go ahead and admit that while I like games, and do play them quite often, what I like most is just messing with computers. I've built most of my own for about twenty years now. The older complete systems I mostly give away or sell, but I always have some old PC components on hand anyway.

Recently, two of the gifts came back home (in one case, being replaced by something newer), since I always say about the gifted PCs, that if/ when it's not wanted, someone else may want it, and I'll be happy to find it a new home. The oldest of that nature has an AMD DX4 486- 100 CPU, and an 850 MB Hdd in it. All ISA slots, I'm pretty sure. It has the last version of Win95.

I never got around to doing anything with either Wing Commander or the Star Wars sims -- just too busy back then, I suppose. I still had unopened copies of Tie Fighter (on 3 1/2" floppies) and WC-II. Getting the two old PCs back made me wonder ablout those old space fighter sims again.

I do have newer PCs, a couple of them (the ones listed here at AT are probably long gone, since it's been no longer possible to edit the rigs for many months now). The second old PC is much newer, being an s462 system with a Duron 900 and a GF2 card in it (384 MBs of RAM). with Windows98se.

The question I have is whether DOSbox is good enough to make depending on these really old PCs a useful thing? Finding DOS drivers for the SB 16 and Sidewinder Joystick is likely to be a real chore, and if I understand correctly, all by itself, the DOS emulation functions much like Mo'Slo does, to keep fast processors from running old games so fast you can't play them.

In addition to a 100 MHz 486, and a 900 MHz Duron, I could also potentially run old games on a K6-2/450 Super Socket 7 system (ALi Aladdin Chipset).

Any DOSbox fans around? Yes? No?
 

imported_Kiwi

Golden Member
Jul 17, 2004
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Hmmm? No one here uses DOSbox? Or no one here plays older games like these, not at all?

I'm surprised.
 

CP5670

Diamond Member
Jun 24, 2004
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I use Dosbox all the time. The 0.7 versions are actually a lot faster than the previous ones with protected mode games on modern computers. Many games that used to be unplayable on 0.63 like Doom and Descent run flawlessly on 0.7 as long as the dynamic core is selected. It will probably run TIE fighter okay. In some games, you may also need to use the dos32a extender in place of the usual dos4gw one.

I have an extra system around for running old games as well (the retro gaming rig in my signature), but it doesn't get much use these days since Dosbox runs all the DOS stuff fine and I only have two or three old Windows games that don't run on XP.
 

imported_Kiwi

Golden Member
Jul 17, 2004
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I've been away from MS-DOS and Windows for Work Groups so long, I barely remember that "Protected Mode" is somethiong that 32-Bit X86 CPUs can do that the older 16-Bit X86 processors could not. As to why it's a problem for DOSbox, I wasn't aware of that situation. I'm totally new to running any emulations or Virtual OSes.

The NIB copies of old games aren't the only Star Wars arcade stuff. Two years ago, the youngest grandchild was both doing poorly in school and possibly interested in a PC Arcade/Sim that might've been a lead-in to other enrichment options via his own personal computer, and I built such a box, but it was totally incompatible with one specific game, Crimson Skies. It turned out that between my brainless ex daughter in law, and the equally stupid afterschool sitter (he was just turning 12, and his mother didn't want him home alone yet), all potential interest got discouraged, and I don't even get to see that kid any longer.

I have no idea whether his preferred arcade flier might have overcome this bad home situation, but that summer I had picked up Rebel Alliance or Rebel Assault, Some sort of "3D" Red Baron, and X-Wing Alliance, used. I have more of a personal bent toward Role-Play elements in such games, making the various Wing Commander games seem more attractive.

The reason I asked the initial question the way that I did is because the Asus P5A mainboard I had intended to use with a K6-2 just gave me all kinds of resistance about Hdds, and some other setup elements. It didn't like a 10 GB, or the first of two 20 GB drives I tried, only the one that belongs to another (Loaner) PC that I didn't want to have to recreate. I was discouraged somewhat about the idea of using the old hardware.

I was just getting into researching DOSbox some (don't even have a copy yet), and when I wrote the first post, had been unaware that even on a really fast modern PC, some of the older games might be "too slow". I have heard it since then, and in fact have read that DOSbox was "intended to play the part of a 486" which would be quite slow.
 

CP5670

Diamond Member
Jun 24, 2004
5,163
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By protected mode games I was generally referring to the newer, mid-90s DOS games that were the most intensive. Dosbox emulates an entire PC and all its subsystems in software, which is why it needs a much faster CPU than a 486. I'm hoping to see some nice boosts in a couple of these games once I get my E6750 running and clocked up.

I don't think it is useful to set up a PC just for DOS games anymore, as Dosbox's speed and flexibility these days make it a better alternative. Even if you do set up an old PC, games back then were picky about what they ran on and I don't think any one hardware configuration would run every DOS game out there properly. A retro system can still be useful for early Windows games though, if you have some that don't work on XP.
 

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