Playing old games
Even though there is no substitute for playing these old games on the original machine there are still plenty of thing you can do to make them playable on today’s superfast computers.
If you are using windows 9x/me most games will work properly because these operating systems still support most DOS functions.
If however you’re using a windows NT/2k/XP machine things change a bit however most games will still be playable.
Several sections will be covered in this FAQ and also if you are going to get an old PC I there are also some suggestions there. Most topics will be about DOS-based games because most of the older windows games will run without too much problems on the new windows platforms. Also many game here require emulators which you can get from the utils section.
In de olden days you did not have fancy 3D graphics and such however there were several differant types of cards available, many are supported by today’s graphics cards.
These were the types of cards available for PC systems:
|– Hercules :||Introduced in 1982.
A high resolution standard capable of 720×348 resolution for black & white graphics and text. Some older games support these modes however it’s unlikely that cards today support this standard.
The Hercules company still makes videocards up to this day.
|– CGA :||Introduced in 1981 by IBM.
CGA stands for Color Graphics Adapter, able to display 4 colors at a resolution of 320×200. A high resolution mode of 640×200 was available with only black&white colors.
Many games supported this graphic mode and many of the earlier games ONLY offer cga-graphics.
|– EGA :||Introduced in 1984 by IBM.
EGA stands for Enchanced Graphics Adapter, able to display 16 colors from a palette of 64 at a resolution of 320×200 or 640×350.
Most games used the low resolution mode of this until the new VGA adapter was the norm.
|– VGA :||(aka MCGA) Introduced in 1987 by IBM.
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array, able to display 256 colors in a resolution of 320×200 or 16 colors at 640×480.
It was not until the early 90s that games required a VGA adapter and did not support older modes anymore.
VGA uses analog signals instead of digital like earlier adaptors so older monitors don’t work with these cards.
Note: Because of this when I connect up my old 286 PC’s CGA adapter with a standard VGA monitor is will only display in black&white.
|– SVGA :||Extension to the VGA standard where you could have higher resolutions and more colors but at this time most games were already being made for windows.
There are a few exceptions and these games usually required a VESA driver to correctly display graphics.
Pretty much all adapters today support at least VGA and most will do CGA/EGA as well so there shouldn’t be too many problems.
Remember however that you can’t play DOS-games in a windows, they will always be in fullscreen mode.
In the reviews I will state which graphic modes are supported by that game and if there any specific problems I will also note them.
These days CPU speeds range in the Ghz (Gigahertz) instead of Mhz (Megahertz) so it won’t be a surprise that some games run too fast on these systems.
If you’re running pure DOS (not a DOS-box in windows) you can use moslo, a handy program to slow down your computer however under windows it usually won’t work.
Under DOS there are several thing you can try, if you can get to the BIOS of your machine there are some settings to slow down your PC.
(WARNING if you don’t know for sure what to do in the BIOS then DON’T do it because it might stop your computer from working !)
Using an Award bios go to BIOS features setup, you can disable the ‘external cache’ and
‘CPU internal cache’ these options slow down your system greatly on the hardware level.
Unfortunately I haven’t really come across a good windows option yet but if you do mail me.
Until recently playing DOS-games using Windows NT/2k/XP you were unable to get proper sound however now you can use VDMS (Virtual Dos Machine Sound).
VDSM emulates adlib/soundblaster/Roland soundcards so that DOS-games actually ‘see’ one of these cards and it works quite well. Get VDMS here of here (mirror)
Check for settings later.
Getting an old PC to run oldgames
Getting an old PC is the best (I think) way of playing old games so I will give you some advice as to what kind of machine to choose from.
First let’s talk CPU, don’t get anything that is higer than a pentium1 because they will most likely be too fast. I had quite a dillemma choosing a system because I could go for a slower model but newer games would be rather sluggish.
In the end I was able to get a pentium1-166 Mhz (with MMX) with an Abit motherboard, even though this is a rather fast machine the bios of pentium machines allowes lots of tweaking to slow down the machine. (read more about that in de CPU section)
If you can you should get a pentium1 at slower speeds, about 75-100 because you can tweak it more easily.
Make sure your motherboard has ISA connecters, they look similar to PCI connectors but are black and longer. (click here for a picture).
For sound get an ORIGINAL soundblaster 2/pro from Creative Labs with an ISA connector they are the most supported cards for oldgames. Don’t get one of those 100% soundblaster compatible cards because hey aren’t 100% compatible!
Most videocards will suffice for DOS-games so nothing fancy required.
With such a setup you can play pretty much all but the oldest games without too much problems. The oldest games will still be too fast but you can use moslo to slow down your pc some more. (get it from the utils section)