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Author Topic: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)  (Read 3263 times)

Beer Monkey

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Every few years I go on a retro kick for a few weeks or months, and lately the PC gaming bug has been biting me.  While I've got a pretty nasty case of adult ADD, I was even worse in my 20s and early 30s; I never finished ANYTHING.  Lately I've been jonesing to go back and play everything from Tie Fighter to Full Throttle to System Shock, and actually finish some of these games.

I've mucked around with DOSBOX on XP and Vista before, and while I know that people swear by it, I personally always find it not quite right (choppy framerate, tearing, and other glitchy graphics and sound) or too much hassle.  I'm also never that thrilled with the really low res stuff on a modern fixed-pixel (LCD) display no matter what kind of scaling algorithm I use, some things just look more authentic on a slightly fuzzy CRT.

I was thinking about this and then I realized that even though I usually sell my old gear when I upgrade, I've still got enough parts accumulated over the years that I could build a near-complete system at zero out of pocket cost.  So while stuck on some conference calls for work I put this together:

Antec ATX case with 300w power supply
ASUS KT7A Motherboard (has one ISA slot in addition to PCI/AGP)
600mhz AMD Duron processor
256MB RAM
30GB Quantum Fireball IDE HDD
3.25" floppy
NVIDIA Ti4200 128MB AGP 4x video card
Microsoft Natural Keyboard, Logitech mouse
Dell 17" CRT monitor
old DVD/CD reader

It's honestly not a hardcore retrogamer rig because some parts are too modern (some games aren't playable on CPUs that are too fast, for example).  But it seems to strike a good balance, and most of the games I'm interested in don't have system speed issues.  If I encounter problems, there are tools to slow down a system that might help address the issues.  I put a real FAT-16 (for maximum DOS compatibility) 2GB (frustratingly small, but that's all DOS can recognize) partition on the drive and installed DOS 6.22 and Windows 98 SE.  So far I've installed Tie Fighter and System Shock, and they both run better than under DOSBOX on my beefy circa-2008 rig.  And way better than they did on my real PCs back in the day.

Anybody else have experience with vintage PC gaming on either the physical or virtual hardware fronts?

If you have any old gameport (not USB) joysticks or old 16-bit sound hardware (Creative, Roland, Yamaha, etc) for sale let me know.
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Geese

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2009, 03:15:20 PM »

Anybody else have experience with vintage PC gaming on either the physical or virtual hardware fronts?

I'm one of the people who swears by DosBox. However, I also use the front-end DFend which makes managing it so much easier. I have a couple gig of vintage stuff on a USB flash drive running Dfend. I can run most of them on nearly any PC I encounter with little to no fiddling.

Most everything I have runs in DosBox, but for a few I use ScummVM, such as Full Throttle and Sam & Max. Dfend fully supports ScummVM as well. I'll have to look for it again, but I found an article on how to entirely install Full Throttle from my original CD to run directly off my flash drive via ScummVM.

However, I couldn't agree with you more that sometimes a 17" CRT is just simply the best way to experience Sierra's "The Colonel's Bequest" or Lucasarts "Tie Fighter".  There's something to be said about the natural anti-aliasing that's provided by a low-res CRT.  :)

I don't have any classic peripherals, but I do still have my Grail Diary that came with my original copy of "The Last Crusade" for PC.
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Bryan

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2009, 03:29:12 PM »

I have Indy and the Last Crusade intact.  Telengard, too.  Wish I could play them.
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Beer Monkey

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2009, 04:31:53 PM »

Most everything I have runs in DosBox, but for a few I use ScummVM, such as Full Throttle and Sam & Max. Dfend fully supports ScummVM as well. I'll have to look for it again, but I found an article on how to entirely install Full Throttle from my original CD to run directly off my flash drive via ScummVM.

Have you tried the MT-32 emulation in ScummVM?  It's not documented well but I think the latest official builds do support it.  It can be quite an upgrade over Windows MIDI (and of course over adlib/soundblaster FM synthesis).  I have the system ROMS if you need them.  MT-32 emulation is imperfect but there's actually a lot of development going on right now after things stalled for a few years.

Music is always the thing that varies the most with classic PC gaming.  Here's a page with some fantastic music samples that show the huge differences between classic Adlib sound, MT-32 sound, Gravis sound, and more.  The Monkey Island theme on an MT-32 is a thing of beauty.

http://www.dosforum.de/soundcards/

I have Indy and the Last Crusade intact.  Telengard, too.  Wish I could play them.

You can play Last Crusade on a mac using ScummVM.

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Geese

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2009, 03:06:29 PM »

Another thing that a classic CRT is good for is the fact that it's going to be 4:3 aspect ratio. Many of the games from the 90's and earlier don't support windowed modes, and virtually all of them don't have dedicated widescreen modes.

(I thought of this when running Freedom Force today - it actually does support widescreen, but it made me think about this as I was heading into the option screen for it)
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ChromaTick

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2009, 05:23:56 PM »

Don't forget to check out GOG.com (Good Old Games) to find all kinds of classic PC games at good prices and DRM free.
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Phantom

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2009, 08:52:45 PM »

GOG.com has Jagged Alliance 2 for ten bucks.  Do eet.  Tis awesome.
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Geese

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Re: Vintage PC gaming experiences (also, buying OLD PC hardware!)
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2010, 09:41:00 AM »

The full version of Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun (for PC) has been released for free on Fileplanet

I believe this came out just before C&C Red Alert 2, which was the last C&C installment released before the series went full 3D with C&C Generals.
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