Author Topic: Refurbished Win98 PC  (Read 680 times)

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Offline Col. Fishguts

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Refurbished Win98 PC
So I found that my Windows 98 gaming PC got very little use in recent years. Not because I didn’t like Win98 games anymore, but mostly because I got annoyed by the noise emanating from the machine. The box in question was a generic 90s beige/grey mid-tower case with an old wheezing PSU. I put that PC together somewhere in the early 2000 from various left-over parts for 0$. This was during my university years where the budget was tight and I needed some PC as a Linux sandbox (it was later re-purposed for Win98 to put my trusty old Voodoo2 in, to be able to play Glide games).
One day it struck me that now with a regular day job and some disposable income, I was no longer held back by budget considerations and could rebuild that machine to my heart’s content.
So online shopping I went with the intent of creating a nice and quiet machine. When going for a quiet PC build one can either try to soundproof the case to keep the noise in the box, or try to avoid generating the noise in the first place. I went the 2nd route and tried to remove the

This thread is not (just) to show off my 1337 build, but to share the things I learned during this project, since I know there are some people here who keep similar machines around.

tl;dr: If you just want to see pretty screenshots of old games, keep scrolling down.

So lets's get started. The main components (which I wanted to keep) of the machine are:

Mainboard: Asus P2B (a pretty common board from 1998 based on the Intel 440BX chipset)
RAM: 128 MB
CPU: Intel Celeron 500 MHz
Sound card: Creative SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold
Video Cards:
- GeForce 2 MX (Hercules 3D Prophet II MX), 32 MB RAM
- 2x Voodoo2 in a SLI setup (Diamond Monster II), 12 MB RAM (one my own, the 2nd one donated from a friends who had an identical model)
 
The new stuff I bought or modified:
 
ATX desktop case:
Period-correctness is not something I care about and I was never particularly fond of the beige/grey boxes of the past. I knew I wanted a desktop case and ideally something compact. But it turns out that there are not that many cases available anymore that are both compatible to the ATX form factor and can accommodate a Voodoo2. So I settled for this. It’s a nice all-metal case with excellent build quality and a cleverly designed mechanism to remove drive bays and other components.
 
Power supply:
I put in a brand spanking new PSU with a big temperature-controlled fan. And since this system is drawing modest amounts of power (by today's standards) the PSU remains inaudible even when the system is under full load.
As you might know, modern PSUs are missing the -5V output line which older mainboards are expecting for the ISA bus (the -5V was removed in ATX revision 1.3). But this is not really an issue for this machine, since only some very old soundcards and things like RS-232 serial interface cards actually need the -5V. The BIOS checks all voltage levels during POST and dutifully stops with an error message complaining about the faulty -5V rail, but this monitoring function can be enable/disabled for each voltage level separately in the BIOS settings.

SSD:
The old screeching HDD got replaced with a new SSD using a bidirectional SATA/IDE adapter. As the name implies, such adapter work both ways. I think the main application for this device is to be able to use an older HDD in a modern PC, but it also works nicely to put a new SATA based drive in an old IDE based system. So looked around for a reasonably small SSD and ended up with a cheapish 40GB model. The mainboard only sees it as a 20GB disk (not sure if I would need to patch the BIOS or use a something else than FDISK to partition it), but it's more than enough space anyway.

Keeping the Voodoo2 cards cool:
As you might know, the performance of 3dfx cards scales nicely with available CPU power (up to a certain point), which also means that the amount of dissipated heat depends on the CPU speed. When I first bought the Voodoo2 I had a Pentium 133 and the card was barely getting lukewarm during gaming (as it was severely bottle-necked by the CPU). But in this machine it was getting seriously hot, I measured 74°C on the chip surface. While this is within the nominal operating range, it puts unnecessary strain on the hardware and is not helping with longevity.
So to help heat dissipation I added a generic heat sink to each of the 3 main chips. I attached them using double-sided adhesive tape with high thermal conductivity (something like this). This kind of tape is a great and clean way to mount heat sinks on devices which were not designed with heat sinks in mind.
Together with the big case fans this brought the temperature down to 36°C under load.



CPU cooling:
The stock heatsink was a integrated heatsink/fan combo that was standard back in the Pentium II/III days. It was a unregulated noisy affair (the fan bearings thoroughly worn out). So I replaced it with a new generic socket 370 heat sink (you can still buy those) and a new fan. CPUs back then didn't come with integrated temperature sensors, instead many mainboard manufacturers provided connectors on the board to external temperature sensors, which they might sell as proprietary add-ons. Same is true for my Asus P2B board, but that temperature sensor is of course long out of stock.
But some googling brings up all the info one need to make one for yourself: http://web.archive.org/web/20000824165239/http://www.3dhardware.net/features/thermistor/index.shtml

As it turns out, this sensor is a simple thermistor (a resistor with a temperature-dependent resistance), so one just has to find a thermistor with the correct temperature/resistance characteristic and solder it onto a suitable pin connector. The thermistor itself is embedded in a small drop of some epoxy-like substance, which I mounted on the backside of the heat sink as close to the CPU as possible (again using the adhesive tape). You can see it as the red/blue wires below which change to very thin dark wires going behind the heatsink. The temperature value itself  can be seen in the BIOS or with the little ASUS PC Probe tool that comes on the original driver CD.




Case ventilation:
To keep some air flow going over the heat sinks of the video cards, and also keep a steady flow through the whole case, I used the two 120mm fans that came with the case, mounting  them vertically in the case to push air out of the back of the case. To have control of the fan speed (including the CPU fan) I added this fan control panel.
It's basically a fancy front for 4 potentiometers to control the supply voltage for up to 4 individual fans that is mounted in to the 3.5'' drive bay. It was cheap and the installation was super easy, since it comes with plugs and adapters that fit to the standard plugs used on all fans, so no soldering was required.

Put together the finished machine looks like this now (sans the top cover):



Booting into Win98 SE is blazingly fast (thanks to the SSD) and it's a very quiet machine;  the only thing I can hear is the CD-ROM (which can be silenced with a slow-down tool) and a faint hum from the CPU fan. It could be further silenced by mounting a bigger fan on the CPU, but that would require some customized adapter, because the RAM sticks are in teh way to mount a standard adapter.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 05:56:59 pm by Col. Fishguts »
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it." - D. Lynch

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Offline Col. Fishguts

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
So what's all this good for? To play games from the Win98 era of course! So let me show you some hot screenshot goodness.

Note that for most of these games you can find ways to get them working on modern systems by using compatibility settings/patches and Glide wrappers (like dgVoodoo or nGlide). And if you have no old machine available but still want to give some old games a go, try the Glide wrappers. You can run the games in higher resolutions and use additional effects to make them look better than with original hardware.

I like to use the original hardware partly due to nostalgia goggles but mostly due to fondness for the hardware itself. As an electrical engineer working in the field of embedded control systems, I get some sick pleasure out of throwing dedicated hardware at a difficult problem (in this case drawing lots of textured triangles with correct perspective&lighting), something we're usually not allowed at work (we always have to find a cheap solution that can be done in software to save some $ on hardware).

The screenshots below are taken with HyperSnapDX 3.4, and old version of which the supplier was kind enough to provide a free licence key (to get rid of the watermark)
It has a special functionality to get screenshots in D3D/Glide mode directly from the frame buffer on the video card. For 3DFX cards it includes the option to do the same post processing filter of the frame that the RAMDAC on the card performs when generating the analogue output signal (conversion of the 16bit image to 22bit color depth plus some blurring). That means that the screenshots are very close to what appears on screen, otherwise you would see some dithering artifacts in situations like color gradients.

Glide/D3D games:


Unreal (Glide)
The main reason to rock twin Voodoo2s in SLI setup is of course to run Unreal in glorious 1024x768. Such pixesl! Much wow! (seriously, this game is now 20 years old and still looks and plays great)











Freespace 1 (Glide)
Obvious choice here on HLP. Check out the self-illuminated windows/glows (using the $ND table entry) which D3D-using plebs didn't get to enjoy.







Freespace 2 (Glide)
Running it in Glide in 640x480 is basically identical to FS1



Running it in Glide in 1024x768 sadly gives some texture corruption (see below). Is this a known issue and is there some fix available? (D3D in 1024x768 works without issues on the Voodoo2s)




Mechwarrior 2: 31st Century Combat  (Glide)
This one needs some trickery (http://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?t=32366) to get working with a Voodoo2 (and I need to take one Voodoo2 out of the system, since it will not run in SLI mode)
Screenshots are not my own, since Hypersnap does not want to cooperate with MW2.







I-War (Glide)
Awesome game with Newtonian flight model. Thanks to a resource file loading scheme that is similar to the /data folder of FS2, you can copy most files from the CDs to the HDD and edit dreadnaught.ini file to run the game with drastically improved loading times (and less noise from the CD drive)







Jane’s F-15 (Glide)
Instruction manual the size of a phone book? -> check
Fully modeled virtual cockpit in 1998? -> check
Complex flight model and systems simulation that makes the task of firing a radar-guided missile similar in complexity to manually configuring xorg.conf? -> check
Sadly I don't have the spare time anymore that is required to really get into such a complex simulation







X-Wing vs TIE-Fighter (Software renderer or D3D)
To this day this is probably the game where i logged most hours in. And with the Balance of Power add-on you even get a proper single player campaign and D3D acceleration. I remember being blown away by the bilinear filtering of the D3D patch back in the day (and the super-smooth frame rates of course), but today I somehow prefer the sharper look of the software renderer.



Software:                                                                                                                                                   D3D




Rogue Squadron 3D (Glide)
Great arcade style Star Wars shooter, but you can see its N64 origins in the extreme low-polyness of the models. Still fun to play though.








 



Games without 3d acceleration:


C&C Tiberian Dawn
To this day my favorite entry in the C&C franchise when in comes to atmosphere.
Check out the fanmade 1.06 patch (http://nyerguds.arsaneus-design.com/cnc95upd/cc95p106/) that enables it to run on Win XP/Vista/7/8/10 and offers higher resolutions and a ****load of other goodies.





C&C Red Alert
The all time classic that refined the gameplay of Tiberian Dawn to perfection





C&C Tiberian Sun
Not as bad as I remembered. It never held up to the hype and the story is a mess. But the gameplay is solid and the voxel engine has its charms.




Comanche 3 Gold
The voxel terrain engine has aged surprisingly well. While the flight model is definitely arcadey, it fakes enough avionics and inertia that it does feel like you're sitting in a helicopter. Together with the simplified FS-like targeting system it makes for a very fun experience... zipping around in canyons, popping up to fire some Hellfires and disappearing again.



« Last Edit: May 29, 2017, 06:16:00 pm by Col. Fishguts »
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it." - D. Lynch

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Offline Snarks

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Out of curiosity, couldn't you just use a virtual machine to run Win98?

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
With XvT you need to set the mipmap to "blurry" (it's mislabeled) and textures will look much sharper in direct3D.
I usually play with a dll that is essentially a d3d11 wrapper that forces it to use your desktop resolution and add anti aliasing, let's just say that the effect is very good.

I had a win98 Pentium II computer (and still have stored in my garage), it should still work but I could never afford a Voodo2 and I had a measly G100, followed by a Savage 4 that never worked properly, in the end I ended up with a TNT2m64 that cost half the savage4 but worked flawlessly, letting me play most games I had at high details and resolution.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 07:54:23 pm by Det. Bullock »
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline CP5670

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Cool project. Many games of that era were designed around Glide and ran best or only supported some features on that. Glowmaps in FS1 only worked on Glide, and Unreal and Descent 3 had much better performance on Glide than D3D.

I used to keep a very similar 98 box with dual Voodoo2s at one point many years ago, but found that there were fewer and fewer games that required it as Dosbox and Glide wrappers matured, so I eventually ditched it. I still keep an XP install on my main box as well, but am finding that there is hardly anything that needs it anymore. Most popular games now have GoG releases or fanmade patches that enable modern systems to use them.

  
Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Out of curiosity, couldn't you just use a virtual machine to run Win98?

Getting something like Voodoo (or indeed, any form of 3d acceleration) to work on a virtual machine is a PITA, atleast last time I tried it.

---

Also, try Mechwarrior 3!

 

Offline jr2

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
You can patch your BIOS to support a bunch of things including higher capacity hard drives: http://www.rom.by/ (Russian page)   There's a bunch of common bugs that are patched, as well as newer CPU support, etc etc, and a recovery BIOS build in (hold down a key during boot to use original BIOS).  I used this to enable my 120GB IDE hard disk without using troublesome drive translation software (MaxBlast, EZ-Drive, etc)   http://www.dewassoc.com/kbase/hard_drives/resolving_drive_barriers.htm

 

Offline The E

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
You can patch your BIOS to support a bunch of things including higher capacity hard drives: http://www.rom.by/ (Russian page)   

Nothing about that seems like a good idea.
**** every cause that ends in murder and children crying. ― Iain Banks
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Offline jr2

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
You can patch your BIOS to support a bunch of things including higher capacity hard drives: http://www.rom.by/ (Russian page)   

Nothing about that seems like a good idea.

:shrug:   I did it with all of my old BIOSes from the PIII era.  They have a forum and such, I imagine with some translation you could try and get more information from the authors.

 

Offline Col. Fishguts

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
With XvT you need to set the mipmap to "blurry" (it's mislabeled) and textures will look much sharper in direct3D.

When I move the mipmap slider to blurry, everything get's... well blurry, moving it to noisy makes things slightly sharper (maybe that has something to do with the wrapper you use?)

Anyway, I dug into my old backups and recovered some of the XWAUP models that I reconverted for use with XvT a long time ago, plus I downloaded some from here: http://www.xvtedicion.es/basededatos/ingles/c_categoriasve_ing.php?idj=1
This pretties the game up a lot, especially since those models have textures that were made for D3D mode (so they have stronger colors and higher contrast to compensate for the washout effect of the engine)





Quote from: -Joshua-
Also, try Mechwarrior 3!

That's on my to-do list (along with some other games), I'll be posting screenies when I get to it.
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it." - D. Lynch

Visit The Babylon Project, now also with HTL flavour  ¦ GTB Rhea

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
With XvT you need to set the mipmap to "blurry" (it's mislabeled) and textures will look much sharper in direct3D.

When I move the mipmap slider to blurry, everything get's... well blurry, moving it to noisy makes things slightly sharper (maybe that has something to do with the wrapper you use?)
I've tried it now using the gunnery training mission as a reference (since you spawn still directly in front of a container), when set to "blurry" the container looks super-sharp while when set to "noisy" it has the classic "blurry" look (the same as the deafult the tie fighter windows port is stuck at).

I use the alternative Ddraw DLL originally made for X-wing Alliance:
https://github.com/rdoeffinger/xwa_ddraw_d3d11/releases/tag/v1.4.9

EDIT

Screenshots attached, I noticed I had dithering disabled for both of them though I don't know what was that for since it doesn't seem to do anything once activated (perhaps it's for software mode?).
« Last Edit: May 22, 2017, 04:33:11 am by Det. Bullock »
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Seeing old screenshots today makes me wonder how I ever played games 20 years ago without my eyes being permanently damaged.  But this is a cool retro thread nonetheless.
"In the beginning, the Universe was created.  This made a lot of people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move."  [Douglas Adams]

 
Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
If you survived the era of CRT screens bombarding your eyeballs with electroncanons then you can survive the look of old games :P

I personally enjoy a lot of these game's aesthetics for what they are. There's a lot of games that actually look rather good stlil becuase they managed to evoke a certain feel with using limited tech, a bit like... A jheronimus Bosch painting if you understand what I mean.

And 2D rtses still look good even today! I wish there were more of them.

 

Offline CP5670

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Some games age better than others. I think the games that had good lighting and/or textures still look good today, even though the models and geometry are very simple and there are no shaders. Unreal and FS1 are the best examples in the screenshots above. The S3TC textures for Unreal/UT basically rival any modern game even though they are almost 20 years old. Some later games with better models but poor lighting look worse today in comparison.

The 2D RTSs definitely look good too.  C&C and RA both have fan patches with high resolution support and compatibility for modern OSs. I find that the units and stuff in those games had a very distinctive look and were more immediately recognizable compared to later RTSs.

 

Offline Cobra

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Dude.

Build me one.

Take me back to gaming paradise.
To consider the Earth as the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to assert that in an entire field of millet, only one grain will grow. - Metrodorus of Chios
I wept. Mysterious forces beyond my ken had reached into my beautiful mission and energized its pilots with inhuman bomb-firing abilities. I could only imagine the GTVA warriors giving a mighty KIAAIIIIIII shout as they worked their triggers, their biceps bulging with sinew after years of Ivan Drago-esque steroid therapy and weight training. - General Battuta

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Seeing old screenshots today makes me wonder how I ever played games 20 years ago without my eyes being permanently damaged.  But this is a cool retro thread nonetheless.
Nah, most still look good, I still play with loads of old stuff and in the end the minimalistic look has its charm.
Of course insane resolutions and stupidly high anti aliasing help a lot, it's not like on console where you are stuck at whatever pisspoor resolution the console worked with.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Col. Fishguts

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Quote
When I move the mipmap slider to blurry, everything get's... well blurry, moving it to noisy makes things slightly sharper (maybe that has something to do with the wrapper you use?)
I've tried it now using the gunnery training mission as a reference (since you spawn still directly in front of a container), when set to "blurry" the container looks super-sharp while when set to "noisy" it has the classic "blurry" look (the same as the deafult the tie fighter windows port is stuck at).

I use the alternative Ddraw DLL originally made for X-wing Alliance:
https://github.com/rdoeffinger/xwa_ddraw_d3d11/releases/tag/v1.4.9

EDIT

Screenshots attached, I noticed I had dithering disabled for both of them though I don't know what was that for since it doesn't seem to do anything once activated (perhaps it's for software mode?).

Ah, I didn't move the slider all the way to the blurry end before. It appears the slider adjusts the distance at which mipmap levels are switched. Having the slider almost at the blurry end results in very blurry textures. But slamming it all the way to the blurry end, appears to completely disable mipmaps, resulting in a sharper image (plus mipmap aliasing artifacts).
I have to try that alternative DDraw.DLL, that works on modern systems, right? I have to replay Balance of Power with that kind of graphics someday.
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it." - D. Lynch

Visit The Babylon Project, now also with HTL flavour  ¦ GTB Rhea

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
Quote
When I move the mipmap slider to blurry, everything get's... well blurry, moving it to noisy makes things slightly sharper (maybe that has something to do with the wrapper you use?)
I've tried it now using the gunnery training mission as a reference (since you spawn still directly in front of a container), when set to "blurry" the container looks super-sharp while when set to "noisy" it has the classic "blurry" look (the same as the deafult the tie fighter windows port is stuck at).

I use the alternative Ddraw DLL originally made for X-wing Alliance:
https://github.com/rdoeffinger/xwa_ddraw_d3d11/releases/tag/v1.4.9

EDIT

Screenshots attached, I noticed I had dithering disabled for both of them though I don't know what was that for since it doesn't seem to do anything once activated (perhaps it's for software mode?).

Ah, I didn't move the slider all the way to the blurry end before. It appears the slider adjusts the distance at which mipmap levels are switched. Having the slider almost at the blurry end results in very blurry textures. But slamming it all the way to the blurry end, appears to completely disable mipmaps, resulting in a sharper image (plus mipmap aliasing artifacts).
I have to try that alternative DDraw.DLL, that works on modern systems, right? I have to replay Balance of Power with that kind of graphics someday.
Yes, IIRC the GOG version comes packed with it already, I installed it manually since they didn't implement it yet when I discovered it (before that I used an exe patch and DGvoodoo2 but the res remained the vanilla 640x480 no matter what).
The wrapper is made for modern systems in the first place, it's a DX11 wrapper, I play XvT on windows 7 64 bit with it.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline jr2

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
https://www.vogons.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=42018

Quote from: Stiletto
dgVoodoo 1.x (Direct3D) and/or Zeckensack or OpenGlide (OpenGL) are probably the best bet. There's some even older ones if you're on a particularly ancient graphics card or only running UltraHLE tho.

Quote from: philscomputerlab
W9x? Why not use a real Voodoo?


Because the Windows forum is intended to be the place to discuss "Getting old Windows games working", not "collect old graphics cards", much as I love Voodoo cards - this ain't Marvin. :lol:

If he IS discussing running on a Pentium II or what not, then we can move it into Marvin. ;)

dgVoodoo
zeckensack's
OpenGlide

Personally I used zeckensack's 0.84c when I used Win 9x, and nGlide for XP and above.

Of course, if you've got actual Voodoos, you don't need it, but for those who haev a 9x / XP (dual-boot, maybe?) gaming rig, it's handy to know about the Glide wrappers.

 

Offline CP5670

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Re: Refurbished Win98 PC
The Glide wrappers often work even better than an actual 3dfx card, especially since you can use higher resolutions and other features. Glide had several different revisions and the later cards like the Voodoo 5 did not always fully work with older Glide games. I like dgVoodoo the best and have found it to work great on all the Glide games I've tried, and it also has an excellent DX5-8 wrapper. I use the latter for Descent 3, which only does 32-bit color and bump mapping in D3D.