Best way to play old PC Games?

Dominance9

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Hi, If this looks familiar it is. I had asked this about a week or so ago but it got deleted with everything else. Unfortunately I dont remember some of the websites and other things some recommended. But basically my post was:

I have a bunch of Old PC games Id like to play or play again. I used to have a good gaming PC years ago during my HL2 TDM days but now all I have is a crappy new lenovo laptop with windows 10. All Im looking to play is some old RTS and and 1st Person Shooter games. With out dealing with the compatibility thing whats my best bet? Will a shitty new build Lenovo G50 laptop play a old games like Doom, Rise of Triad, KKND, good?

Thanks for the input and sorry for asking again
 

HMG

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Old PCs make swell hobbies and are still affordable, unlike most of console gaming today. If you want a customized desktop PC, ATX from the late 90s/early 2000s isn't very different from modern day ATX, so it's easy to get into. Laptops from the early 2000s have perfectly usable screens and it's relatively easy to find something with a half decent video card. A lot of Dell Latitude D800 units seem to use the GeForce 4200 chipset.
 

DNSDies

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Reminder again that some titles sold on GoG will be configured to use a stand-alone dosbox build, and will have weird choices for the music or sound drivers.
A good example is the older Sierra games like King's Quest 1-4, Police Quest 2-3, where GoG set them up to use basic PC Speaker.
Unless you're really into square waves, you might want to go into dosbox and run those game's install programs to set up different sound/music drivers.

If you want, you can also look into MUNT to emulate a Roland MT-32 for older DOS games and get some really nice music.
 

Dominance9

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Thank you! gog was the main one I was trying to recall and couldnt.

I was debating a old PC build since I have most of the actual games I would like to play but where I always get stuck is what operating system and graphics card would be the best to go with if I was really only looking to play games from say 2000 and under, but at max resolution so it doesnt look like poop?
 

DNSDies

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Windows XP 32 Bit will handle just about any window-era program you throw at it without many problems, and you can also have a dual boot to Windows 98SE for what few programs won't work.

As far as video cards, anything with Win98+ Drivers works.
I'd personally go with a Socket 462/Socket A motherboard and Athlon XP processor, an Nvidia 6800 Ultra, and a Sound Blaster 16 ISA card for DOS gaming.

You can find all those parts on Ebay for under $120, and it'll fit in any random ATX case with any random 350+ Watt ATX power supply.

The ISA sound card will give maximum compatibility in DOS games, but you may need to use a slowdown utility on certain older games, as they timed things based on processor clock speed, and will often run too fast to be playable, or have bugs.
 

HMG

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Windows XP 32 Bit will handle just about any window-era program you throw at it without many problems, and you can also have a dual boot to Windows 98SE for what few programs won't work.

Windows XP is way too new and too heavy, it doesn't offer anything that Win98SE / Windows ME doesn't if you are simply wanting Windows 95/98 games. Also remember that Windows XP is really NT 6.1, it is almost completely different at its core than DOS-based Windows 95/98/ME, so you would end up relying on partial backwards compatibility instead of the actual Win32API from 95/98/ME, which is what those games were designed to use.

As far as video cards, anything with Win98+ Drivers works.

What about if he wants to play games that require a 3dfx card? There were also other manufacturers besides Nvidia and ATi. Unless you're using a laptop, there's a LOT of graphics cards to choose from back then. For significant late 90s 3D compatibility, I'd recommend a general purpose Direct3D card and a Voodoo card, preferably one that has no 2D capability, which means you can feed the Direct3D card through the Voodoo so you only have one VGA cable.

I'd say just determine what the system requirements are for your most demanding game, then mold your hardware around that.

I'd personally go with a Socket 462/Socket A motherboard and Athlon XP processor, an Nvidia 6800 Ultra, and a Sound Blaster 16 ISA card for DOS gaming.

I'm not overly familiar with AMD, but my Socket 7-based system with an AMD K6-2 is fantastic for games older than Half-Life. A Pentium III at a nice speed will cover just about any late 90s/early 2000s PC game. If Pentium 4 systems are all you can find, its mediocre performance can be of benefit to playing old games, but it has overheating problems.

The ISA sound card will give maximum compatibility in DOS games, but you may need to use a slowdown utility on certain older games, as they timed things based on processor clock speed, and will often run too fast to be playable, or have bugs.

If DOS is a hard and fast prerequisite, you're better off going older than Athlon XP / Pentium III. Anything between Pentium 1 / K6 and P2 / K6-2 will be fast enough for a lot of Windows games, but not too fast for most of the popular DOS games. If you want super picky DOS games, get yourself a proper AT-based PC with a 486 or something.
 

DNSDies

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My build idea for him was aimed at getting him started, hard and fast.

Yes, if you want a true "authentic" experience, you will build a machine that matches the era you want to game in.
A Socket A build has a LOT of flexibility, allowing for hardware level DOS support, with the downside of being "too fast", a problem that is solved by modern unofficial patches and slowdown utilities for zero dollars.
It also allows high power for virtually every 32 bit windows game, and allows you to boot Windows 98 and XP and everything in between. It also has AGP, PCI, and if you find the right mobo, an ISA slot. This lets you easily swap in weird 3D chipsets like 3DFX or PowerVR or other oddities from the time of early 3D.

The biggest plus though, is that Socket A hardware is in a magical place where very few people want it, and there is a surplus of parts floating around, so you can complete your build for the cost of a fancy dinner.
Completing a "high end" Super Socket 7 build can be a fair bit more expensive, even though it would allow for more accuracy for DOS titles in terms of disabling caches and underclocking.

When you start a hobby, you should keep it simple at first, and low cost.
If it turns out you enjoy it, THEN you can dive in head first and start building XT systems and 386s, buying Synthesizers and Sound Canvas modules and going for 100% hardware accuracy.

OP also stated his last big PC build was when HL2DM was still a thing. A socket A build is much closer to that era than, say, a Super Socket 7, or Socket 3 build.
 
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BerryTogart

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Not authentic - but actually GoG covers my needs very good - even Pool of Randiance runs solid :)
 

Tanooki

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Off the wall suggestion here but saw this topic brought up kind of recently on another forum I'm on. I had remembered seeing something years ago and I think it would make for an interesting suggestion as it's a very portable early laptop where the mouse itself is a thumb circle pad on the back of the screen itself, a Toshiba Libretto. The decent setup model of one of those runs around a Pentium 100-120 range, has 1 USB port (which means you could get a hub if needed), runs good old Windows 95/98 or DOS whatever you want on there. A nice sell made self contained thing to use with a decent sized keyboard and layout too given the medium. Just old and slow enough to handle pretty much most of the classic later 80s/90s PC games and the few that were poorly made without speed throttling there are old DOS era programs out there like MOSLO that would fix that (I know Wing Commander 1 had this problem.)

For me though, I use GoG, and as people said, some of it is setup badly, but all you need to do is retool the .conf file or if you can re-run the install/setup exe file and get the best audio/video for game intended if something lame like PC speaker is setup or sub-VGA colors.
 

DNSDies

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Old laptops are fun, but they also have a problem with having old LCD screens.
Ghosting is a problem on the old 486 era ones. Another problem is that some of them scale VERY poorly, so the graphics look distorted (rectangular pixels) unless you're playing at the native resolution, or turn off scaling and play on a time 320x240 window on a screen that has 800x600 resolution.

This can be solved by hooking it up to a decent CRT, and you can find decent CRTs all over the place, usually for $10 or even free.

My favorite old laptop I own is a Gateway 2000 Solo 2300.
https://panam.gateway.com/s//Mobile/Solo_Series/p2300/3500369nv.shtml
It's a 233Mhx Pentium MMX with a shitty 1.2MB video card.

It's absolute rubbish for windows games, but it plays DOS games like a champ, and has a true OPL3/Sound Blaster sound card.
 

Tripredacus

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I had remembered seeing something years ago and I think it would make for an interesting suggestion as it's a very portable early laptop where the mouse itself is a thumb circle pad on the back of the screen itself, a Toshiba Libretto.

This type of control is neat but not effective for continued use. My Compaq Elite has a similar control. Extended periods of use (such as a game) result in gorilla arms.
 

pixeljunkie

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I still have an old DOS machine with a Gravis gamepad...does the trick, especially if you were around in those days you feel right at home in DOS
 

Dominance9

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Thanks for all the detailed replies. Unfortunately I do not honestly understand what some of it means, but some I do. To give you an idea, The most I ever did was change graphics cards and ram. But that leads me to my next question, Is there a ideal older PC that would be set up for doing what I'd like to do, already? Ie. something I wouldnt have to build, just install game and go?
Or if looking at the lazy route would just geting a better pc and doing steam and gog be the way to go? I see gog has rise of triad for 5.99. Shit at 5.99 might see if my laptop will run it
Sorry if these are overly general or dumb questions but it sounds like you guys would know much better than me :)
 

Tanooki

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This type of control is neat but not effective for continued use. My Compaq Elite has a similar control. Extended periods of use (such as a game) result in gorilla arms.

Could be worse:
quagmires_big_arm.jpg

Dominance: Yeah I think so. You'd need to find something from the era you want, 386, 486, or the early Pentium 586 from a notable computer bundle maker -- Dell, HP, Compaq, IBM, etc. Find one that came out of the box that still works, stock (or with someone else doing the added ram/video upgrades) and all you'll have to do is plug it in and get busy.

The smart way though would be say screw that garbage. Get a mix of legit ownership through GOG as it's cheap (especially during seasonal sales) and they're already mostly setup accurately (a few might not be, but you can get forum hints or google to tweak the config files for DOSBOX they use.) The Windows based stuff is already tweaked so it's not a headache. For the junk that isn't on there, 'find' it as it's considered abandonware by gray area types and use DOSBox anyway.
 

Tripredacus

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This thread is a case of people replying but not reading the title, or the OP isn't actually serious.

It would be like for me to say "what is the best way to play old console games" and the correct answer would be to use RGB on a CRT TV. And answers like "use an emulator" would be the devil's work.

But here we have a person asking "what is the best way to play old computer games" and the correct answer is to use an old computer. But all these idiots posting about using emulators (GOG, DOSBox) like it is no big deal. :oh_no:

What a bunch of hypocrites on this forum eh
 

HMG

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This thread is a case of people replying but not reading the title, or the OP isn't actually serious.

It would be like for me to say "what is the best way to play old console games" and the correct answer would be to use RGB on a CRT TV. And answers like "use an emulator" would be the devil's work.

But here we have a person asking "what is the best way to play old computer games" and the correct answer is to use an old computer. But all these idiots posting about using emulators (GOG, DOSBox) like it is no big deal. :oh_no:

What a bunch of hypocrites on this forum eh

QFT

DOS gets no respect.
 

DNSDies

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This thread is a case of people replying but not reading the title, or the OP isn't actually serious.

It would be like for me to say "what is the best way to play old console games" and the correct answer would be to use RGB on a CRT TV. And answers like "use an emulator" would be the devil's work.

But here we have a person asking "what is the best way to play old computer games" and the correct answer is to use an old computer. But all these idiots posting about using emulators (GOG, DOSBox) like it is no big deal. :oh_no:

What a bunch of hypocrites on this forum eh

You're working under the presupposition that "best" is an objective statement.
Best to YOU is "Most accurate and highest quality".
"Best" could also mean "least effort/expense with maximum reward".

Many people would prefer to sacrifice some small amount of quality for ease of access and lower expense.

Also, the best "experience" is to buy like-new complete-in-box games on a period-accurate computer with a 19" CRT and a General Midi/GS/MT32 Synthesizer, gravis gamepad, buckling spring keyboard, and logitech serial ball mouse.
 

Tripredacus

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Oh sure, best could also mean just watching other people play the games on Twitch
but
19" Monitors are not best for the older games, you need the 12-15" for that.
 

Tanooki

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Best is a fluid word, and as far as I'm concerned both answers are good depending on the persons needs.
 

GohanX

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Those old low res games always looked like shit on my vga monitor back in the day, but I can make them look awesome on dosbox. Last time I played through Wing Commander 2 I did it on my big plasma, it was GLORIOUS. I don't want to go back to my period correct 14" Goldstar monitor.
 

wyndcrosser

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Dosbox and a win8 VM.. XP VMware topic you need it.

Those old low res games always looked like shit on my vga monitor back in the day, but I can make them look awesome on dosbox. Last time I played through Wing Commander 2 I did it on my big plasma, it was GLORIOUS. I don't want to go back to my period correct 14" Goldstar monitor.

Fucking Goldstar monitor lol. Nice.
 
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