Convert old system to DOS only, need help

NoMention

Rear Admiral
Newbie to this group and die hard WC fan.

I have an old P3 450 mhz computer that used to run windows ME that I want to either install back windows 98 or straight DOS. The computer has something like 512MB of ram, AGP video, PCI sound and IDE hard drives. I primarilly want it for games like the entire Wing Commander Series (1, 2, 3 and 4 since Kilrathi Saga is too expensive), X-Com, Master of Magic, X-Wing and Tie Fighter, etc. My only concern is that the 450Mhz speed might make the games run too fast. What is the chances of this happening? I don't want to run something like MoSlo to slow the system down. Should I see if I can go on ebay and buy something like an old Penitum 100? Would that be better?

Thanks
NoMention
 

scheherazade

Rear Admiral
if they run too fast, you can use something like moslo.exe to run the apps slower. no need to not use it i guess. unless you don't have proper memory management and you can't fit moslo+your app in lower memory.

not all dos apps were cpu lagged, some (like, oh, strike commander) were clocked by time-delta, and will run the same speed no matter what the system.

but for something like wc1, a P100 will still make it FLY. i had it on a p133 and it was unplayably fast (without mislo and whatever else i could do). literally mission starts, i hit a, and BAM dead... apparently an entire fight had happened and finished in that instant.

in any case, its worth trying.

do this.

install 98.
make a 98 start-up disk.
format (fat 16)
install dos 6.22
copy out all the executables and coms to some other drive
put in the 98 floppy
format (fat 32)
type sys c: (to put the 98 dos 8 or whatever system on c)
copy all the dos 6.22 files you saved to c:\dos
copy all the files on the 98 floppy to c:
goto the ramdrive letter and copy all the files to c:\ramd
goto c: and edit autoexec.bat and config.sys to refer to files in the c:\ramd directory, and comment out the ramdrive stuff.
add/edit an entry for path="...blah blah blah.... c:\ramd, c:\dos" inside autoexec

now you can use dos8 with all the nifty stuff in dos 6.22 (like xcopy, and deltree, etc)

-scheherazade
 

NoMention

Rear Admiral
I guess Windows 98 with MoSlo is the way for me to go. I'll give it a shot. I'll also see if I can dig up my old P166 just in case. Are all the Wing Commander games going to be fast or just Wing Commander 1? I have the CD version, not diskette, with the extra missions and everything. Will that still be sped up really fast?
 

TheRedDuke

Spaceman
Wing Commander 1 and 2 willl run too fast on any post-486 machine, you'll either need to use a slowdown program, or you can "cripple" your faster computer by disabling the cache in BIOS. I don't think the CD-ROM vs. the floppy version makes any difference. I would suggest reading this thread to get some more info on building a dedicated WC Box. I found it very helpful. Thanks LOAF!
 

NoMention

Rear Admiral
Can someone explain to me how disabling the cache in the bios will automatically slow my computer down to the speed that is suitable for WC1 and WC2? If I have a P3 500 and I turn off the cache, how does that make it as fast as an old 386? What if I had a P3 1Ghz, would that also slow it down to the same 386/486 speed? i'll play around more with this stuff tonight.
 

scheherazade

Rear Admiral
cache holds data and text

text=code section of the program.

usually only part of the actual program code is in use and for the most part fits inside the half meg or whatever of cache you have.

the data that is in use is also usually only part of all the data inside hte software
data=images, models, etc.
and for the most part the in-use data fits in cache, or at least the most often used part does.

cahe = super fast memory, waaaaaaay faster than your ram.
waaaaaaaaaay = waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay faster

in any case, if you turn off cache, you are making the CPU fetch from ram all the time, which is expensive (time wise).

so lets say loading a register (4 cycles), loading another (4 cycles), adding them (2 cycles), and storing the result (4 cycles), takes (4+4+2+4)/mhz {14/mhz}seconds to complete.

turn off cache, and you then have to add 3 IO's to those 2 load and 1 store commands, which can be, oh say, 16 cycles each.

all of a sudden you have (4+16+4+16+2+4+16)/mhz seconds to complete the operation. {62/mhz},

which you can say is about 4 times as long.

now these numbers are made up, but they aren't really that far from reality either.
a typical r-type can be 2-4 cycles, a branch 4-6, a load 2-6, etc.

in any case, ram needs the memory controller doing crap, synchronizing with the cpu, etc, if it has to do this for every single piece of data that the cpu looks at, it'll be crippled.

its like copying text out of a book.
do you wanna open the book, read a bit, remember (cache) it, and write it down
or
do you wanna open the book, read one character, write it down, open it again, read another character, write it down. etc.

-scheherazade
 

NoMention

Rear Admiral
I understand how turning off the cache will degrade performance but how does this relate to the speeds needed to run WC1 and WC2? If I have a 500Mhz system and I turn off the cache, that might slow it down to 100Mhz for example. But even that is too fast. What I need to end up with is like a 25Mhz system. I remember playing WC1 on my old 386SX 16Mhz system. So it seems to me that just simply turning off the cache will not slow down the system to a desired fixed speed. Only programs like MoSlo can do that. Right?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Disabling the cache on my PIII/650 lets me play WC1 and 2 "right".

Disabling the cache on my 486/66 used to let me play WC1 properly, too.

In other words... I don't know. But in my two experiences, both cache-removals slowed the computers down to similar speeds.
 

NoMention

Rear Admiral
So what is your general opinion about Kilrathi Saga? I have the following:

Wing Commander 1 w/ Special Missions on CD
Wing Commander 2 w/ Special Missions on CD
Wing Commander 3 on CD
Wing Commander 4 on CD
Wing Commander Privateer on CD
Wing Commander Privateer 2 on CD

So is it worth getting the Kilrathi Saga if I can turn an old PC into a good gaming PC for these old DOS games? I've read that the Kilrathi Saga, although being able to play in Windows, does not give the same feel as the originals and I don't want to spend $150+ on something that I might not even feel is worth it. I'll get these running on my P3 500 with Windows 98 SE and then contemplate this later. I am not really a collector so just having it is not enough for me. What are opinions about Prophecy? I never played it. After Acadamy came out, I was disgusted with Wing Commander Games. Prophecy might be worth buying then? What would be a reasonable price for this? $30?

Thanks
NoMention

I'm so excited to get all those old favorites back running again. I never beat Privateer 1 or 2!!
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
If you were disgusted by WC games after Academy came out, how'd you managed to play WC3, 4, Privateer and Privateer 3 :)?

(I'm a completist, so I wouldn't set up my system without Kilrathi Saga... but if you're just looking to play the game, using a DOS machine and the original version is the best way.)
 

NoMention

Rear Admiral
I don't think that I played them in order like that. I already had 1-4 and Privateer 1-2 by the time I played Acadamy. To me Acadamy seemed like they were getting away from the feel of the WC series. I guess that is why I never got the other ones. I'll have to pick up Prophecy and play it. I would love to get a hold of the WC IV DVD. I didn't even know it existed until I came here. I'll have to see if anyone I know has it and is willing to sell or trade.
 

Delance

Victory, you say?
The original WC1 is a little better then KS because of that afwul music loop bug. :p So if you have the chance to play WC1 on DOS, do it.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Oh. :) That's... weirdly nonlinear. Academy was basically just a 'mission builder' released after WC2 (and before anything else). Prophecy is a Full Motion Video-based game in the same vein as WC3 and WC4.
 

dextorboot

Spaceman
You might be able to play Priv1 without having to do much else to the pc. I run it (classic CD version) on a P2 233 Compaq Win98 without any problems.
 

GeeBot

Spaceman
While disabling the cache probably won't help as much on newer systems (since the focus has been trying to get the memory system to go faster and faster as CPUs become insanely fast), it's still quite effective for a major drop in performance.

Most chips made in the last decade or so have included an on-chip (L1) cache that runs at the full speed of the processor. Basically, this means that the memory is as fast as the processor, and the processor doesn't really need to wait on its memory. Most chips (since the Pentium Pro, essentially) also include a high speed L2 cache, which runs at some multiplier of the clock speed (generally 1/2 on older chips, and essentialy 1, aka the same as the L1, on newer chips). The L2 cache is slower than the L1, but it's also a lot bigger. Generally, the L1 is only big enough to hold the part of the program that is being immediately executed, while the L2 is generally big enough to hold most of the used program and data.

Now, the important thing is that this architecture means that a CPU hardly ever needs to use main memory at all. It can run full speed most of the time. However, as soon as it needs to fetch data from main memory, the entire CPU has to wait while the instructions and data get carried over from the very slow main memory.

All of this stuff gets passed over the front side bus, which ran at a mere 66 MHz for a long period of time, possibly including that Pentium 450. Even 100 MHz and 133 MHz FSBs aren't that big of an improvement. On top of that, accessing main memory is a lot less efficient in terms of clock cycles than accessing the local caches, so it's even slower than the MHz discrepency would suggest.

The important thing to note here is that the 486 and the 386 (for which many of these games were designed) had a 33 MHz FSB. Also, these games were often designed for 33 MHz processors (with the 486DX2/66 running at 66 MHz internally). By turning off your cache, you're essentially forcing your high end Pentium III 450 or whatever to run essentially as fast as your FSB will allow, which is about as fast as a 386 or 486 can run. Hey, progress. :)

Another aspect of this is that the 386 basically executed an instruction, then went back and fetched the next one. The 486, however, keeps fetching instructions, then passing them on to other parts of the chip for execution, like on an assembly line. So while the 386 requires multiple cycles per instruction, the 486 can effectively execute one instruction per clock, and the Pentium has multiple pipelines running in parallel, so it can execute multiple instructions per clock. Modern chips like the Athlon can execute around 4-8 instructions per clock cycle.

The upshot is that when you turn off the cache and force the processor to eat instructions dribbled through a straw, it effectively executes like a 386, one at a time. :)

Now, this probably won't continue working indefinitely into the future, so some day we'll either need MoSlo anyway, or we'll be running all our games in emulation anyway, which should slow things down enough. ;) For now, the game will still run faster, although not insanely fast, but as the FSB speeds keep going up (I believe the latest Opterons go up to 800 MHz or 1.6 GHz, and the latest P4s have an 800 MHz bus already, I believe), the CPU will be able to run faster, even with the cache turned off.
 

THE_WUQKED

Spaceman
@GreeBot: that's a real nice description how and why disabling cache helps to get old games running at correct speed :)
However, why I post is, the FSB of the latest PIV is 200Mhz, only cause it's "Quad-pumped" (or how it's called) it's 800Mhz. So it "should" be 200Mhz effectively after dsiabling Cache (I think). No idea about the Opterons, though. Guess best thing would be to simply test if WC1, for example still works with this trick with latest CPUs ;) - But who has got DOS on such modern PCs?
So I agree with you, that emulator proggies will get more and more important for old games.

P.S.: Even if my post hasn't got much content, this Thread is worth a bump anyway ;)
 

jammyo2k

Spaceman
If you have a fairly powerful PC (I'm running an Athlon 2600 XP with 512MB DDR RAM) then DosBox will be the easiest way to get WC1 working properly (especially as it can be used in the windows XP environment. If you set it for around 6000 CPU Cycles a second it'll run quite nicely. The speed of the emulation can be varied in game if you find it running too fast or too slow. Another plus is that sound is set up automatically as an old SB cars is emulated as part of the program. It takes a little while to get used to using the program but the results are pretty respectable.
 

jammyo2k

Spaceman
Oh, in addition, I never had any real problems speed wise running the WC games on faster PCs, with the exception of WC1. The regular versions of WC2 and Priv (the Kilrathi saga is too buggy to be worth the money just for playing - collecting is a different matter) ran reasonably well, although there were some sound issues with WC2.
 
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