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Video Card Choice

Shadow Lord

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I don't care about resolution much, what I do care about is the card being fast enough to play any game released for DOS, 2D or 3D, including Quake and Quake II, Stargunner, C&C, etc.

Simply put no such thing. Trust me I originally wanted an all in one box that played everything from the dawn of computing to the mid/late 90s. Just can't be done, either the processor is to fast or the video card isn't compatible or sound card will be an issue. If you really want an awesome experience then you need to build period specific boxes. I.e. if you play mostly DOS games from the 286 era then you need a 286/386 machine w/ at most an adlib sound card and a Tseng 4000/CL/Trident based video card on a 14" monitor because this is what people had back then.
 

Unknown_K

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The reason the Voodoos degrade the signal a bit is because they use solid state relays to switch between VGA and 3D which does slightly degrade the signal. Also some manufacturers used cheap cables with their Voodoos.

For an early 3D machine I recommend the Orchid Righteous 3D Voodoo 1, they came with a thick shielded cable for video and used a mechanical relay to switch between 2D and 3D so the signal wasn't degraded (and you got that cool clicking noise when switching to 3D).
 

Shadow Lord

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By the later 90's pretty much all video cards accelerated the GUI of windows to the point where it could not get any faster (like scrolling down a spreadsheet so fast it was all a blur). So OS companies started doing more eye candy to bog things down again.

Not really true anymore apparently. There was a recently an article in Tom's HW which basically talks about how 2D is not being accelerated by the latest video cards. The good news is that the HW seems to be there and it is just piss poor driver support. However, for the 90s time period most of the later cards (Millennium II, Voodoo Banshee and above, TNT and above, etc..) did accelerate all WINDOWS 2D functions. A DOS program was again SOL. Caveat: I am not sure how this applies to 2D applications written for VESA since that was such a mix bag as well. VESA support was just atrocious in HW. Otherwise why else we would all be using UNIVBE.exe??? :D
 

Shadow Lord

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The reason the Voodoos degrade the signal a bit is because they use solid state relays to switch between VGA and 3D which does slightly degrade the signal. Also some manufacturers used cheap cables with their Voodoos.

For an early 3D machine I recommend the Orchid Righteous 3D Voodoo 1, they came with a thick shielded cable for video and used a mechanical relay to switch between 2D and 3D so the signal wasn't degraded (and you got that cool clicking noise when switching to 3D).

Or you could just buy a cheap thick well shielded cable from monoprice.com for ~$3. I am not sure if the STB black magics used a mechanical relay or not but I am not really seeing a degradation at all. If anyone is interested I can check it out later this weekend and report back. I think the V2s had better relays to begin with. Also, even for an early 3D system I'd go V2 non-sli. It is OVERKILL but you'll find one cheaper and more easily then a V1. As long as you are not using SLI none of the old games should have a problem with (yes I am sure there are exceptions but not many!)
 

Unknown_K

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I have a few Voodoo 1's (actually pretty much all the Voodoo series) so finding one isn't an issue. The very early games (DOS with glide wrappers) only do 640x480 anyway. You see screen issues at higher resolution (1024x768 or above gets slightly blurry) depending on the voodoo model and cable.

VESA went out of favor because all games went to Windows 95 instead of DOS and Microsoft started developing a video AND audio API (directdraw, directx etc) that gamers could use, plus games went from 2D to 3D. Companies create hardware with selling points and 3D took over 2D in importance (plus 2D was good enough by then). Most of the stuff that bogs down the desktop is stupid transparency and other eye candy used on the latest OS builds, not something that will choke an application (and they can be turned off as needed).
 

Raven

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2D Video acceleration is about how fast the card can draw lines, complex curves, fill in colors, and move stuff on the screen. The CPU has the job of telling the video card what it wants, then hands over the process to the video chip to accelerate it. Early 2D cards were just frame buffers meaning the CPU did ALL the work and then dumped it to the video card RAM and the card then just dumped that to the screen. The best framebuffer was the one that had the fastest RAM and interface to the CPU. All the early speed benchmarks just showed how fast the card could draw, color, and move things around.

By the later 90's pretty much all video cards accelerated the GUI of windows to the point where it could not get any faster (like scrolling down a spreadsheet so fast it was all a blur). So OS companies started doing more eye candy to bog things down again.

Getting back to games VESA modes came out in the 90's so video chip makers could accelerate specific tasks for games and programmers could just program generic tasks in specific VESA modes (resolution and color depths) and have them done faster. For Quake you have standard VGA modes, accelerated modes (needing a wrapper such as glide to do translations) and VESA high res modes which offered much higher resolutions and color but crappy speed. I played quake at 800x600 using a VESA accelerated video card (a Nvidia Riva 4MB PCI card) and it worked but was super slow. Using the same card in Direct3d mode made quake playable (and with the proper looks).

See that's the kind of info I need - explains a lot of my questions!

The reason the Voodoos degrade the signal a bit is because they use solid state relays to switch between VGA and 3D which does slightly degrade the signal. Also some manufacturers used cheap cables with their Voodoos.

For an early 3D machine I recommend the Orchid Righteous 3D Voodoo 1, they came with a thick shielded cable for video and used a mechanical relay to switch between 2D and 3D so the signal wasn't degraded (and you got that cool clicking noise when switching to 3D).

Sounds like a good choice, and an esoteric one, what with the noise. :D

I haven't noticed any image degredation with my Diamond Monster Voodoo II, though it has a like-new cable that's pretty thick (likely shielded well) and short.

This gave me an idea - is it possible to chain Voodoos together (I don't mean SLI), i.e., a 2D card hooked up to a Voodoo 1 hooked up to a Voodoo 2 - this way you could do original DOS Glide games and later Glide 2 games (I'm not sure if there are any Glide 2 games for DOS) on Windows to boot. I don't see why this shouldn't work, but I'm not an expert on Voodoo hardware so I thought I'd ask.

I think I'll get an AGP Matrox card chained to a V1 and V2. This should give me great support for just about anything I'm likely to throw at it, I think - provided that Matrox cards have the same good VESA support and 2D rendering quality on the AGP bus as they do on the PCI.
 

Unknown_K

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Never tried using more then 1 voodoo type in a machine, not sure how drivers would work and multiple cables would probably not be a good idea. You could dump in a videologic 3d card that doesn't need cabled (works over the PCI bus, also sold as a matrox m3d)

Basically I use a Voodoo 1 in a p200mmx system with a Riva 128 PCI card for 2d (DOS on one hard drive and Win95 on another removable tray). For voodoo 2 SLI I picked a p2-400 system with a TNT2 ultra for 2d (Win98). I have other systems with a Matrox g400max, geforce 2 gts, etc.
 

Shadow Lord

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Unknown_K,

Do you know which card is being used for Direct3D? I.e. Voodoo or nVidia? It would be ideal if 2D/D3D was w/ nVidia and only the Gllide stuff wnet through the voodoo cards!
 

Mau1wurf1977

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For Dos I am a huge fan of the S3 Trio 64 V+ cards. Especially if you value compatibility. DOSBox and VirtualPC emulate this video card, just like many Windows emulators emulate the Intel 440BX chipset.

Und Dos you will find that on a Pentium VGA games will run too fast and for SVGA games it's all up to the CPU. Games such as System Shock in SVGA the CPU is what matters most.

If you are playing Games that use DirectX I would choose a Nvidia based video card. A TNT2 for example. I believe the voodoo cards used dithering, wheras the Nvidia cards didn't have to because they supported more colours. So to me voodoo only makes sense for glide games.

Do you know which card is being used for Direct3D?

I remember many games having a setup utility where you could select the render method. but I am not sure if there was a system wide setting. I don't see why not however...
 
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Shadow Lord

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I remember many games having a setup utility where you could select the render method. but I am not sure if there was a system wide setting. I don't see why not however...

Thats not what I am asking. I am wondring whose DirectX drivers get installed and remain for D3D. I.e. choosing DirectX in the game menu means the game will make DirectX calls but will the 3dfx drivers respond or nvidia? Is it based on the order of installation? i.e. which ever drivers you install last will be the dominant one?
 

Mau1wurf1977

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I read your question.

The setup menu allows you to select which render (driver) you want to pick. I don't know / think if every game has this option though...

I guess you should do some testing and report back with some results!
 

Shadow Lord

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I read your question.

The setup menu allows you to select which render (driver) you want to pick. I don't know / think if every game has this option though...

I guess you should do some testing and report back with some results!

Sure, since you said so I'll run out buy an nVidia card stick it in my setup and test games :rolleyes:

No game I knew ever had an option to choose nVidia for DirectX vs. 3Dfx for DirectX but since you apparently know of some, as you keep insisting, could you provide a few name of games or better yet provide screen shots of the menu allowing this choice? :confused:

There were many games that would allows you to choose DirectX vs. glide which is not at all what I am after (e.g. WCP) or had options for different rendering engines such as OpenGL vs software (quake) but nothing I know of let you choose DirectX for a specific manufacturer...
 

Mau1wurf1977

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I remember that I could switch between glide on my Voodoo card and DirectX on my S3 card. The S3 card wasn't nearly powerful enough though (slideshow)...
 

Shadow Lord

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I remember that I could switch between glide on my Voodoo card and DirectX on my S3 card. The S3 card wasn't nearly powerful enough though (slideshow)...

o.k. how did you tell it to use DirectX on your S3 card? i.e. How do you know if DirectX calls are being sent to S3 vs. Voodoo? e.g. in a given DirectX 5 game, which does not support glide, where you have DirectX drivers installed for both V2 and S3 how do you select which one responds to the DirectX call. Unknown_K can answer this easily by telling us when he runs a DirectX game if his system "clicks" and switches to 3dfx or if there is no click and the nVidia system is used.
 

Unknown_K

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Under windows 9x you can run the dxdiag.exe in the c:\windows\system directory. From what I recall if you have more then one Directx device installed you can pick which one is the default or change it as needed. Some games also allowed you to pick the card in their setup menu. This way you can pick for example a TNT2 ultra for games that work in 32bit video or use a SLI Voodoo 2 setup for glide games. My SLI setup is in the lab at the moment so I can't verify exactly how to set it up.
 

Shadow Lord

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Under windows 9x you can run the dxdiag.exe in the c:\windows\system directory. From what I recall if you have more then one Directx device installed you can pick which one is the default or change it as needed. Some games also allowed you to pick the card in their setup menu. This way you can pick for example a TNT2 ultra for games that work in 32bit video or use a SLI Voodoo 2 setup for glide games. My SLI setup is in the lab at the moment so I can't verify exactly how to set it up.

The Glide vs. D3D I am not worried about. Even OpenGL is easy just the D3D is an issue..

dxdiag.exe huh? I'll have to check it out later and see if it gives me an option like that... Thanks!
 

Raven

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I can't speak for other 3dfx cards, but the V2 only functions when Glide is called. If you call a D3D game it will run on the other card by default.

I'd imagine that this is also the same for a V1 card, but a V3 and higher would have the cards competing instead of cooperating because they don't chain together and dedicate the 3dfx to Glide - in those setups the 3dfx is an independent card.
 
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