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Author Topic: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!  (Read 1018 times)

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Offline Frankie

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How I used PCem to create a virtual 486 PC


Now I can enjoy playing Tornado the way it was originally played in 1993! Warning: Geek alert!

Tags: virtualisation, PC emulation, reviving them olde dead games, PCem, DOSBox, Tornado flight sim, high fidelity sound, pure Voodoo graphics, leave your dusty outdated PC in the attic, maximum coolness, extreme awesomeness

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I don't have a 486 PC. The last time I used one was in 2002. It's 2017 now and I can't play lots of old games on my modern PC. They simply won't work. So yesterday I created a virtual 486 PC on my 64-bit Windows 10 Dell laptop. My specs are Intel i5-4210U, 1.7Ghz, 8Gb RAM. Now I can play any old DOS or Windows95/98 game on my laptop. I did this exercise more as a geek challenge than anything. After all who has time these days to play tons of games?

Using PCEm is about getting older software/OSes running on modern machines and emulating other pieces of period hardware (like 386/486/VESA S3 video, Soundblaster/Adlib sound cards, etc). That what this post is about.


Here's the thing. You've got lots of CDs of old games, but you can't play them because they can't and won't run on your modern machine. Short of downloading the revived versions from Steam or GOG.com (that's if they are there!), there is another way. PCem.

Today I figured out how to use PCem to play the old DOS and Windows flight simulators in their native environment. Woo hoo!

I'm talking high-fidelity Soundblaster sounds and music, accurate CPU cycles as per the actual PC BIOS and motherboards. I'm talking about Voodoo1 and Voodoo2 3Dfx rendering of graphics (better than what any 3Dfx software Glide Wrapper can do). In short, I can create my own virtual 486 machine with all the trimmings (devices and drivers) so that I can play classic DOS and Windows games with the authentic 1990s aural and visual experience!

PCem is a PC emulator that's been around for some time. After lots of poking around, I managed to setup up virtual machine (emulator) running on MS-DOS 6.22 bootable disk and Windows 95. The MS-DOS bootable disk is for playing DOS games - especially Tornado which needs at least 605 kilobytes of free conventional RAM. The Windows 95 mode is for running Mig Alley and other dinosaur Windows flight simulators that modern computers abhor.

Using PCem, I emulated a 486DX/2 40Mhz machine. That was expensive state of the art back in the early 1990s.

Here are some screenshots of my efforts. PCem running on my Windows 10 laptop!

Windows 95 running in all its glory on my desktop. To run in MS-DOS 6.22,
I have to attach the MS-DOS 6.22 boot disk image file, just before Win95 kicks in.


My PCem emulator settings (left) and my PCem 486 machine (right).
To see the details, open the image in a new browser window. Notice the boot disk result on the right?
I have more than 630Kb of Conventional Memory (a big wow in the 1990s!)


Switching to C: drive and about to launch Tornado


Tornado is launched!


PCem is amazing! I can resize the PCem window until it is a very, very....very small rectangle. I can't do this in DOSBox!


Various parts of the Tornado game - the pilot's cockpit


Various parts of the Tornado game - the external view

Okay, all this is well and good, but you may ask "So what?".

The BIG picture is that if I want a virtual environment, complete with the emulated PC's BIOS, drivers, sound card  and video card, I can do so by using up PCem. In the past I have used Microsoft's virtual machine, but I always gave up because I didn't know where to get the necessary drivers. DOSbox and D-Fend are great, but they emulate the minimum to get DOS games to work.

What's the effect of playing Tornado under PCem emulation? Is it worth all the trouble and geek work to do all this? My answer is "YES IT IS!". I find that Tornado in PCem runs smoother and faster with higher quality Soundblaster sounds, compared to running Tornado under DOSBox or D-Fend. All due respect to both DOSBox and D-Fend as both of these products are superb in their own right. My feeling is that PCem is the BEST way to experience playing Tornado, or for that matter, any DOS game. If you don't have an old PC, and you want to experience the glory days of the 1993, PCem is the answer.


DOSBox on the left and PCem on the right. Two great software side-by-side.
DOSBox won't allow me to resize its window, so I'm stuck with that window size.
I can enlargen DOSBox's window by editing a conf file (who wants to?), but I can't reduce its window's dimensions.
PCem's window, however, is fully scalable. Even in a small PCem window on the right, Tornado is fully playable.
Wow!

In the screenshot above, DOSBox is a DOS environment emulated. Get this: PCem is an entire 486 computer emulated, complete wth BIOS and ready-to-use system drivers!

What this means is that I can create my own PCem MS-DOS, PCem Windows95 and PCem Windows98 emulated computers. I can now enjoy these classic flight simulator gems which are almost impossible to play on today's modern computers:
* Mig Alley (one of the best Korean-era flight simulations, curtesy of the geniuses of Rowan)
* Total Air War (one of the best dynamic campaigns, curtesy of Digital Image Design)
* Steel Beasts Gold (impossible to play in Windows 7 - but hey, who plays it these days when you have SB Pro PE 4.01?)
* fill in your own impossible-to-play-under-anything-more-than-Windows-XP game here

With the march of time and technology, the gap between old classic games and modern PCs running on modern Operating Systems is getting wider each day. Thanks to PCem, you can play almost ANYTHING on your Windows 7 32 bit/64 bit or Windows 10 32-bit/64-bit computer. And you don't need to dust off that old 386, 486 or Pentium computer stored away in the attic (does it still work, or is it junk?). You can use the computer that you are currently using. Yes, the same one that you use to play SteelBeasts Pro PE, Scourge of War, ArmA3 and DCS. Just think about it.

Before this week, my greatest personal accomplishment was playing Tornado on my iPad. Today, my greatest personal accomplishment is being able to create PCem virtual computers to run old, outdated and neglected, but classic games.

Now that I have whetted your appetite for PCem, if you want to give it a go, click on the link below.
:Thumbsup2
BEST step-by-step installation guide for PCem I have ever found.

Cheers
Frankie "TornadoMan" Kam


Website References:

Youtube How To setup create a 486 PC running on MS-DOS 6.22 with PCem (the video that started it all for me)

PC Emulator homepage
https://pcem-emulator.co.uk/

WinWorld's Win95 iso and MS DOS 6.22 iso files
https://winworldpc.com/product/windows-95/osr-2
https://winworldpc.com/product/ms-dos/622

Disk Imaging Suite Tool to create and edit image files - WinImage
http://www.winimage.com/winimage.htm
« Last Edit: March 10, 2017, 06:25:12 AM by Frankie »

After the Dogs of War are let slip, let us smoke the Pipes Of Peace.

Online Asid

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2017, 03:48:19 PM »
Great post Frankie. 

You should make it a sticky

:clap2


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Offline Frankie

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2017, 04:44:32 PM »
Hi All

Here's a followup to my last post. In that post I created a virtual 486 PC running on MS-DOS 6.22.

In this post, I up the ante. This time I create a virtual Pentium 133 machine running on Windows 98 Standard Edition. All thanks to this excellent and detailed tutorial by the Oligopolist.



In my last post I created a virtual 486 PC running on DOS 6.22. Windows98 would only install on an emulated Pentium or higher.
So here's my emulated Pentium 133 machine. Click the image above to read the setting values.


Running SteelBeasts1 on PCem
It is impossible to run SteelBeasts Gold - a.k.a SteelBeasts1 on Windows 7, 8 or 10. Ssnake himself said so here and here. If Ssnake says so, then who am I to argue with him? But with PCem, anything is possible. Okay, so it's not really running on Windows 10, but running on Windows 98(SE) inside an emulated Pentium 133 machine - PCem. So technically I'm not "cheating".



Here's something you haven't seen for a long time! SteelBeasts Gold (i.e., SB1) running on a Windows 10 machine.
Well sort of, since SB1 is inside a PCem virtual Pentium.



There's something about SteelBeast Gold's colour scheme. I think that its colours are deeper and richer compared to SB Pro PE 3/4.
See the abysmal framerate - 4fps? I need a faster Intel machine to handle the cycles-hungry virtual Pentium!


Running MigAlley on PCem with emulated 3Dfx Voodoo2
Rowan's MigAlley is another classic flight simulator than doesn't run in Windows 7, 8 or 10. Again PCem to the rescue.



The classic menu of Mig Alley.



Rowan's classic Win95/Win98 flight simulator - MigAlley (1999). I haven't seen this one in years. It's come to life now.
In 1999, a Voodoo2 3DFx graphic card would have cost me an arm and a leg. Who would have thought that 18 years later,
Mig Alley can run on a modern PC with an emulated Voodoo2 card and actual driver. PCem makes it possible.



3Dfx screenshot of Jane's Longbow2. Simulation of the year 1998.
Great for its time, it comes to life again on my Windows 10 laptop.



In 1997 the graphics of Jane's Longbow2 had no equal. The screenshot above is a night mission with
dynamic lighting effects. Hellfire away! Andy Hollis and the Origin development team were supreme masters of their craft.


In SteelBeasts Gold, the framerates were nothing to shout about, most times dipping to single digit fps. Still, MigAlley was somewhat flyable. Jane's Longbow2 had some audio stuttering issues with SoundBlaster 16. What I need really is a 4Ghz i5 minimum or an i7 Intel processor computer to make the PCem virtual machines run faster. After I installed the latest Voodoo2 driver from and DirectX Version 7.0. the framerates improved slightly to make the games 'just' playable.

With old Windows games, to tell you the truth, nothing beats running them on actual period computers. It's just that you'll need the full set of healthy preriod hardware and drivers to complete the experience. And not everyone has that. PCem to the rescue.

Regards
Frankie Kam



« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 06:51:54 PM by Frankie »

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Offline Frankie

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2017, 10:00:06 AM »
Total Air War (1998) by Digital Image Design (DID) running on my PCem.


Nice. Another flight sim that was way ahead of its time.

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Offline Lusik

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2017, 12:18:22 PM »
You seem to have all the good games that I played a long time ago. I forgot about Total Air War thanks posting  it.

Online Asid

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2017, 12:50:13 PM »
Total Air War (1998) by Digital Image Design (DID) running on my PCem.

Nice. Another flight sim that was way ahead of its time.

I remeber playing that online   :pilotfly

Brilliant experience....Oh yeah...Many moons ago

Thanks for posting Frankie


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Offline Rotar

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2017, 06:56:20 PM »
Don't forget some games will run just fine in a virtual machine instead of a full emulator. For example, Steel Beasts runs great using VirtualBox and a Win98 or XP install.

Offline Frankie

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2017, 01:02:34 AM »
Yes that's right Rotar. I will probably get better frame rates with SteelBeasts in VirtualBox or Microsoft Virtual machine with Windows98 installed. On my old Dell Inspiron laptop, running SteelBeasts1 in native Windows XP, the FPS is in excess of 48 to 60 FPS (!). PCEm'ed SteelBeasts running in emulated Win98SE mode is only 5 to 12fps, LOL. It's a no-brainer which setup gives me a more enjoyable session on my less-than-4Ghz Intel i5 processor laptop.

I use PCem mainly because it emulates the Voodoo1 and Voodoo2 graphics cards which allows me to play the good old 3Dfx-enabled games on my Windows 10 laptop. For example Red Baron 3D by Sierra. However PCem is not a one-glove fits all. With PCem, I experience very slow frame rates on my laptop spec for almost all Windows games. Tornado being a DOS game flies like greased lightning, thanks it its code which was written in assembly language. Windows 95/98 flight sims seem to crawl on PCem for my laptop.

Since SteelBeasts is not 3dfx-enabled, it doesn't make any sense at all to play SteelBeasts1 in PCem on my laptop with PCem. Except for taking nostalgic SteelBeasts1 screenshots! I will try VirtualBox next.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2017, 11:21:11 AM by Frankie »

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Offline Frankie

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Re: Running Tornado under PCem (PC Emulator) - the best experience yet!
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2017, 03:41:07 PM »
Hi Rotar

Well I bet you already know this. SteelBeasts Legacy patched to 1.195 runs at a screaming 59 frames per second in Virtualbox. This is so much faster than what experience with running SteelBeasts legacy on PCem.


This is my first time running Oracle's Virtualbox and boy, is it a joy to use on my Windows 10 lapop!

I set up a virtual PC with 512Mb RAM, 2Mb video memory and 4 Gigabyte hard disk space.

I installed Windows 98SE in the Virtualbox.  It took me a while to do the following:
(1) install a VGA driver to enable more than the initial miserable 16 colours (i.e., up to 32-bit colours);
(2) set the virtual CD-ROM to point to either the physical E: CD-ROM drive or to an ISO file on my physical C: or D: harddisk;
(3) download and install DirectX 8.0 (a newly installed SteelBeasts Legacy complains that it needs DirectX 7.0 minimum);

Thanks for your VirtualBox tip. It is worth it.

Finally, here's the first time I've been able to capture a screenshot of 2 SteelBeasts versions on the same laptop. SB Pro PE 4.01 on the left and SteelBeasts Legacy Version 1.195 on the right. Ah! Legacy runs on my Windows 10 64-bit laptop, curtesy of VirtualBox.


SB Legacy is running at 41 fps. SB Pro PE 4.01 is running at 16 fps because it is obviously more resource hungry and the CPU doing so much more work. A 16-years difference between the two. So much has happened since 2001. Here's looking forward to SteelBeasts Pro PE 5.00!

Regards
Frankie Kam
« Last Edit: March 12, 2017, 04:31:05 PM by Frankie »

After the Dogs of War are let slip, let us smoke the Pipes Of Peace.