Saturday, April 28, 2012

Unique PC Hardware & Game Support

In this post, I will identify certain unique hardware that games used and can be difficult to replicate without it.    Except in one instance, no game will refuse to run because you do not have a particular system or card or device, but features may be lost.  I will identify the hardware in bold, then identify the particular feature or limitation unique to that card and list the games that support or require that particular feature.  Finally, I will explain what the issue is and possible work-arounds.  Fan patches and hacks are not included.

IBM Personal Computer Line

Feature - BASIC in ROM

Adventures in Math
Arithmetic Games Set 1
Arithmetic Games Set 2
Bumble Games
Bumble Plot
Casino Games
Juggles' Butterfly
Word Spinner

Explanation : IBM's computers contained Cassette BASIC in ROM.  However, this version of BASIC was limited to communicating with cassettes, so IBM put BASIC.COM and BASICA.COM on its DOS disks so BASIC could interface with floppy drives.  These programs were relatively small because they utilized the underlying BASIC in ROM code.  As clone manufacturers entered the picture, Microsoft combined the Cassette BASIC and BASICA.COM into GW-BASIC.EXE for the clone systems, which did not have BASIC in ROM.  

Games requiring BASIC always came in a DOS-readable format and required BASIC, BASICA or GW-BASIC to function.  The above games were released by IBM, and would contain BASIC or BASICA on the game disk.  Other companies may have required you to copy over the appropriate interpreter to avoid having to pay license fees to IBM or Microsoft.  

With the above games, released by IBM, their disk labels clearly state or should state "Copy Protected". When IBM released software licensed from 3rd party developers, the developers always put copy protection on the disks.  With its internally developed software, it usually was not picky.  The above games were created by The Learning Co.  The disks could boot without user intervention since they contained the basic DOS files and AUTOEXEC.BAT to start the programs.  Normally, if you were trying to run the program on a non-IBM PC, you would replace BASIC and BASICA with GW-BASIC. On these programs, due to the copy protection, it may not work.

Alternative : MESS, IBM PCemulator

Gravis Ultrasound

Feature - Native GUS Hardware Mixing Support

Archon Ultra
Crusader: No Remorse
Crusader: No Regret
Death Rally
DOOM v1.2 or below
Epic Pinball
Extreme Pinball (requires 1MiB of sample RAM)
Jazz Jackrabbit
The Lemmings Chronicles
One Must Fall 2097
Pinball Dreams (later release)
Pinball Dreams II (official patch)
Pinball Fantasies
Pinball Illusions
Star Control II
Turrican 2
Zone 66

Explanation : These games have support for the GUS's hardware mixing capabilities.  Essentially they boast the best support for the GUS.  By using the GUS's hardware, instead of software mixing, typically these games will have better audio performance and higher audio quality.  Unfortunately, hardware mixing was removed after DOOM v1.2 because there was no room left on the card after the RAM samples for the music had been uploaded and DMA transfers without using the RAM were buggy and inflexible.

Versions of Pinball Dreams and Pinball Dreams II with GUS support can be found in the Pinball Dreams Deluxe CD-ROM compilation.  

8088/8086 CPU Exclusivity

Feature - Game works with an 8088 or 8086 CPU but not with an NEC V20, V30 or 286 or better CPU

Lode Runner
Championship Lode Runner
The Seven Cities of Gold

Explanation : The IBM PC, (many) PCjr., XT, Tandy 1000, 1000EX, SX and HX all have a socketed 8088 CPU. A popular, reasonably priced upgrade for these systems was to replace the 8088 CPU for the NEC V20, which is an optimized version of the CPU.  For systems like the IBM PS/2 Model 25 and 30 and the Tandy 1000SL and SL/2, the socketed 8086 could be replaced with an NEC V30.  Due to optimizations in the instruction execution, the addition of a hardware multiplier, the resulting speed improvement could be 15% on average over the equivalent Intel CPU.  However, the occasional game will not work with a V20 or V30 or more advanced CPU like the 286.  

All known of versions of Lode Runner and Championship Lode Runner, except v3.0 of Lode Runner (which added Hercules support), will crash before a level begins with a CPU that is not an 8088 or 8086.  The Seven Cities of Gold will crash if you try to use the "World Maker" when you select "Create Another World" but you can still play by using the Historical Map option.

Alternative : Run game with 8088 or 8086 CPU, use Retrograde Station booters or DOS conversion.

Creative CMS/Game Blaster

Feature - CT-1302 Detection Chip

AD&D Death Knights of Krynn
Altered Destiny
Arkanoid II: Revenge of Doh
Bubble Bobble
Death Knights of Krynn
Rambo III

Explanation : Quite a few games support Creative C/MS or Game Blaster sound.  The sound chips are two Phillips SAA-1099s and they can be found on the Creative Music System Card or the relabeled card, the Creative Game Blaster Card.  They can also be found on the Creative Sound Blaster 1.0 and can be inserted into sockets on the Sound Blaster 1.5 or 2.0 and a few licensed clones.  However, the CMS and Game Blaster cards have a 40-pin DIP chip labeled CT-1302A.  This chip allows the card to be autodetected by programs, since the chips themselves cannot be detected.  It also acts as a transceiver for the CMS chips.  The above games have been proven to fail on Sound Blaster cards, since those cards have a Creative Digital Signal Processor where the CT-1302 is mapped on the C/MS and Game Blaster cards.  The Sound Blaster DSP works very differently than the CT-1302.  Operation Wolf will also complain that it cannot find the Game Blaster like the other Taito games, but will still play the music.  Ditto for Wolfpack from Broderbund.

Prince of Persia, v1.0, may be an honorary member in this list.  While it supports the Game Blaster, it also supports Adlib and will use that chip if it detects it in the system, regardless of what else may be inside it.  So if you have a Sound Blaster 1.0-2.0, you will need to physically remove the YM3812 chip or hack the game to disable the Adlib detection to get Game Blaster music.  Star Control acts like Prince of Persia in that it will force Adlib sound if it detects an Adlib or Sound Blaster in the system, even if you have Game Blaster chips and force it by a command line argument.

Alternatives : DOSBox SVN supports C/MS Game Blaster autodetection

Tandy 1000 DAC

Feature - Near Exclusive Digital Sound Support

Gauntlet II (also PC Speaker Tweaked)
SimCity & Expansions (also Covox Sound Master)
Wings of Fury

Explanation : The Tandy 1000 series, specifically the SL/TL/RL models, have DAC functionality in addition to the TI SN 76496 PSG hardware.  In other words, they can play back digitized sound samples and voice.  The above games are the only known games to support digitized sound playback on a Tandy but not with a Sound Blaster card.  Some games have other options as listed.  Unfortunately, when the DAC is playing on real hardware, the built in joystick ports cannot be used.

Space Quest III originally shipped with digital sound support only for the Tandy DAC, but the Sound Blaster driver was included on the 3.5" disks accompanying v1.018, the last English version.  The Sound Blaster driver from the King's Quest I SCI remake also works.

Note that there were three revisions of the DAC.  The "Jacksboro" revision came first, and is found in the TL and SL. Then came the "Bonanza" revision, found in the TL/2, SL/2, RL, and 2500XL.  Finally there is the "Hensdale" revision, found in the TL/3, RLX, RSX, other computers in the 2500XL series and in the Sensation! (noticeably over-filtered in the latter).  The Hensdale chips are somewhat incompatible with the above games, producing lockups on Outrun, incorrect sound on Wings of Fury and pops in other games designed for the older chips.

MobyGames indicates that Railroad Tycoon and Metal Mutant support the Tandy DAC, but they do not.  Railroad Tycoon, which also supports Adlib and Roland MT-32 uses the Tandy 3-voice sound chip for all its sound effects.  Metal Mutant does not even support Tandy graphics, but it does support digitized sound effects on the PC Speaker and the Adlib Music Feature Card.

Alternatives : DOSBox SVN has full support for Tandy DAC.  Unlike the real hardware, some games may allow joystick control when digital sounds are played.

Sound Blaster AWE32/64 Soundfont Support

Feature - Custom Soundfont Patches

Battle Arena Toshinden
Dungeon Keeper
Magic Carpet 2
Nerves of Steel
Perfect General II
Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri

Explanation : Most games that supported the Sound Blaster AWE32 or 64 in DOS merely used the 1MB of samples contained in ROM on the card.  These games upload a custom sample bank for more customized sound than what would be contained in the ROM samples.  There are also several Windows games that include Soundfont patches.  They can also use any PCI Creative sound card, but the DOS games will only recognize an AWE32 or AWE64.

Tandy 1000 Video II

Feature - 640x200x16 Mode

Mario Teaches Typing
Math Rabbit Deluxe
Sargon V
Star Trek 25th Anniversary
Time Riders in American History
Treasure Cove
Treasure MathStorm

The TL, TL/2, TL/3, SL, SL/2, RL & RL-HD support all the usual CGA and Tandy video modes but add MDA/Hercules support and an extra 640x200x16 Mode.  This mode was not supported in the BIOS and the programmer had to write to the registers to set it correctly.  The above games are the only ones known to support the 640x200x16 resolution, and both support EGA and VGA too.  Deskmate 3 also uses the mode.  Sargon V uses some different colors in Tandy compared with EGA.

Alternatives : DOSBox

Roland MPU-401

Feature - Intelligent MPU-401

A-10 Tank Killer v1.0
Codename : Iceman*
Colonel's Bequest*
Companions Of Xanth
Conquests of Camelot*
Cruise for a Corpse
Curse of Enchantia
David Wolf
Elvira II
Eric the Unready
Future Wars
Gateway II
Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory I*
Hired Guns
Hoyle's Official Book of Games Volume I*
Hoyle's Official Book of Games Volume II*
Innocent until Caught
It Came from the Desert
King's Quest I : Quest for the Crown*
Kings Quest IV*
Lakers v. Celtics in the NBA Playoffs
Laser Squad
Leisure Suit Larry 2*
Leisure Suit Larry 3*
Linewars II
Might and Magic III
Mixed Up Mother Goose*
Operation Stealth
Police Quest II*
Princess Maker
Princess Maker 2
Sabre Team
Sensible Soccer
Simon the Sorcerer
Space Quest III*
Spellcasting 101
Spellcasting 201
Spellcasting 301
Super Space Invaders
Superhero League of Hoboken
Ultima VI
Wing Commander
Wing Commander II
Zeliard v1.0-1.208

Explanation : The Roland MPU-401 MIDI Interface supports two modes, normal (unofficially known as "intelligent") and UART (unofficially known as "dumb").  In normal mode, the interface supports a wide range of commands.  In UART mode, it only sends and receives data, not commands.  Early games that supported the MT-32 assumed that the user had a Roland MPU-401 interface and wrote their drivers to utilize the normal mode commands.  Later games dispensed with the commands and the need for normal mode.

Alternatives : DOSBox has full MPU-401 emulation.  Ensoniq Soundscape boards can trick many games into working because they can send an ACK (acknolwedge) to the game after every normal mode command.  Since games only output MIDI, they don't care how the interface handles the command.  The Soundscape does not actually carry out the command.  This does not work for every game, as Legend Enterainment games that support the MT-32 will require true hardware or DOSBox.  The MediaTrix Audiotrix Pro also supports an ACK for MPU-401 commands.  There are fan-made patches for most of the Sierra games that will allow them to use the Sound Blaster MIDI interface at 2x0h, search for  I have marked with an asterisk the games which the patch supports.   Finally, if you have a 386 or better processor, there is a program called SoftMPU which emulates an MPU-401 in DOS.  It requires EMM386.EXE or another Expanded Memory Manager to be loaded, so it will not work on a 286 or lower machine.  

Mediavision  Pro Audio Spectrum

Feature - Stereo FM/Dual OPL2

1990 Christmas Card - The Seasoned Professional
B-17 Flying Fortress
Castle of Dr. Brain
Conquests of the Longbow
David Leadbetter's Greens
EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (patch)
F-15 Strike Eagle III
F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0
Fleet Defender
Gunship 2000
Harrier Jump Jet
Hoyle's Official Book of Games Volume 3
Jones in the Fast Lane
King's Quest V (patch)
Leisure Suit Larry 5
Leisure Suit Larry 1 VGA
Lord of the Rings Volume 1
Lord of the Rings Volume 2
Mixed-up Fairy Tales
Mixed-Up Mother Goose (patch)
Pirates! Gold
Police Quest III
Quest for Glory II (patch)
Return of the Phantom
Sid Meier's Civilization
Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon Deluxe
Space Quest I VGA
Space Quest IV (patch)
Special Forces
Strike Commander

Explanation : The Pro Audio Spectrum was the first card to offer stereo FM music.  It has two OPL2 chips on board, one for the left channel, one for the right channel.  Creative later used the dual OPL2 setup in its first Sound Blaster Pro.  The early Sierra 256-color titles listed above will support stereo FM music using the Pro Audio Spectrum Driver only.  The non-Sierra games support both cards in stereo.  Later Pro Audio Spectrums, including the Plus and 16s, will not work either as they use one OPL3 chip.  The Pro Audio Spectrum is compatible with Adlib, but in mono only.  Some of these games may appear to offer OPL3 support, but the Dual OPL2 output has been shown to be objectively superior.

Alternative : Use SB Pro 1.0 in games supporting it.  None of the Sierra games listed above support stereo on the SB Pro 1.0.  There are fan-made patches floating about the Internet for the Sierra titles, but require an OPL3 card like the SB Pro 2.0 or later.

Sound Blaster Pro 1.0

Feature - Stereo FM/Dual OPL2

Formula One Grand Prix
F-15 Strike Eagle III
Hi-Octane (also Pro Audio Spectrum 16)
Inherit The Earth: Quest For The Orb
Ultima Underworld

Explanation : See above, these games support dual OPL2 only on a Sound Blaster Pro 1.0.

Alternative : Use DOSBox SBPro1 emulation.

Innovation Sound Standard SSI-2001

Feature - 6581 SID Sound

Asterix: Operation Getafix
Bad Blood
Battle Chess II
BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks' Revenge
F-19 Stealth Fighter
Falcon A.T.
Joe Montana Football
Lord of the Rings Volume  1
Red Storm Rising
Ultima VI

Explanation : Uses the famous SID chip found in the Commodore 64 for music.  The SID chip is directly addressable on the ISA bus on this card, and requires a large number of I/O addresses (31) for its registers.  The chip is a 6581, not a 6582 or 8580.  The card is extremely rare.  Airball uses this card or C/MS Game Blaster for sound effects, but the sound effects sound better on this card.

Alternative : Use DOSBox SVN

Hercules InColor Card 

Feature - 720x348x16 Graphics Mode

Microsoft Flight Simulator (v3.0)
Microsoft Flight Simulator (v4.0)
Sierra's 3-D Helicopter Simulator

Description : These games support a special graphics mode found on the InColor card when connected to an EGA monitor.  The InColor card supports the secondary color channels of an EGA monitor so it can display 16 colors from a palette of 64 colors.  

Alternative : All games also support high resolution EGA graphics, 640x350x16/64.  It is not impossible that a non-Hercules card may emulate the functionality.  Also, the graphics may look the same, only with borders on the left and right sides of the frame.  Karateka only supports the Hercules Color Graphics Card, a CGA clone designed to co-exist with a Hercules (Monochrome) Graphics Card.  The above titles are the only games I could confirm supported the InColor card's color mode.  If a game does not support the color mode, it must support Hercules monochrome or 80-column monochrome text modes to work with this card.  86Box emulates the Hercules InColor Card.

Covox Sound Master

Feature - AY8910 or 8930 Sound

Conan - The Cimmerian
Galleons of Glory
Megatraveller 2
Prince of Persia (v1.0 only)
Punisher, The
Sim Earth
Spirit of Excalibur
Twilight 2000
Ultima VI
Vengeance of Excalibur
Where in Time if Carmen Sandiego (AY8930 music)
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (320x200 VGA Version)

Description : These games support music and/or sound effects using the AY8930 PSG found on the original Covox Sound Master.  Mostly games only supported the basic AY8910 features, which were also found in the Atari ST computers, many arcade games, the Intellivision and the Mockingboard line of sound cards for the Apple II.  The card is incredibly rare.  Covox marketed a line of sound adapters, including the Speech Thing, the Voice Master, the Sound Master, the Sound Master + and the Sound Master II.  The + and II are NOT compatible with the original Sound Master, as they are essentially Sound Blaster clones.

Alternative : None

Feature - Near Exclusive Digital Sound Support

MegaTraveller 1
Space 1899
The Punisher
Transylvania III

Description : These games support one of the digitial sound reproduction methods of the original Covox Sound Master or the Adlib-compatible Covox Sound Master II and do not support Sound Blaster digitized sound playback.

Note that Covox Lemmings only supports Adlib, Countdown and A-Train does not actually function with a Sound Master (despite what it says on the A-Train box) and Wolfenstein 3D specifically requires a Disney Sound Source and will not work with a Covox Speech Thing/Voice Master/Sound Master of any kind.

Alternative : Use other cards/devices, if supported

IBM Music Feature Card

Feature - Custom Midi Interface & YM2164 OPP 4-op FM Sound

1988 Christmas Card (Sierra SCI0 demo)
Jones in the Fast Lane (patch)
King's Quest IV (early version only)
King's Quest V (patch only)
Leisure Suit Larry 2 (early version only)
Music Construction Set (special version)
Quest for Glory 2 (patch only)
Thexder 2 (patch only)

Explanation : The above games and demo will support the 4-op FM synthesis, but only using the rare IBM Music Feature Card, IMFC.  No official patches are known to exist to let these games work with an Yamaha FB-01 + Roland MPU-401 combination.  In many cases, later versions of these games will support a Yamaha FB-01.

Alternative : None

Yamaha FB-01

Feature - YM2164 OPP 4-op FM Sound

Codename: Iceman
Colonel's Bequest, The
Conquests of Camelot (patch only)
Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory
Hoyle's Official Book of Games Volume I
Jones in the Fast Lane
King's Quest I SCI
King's Quest IV (later versions)
King's Quest V
Leisure Suit Larry 2 (later versions)
Leisure Suit Larry 3
Mixed Up Mother Goose (16-color SCI version, patch only)
Police Quest II
Quest for Glory 2
Space Quest III

Explanation : The above games will support the 4-op FM music with the above midi module or the IBM Music Feature Card.  A Roland MPU-401 Midi Interface is required.

Alternative : There is a special version of DOSBox that will support output to the FB-01, the ordinary versions do not due to the MIDI buffer being too small for the custom sysex sounds sent to the FB-01 by the driver.  Also, you should download the patch here to avoid errors caused by Sierra's driver with DOSBox's MPU-401 emulation :  SoftMPU as of version 1.9 will also support the Yamaha FB-01.

If you have an IBM Music Feature and Roland MPU-401 interface but the game that is buggy with the IMF driver, try the FB01 driver, connecting the midi out of the MPU-401 to the midi in of the Music Feature's breakout box.  

Casio MT-540/CT-460/CSM-1

Feature - MIDI module support

Altered Destiny
Codename: Iceman
Colonel's Bequest, The 
Conquests of Camelot (patch driver officially supports CSM-1)
Game of Harmony, The
Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory
Hoyle's Official Book of Games
Jack Nicklaus' Unlimited Golf & Course Design (officially supports CT-460)
King's Quest I SCI (driver officially supports MT-540/CT-460)
Leisure Suit Larry 3
Les Manley in: Search for the King
Sorcerian (driver officially supports MT-540/CT-460)
Space Quest III

Explanation : Certain games has specific support for these midi keyboards and module.  The MT-540 and the CT-460 function almost identically from a programmer perspective, even though the latter offers access to more sounds through the keyboard controls.  The one difference is that the CT-460 and CSM-1 assign different tones to program change numbers compared to the MT-540, and the Apogee games identify the CT-460 in their setup programs.  This would mean that the wrong sounds may be played with a MT-540.  The CSM-1 is far less common than either keyboard.  A Roland MPU-401 interface must be used.  DOSBox should work well with these devices attached to a hardware midi interface.

Alternative : None

Adlib Gold 

Feature - Optional Surroundsound Daughtercard Support


Explanation : Dune supports the Surroundsound module for the Adlib Gold for reverb, enhancing one of the best FM soundtracks ever made for a PC game.

Alternative : None

Feature - YMF-262 OPL3


Explanation : Dune supports OPL3 features on the Adlib Gold, but only OPL2 features on a Sound Blaster or Sound Blaster Pro.

Alternative : Use MediaTrix Audiotrix Pro sound card or Tandy Sensation! system, which are compatible with the Adlib Gold.

Paradise & Video 7 SVGA

Feature : 800x600x16 Graphics Mode


Explanation : The above early SVGA chipsets support a non-standard 800x600x16 mode.  Wonderland supports it, but only on graphics cards with the PVGA1A or Video 7 VEGA chipsets.  You probably would need a card with 512K RAM on it, even though the mode only requires a 240KB frame buffer.

Alternative : Use DOSBox with the SVGA_Paradise option.

IBM 8514/A Graphics Card

Feature - 1024x768x256 @ 43.5Hz

Mah Jongg -8514- (beta)

Explanation : The IBM 8514/A was an Microchannel (MCA) card that acted as a supplement to the built-in VGA graphics of the early PS/2 systems.  It was a graphics accelerator which added 1024x768x256 and 640x480x256 modes.  The former mode was interlaced at 43.5Hz, the latter ran at 60Hz. Some other cards like the ATi Mach 8 & 32 and the TSENG ET4000 can emulate it.  It originally required a special monitor, the IBM 8514.  The above game is the only game known to utilize the adapter, and it was only a beta.

Alternative : Use DOSBox with the SVGA_ET4000 machine type and the 8514AI emulator. 

IBM PS1 Audio/Game Card

Feature - Digital Sound Support

Silpheed (version 2.3 only)

Explanation : The IBM PS/1 2011 did not come with any ISA slots, so to give some sort of audio support, IBM released the above plug in card to provide support.  Early models of the PS/1 2121 also have the header for the card, but they also have ISA slots.  It used a TI SN76496 clone core, provided gamport joystick and midi support and a specialized DAC.  Sierra released a special and very rare version of Silpheed to support it, and it provides digital samples and voices whereas all the old versions used the PC Speaker.

Alternative : Use DOSBox SVN

Feature - SN Music

Bush Buck: Global Treasure Hunter

Explanation : Bush Buck supports TI SN 76496 based music on the IBM PS/1 Audio Card but not on a Tandy 1000.  Mickey's Colors & Shapes supports 3-voice music on a Tandy 1000 but not on an IBM PS/1 Audio/Game Card.  For the PS/1 card, it uses digitized music, just like with a Sound Blaster or Disney Sound Source.  Users with a Tandy DAC can also hear the digitized music.

Disney Sound Source

Feature - Digital Sound Support

Dick Tracy: The Crime-Solving Adventure

Explanation : The Disney Sound Source is an LPT DAC that plugs into a DB-25 female printer port (except apparently on Tandy 1000 RL & TL/3 and 2500XL).  It is similar to the Covox Speech Thing in that it outputs 8-bit digital sound, but the programming is slightly more involved.  The above games are the only games known to exclusively support it for digitized sound playback and have no Sound Blaster support.

Alternative : Use DOSBox


Feature - 320x200x"16"

Impossible Mission II

Explanation : The MultiColor Graphics Adapter, found in the 8086-based IBM PS/2 Models 25 & 30 and Epson Equity 1e only, supports a 320x200x256 color mode like VGA.  Some games will use it even though they do not support more than 16 colors on the screen at a time.  Instead, they will use the 256 color mode to allow access to the 18-bit RGB palette of the MCGA and VGA.  Thexder and Impossible Mission II are the only game known to do this by autodetecting the MCGA machines.  If you use a VGA card, Thexder will give you a 640x200x16 mode with only the default CGA/EGA palette available and Impossible Mission II will show 320x200x16 EGA palette colors

Alternative : You can trick Thexder to run in the MCGA mode if you have a VGA card by renaming MAINPS to MAINEG and MAINEG to something else.  Impossible Mission II can have its MCGA executable run directly.

IBM Cassette Port

Feature - PC Speaker sound output through the Cassette Port

Music Construction Set

Explanation : The IBM PC Model 5150 and the IBM PCjr. support a cassette for saving and loading BASIC programs.  It can also output sound from the PC Speaker.  Music Construction Set supported it to output tweaked PC speaker music to a real speaker.  Unfortunately the internal speaker may not be shut off.  The PCjr. has an official cable, but the PC must use a Tandy TRS-80 cassette cable.  The music does not sound any different than what is produced internally, but it does allow for volume control and easier recording.

Alternative : DOSBox or an audio card (Sound Blaster Pro, 16, AWE32-64 except Gold) with a PC Speaker output pin.


Feature - Cartridge Slots

Crossfire (also floppy)
Demon Attack (also floppy)
Fraction Fever
Mine Shaft
Pitfall II
River Raid

Explanation : The IBM PCjr. came with two cartridge slots on the front of the unit for games and smaller programs.  There was a version of Lotus 1-2-3 that came on two cartridges, presumably for instant loading. The two cartridge slots accept up to 64K cartridges each and are mapped to the D000 and E000 segments, respectively.  The especially rare IBM PC JX also has compatible cartridge slots, but nothing else has compatible slots.

Alternative : DOSBox with cartridge images

Feature - Reliance on PCjr. limitations

King's Quest
Touchdown Football

Explanation : The PCjr. version of King's Quest will not work on a PC or PCjr. compatible like the Tandy 1000s, except for a Tandy 1000/A/HD with 128KB of RAM.  King's Quest for the Jr. uses a graphics window from 96-128K, and the Jr. cannot change the location of the window.  The Tandy 1000 can and does if more than 128KB of RAM is inside the system.  Later Tandy 1000s come with at least 256KB RAM, so the graphics will not display.  Sierra released a version for IBM PCs and a version specifically for Tandy 1000s.  Touchdown Football is reported to have too fast digitized sound playback with a Tandy 1000.  Even though the PCjr. and the 1000 share video RAM with main RAM, the 1000 does not suffer from the performance deficiencies.

I originally included M.U.L.E is in this list because the release for the PC was extremely rare and it was assumed that it was a port IBM commissioned specifically for the PCJr.  Now it has been revealed to the world to be a strictly PC port that supports only standard CGA and PC speaker sound that happens to run on the PCjr.  See here for further details :

Alternative : Tandy 1000 w/128KB RAM or DOSBox

Feature - Speech Adapter Support

Bouncy Bee Learns Letters
Bouncy Bee Learns Words

Explanation : Among the few sidecars IBM released was a speech adapter, and the Bouncy Bee games, also released by IBM, supports it.  IBM later released similar speech adapters for the PC Convertible and the PS/2.  Bouncy Bee is not PCjr. specific, so it is quite probable that the game may work with the other IBM adapters.  All adapters are rare.

Alternative : The IBM Digispeech DS201A and 301, which connect via serial and parallel port, respectively, is adverised as being compatible with the IBM Speech Adapters will work with Bouncy Bee Learns Letters, but its driver must be loaded first.

Feature - Cartridge BASIC

Charlie Brown's ABCs
Early Games - Piece of Cake
Early Games for Young Children
Peanuts Picture Puzzler

These games require Cartridge BASIC to be inserted into the PCjr. or they will not run.

Tandy 1000

Feature - Reliance on Tandy 1000 Features

King's Quest
Touchdown Football
Demon Attack

Explanation : The Tandy 1000 version of King's Quest will not work on a PC, but it should work just fine on a PCjr.  Tandy marketed a version of Touchdown Football that is fixed for its system, but this version is very rare.  Ditto for Demon Attack, now on floppy and with a title screen.  These games will only work in Tandy 1000 machines, and may have difficulties with the TL/SL/RL machines.

Note that I have not included every game that takes advantage of PCjr./Tandy 1000 graphics and/or sound.  The list would be enormous and the machines themselves are not so rare.  I have been putting together a list of games that support Tandy graphics but not EGA or better and Tandy sound but not Adlib, Game Blaster, Roland MT-32 or other sound device beyond the PC Speaker.  Maybe I will finish it and post it on this blog.

Alternative : DOSBox

Secondary Monochrome Monitor Support

Feature - Display Secondary Information

Mah Jongg VGA
Mechwarrior 2 : Mercenaries
Rise of the Triad

Something that had been forgotten by most people is that a MDA or Hercules card can comfortably exist alongside a CGA card or Tandy Graphics Adapter found in the *X machines.  It may or may not work on the *L machines as they have built-in MDA/Tandy emulation.  It should also work with most EGA cards and many VGA cards.  The idea is that you have your color monitor attach to a color graphics adapter and that will be your "primary" display.  The monochrome adapter will of course be connected to a monochrome display and act as the "secondary" display.  With a CGA card or Tandy, the MDA card can be set to display text modes and the DOS prompt and the color adapter to display games and graphics.  With more advanced cards, typically the monochrome monitor would take on the secondary role.  CAD, programming tools, spreadsheets would often take advantage of the multiple monitor setup, but games could use it too.

Mah Jongg VGA will display information about remaining tiles, but Mechwarrior 2 and ROTT show debugging information, which was unintentional.  There is a special build of DOSBox which uses the status window to display what the monochrome monitor would have displayed.

Alternative : Special DOSBox build

Amstrad PC

Feature - 640x200x16 Graphics

Dragonfly (Title Screen Only)
Frank Bruno's Boxing
Maupiti Island

The Amstrad PC1512 (aka Sinclair PC500) is an 8086 XT clone with a unique video adapter.  It is a UK machine and all games that support it come from European developers.  The PC1640 (aka PC6400) has EGA built-in and also has the 1512 graphics adapter but it is disabled.  The built-in video is based on CGA but supports an additional 640x200x16 mode.  The built in video is not quite 100% compatible with CGA, and like the original Tandy 1000/A/HD it cannot be disabled.

The adapter has no official support for the much more common 320x200x16 EGA/PCjr./Tandy resolution.  However, the equivalent graphics could be shown on the Amstrad by using double-wide pixels in the 640x200x16 mode.  Sierra released a driver to support this in its SCI0 games.  There would be a performance hit since the memory buffer is twice as large, but the alternative is stock CGA.  All the games above have been actually confirmed to use the 640x200x16 graphics mode, the rest may advertise support for the Amstrad PC, but that only means that the game will work with the system. These games will only support standard CGA, EGA or VGA graphic adapters.

Alternative : DOSBox SVN has an Amstrad machine type.

Feature - Digital Joystick Support

Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Metal Mutant

The Amstrad PC1512 and 1640 can support the traditional PC analog joysticks using an external ISA gameport or sound card, but also had a digital joystick port on the keyboard.  The port is a DE-9 and supports standard one and two button Atari style sticks.  The resulting joystick positions and fire button presses are sent as unused keyboard scancodes.  Since the scancodes selected are not usually used on IBM keyboards, the game had to have specific support for the Amstrad joystick interface.  Amstrad also supported a custom mouse where the two mouse buttons also corresponded to unused keyboard scancodes and non-standard I/O ports for the X and Y movement.

There are probably other games that support the Amstrad digital joystick interface, but these games are almost certain to do so since they advertise specific support for the Amstrad PCs.

Taito also supported a one-button Atari joystick using a parallel port adapter for Rastan, Renegade, Sky Shark, Bubble Bobble, Puzznic, QIX.  Other companies may have as well.

Alternative : Gravis Gamepad or digital controller with DOSBox.

Feature - Gun-Stick Light Gun


The Amstrad PC-1512 and 1640's joystick port was also used for a special kind of light gun called the Gun-Stick and supported in at least one game.  The Gun-Stick was used more in Amstrad CPC games.

Nvidia NV1

Feature - Proprietary 3D Acceleration

Nascar Racing (Diamond Edge 3D Bundle)
Panzer Dragoon
Virtua Fighter Remix (Diamond Edge 3D Bundle)
Virtua Cop

These games support the unique hardware acceleration of the NV1 GPU.  The best known cards using the NV1 were the Diamond Edge 3D boards, and they were bundled with some games designed to work only for those cards.  These cards also had built in sound, midi and joystick ports, the latter of which supporting Sega Saturn controllers.  All except Nascar are Windows games, but they may not support standard Direct 3D.  NV1 boards were no great success in the marketplace.  The software mode in Virtua Cop looks better than the NV1 3D acceleration and was presumably designed for weaker systems.

Alternative : Play these games on a Sega Saturn (except NASCAR Racing)

Rendition Verite

Feature - Proprietary 3D Acceleration

Descent II
Grand Prix Legends
Hexen II (vHexen2)
Indycar Racing II
Mechwarrior 2 Mercs
Myth: The Fallen Lords
Nascar Racing II
Quake (vQuake)
Quake II (vQuake2)
Rebel Moon (3D Blaster PCI Bundle Only)
Scorched Planet
Sub Culture
Tomb Raider
VR Soccer
Whiplash (Fatal Racing)

The Rendition Verite 1000 was an early competitor of the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics 3D Accelerator Board.  It may not have been quite as speedy, but it could offer better graphics effects or higher resolution.  While it was Direct 3D compliant, it ran games much better that used its proprietary Speedy3D and RRedline APIs.  GLQuake supports 3dfx Voodoo and (with some cajoling) other OpenGL compliant 3D accelerators, but strictly in Windows.  If you want 3D accelerated Quake in DOS, you must use a Rendition Verite card and vQuake.  vHexen II and vQuake II are Windows only games and the games themselves obviosuly support 3dfx.

Rebel Moon and Indycar Racing II were both bundled with Rendition cards, (Creative's 3D Blaster PCI and Sierra's Screamin' 3D, respectively), so the bundled versions only work with Rendition cards.  Other than as indicated, the rest of these games will work with a 3dfx Voodoo card.

Alternative : 3dfx Voodoo cards work with most of the above

3Dfx Voodoo 1

Feature - Voodoo 1 Accelerator Only

Dreams into Reality

The above games are the only games that will not work with  a Voodoo Rush or Voodoo 2 or later 3Dfx card.  Several other DOS games will require either a patch or a batch file setting the Voodoo 2 to Voodoo 1 settings for the game to work.

Feature - Statically Linked Glide

Battle Arena Toshinden
EF2000: Tactcom
Fatal Racing/Whiplash
Starfighter 3000
UEFA CHampions League 96/97
VR Soccer '96

The above games can only work with one version of the Glide2x.dll or Glide2x.ovl file, and the driver was only designed to work with a Voodoo 1.  You can use a batch file to get the game working on a Voodoo 2, but it will not work for a a Rush, Banshee, 3/4/5 card.

Roland MT-32 rev. 0

Feature - Early Revision Firmware Bugs

Adventures of Willy Beamish, The (Floppy version)
Castle of Dr. Brain
Colonel's Bequest, The
Dune 2
Heart of China
King's Quest V
Leisure Suit Larry 3
Police Quest II
Ski or Die
Space Quest I VGA (1991 256-color remake)
Space Quest III
Wing Commander

The above games take advantage of bugs in the firmware of the MT-32 to create sounds that do not sound the same on the later Roland LA synthesis modules.  Any Roland MT-32 rev. 0, which have firmware ROM versions up to 1.07, will make these games sound perfect.  However, in most instances the difference in sound is confined to the occasional sound effect or musical note.

Alternative : MUNT or Yhkwong's DOSBox SVN MT-32 emulation should support bugs that rely on characteristics of the version 1.xx firmware ROMs, if you use it, but may not support bugs which rely on the hardware of the rev. 0 MT-32.

Roland  -I/CM-32L/CM-64/MT-100/CM-500/MT-32 rev. 1

Feature - Avoidance of Buffer Overflows, Broken Sounds and Firmware Lockups

American Gladiators
Beneath a Steel Sky
Hero Quest
Humans, The
Immortal, The
Jurassic Park
Lemmings 2: The Tribes
Lethal Weapon
Lord of the Rings Volume 2
Lure of the Temptress
Mortal Kombat
One Step Beyond
Prophecy 1: The Viking Child
Race Drivin'
Spacewrecked 14 Billion Light Years From Earth
Team Suzuki
TFX (Tactical Fighter Experiment)

The above games fail to work properly or at all on rev. 0 MT-32s because they were programmed on a later Roland device, usually a LAPC-I.  While the rev. 0 is sensitive to MIDI transmission speed, several games will give a buffer overflow regardless of system speed because the rev. 0 requires a 40ms delay between sending sysex and the later models do not.  

Alternative : MUNT or Yhkwong's DOSBox SVN's MT-32 will work without buffer overflows, or there in the latest vanilla SVNs there is an option to insert delays into sysex messages irrespective of the game.  This will work to produce sound in many, if not all games when the midi is being output to a real MT-32 rev. 0.  

Roland LAPC-I/CM-32L/CM-64/CM-500
Feature - Extra Sound Effects

Another World (aka Out of this World, certain versions only, only uses the sound effects, so no MT-32 support)
Beneath a Steel Sky
Cisco Heat
Curse of Enchantia
Day of the Tentacle
Elite Plus
Fire and Ice
Humans, The
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Laser Squad
Leisure Suit Larry 5
Lure of the Temptress
Magic Pockets
Microprose Formula One Grand Prix (aka World Circuit)
Might and Magic III
Nigel Mansell's World Championship
Pinball Dreams (early version)
Predator 2
Prophecy 1: The Viking Child
Simon the Sorcerer
Speedball 2
Team Suzuki
TFX (Tactical Fighter Experiment)
Toyota Celica GT Rally
UFO: Enemy Unknown (aka X-Com: UFO Defense)
Ultima Underworld
Ultima Underworld II

These modules contain an additional 33 sound effects in the drumset compared to the MT-32 or MT-100.  The above games utilize them and may sound lacking on the MTs.

Alternative : MUNT or Yhkwong's DOSBox SVN's will emulate a CM-32L if the proper ROMs are used.  

Roland GS First Generation

Feature - Capital Tone Fallback

Duke Nukem 3D
Lands of Lore
Hocus Pocus
Magic Carpet
Might and Magic : Clouds of Xeen
Might and Magic : Darkside of Xeen
Prince of Persia 2
Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science
Quest for Glory III
Space Quest V

Roland GS modules, which are also functionally General MIDI compatible, support 128 capital tones (or instruments) and 128 variation tones for each capital tone.  In theory, a GS module could support 16,256 variation tones but early modules only define a very small portion of the maximum (61 in a SC-55 not including the 128 MT-32 tones).  Thus in the early Roland GS modules, if a midi file requested a variation tone where none was present, the module would playback the capital tone.  This feature is present on all Roland MIDI modules and devices based on the Roland SC-55, including the CM-300, CM-500, JV-30 (Keyboard), SCC-1, and SC-155.

All these devices, except for the SC-155 and JV-30, were originally released without GM support, although in practice all GM support did was to disable certain GS features.  The Might and Magic games need to specifically Init GS to avoid an issue with modules bearing a General MIDI logo.  

Roland removed this feature in modules based on the Roland SC-55mkII synthesizer, including the SCB-55, SCP-55, SC-55ST, SC-33, SC-50, JV-35 & 50 (Keyboards), and did not restore it in their SC-88 or later devices.  For these devices, an attempt by a game above to access an undefined variation tone will result in no instrument playing, leading to a loss of sound and a NO INSTRUMENT error message on those devices with a LCD.  The SCC-1A, which was an SCC-1 update with the 354 sounds of an SC-55mkII, does not support the capital tone fallback feature.  

Alternative : Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7's default MIDI patches uses the Roland GS sound set and supports capital tone fallback.  

Roland GS (includes game expansions unless otherwise noted)

Feature - Variation Tones

Duke Nukem 3D
Dune II
Might and Magic : Clouds of Xeen
Might and Magic : Darkside of Xeen

Explanation : See Above.  If you have a GS module that disables this feature with a GM Reset (all GS devices except SC-55, CM-300, CM-500 and SCC-1s without a General MIDI logo on them), then you must send a GS reset or initialize your module in the GS mode to support this feature.  

Feature - Reverb or Chorus Controller

Betrayal at Krondor*
The Incredible Machine 2*
Prince of Persia 2
Sam & Max Hit the Road
Shadow Warrior (Shareware Only)
Ultima VIII: Pagan

Explanation : Uses the reverb or chorus controllers in Roland GS devices.

Feature - NRPN

Duke Nukem 3D

Explanation : NRPN stands for Non-Registered Parameter Number, which allows access to special, non-standard settings on a GS device.  General MIDI devices only have to support Registered Parameter Numbers (RPN).  NRPN is disabled with a GM Reset.  If you have a GS module that disables this feature with a GM Reset (all GS devices except SC-55, CM-300, CM-500 and SCC-1s without a General MIDI logo on them), then you must send a GS reset or initialize your module in the GS mode to support this feature.  

Feature - Additional Percussion Notes

Betrayal at Krondor
Duke Nukem 3D
EcoQuest 2
The Even More! Incredible Machine
Freddy Pharkas : Frontier Pharmacist
Gabriel Knight : Sins of the Fathers
The Incredible Machine$
King's Quest VI
King's Quest VII
Leisure Suit Larry 6
Magic Carpet
Pepper's Adventures in Time
Police Quest : Open Season
Prince of Persia 2
Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science$
Quest for Glory III
Quest for Glory IV
Rise of the Triad: Dark War
Sam & Max Hit the Road
Shadow Warrior (Shareware Only)
Space Quest V
Ultima VIII
Warcraft II

Explanation : Uses sound effects found in the GS modules like Slap, Metronome Bell or Gun Shot.  Non-GS devices may also support these sound effects.

Feature - Special Drum Kits

Age of Empires (Windows only)
Descent II
Duke Nukem 3D
Hocus Pocus
Magic Carpet
Prince of Persia 2
Pepper's Adventures in Time*
Quarky & Quaysoo's Turbo Science*$
Quest for Glory III*
Shadow Warrior (Shareware Only, Retail uses CD audio)
Space Quest V*
Warcraft II

Explanation : Uses the additional drum kits found in the GS modules.  Non-GS devices may also support these extra drum kits.

* - Needs Patch to Enable Feature
$ - Needs Patch for GM to even work!

Feature - Early pre-General MIDI capital tone arrangement

Descent II
Duke Nukem 3D

Explanation : The first Roland SC-55 units had an early arrangement of what would become the canonical General MIDI and GS patch maps.  These units, which can be definitively distinguished by a "GS STANDARD" label under the LCD, have Fl. Key Click at Program Change #122.  Some early SC-55s with the "GS" label under the LCD also adhere to this patch map.  Later SC-55s with the "GS" label, all SCC-1s, CM-300s, CM-500s and any module with official General MIDI support changed the patch map in two respects.  First, Fl. Key Click was replaced with Breath Noise as the capital tone and relegated to a variation tone.  Second, on Program Change #81, Sine Wave was added as a variation tone.  While the second change would be generally difficult to notice for any piece of music, people have confirmed that some music just does not sound right with Breath Noise where it does with Fl. Key Click.  The hypothesis is that the composer used an early SC-55 to compose his MIDI tracks.

Alternative : Manually change the instrument from the capital to the variation tone on any module that has a front control panel.

Update : The composer of the music for DOOM, DOOM II and Duke Nukem 3D (and probably more), Robert "Bobby" Prince, confirmed that he used a GM-compatible SC-55 when composing, so the Breath Noise assignment for those modules is correct.  A patch exists for the Descent games to change the assignment to Fl. Key Click for later modules.

ReelMagic MPEG-1 Decoder Board

Feature - Improved Full-Motion Video and Audio

Dragon's Lair
The Horde
The Psychotron
Return to Zork
Space Ace

Explanation : The ReelMagic MPEG-1 Decoder boards were a series of ISA expansion card which added hardware MPEG compression decoder.  The decoder comes in full-length ISA cards which requires a connection with a VGA card's feature card and shorter cards  that uses a custom 8-pin or 9-pin VGA passthrough cable.  The boards have an audio output for decoded MPEG-1 audio.  The boards are used with special ReelMagic CD-ROM versions of popular games.  These games would have higher quality and more colorful video and standardized audio, but they only work with one of the ISA cards and require each card's specific driver to be installed.

Sound Blaster Pro Stereo DSP

Feature - Stereo audio output by Sound Blaster Pro DSP Exclusive Commands

Disney's Aladdin
Epic Pinball (v1.0 only)
Pinball Dreams (original release)

Explanation : The Sound Blaster Pro was the first Sound Blaster to support stereo digital audio output. This feature was intended to be used by sending DSP commands to set up the DSP for stereo digital output. These commands were exclusive to the DSPs of the Sound Blaster Pro. The Sound Blaster 16 supports DSP stereo output with other commands and does not support the Sound Blaster Pro exclusive DSP commands. Other games supported stereo digital output with manipulating the Sound Blaster Pro's mixer chip, which is compatible with the Sound Blaster 16's mixer chip. Not many games used the Sound Blaster Pro-exclusive method for stereo digital audio output, but the above games or versions of the games do support stereo output only with a Sound Blaster Pro for this reason.

Laserlock Protection

Feature - MS-DOS CD-ROM with Disc-based Copy Protection

Absolute Zero
Championship Manager 2
Championship Manager 2: Including Season 96/97 Updates
Championship Manager 2: The Italian Leagues Season 96/97
Earth 2140
Links LS: Legends in Sports - 1997 Edition
Orion Burger
Tomb Raider (specific German re-release only)

While floppy disk protected DOS games were common, CD-ROM protected DOS games were rare as CD burners were very expensive until the late 1990s. These games, or some releases of them, have a CD-ROM based protection called Laserlok. Laserlok relies on encryption and corrupted data and games that do not pass the protection will typically state "failed to find the Laserlock directory" if they cannot find the original disk.  Most of these games are exclusive to Europe and published by Domark or Eidos. 

Data General/One Required

Flight Simulator II for the Data General/One

The Data General/One was an early PC-compatible laptop which which supported 3.5" floppy drives. subLOGIC developed a version of Flight Simulator II, which apart from its title screen and display option sounds and plays like Microsoft Flight Simulator 2.0. The boot code of the Data General/One release looks for a string in the Data General/One's BIOS and refuses to load the game if it is not found. If this code is bypassed the software can be run on any PC compatible system.

Limitations on DOS Version

Make Your Own Murder Party (v3.1 or lower)

Certain games refuse to work if the version of MS-DOS or PC-DOS is too high.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

PC Hardware Redundancies

I see little point for people who obtain hardware simply to have it, i.e. pure collectors.  I do not consider most vintage hardware to have any artistic value, as if people are going to go "ooh" and "ahh" over that super-duper rare IBM computer you have in a display case.  It may start a short conversation, except among the like-minded, but otherwise in my opinion it simply takes up space.  In the PC world, most computers looked as at home on a factory floor as in an office.  Apple had some interesting designs around the time of the Mac II and the Apple IIc, and those trapezoidal function keys of the Atari ST and 130XE are truly unique.

I have held that function should hold over form.  My best example is when more advanced hardware totally eclipses less advanced hardware.  For example, why use an Adlib when a Sound Blaster does everything and more?  In most cases, unless you cannot find a Sound Blaster, there is none.  However, there are a few situations where you could find use for one :

1.  A strictly 80's PC with Adlib support, because the Sound Blaster was not available until 1990.

2.  Hardware conflicts with early Sound Blaster cards.  Sound Blaster cards, until the Pro, only supported digitized sound input and output using DMA1.  I am sure some other 8-bit expansion cards required DMA1 to function, SCSI or NIC cards for instance.  I know that the Tandy Sound DAC in the TL/SL/RL requires DMA1 and the Sound Blaster is utterly incompatible with it.  They hate each other.

3.  A mini PC where there is a really tight squeeze for a card.  The IBM PC/XT and XT/286 only supports short cards in two slots, and some Unisys compact desktops will only support short cards.  The IBM PC Portable can only support two long cards due to its design.  Most Sound Blasters extend beyond the edge of a 16-bit connector.

Even so, except for these specialized uses, there is no need for a true Adlib card.  The Sound Blaster is 100% compatible with Adlib software.  The same cannot be said for a Game Blaster and a Sound Blaster 1.0 or an upgraded Sound Blaster 1.5 or 2.0, because the Game Blaster software and some games will fail if they detect something other than a true Game Blaster.  You also have the same issues as 1-3 above.

On the video card front, EGA is generally not a 100% compatible substitute for CGA, but many non-IBM EGA cards do support Hercules graphics with a monochrome TTL monitor.  EGA is virtually 100% compatible with VGA cards, there is only a few titles that tweak the card in some way that most VGA cards will fail.  So unless you really want to use a 200 or 350 line digital RGB monitor, most people use VGA even for EGA games.

Since I mentioned Hercules graphics, why would anyone want to use that when they could use a color graphics card instead?  Well, beyond the "see how it looked" people, Hercules graphics can be a nice addition to a system.  MDA or Hercules graphics can happily co-exist with CGA or Tandy graphics.  You can setup a dual monitor display, but you cannot use both at the same time.  Typically, the MDA/Hercules would display everything using a text mode, and the color graphics card would be used for games and graphics programs.  It actually would be better if you hated CGA snow or the very slow screen updates in 80-column text modes that programs used to avoid it.  On the other hand, the long persistence phosphors of a mono TTL monitor is very different than what people are used to these days.

Unfortunately, nothing can really take the place of a Roland MPU-401 Midi Interface.  There are at least 45 major DOS games that will refuse to work correctly with a UART mode only compatible interface as found on the Sound Blaster 16, the Gravis Ultrasounds, Windows Sound System and Pro Audio Spectrums and Adlib Golds.  Given the midi hanging note bug that most of the Sound Blaster 16 and all the AWE32 and 32s express to some degree, having another card handle the midi interface chores is a good idea.

The Gravis Ultrasound does not natively support the FM synthesis of the Adlib OPL2 or OPL3 and other sound cards also support digitized sound effects, so why bother using it?  If you are really into the DOS demo scene, that is one reason.  I do not really care about demos in general, I play games.  I have not encountered any game that exclusively supports the Ultrasound without supporting Sound Blaster.  The main issues are performance and sound quality.

Take Epic Pinball, which has great music.  This is one of those games that is a killer app for the card.  It supports the Ultrasound natively, none of this MEGA-EM or S-BOS emulation nonsense.  It supports 16-bit digital playback through the Ultrasound on a 386.  To get close to the same level of quality on a Sound Blaster 16, you need a Pentium for smooth gameplay.  Pinball Dreams, Fantasies and Illusions, Star Control II, there are other great games for the Ultrasound.  Even DOOM and DOOM II can use it for multiple audio streams.

Speaking of the Sound Blaster, should you choose the Pro or the 16/AWE32/AWE64?  If you have a 386 system, choose the Pro, since most games that run well on that tend to be slightly older.  If you have a Pentium, choose the 16-bit card, since that will provide the better sound quality for later games.  If you have a 486, you may wish to consider using both to get good compatibility at both ends of the spectrum.

A Sound Blaster Pro 1.0 is fully backwards compatible with the Sound Blaster 1.0 or 1.5.  The Sound Blaster 2.0 actually came out after the Pro 1.0, but is in between the two products in terms of functionality.  Actually, the Pro cannot support Game Blaster chips, so in a way it is not quite compatible with a 1.0.  This is unimportant for gaming purposes, since you can always put a Game Blaster card inside a system as well (if you can find one).  There will be I/O issues, however, at the cards' default 220 address.   Some games simply couldn't understand that some people may have to use one of these cards at a setting other than the default.

Two FM devices in a system is a recipe for trouble.  It is not a big concern if a game is merely writing to the chips, since you can always find a way to mute the unwanted output.  It becomes a concern if a game is trying to read the chips, since the values read may not be the same.  Usually, the status ports get read at the Adlib port 388H.  While only the status register can be read on an OPL2 or OPL3 chip, games use it to detect and calibrate their delays to write to an OPL2 chip.

PnP capable Sound Blaster cards have the ability to turn off their Adlib ports.  This does not entirely disable the FM of the Sound Blaster, since it can still be read at 2x0 & 2x2 (Pro or better) or 2x8.  However, this will avoid conflicts with programs that read (and write) to Adlib ports.  Moreover, games supporting the Sound Blaster 16 or better typically will allow alternate I/O, IRQ and DMA settings either through their setup programs or through the BLASTER variable.

The Gravis Ultrasound ACE is the only card in the Ultrasound lineup which can do the same thing, and it does it by a jumper.  My card is a 1.0 model, which unfortunately had a reversed stereo jack.  This is fixed in the 1.1 card, or through reversing cables.

Since this is a series of random observations, let me return to the Tandy.  In the hierarchy of sound autodetection, it goes PC Speaker, Tandy/PCjr. Sound, Adlib.  Items like the Game Blaster tend to hover around the Tandy category, and Roland MT-32 always gets manually selected.  If you have a Tandy 1000, I hope you are not nostalgic for PC Speaker sound because many games will force Tandy sound.  But Tandy graphics sometimes requires use of Tandy sound, even if there is an Adlib in the system.

In a Tandy 1000 *X or later, you can put an EGA card in the machine and games using the EGA mode.  Except for those games that use 350-line EGA graphics, the games look identical.  Many earlier games, however, will insist on using Tandy graphics.  Fortunately there is a program which allows you to switch between a graphics card and the built-in Tandy graphics.  Do can also do the same for VGA so long as you can find a card that works in an 8-bit slot and fits inside the Tandy.  Later games like Commander Keen require EGA due to their smooth scrolling effects, so they will only work on a Tandy 1000 RLX or one with an upgrade card.