TMS Performance Issues

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eastman51
highway camper
highway camper
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Joined: 10 Mar 2020 03:29
Owned TM-games: TMS

TMS Performance Issues

Post by eastman51 » 10 Mar 2020 04:05

I'm not sure how frequented these forums are, but I figure its worth a shot.

I used to play this game as a kid, a lot, on the old family XP machine. However, that computer disappeared many years ago along with my copy of TMS. Fortunately, I was able to obtain another copy and key.

However, I've run into nothing but problems trying to play it.....
I originally tried to get the game to run in an emulator running XP Pro x86 on my Ryzen machine, but Virtual Box refused to work with it. The game would keep getting hung up on the DRM check of the CD.

I decided instead to try and play the game on period correct hardware. I happened to have a few old OEM towers lying around, so figured I'd give it a shot. The game did start and run, but neither of the AGP GPUs I had were very good so the game was choppy and ran poorly even on the lowest settings and a low resolution (in hindsight, this may never have been the problem, but I digress).

Fast forward a few months, I get a new AGP card and some additional RAM off ebay. Everything is fine and dandy. Except it isn't. The game's built-in benchmark says I can get 33 fps, which is perfectly playable. However, on most maps, the game stutters badly in certain parts of them making parts of the game completely unplayable. After having a discussion on Discord about my hardware, it was determined that my main problem is likely the type of RAM that this system is using.

For reference:
Pentium 4 1.7Ghz (Willamette, Socket 478)
OEM Compaq board
1.28GB PC133 SyncDRAM
80GB Seagate IDE HDD
Powercolor Radeon 9600 Pro 128MB
XP Pro x86 w/ SP3

While SDRAM is pretty slow, even compared to RDRAM, I should think that the game should still run smoothly. I'm not sure if there's something else wrong with my setup? I can't check CPU temperatures, or GPU temps/usage/VRAM usage so I can't really determine if the GPU is the problem or not. Based on my research, the GPU is quite good, and the heatsink feels cold to the touch so I doubt thats it. Task Manager says that the CPU is at 100% utilization when the game is running in the foreground (which is to be expected), and while the heatsink is somewhat hot to the touch, I do not suspect that it is overheating (It's got good, fresh thermal paste and a cleaned up heatsink/fan plus a high rpm chassis fan blowing cool air right to the CPU fan). RAM usage itself is good. It's entirely possible that my primary issue is the slow SDRAM, but with the minimum requirements for the game being a 500Mhz Pentium 3, I wouldn't think that this would be such a big problem. I do not suspect that the old hard drive would cause this either since the maps should be loading into memory before you get to drive.

The people on Discord were telling me that I should try running the game on my 800 Mhz Pentium 3 that runs on RDRAM. They think that the improved speed of RDRAM would help make up for the loss in clock speed versus the Pentium 4. I would definitely try this, however I only have a small amount of RDRAM on hand (aka, not enough to run TMS) and would rather not have to buy more if I can avoid it . I am definitely willing to get some if it comes down to it, however. I am also thinking about swapping the IDE HDD boot drive for a SATA SSD over an IDE adapter board; I HIGHLY doubt this would do much more than make the game load faster, but you never know I guess. I did this SSD swap on a much older computer without issues, and it would be nice to load into XP in seconds.

Sure, I could go install XP on my Core 2 Duo with a GeForce 8800 GT and run this no problem, but I feel like that would sort of ruin the fun. Its quite nostalgic to run the game on older hardware, and it gives me a reason to plug in and fire up my vintage machines. In an absolute worst case scenario, I'll probably build a separate Socket 478 machine with a 2Ghz Pentium 4 and a DDR motherboard; but again, I'd rather not do this as it would be kind of expensive. I'd rather get RDRAM for the Pentium 3 than have to build an entirely new system.

I guess what I'm basically trying to ask is this: What can I do to try and fix my stuttering issue and gain some performance? I am well above the recommended requirements, so I have no idea what's going on, slow RAM or not.

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