Digital Foundry Retro: We play Quake 3, Half-Life and Unreal on a 1999 PC

by Kelvin
Digital Foundry Retro: We play Quake 3, Half-Life and Unreal on a 1999 PC

Our colleagues from Eurogamer England celebrated their 20th anniversary last week, an efemride that coincided with the fact that the head of Digital Foundry Retro, John Linneman, had bought a PC of that same age, followed by the acquisition of a CRT monitor . The question we ask ourselves is simple: how did the leading titles of the past work on a high-end PC in 1999?

In this Digital Foundry Retro Let's Play special we will use Windows 98 in original hardware, installing the games from the original media (physical CDs … do you remember their installation screens?), To see how they perform with two of the most powerful 3D graphics accelerators of that time: 3DFX Voodoo 2 and the Riva TNT2 Pro from Nvidia.


We have made a direct capture of all this, but we have also filmed the monitor so you can see how these games look on the monitors we used at the time. It is curious, because after the game session one wonders if the LCDs we currently have hold the type in front of the classic CRT technology, which offered an instant response, had no fixed resolution limitations, did not suffer from motion blur problems and had also an amazing sharpness and color reproduction. We are looking at an example of technology regression in the last two decades? It is an interesting topic to which we will probably return later.

The specifications of this retro PC are as follows:

  • Processor: Intel Pentium III 700 MHz Coppermine version Slot 1 (0.18 μm) with FSB 133MHz
  • Motherboard: Biostar M6VBE
  • Memory: 384MB RAM
  • Main graphics card: ELSA Erazor III TNT2 Pro
  • Secondary graphic card: 3DFX Voodoo 2 12MB
  • Sound card: PCI Sound Blaster
  • Storage: HDD IDE 20GB
  • Monitor: Sony G400 19 inch CRT

In the video we tested some of the key PC experiences that players tested in 1999. The first on the list is the mystical Quake 3 Arena from id Software, the first title of the American studio that requires an OpenGL compatible 3D accelerator. The game was published in December 1999, shortly after the birth of Eurogamer, but PC players of that time had already been able to test the Quake 3 Arena Test with three maps published in April of the same year, along with several custom updates The launch was approaching.

After that we move on to other classics of 1998 and 1999, including the original Half-Life version of Valve Software and the incredible (for the little) Unreal of the incipient Epic Megagames. Our trip ends with Jurassic Park: Trespasser, a game that can be considered the precursor of Far Cry, Crysis and other exponents of the period of ultrarealism in the history of PC gaming. It is a game in which the ambition far exceeded the technical characteristics of the PCs that can be bought then. How did it work in a high-end team of the time and how did its developers try to offer unprecedented levels of realism on PC?

Technology has evolved incredibly in the last two decades, but the end of the last century was a key moment for video games. When Eurogamer PlayStation was inaugurated, it dominated the market while waiting for the arrival of PlayStation 2. Meanwhile, the Sega Dreamcast has just launched in the United States, with a launch in Europe in a few weeks. Eurogamer was born from the Loman brothers' passion for Quake and competitive LAN games, and the PC was their platform. These were magical times, and we hope that this special on retro PC gaming brings you pleasant memories as it has also brought them to us.

Translation by Josep Maria Sempere.

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