Dosbox gaming on a G3?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Mr. Guybob, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. Mr. Guybob macrumors newbie

    Mr. Guybob

    Jun 22, 2016
    I got a hankering for a retro gaming machine, and am looking to get either an iMac G3 or an eMac. I'd prefer the iMac for its looks, but I need for it to be able to play Dos game through Dosbox, using either OSX Tiger or Linux. Is the iMac (600mhz or 700mhz model) up to the task?
  2. bunnspecial macrumors 603


    May 3, 2014
    I've never played with Dosbox on PPC, but it's a fairly lightweight program and I expect you might be alright(has it been built for PPC?).

    Otherwise, though, I'd very much steer you toward using MS VPC and running Dos/Win 3.1 in it. As much as I like Dosbox, VPC is a much more polished program.

    The other thing you can do is find the Mac version of games. If you're interested in playing old Shareware and the like, you're probably out of luck but most major games of the 90s are available for the Mac. I'd suggest that-if you buy an eMac-you get one that can boot natively into OS 9 as many games will run better in their native OS than in "classic" mode in Tiger(Classic comes into its own on DP systems, but that's not the case for either the iMac or eMac). If you're running GPU-intensive games, there's a lot to be said for building a hot G4 tower. My main old gaming machine these days is a Cube with an 800mhz upgrade card and a Geforce 3 GPU. A 1ghz or 1.25ghz MDD combined with a Geforce 4Ti would be quite a formidable rig.

    All of that aside, a CRT is a smart display choice IMO for old gaming. Many old games are meant to run full screen and only have a resolution of 640x480. On an LCD, you either end up scaling the resolution(which looks like crap) or get dramatic "windowing" if you run at native resolution. A CRT will scale gracefully over a large range of resolutions. I use an Apple CRT(in my case the 17" ADC display) with my Cube that I mentioned above.
  3. Daniël Oosterhuis macrumors 6502a

    Jan 10, 2016
    The latest version of DOSBox for Mac, 0.74, is still an Universal binary. I'd expect the Linux versions to have a PowerPC binary as well. And there's a Wii version, which also means it can be run on a G3-ish CPU (the CPU in the Wii is based around the 750). So safe to say, yes.
  4. Dronecatcher, Jun 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016

    Dronecatcher macrumors 68020


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    Despite being a slender piece of software, DOSBox is still trying to emulate the X86 architecture - something PPC Macs don't excel at.
    I've only ever tried to run Fasttracker in DOSBox which is music software that plays back sequences of wav files and can easily run on a 386 8Mhz PC - in this task it roundly fails on anything but a high end G5.
    Just tried it again this morning on my 1.67Ghz Powerbook - again, it opens and works but with stuttering and CPU running at 100%
    My lack of success doesn't mean it wont work for you - it depends entirely on the game you're trying, and given the low cost of an iMac or eMac, what have you got to lose?
    Bear in mind a G4 eMac has more capabilities than a G3 iMac and the iMac will require the special build of DOSBox.
    From memory, I think I had the same luck with MS-DOS in VPC, plus I think I struggled to get programs into it (had to create floppy disk images) - DOSBox is better in that respect, as you just drop your software into the appropriate folder.
    As an aside, PPC Macs are much better at emulating game consoles than a PC - maybe consider those as an alternative to get your retro fix?
    I'll endeavour to try DOSBox on my G3 iMac later and let you know how I get on.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 23, 2016 ---
    Just tried DOSBox on my 500Mhz iMac, firstly the only version that would open is 0.71.
    Trying the program referenced before, Fasttracker, it attempts to open but just gets stuck trying to draw the first screen refresh.
  5. Dronecatcher, Jun 23, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016

    Dronecatcher macrumors 68020


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    I've just tried running MS DOS in Virtual PC 4 under OS9 on my 500Mhz G3 iMac. Apart from the chore of having to create floppy images in OSX, load them with the desired software, then load them as an A: drive - the bottom line is although Fasttracker loaded, half the screen was missing and it refused to operate ie no music.


    As a contrast, playing a .MOD file in Windows 2000 & VPC 4 with a module player far more demanding than Fasttracker, is not only easy but there's plenty of CPU to spare!


    Somehow, DOS, seems far more difficult to emulate - at least on this example - hopefully someone can try similar playing a game or two?

    VPC gets some stick but it still amazes sometimes - look how low these CPU figures are whilst it's playing video and an audio file at once (VPC7 1.33 Powerbook)

  6. crewkid89 macrumors regular


    Jun 16, 2011
    United States
    I forgot about powerpc in the wii. Anybody ever try getting the wii to boot some version of Mac OS? I remember getting it to run Debian but that was with a completely prebuilt image that someone made. There was no actual installation beyond getting the homebrew channel and Hackmii installed.
  7. Mr. Guybob thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mr. Guybob

    Jun 22, 2016
    Thanks for the input, everyone. Maybe the eMac will be the safer purchase.
  8. CubeHacker macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    The eMac will most certainly be a safer purchase - however I still wouldn't recommend it for Doxbox gaming (i recommend using the boxer app!) for anything created after 1990 on such a machine. Even something as simple as jazz jackrabbit, a 2d platformer will stutter under a G4.
  9. Dronecatcher macrumors 68020


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    I've tried VPC4 & DOS under OS9 on my 300Mhz iBook - although I had no success with my music app, I did mange to get Doom playing, however, out of five games I tried that was the only one that worked.

    Running Windows 95 was more successful (but not for DOS games) - I'm amazed it's fully functional on a 300Mhz iBook!
  10. happyfrappy macrumors 6502

    Oct 14, 2007
    Location eh?
    DOSBox on non-x86 processors isn't that good, CPU timing issues impact ARM & PPC CPUs with games more than anything. Keep in mind DOSBox development has stalled, EA/GOG for example are using a community forked "gaming" build which fixed the frame-rate bug and input(mouse/gamepad/joystick) bug that impacts any OS newer than Windows Vista/7. (OS X DOSBox has the same missing mouse/dropped mouse click issue that Windows users suffer)

    Bochs is slightly better than DOSBox if you're running 386/486 1MB Sirrus Logic VLB graphics era software, last I remember audio was experimental Adlib but it worked better than DOSBox in some areas of usage.

    Back in the 266/333Mhz iMac era I ran DOS games under VPC 2.1.1 to 4.0, the trick was enable CPU compatibility via Scripts menu if a game used CPU timing--Connectix many years ago had a how-to online & in the user manual describing what to do. One downside until VPC 3.0 was Connectix didn't support hardware audio acceleration so you were stuck with Adlib/low-end Soundblaster audio for non-Windows, VPC 4.0+ brought near-perfect SB16 audio support for 500+Mhz PowerMac G4 owners but not all games/applications on the DOS side worked with it unless run from within a DOS window inside of Win9x or exited to DOS to keep the audio driver loaded--you couldn't create a boot disk as the Connectix/VirtualBox driver relied upon Win9x, there were ways to use the Creative Labs DOS 6/Win3.1 era driver but Connectix didn't support it--same goes for trying to load a generic CDROM driver for DOS usage too.

    Common problems you'll see with VirtualPC is "Smacker" animation/multimedia of some early to late-90s games would only work via Adlib/SB Pro on any version of VPC due to Connectix/Innotek(VirtualBox) driver. Windows native games from Win3.x-9x weren't impacted by Smaker issues. Games based upon DOS4GW typically work very well but some audio/effects heavy games need to be setup as Adlib/SB Pro or you'll have audio issues/game lag/crashes----with a G4/G5 you're able to use SB16 with minimal audio glitches unless the game pushes the audio voice/midi limits then you're stuck with Adlib/SB Pro.

    As far as vintage games I've tried back in the day:
    C&C (works better without audio with missions which deal with lots of units on-screen--this game is prone to audio buffer overload)
    C&C Red Alert (same as C&C but the Windows version doesn't suffer the audio buffer overload issue)
    Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0 for DOS (it was for laughs until I tried FS98 for Windows which ran better)
    Sensible Soccer
    SimCity 2000+Urban Renewal Kit (never owned the Windows version)

    Games which must run with Adlib/SB Pro only:
    A-10 Tank Killer (most Dynamix games only needed Adlib/SB Pro, this would cover Aces Over Europe, Pacific & Aces of the Deep)
    Alone In The Dark
    NHL 96 (it'll crash if you use SB16 audio with stadium music such as Brass Bonanza, you'll avoid the crash with Adlib/SB Pro--this issue even impacts VirtualBox 5.x so I think the limitation is more than just a driver, emulation can't handle complex MIDI sounds)
    Police Quest Series (PQ4 will crash during the shootout part if you use SB16)
    Phantasmagoria (this game was later re-released for Windows 9x but GOG sells the DOSBox edition which is a lower resolution, Windows version used Intel Indeo video codec)
    Red Barron
    Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective(3-CD set) -Needs CPU compatibility or the animation/video playback gets choppy.
    StarWars: Rebel Assault (needs Adlib/SB Pro audio setting, anything higher the game/VPC will crash)
    Under A Killing Moon
  11. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    But despite that, I've run DOSBox + Windows 3.1 on ARM just to see whether it was possible :)

    It was extremely slow, but it worked!

    Edit: Apparently I'd taken a photo of it. This is Windows 3.11 on DOSBox on RISC OS (probably 5.19, based on its overall look) on a Raspberry Pi 1. What was I thinking? :p

  12. happyfrappy macrumors 6502

    Oct 14, 2007
    Location eh?
    Forgot to add Transport Tycoon and XCom UFO Defense/Terror From The Deep are playable under VPC. DOSBox on PPC is do-able for those games but audio glitching ruins the creepy music experience of XCom.

    DOSBox is known to run Win3.1-98 from many attempts, games or applications which are CPU-timing or MIDI specific are prone to weird performance issues on ARM/PPC----screen redraw/audio glitches pile up very quickly.
    I used DOSBox on my old Motorola Photon 4G(early dual-core 1Ghz), anything beyond some early 2D Commander Keen, Duke Nukem & Secret Agent platformers are a lagfest.
  13. Altemose macrumors G3


    Mar 26, 2013
    Elkton, Maryland
    If anyone needs Virtual PC, please private message me...
  14. Daniël Oosterhuis macrumors 6502a

    Jan 10, 2016
    I mean, the CPU in the Wii is based on the G3, but still heavily modified specially for the Wii by IBM. Straight up booting Mac OS X or 9 wouldn't work, as the hardware architecture of a PPC Mac is way different to that of the Wii. Maybe virtualizing it would be possible, but as far as I know there's no such app that allows you to do that.
  15. Yosh287 macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2017
    Hi, everyone! It's nice to meet you! :)

    I just registered and attached DOSBox G3 optimized version.

    Hope that's okay, since the original homepage has closed down.

    Attached Files:

  16. pochopsp macrumors 6502


    Apr 6, 2016
    Napoli, city of sun and pizza!
    Maybe I'm saying bulls*****, but wouldn't it be better to use Boxer? I remember playing Dangerous Dave, Commander Keen and the dos clone of Super Mario very very smoothly.
  17. Yosh287 macrumors newbie

    Jun 20, 2017
    No, no, what you said isn't wrong at all!
    I just never heard of Boxer before - so thanks for mentioning it! :)
    Current versions are for +10.6 it seems, but 0.87 is said to work on 10.4, too.
    The official homepage nolonger has it, though. So without your help I would have never noticed.

    Legacy section of (archived)

    Boxer 0.87 - download from

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