The Midnight Writer - February 1998
by Mike Lloret
I still haven't quite gotten used to having virtually no problems with my computer system. The Brute has been amazingly well-behaved lately. The only change I've made has been to install SciTech Software's Display Doctor, and that was initially done to solve a problem I had with the graphics "stuttering" in a new game I installed, Bethesda Softworks's Battlespire.
I downloaded a trial version of Display Doctor, and I don't think I've ever decided faster to register a piece of software . It bills itself as "the universal graphics card utility", and that's just what it is. It updates your card to the latest standards, fixes bugs on the card, and improves performance of applications using newer VBE standards even if the graphics card only supports an older standard. It also offers compatibility testing and monitor adjustment utilities. On The Brute, it updated my VBE version, gave me a 3968MB linear frame buffer which my graphics card didn't support (this fixed the Battlespire problem), and increased the number of supported graphics modes from 30 to 72. It works very well with the PowerToys QuickRes utility, too. Have a look at SciTech's Website:
Pirates and Privateers
The only quibble I have (and an unworthy one it is) is that after using Display Doctor it has become nearly impossible to play one of my favorite old games, Microprose's Pirates! Gold. This classic strategy game is the Windows version of the original Sid (Civilization) Meier's Pirates!, and while dated is still a lot of fun to play (it regularly appears in the top ten of all-time popular games). It requires Windows to play, but runs in a DOS window. It used to be that the frequent ship-to-ship battles took place at a measured, stately pace befitting the 1600s vessels exchanging broadsides. Now it seems that the screen refreshes are done so quickly that the ships' responses are really hard to control: they go whizzing around the screen like hydroplanes. I've tried using Mo'slo, a handy little utility for slowing down DOS games, but it doesn't seem to work in this case. On the plus side, the combination of Display Doctor and QuickRes enables me to switch to this game's required 256 colors and back again very quickly and easily, and the other parts of the game have benefited from the increased speed. Having part of a strategy game turned into an arcade game is a small price to pay for markedly smoother graphics, I'd say.
When I changed from The (P5166MHz) Beast to The (P111266MHz) Brute, Origin's Privateer 2: The Darkening, a resource management/space combat game, showed an amazing increase in speed during the space combat scenes -- enough faster that I felt my reflexes seriously challenged and began to worry about RMS. I'm afraid to see how fast it responds with Display Doctor running. I'd wager that it will no longer freeze up or crash when there are a couple of dozen ships on the screen at once, though.
Online Multi-author Fiction
For a few months now I've been one of several contributors to a multi-author serialized fantasy story appearing on the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list. Originally a mutual help/hints list for the Daggerfall CRPG I reviewed awhile back, it has grown a new storytelling feature. Starting when a couple of the members on the list dramatized events that they experienced in the game, the constantly mutating story has developed into quite a complex saga as more and more people joined in. Although complicated somewhat by time zone differences and new contributors' insertions of additional characters and plot elements, it has become a fascinating pastime. It has also led to the creation of several Websites devoted in whole or part to Daggerfall-inspired fiction, including my now-in-beta new Website, but more about that next issue. Stay tuned.
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