Classic Air Combat Sim Recommendations

Huh now well wouldja lookit that
Still some issues with going into the preferences screen because of direct draw modes (using DX7, Voodoo 3, and last drivers for it) but hey


OK, some additional installs. All running at 100% with basic joystick support and Glide/D3D when applicable.

  • Mig Alley 1.23
  • MW2 Mercs Titanium
  • EAW 1.2
  • F15 1.17
  • Jane’s WW2 Fighters 1.07F

Holy biscuits.

Now everyone out there is asking, “Scharmers, you sexy misanthrope, just how in the world did you get those wonderful old sims playing the way they were meant to be played without and muss or fuss?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

First, you need a beefy system, because you’re going to be emulating a PII-233 with a Voodoo 3 card. My I5-12400F does the trick and sticks at 100% speed. My Ryzen 7 first-gen does not. The first thing you sacrifice when you don’t have enough CPU is the sound, which glitches, stutters, and drags, even though the frame rate in the sims does OK.

Next, you need 86Box and the accompanying ROMs download.

Next, you will need some experience in old PC components and virtualization. I have lots because instead of doing anything useful with my youth, I cut off my thumbs and gonads to become a member of the PCMR.

With this experience and the 86Box docs, you will set up a PII-233 system with 16 MB of RAM, a SB16 or AWE32 soundcard, and a Voodoo 3 in the 86Box settings. You will set up a .VHD (8GB fixed sized is about right) that will host your Win 98 Box, and a 3.5" floppy and 32x CDROM, all on the right IDE channels.

Then you’ll boot the thing and go into the BIOS and do the needful. Hope you know your Award BIOSes. And your Phoenix BIOSes. And your…

Then you will obtain a Win98 .iso - Internet Archive has one, along with a working key. And if your chosen BIOS doesn’t support CD boot, then you’ll have to hunt down a Win 98 startup floppy .IMG. That’s actually rather easy.

Then you will install Win98 on the 86Box VM. I officially did tech support for WIn95-WinXP. I have sat through thousands of Win 98 installs. I know what to do here. You may not. Ask me if you have any questions.

Once Win 98 is up, you have to get the Voodoo 3 drivers on it. You may or may not have had luck with the VM networking, but since all you can run is IE6, you won’t be able to download them anyway. There’s one easy trick to get files on the VM. You open the VM’s .VHD in Win 10/11 by double clicking on it. Not when 86Box is running, of course. You then copy the files you downloaded from the host into to the .VHDs My Documents folder. You should also probably download all the patches and stuff you think you’ll need later. Unzip them on the host before copying them over. Win98 doesn’t have native ZIP support (if you’re l33t, then you’ll download and install an old copy of WinZIP). Then eject the .VHD from the host and start 86Box up again. Open up Win98’s my docs folder and Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, you probably should have downloaded DX8.1b and copied it over. Well, shut down 86Box and do that.

Back in 86Box, run the Voodoo drivers set up and reboot the VM when prompted. Then run the DX8.1b install and reboot the VM when prompted.

And that’s it. You have a perfect, pristine Windows 98 to muck up. Back up the .VHD for when you do. Oh, yeah, configure your attached joystick from 86Box settings and add it in Win 98. Don’t get fancy. Just do a 2-axis, 4-button stick. CH Flightstick and TM sticks just confuse it.

At this point, it’s up to you. 86Box has mount .ISOs and .CUE/.BIN files. I have ripped some of my stuff and downloaded others. I can’t rip some stuff because of the shitty Safedisc protection (Longbow Gold, USAF) and I can’t find good images of others (Longbow Gold, USAF). But here’s what I’ve gotten working, and by working, I mean “just fucking runs”.

MiG Alley 1.23. Impossible to run under modern Windows, no matter how much you try.
MW2: Mercs Titanium Glide. Too much hassle to get to run under modern Windows.
Jane’s WW2 Fighters. Impossible to run under modern Windows.
European Air War. Can be run under modern Windows, but then you have to depend on a community patch that spends more time trying to make EAW an IL-2 clone than fixing problems.
Jane’s F15. Impossible to run under modern Windows.
Jane’s Fighters Anthology. Relatively simple to hack to run under modern Windows, but Just Runs in Windows 98.
F-22 TAW. You can hack the shit out of TAW with the TAW 2.0 patch and rely on a whole stack of emulator stubs, or you can just play it in 86Box Win 98 SE, in Glide, the way God intended.

As a graduation exercise, I am going to see if I-76 runs in this. If that idiosyncratic POS runs OK - it NEVER runs OK in modern operating systems, no matter what you do - then ANYTHING will run.

I’ll probably get M1TP2 running on here, too, because I’m annoyed at how the “modern rerelease” of it only runs in software and is cranky about it.

Post Q’s.

That’s excellent info, thank you!!

And here’s I’76 Gold 1.6 running without glitches

Son of a bitch.

How about some Jane’s Israeli Air Force?


Oh hey an how about some USAF 1.02F? Ripped my CDs, patched with no-cd patch.

I wonder if I could get away with selling this preloaded distro for like 10p or something :)

Next up Crimson Skies you lot

I am in awe right now dude. In awe.

When we have the next Qt3 meetup, I feel like if you bring a USB key with this set up (all of which I have discs for ;), beers are on me.

Will do

If i mail you a USB stick can you put all this stuff on there for me?

Are you mailing him beers with the USB stick?

I’m sure something could be arranged.

Yes, PM

Note my 86Box includes a ISO directory with ISO or CUE/BIN of all the media, since the only game I’m using a no-cd patch for is USAF (due to the ancient ugly copy protection it has).

IAF doesn’t work beyond loading up because I think ancient ugly copy protection breaks the game (no fuel in jet at launch) and I don’t have an IAF no-cd key, so it’s not included anymore.

Otherwise you just mount the ISO or CUE/BIN using the “media” option in 86Box and Bob’s your uncle

What a sexy desktop circa 1998

Well, Crimson Skies doesn’t like the Voodoo 3 2D drivers, I guess. Menus are completely corrupted. I did get it to be able to run in software mode, but it’s ugly and slow.

And I might be pushing the upper limits of “newness” with CS, too. It’s a 2000 game; there’s nothing later than 1998 in the screenshot above.

My jealousy is boundless.