Updated April 7, 1997
Renewed BugNet Alert --
MechWarrior2, Monster Truck Madness Among Games Bitten By Win95 DirectX Incompatibilities
ATTENTION MechWarrior wannabes: installing this popular new Windows 95 game may bring you face-to-face with an enemy far worse than laser-equipped BattleMechs.
Activision, the maker of the new MechWarrior2 for Windows 95 as well as Quake and other popular PC juvenilia, warns that some users may face Windows 95's dreaded "Fatal Exception OE" during mission launch.
If so, MechWarrior2 will freeze and crash. According to Activision, "this will often occur with combo sound/modem cards (like the Diamond Telecommander) that don't have DirectX support."
DirectX is, of course, Microsoft's newest whiz-bang Windows 95 game technology. A set of APIs (applications programmers interfaces), DirectX is designed to improve multimedia and game performance and development.
Problem is, some sound cards and MOST video cards in existing Windows PCs are not compatible with DirectX 3.0a, released in December. In fact, very few video boards fully support DirectX 3 (see chart below).
While most of the computer press continues to gush about DirectX's promise -- the beta of DirectX 5.0 was announced with fanfare in late March -- the fact is that DirectX is causing some Windows 95 users real grief.
Nor are MechWarriors alone in this. Microsoft acknowledges that many of its own games - including Close Combat for Windows 1.0, Deadly Tide for Windows 1.0, Flight Simulator for Windows 95 6.0, GEX 1.0, Golf 3.0, Hellbender for Windows 1.0, Monster Truck Madness 1.0, NBA Full Court Press for Windows 1.0 and Soccer 1.0 - may not work with Sis6205 video cards because they "are not fully compatible with DirectX."
According to Microsoft, the games may install correctly, but when you attempt to run them you may encounter a black screen or a system freezeup. Microsoft says the same problem also may affect non-Microsoft games, including Dreamworks Interactive's The Neverhood for Windows 1.0 and Scholastic's Goosebumps Series: Escape from HorrorLand for Windows 1.0.
And if you run another popular Windows
95 game, Rebel Moon Rising, on a PC with a Trident PCI
local bus video card, you may encounter the error:
THE FIX? Get a new video card. The Intel tech document notes, "in this case the user replaced the video card with a Diamond Stealth 3D card and the problem went away."
Of course, by the same token, your headache will also go away if you throw yourself in front of an onrushing train.
Trident does not sell to end users, by the way. It manufactures graphic accelerators and fabricates chipsets for use by video board manufacturers. At least one of Trident's products, the ProVidia9685, is advertised as DirectX 3D compatible.
S3, another video chipset manufacturer, got into similar trouble just before Christmas when Delorme, manufacturer of 3-D Explorer USA, had the temerity to warn users that the program wouldn't work with video boards based on S3's popular Trio64+ chipset.
Although S3 hastily released a DirectX 3D compatible driver for the Trio64+ chipset, the Windows 95 installed base is littered with little surprises like these. Sometimes new drivers are available and will solve the problem. More often, there is no solution other than the one noted with the Trident PCI local bus video card -- junk your old video card and get a new one if you want to run the latest Windows 95 games.
So now with DirectX 5.0 slated for release from Microsoft later this year, many in the industry share the views of Phil Parker at video board manufacturer Number Nine. "Microsoft is pushing DirectX very hard. Microsoft wants to provide a mechanism for games developers to move their efforts from DOS to Windows. It is a new technology [and] it's moving very quickly. To many, it's moving too quickly. Reliability, stability and quality are all being called into question."
The situation has improved since the Holiday Season when BugNet first broke this story, but if you're going to take a fling with one of the hot new Windows 95 games that will be coming out with increasing frequency this year, BugNet suggests you check your video and audio cards first, then hold on tight.
-- Bruce Brown
Microsoft's DirectX is comprised of more than a half dozen APIs, the most significant from a video standpoint being DirectDraw, Direct3D and DirectVideo. DirectDraw is responsible for 2D rendering, Direct3D provides 3D rendering, and DirectVideo allows scaled video and color space convectors.
The following table identifies the video boards which support the various portions of DirectX 3.
ATI Video Xpression
Diamond Fire GL
Number Nine Imagine 128
STB Ntro 3D
ATI Video Xpression
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