Hardware FAQ

GPL Survival Guide

GPL Hardware FAQ

  1. Frame Rate
  2. CPU
  3. 3D Accelerators
  4. Windows 98/ME
  5. Controllers
  6. Memory
  7. Sound Cards
  8. Windows XP
GPL Online FAQ
GPL Reader FAQ
This is the GPL Hardware FAQ. It contains in-depth information about the hardware you need to run GPL. If you're a newbie to GPL, start with my GPL Survival Guide.

Many people have asked me about what sort of computer they need to run GPL well, and whether or not the computer they have now is up to the task. Here's a compendium of the best information I have right now about this topic.

1.1 What frame rate should I get in GPL?

After a lot of experimenting, I consider it essential to get 36 fps (there is a handy frame rate counter in the final version).

I know that humans are not supposed to be able to see anything more than 30 fps, but when my machine is running at 30 fps, the action seems choppy and I can't control the car as well. By the time I've seen what it is doing and react, it has gone too far, so my corrections tend to be late and not enough. This leads to PIO (Pilot Induced Oscillations), slow lap times, and crashes.

You may be different, but I've found that I drive much better when my machine is running at a steady 36 fps.

1.2 I have a Pentium Classic and 128 mb of memory. When I run GPL, about one in ten times it runs ok, but the rest of the time, frame rate is terrible, about 2 fps.

This is most likely due to a problem with many Pentium Classic motherboards. Although not all boards have this problem, there are many which do not cache memory above 64 mb. This means that if GPL loads into high memory, it will not be able to use L2 cache, and performance will be dreadful.

The workaround is to remove all but 64 mb of the memory in your machine. If GPL now runs fine, this was the problem. I am not aware of any fix; you'll need to upgrade your motherboard if you want to run with more than 64 mb of memory.

2.1 How fast a CPU do I need?

Papyrus says that the minimum platform for GPL is a P-166, and I agree with this. I had a P-166 and it ran ok on that machine. However, you need at least 256k of L2 cache, and (IMHO) a Rendition 2x00 card to get decent frame rate on any Pentium Classic. You will also have to turn down a lot of graphic detail if you want to run with any AI cars, or in multiplayer mode, and you won't want to have more than 5 other cars on the track even if you've turned the detail way down.

I eventually upgraded my P-166 to an AMD K6-200, which I overclocked to 75x3 so it is running at 225. More importantly, it is running the L2 cache, which GPL uses heavily, at 75 mhz instead of 66 mhz, and this helps a lot. I also installed an 8 mb Hercules Thriller, replacing the Sierra Screamin' 3D which was in it originally.

This machine is much better now, and can run 5 AI cars with a fair amount of graphics detail at 640x480, or about a dozen AI cars with all but what I consider essential graphics detail turned off. It's fairly good for multiplayer play; I've tried it with up to 4 opponents, and as long as I turn off enough detail it works fine.

Papyrus says that the preferred machine is a Pentium II, at least 266 mhz. I heartily agree with this. In the past few days, I put together a PII-350 with 128 mb of PC-100 memory and an 8 mb AGP Hercules Thriller. It is awesome. I get a solid 36 fps at 800x600, all graphics details turned on, and 19 AI cars. When I enter the pits, it's about 24 fps, but by the time I've passed the last AI car sitting in pit lane, it's at 36 fps and stays there.

2.2 Is L2 cache essential for GPL?

On Pentium Classics, yes. GPL is very memory intensive, and without L2 cache, it simply will not be able to perform its tasks efficiently. If it runs at all, GPL's frame rate is likely to be very poor.

The situation is different for Celerons. See below.

2.3 How do I find out if I have L2 cache?

One to find out if you have L2 cache is to watch the BIOS screen when the machine is booting. Most BIOSes will report the cache that is present in the machine on the box of information which appears momentarily during the boot process, before Windows 95 starts to load. On my machine, the Cache field is in the lower right-hand corner.

Another way is to check the manual for the motherboard, which should have come with the computer. If it's an older Pentium Classic, it may not have any L2 cache, but if the motherboard was made after 1996, it most likely will. Depending on how complete the manual is, you may have to open the case to look for the L2 chips; the manual should at least show where the chips are located if they are present.

Celeron 550, Voodoo 3 and Hosting

November 1999: I've replaced my Pentium 2-350 and 8 mb AGP Hercules Thriller with a Celeron 366 overclocked to 550, and a Voodoo 3 3500. I'm also using a cable modem connection to the Internet, which goes through an Ethernet card, not a DUN connection.

I was surprised to discover that with this combination I experience severe frame stuttering when hosting more than a handful of players (even with GPL 1.2). It was really terrible trying to race on it, although clients found it works fine for them.

Turning off graphic detail and reducing display resolution didn't help much. Also, GPL's frame rate indicator continued to display fairly high frame rate despite the terrible frame stuttering I experienced.

Solution: The problem turned out to be a bug in some Registry values set by Microsoft's WebTV, which is installed by the V3 driver.

It's easily fixed. Go here.

2.4 I have a Celeron. I can overclock it to 448MHz if I need to, by running the bus at 112. Am I likely to have major problems due to lack of L2 cache?

No, GPL seems to run well on Celerons despite the lack of L2 cache, especially if you overclock the Celeron.

The only issue seems to be when hosting Internet-based multiplayer races over a DUN connection. The resulting frequent interrupts by the serial port apparently blows out the L1 cache, making the CPU work harder.

This can impact online play because when the host's CPU gets busy (i.e. it's generating less than 36 fps), gameplay on the client machines is degraded. The frame flow on the client machines can get choppy (called "frame stuttering") even if the client's CPU is not overloaded. The workaround is to cut back on graphics details on the host till frame flow smooths out on the clients.

If you're not hosting multiplayer races online, this won't impact you at all and the Celeron should be fine.

See my GPL Online FAQ for detailed information about regarding online racing and related issues.

2.5 What about an AMD K6-2? Will that run GPL as well as a Pentium II?

I have no experience with the K6-2, although I have run GPL for months on a K6-200 overclocked to 75 x 2 = 225. This processor worked very well, and its superior performance in comparison to my P-233 suggests that the FPU superiority of the Pentium over the AMD K6 was not as important as running the L2 cache at a higher speed.

However, the architecture of the new Super 7 motherboards makes it impossible to run the K6-2's L2 cache as fast as a Pentim II runs its on-die L2 cache, and benchmarks at Tom's Hardware Guide suggest that a K6-2 will underperform a Pentium II running at the same clock rate by perhaps 5 to 10%.

GPL does not currently have any way to take advantage of the K6-2's 3DNow! parallel FP unit, although if Papyrus were to release an OpenGL driver for GPL, this could change.

Still, cost considerations may make the K6-2 a viable alternative to a Pentium II setup for a high-performance platform for running GPL.

2.6 If I go with a K6-2, will I have an upgrade path for the future?

There are several interesting new K6/Socket 7 processors from AMD. The first is the K6-2-400. Compared with the earlier K6-2's, the 400 features improved internal architecture which should give performance close to or equal to that of a Pentium II running at the same clock speed.

Experience with GPL running on L2 cacheless Celerons suggests that at CPU clock speeds of 400 and above, L2 cache becomes less important. Therefore, a Super 7 motherboard, PC-100 memory, and a 400 mhz K6-2 seems likely to be an excellent setup for running GPL.

Even more interesting is the upcoming K6-3, or "Sharptooth", due out in late 1998 or early 1999. The K6-3 features on-die L2 cache, like the Celeron 300 A and 333, but running at full CPU clock speed. Thomas Pabst of Tom's Hardware Guide believes that this will allow the K6-3 to outperform a Pentium II running at the same clock speed, and I would guess that he's right.

The K6-3 will be available at up to 450 mhz, and will go right into a Super 7 motherboard, providing an upgrade path for those who go with a K6-2 before the release of the K6-3.

My guess is that a K6-3 at 400 or above would be a superb platform for GPL. I wouldn't be surprised if a K6-3/Super 7 combo finds its way into one of my older machines sometime soon.

Update, November 1999: Some people report excellent results with the newer AMD processors and GPL, while others get disappointing frame rate. I have stuck with Intel processors, so can't comment in more detail.

2.7 What's after that from AMD?

By mid 1999, AMD expects to release the K7, which will go into a new type of motherboard known as "Slot A". Based on Digital's Alpha technology, the Slot A bus will be significantly superior to the Pentium II's Slot One. The K7 will be able to support much larger L1 and L2 cache on die than the Pentium II, and is also expected to have a superior FPU and run at very high CPU clock speeds. A number of other innovative features should make it blindingly fast compared with anything available today.

For GPL, which runs quite well on a PII-400 with every option turned on, a K7 would probably be overkill, but it will be interesting nonetheless.

2.8. November 1999: It's been a year since GPL has come out, and there's a lot of new hardware available now. What CPU would you now consider to be optimal for GPL?

I feel GPL runs best on processors running at 450 mhz or better. This allows you to take full advantage of the Voodoo 3 boards. GPL runs and looks terrific on Voodoo 3's, but you need more CPU power to run GPL well on them than on the Rendition 2x00 cards. Pentiums and Celerons at 450 and above seem to run GPL superbly on V3's.

I recently upgraded to a Celeron 366 with a high-performance fan bonded to it by Step Thermodynamics. Because of the efficiency of the fan's heat transfer, Step guarantees this processor will be stable at 100 mhz Front Side Bus, or 550 mhz CPU speed. The price I paid was an amazing $131 for CPU and fan, not including shipping.

This Celeron is packaged in the new Slot 370 configuration. You can either buy a Slot 370 motherboard, or, if you already have a Slot 1 motherboard, you can buy a Slot 370 adapter. Step recommends that you get an adapter made by the manufacturer of your motherboard, if possible.

I have an ASUS P2B, and got an ASUS Slot 370 adapter for about $12 from a company I found through Best Bargains. The only problem I've had was that initially the motherboard would not boot with this processor in it. I had to flash the BIOS using a utility and BIOS updated I downloaded from ASUS.

Once I did that, the Celeron ran perfectly, and has run great at 550 for weeks now. With it, GPL is better than ever, because I can run at 1024x768 with every detail turned on. [See here for details on a problem I encountered while hosting, however.]

2.9 January 2001: What's good now?

I like the Voodoo5 and AMD Thunderbird. See my Thunderbird page for details.

3.1 Can I run GPL if I don't have a Rendition or Voodoo card?

Yes. There is a software-only rasterizer which will work with any 2D or 3D card.

Update: As of June 2000, there is a beta Direct3D rasterizer from Papyrus, as well as a beta OpenGL rasterizer. These rasterizers allow using GPL with many of the latest and best 3D accelerator cards, such as nVIDIA TNT2 and GeForce cards, and the ATI Rage Fury Pro. Both are available from Papyrus' GPL Downloads page.

3.2 Will GPL run well in software-only mode?

Well, maybe. As of November 1999, current high end machines may be fast enough to do everything that GPL needs in CPU. The question is whether they can do it well enough to run GPL at anywhere near its best.

If you have a very fast CPU, and you turn off a lot of GPL's graphics details, you may be able get good frame rate. As a frame of reference, I tried software mode on my Celeron, running at 550 mhz. Running solo, I had to run GPL at 512x384 with only the most essential graphic textures turned on in order to get 36 fps. At this resolution, GPL looked worse than an obsolete console game.

By comparison, this same machine, running GPL in Voodoo mode on a Voodoo 3 3500, gets 36 fps at 1024x768 with all graphics turned on and 19 AI cars under almost all conditions. With a P2-350 and Hercules Thriller it got 36 fps at 800x600 under all conditions except on the grid with 19 AI cars.

Another consideration is that GPL's software rasterizer doesn't support all the features that its hardware rasterizers do (including the crucially important racing groove graphic), so even if you get good frame rate, you won't be able to get all the graphic detail.

Suitable 3D cards are so cheap and so powerful these days, it simply doesn't make sense to try to race GPL without one. You can do it, but you will not experience GPL in anything like its true splendor, in my opinion.

3D Accelerator Update

June 200: There is now a Direct3D rasterizer from Papyrus, as well as a beta OpenGL rasterizer.

These rasterizers allow using GPL with many of the latest and best 3D accelerator cards, such as nVIDIA TNT2 and GeForce cards, and the ATI Rage Fury Pro.

Both are available from Papyrus' GPL Downloads page.

November 1999: Everything I say in this section about the efficiency of the Rendition architecture is still true, but the advent of cheaper high speed CPU's and the Voodoo3 has shifted the balance.

I now feel that the Voodoo3 cards, coupled with a fast CPU, are the best choice for GPL.

For details, go here. If you get a Voodoo3 3500 or have Microsoft WebTV installed, be sure to read this!

January 2001: Things have changed again. GL looks fabulous on the newer Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 cards, due to a new feature called Full Scene Anti-Aliasing. FSAA makes a dramatic difference in the way 3D objects are rendered on the screen. Racing GPL with FSAA turned on is a real joy.

However, a faster CPU is needed to take advantage of FSAA and get the better appearance. I recommend at least a 700 mhz machine with these cards. See my Thunderbird page for more information on building an AMD K7-based machine with a Vooodoo5.

3.3 Ok, so what 3D accelerator should I buy?

Update: See below.

There are a lot of Voodoo cards out there, and a lot of fans of Voodoo cards. Magazine reviews and benchmarks seem to show that the Voodoo 2 far outperforms any other video card, hands down.

But. The benchmarkers are running games which are optimized for the 3Dfx architecture. GPL, which is also optimized for the Rendition architecture, is a very different story.

The 3Dfx architecture has great fill rate, but the Rendition architecture is superior in several other ways. According to sources within Papyrus, the most important for GPL is that, unlike the Voodoo, Rendition cards do not distinguish between texture map memory and frame buffer memory. This means that a Rendition card can render the scenery behind the car, and then simply point to that area in memory and say, "paint this in the mirror".

A Voodoo card, on the other hand, must copy the texture containing the rendered scenery from frame buffer memory to texture memory, and the CPU has to re-synch with the video card when it needs to do that. This is not good.

Rendition cards also draw polygons, while machines with Voodoo cards must have the CPU do this, a task which is CPU-intensive. Since GPL's sophisticated physics engine is also CPU-intensive, it's better to have a video card that will offload as much of the tasks as possible from the CPU.

Hence, in older, slower machines (i.e. below 400 to 450 mhz) the Hercules Thriller yields significantly better performance in GPL than Voodoo cards. The slower the machine, the more noticeable the difference seems to be. Even a pair of SLI'd 12 mb Voodoo 2 cards in a PII-300 are slightly outperformed by an 8 mb Herc Thriller, and with only a single Voodoo 2, it's no contest; the Thriller wins hands down.

On the other hand, in a PII running its front side bus at 100 mhz (i.e. PII-350's and above) a pair of SLI'd Voodoo 2 cards may well be faster than a Thriller.

One of the beta testers compared GPL running on a Thriller and on twin Voodoo 2's in the same machine. This machine is a PII overclocked to 448 mhz, with an ASUS P2B motherboard and 128mb PC100 RAM. He ran back to back comparison tests under various conditions. Here is what he concluded:

"While the Thriller holds its own at 800x600 , with a slight advantage while in the thick of a race, it falls way short at 1024x768. Also the filtering of the V2 is considerably better for seeing in the distance - and that, coupled with excellent frame rates at 1024x768, still make the V2's the choice for me in GPL.

"The difference in color saturation didn't mean much to me. Although for sure the Thriller was a bit prettier but more pixelated looking, [due to] the filtering I guess."

So if you've got the bucks for a high end PII, and two Voodoo 2's, that may be ultimate the way to go.

If you go with a Thriller, note that it's important to have the 8 mb version; this allows less texture thrashing - and better speed - compared with a 4 mb Thriller.

Rendition 2100 cards (I have a Diamond Stealth II S220) also work ok, but an 8 mb 2200 card seems to be much better than a 4mb 2100. If you already have a 2100 card, try it, but at this point I wouldn't buy one with GPL in mind; I'd go for the 8mb 2200.

If you already have a Voodoo card or a Rendition 2100 card, you may want to hold onto them and see how GPL runs on them in your machine. After all, you can always upgrade if necessary.

But if you are contemplating buying a 3D card for optimum performance in GPL, and have anything less than a top-line Pentium II, please strongly consider an 8 mb Hercules Thriller.

Update, November, 1999: Hercules has gone out of business. Rendition 2200 cards are scarce and old technology now. See the new sections on the Voodoo 3 and Voodoo5.

3.4 But I already have a Voodoo card, and I need it to play Quake/F1RS/Incoming/Whatever. Can I still play GPL?

If you already have a Voodoo card, don't be dismayed. GPL runs fine on Voodoo cards; you may simply have to run with less graphics details and/or at a lower resolution than you could if you had a Thriller. Also, you may find that the colors appear a little more washed out on the Voodoo card, although adjusting the Voodoo's gamma settings may offset this.

Also, if you also play games which work better on a Voodoo card, note that a Rendition card coexists quite nicely with a Voodoo card - or a pair of Voodoo 2's for that matter. I've got a Voodoo 1 card and a Thriller in both of my machines.

Update, November, 1999: See the new section on the Voodoo 3 and Voodoo5.

3.5 Will the Thriller replace my existing video card?

Yes, the Thriller is a primary video card and will replace your regular 2D or 2D/3D card. If your video controller is on the motherboard, you will need to disable it.

A Voodoo Graphics or Voodoo 2 card, on the other hand, is 3D only and is an add-on card which supplements your computer's 2D capability. It will coexist alongside your primary 2D or 2D/3D card (such as a Thriller or other Rendition card, or Matrox, Cirrus, S3, etc.)

Note that the Voodoo Rush and Voodoo Banshee cards are 2D/3D cards and replace your primary card, so you can't have both a Banshee and a Thriller in the same machine.

Update, November, 1999: See the new section on the Voodoo 3.

3.6 What's AGP, and is it better than PCI?

AGP is a different slot architecture, optimized for video, unlike PCI which runs a variety of controller types (sound, ethernet, SCSI, etc.) Most PII's have an AGP slot, but most Pentium Classics do not.

There are a number of cards for the AGP slot, including an AGP version of the Thriller. As far as I know, most current video cards do not take advantage of the AGP's advanced features, so you are not likely to notice a great deal of difference between the performance of an AGP card and an otherwise identical PCI card.

Assuming you have an AGP slot, using an AGP video card does have the advantage of freeing up a PCI slot for other things.

3.7 Where can I get a Thriller, and how much will it cost?

I found my AGP Thriller through BestBargains.com for under $140 in late August 1998. PCI versions are even less. Compared with a pair of Voodoo 2's at $500 or more, the Thriller is a steal.

Update, November, 1999: Hercules has gone out of business. Rendition 2200 cards are scarce and old technology now. If you have a processor running at under 400 mhz, the Thriller is still your best choice. You may be able to find a used one on an acution site such as eBay, Yahoo, or Insight.

If you've got a faster processor, or are willing to upgrade, see the new sections on the Voodoo 3 and the overclockable Celeron 366.

3.8 What about the next generation of Rendition cards?

There is a third generation Rendition chipset, called the RRedline, under development. I have heard that cards based on this chipset are supposed to be out by Christmas, but the Rendition web site - http://www.rendition.com - does not seem to forecast any date. If you already have a Voodoo or Rendition card, you may want to consider waiting for the new Rendition cards rather than buying a 2200 now.

Update, November 1999: I could find no news on the Rendition site about any new products. Rendition was recently acquired by Micron. The future of the Rendition architecture is unclear to me at this time.

3.9 Will I be able to run the Rendition version of ICR2/Papyrus CART Racing on my Thriller/Stealth II S220/other Rendition 2x00 card?

Apparently there is considerable diversity of experience on this topic. I've collected a number of newsgroup postings and emails from people who have tried it (I haven't tried this myself). Check here to review their suggestions.

3.10. What about the new Voodoo3 cards? Will GPL run well on one of those?

Yes! GPL runs fantastically well on a Voodoo3. The Voodoo3 has much richer color than the Voodoo 1's and 2's with GPL, and even the lowest model, the 2000, seems to outperform a pair of SLI'd Voodoo 2's.

The caveats about the Voodoo architecture's CPU requirements which I stated above still apply, however. The Voodoo is less efficient and to run GPL better on a Voodoo 3 than on a Rendition 2x00 card, you need to have a fast CPU. Anectodal evidence suggests that only with CPU speeds of 400 or 450 mhz or above will a V3 outperform a Thriller in terms of frame rate on the same machine. But at that speed, you can run the V3 at 1024x768, and in my opinion, with the more vibrant colors, GPL looks better than ever.

Since the cost of an adequate CPU has fallen so much, I now feel that a Voodoo 3 (any model) is the best choice for GPL. The Voodoo3 has the additional advantage of supporting many other games in hardware mode, including Papyrus' new NASCAR 3 and NASCAR Legends.

Voodoo 3's come in several models with costs ranging from under $100 to over $200. All seem to work well with GPL. See 3Dfx for more information. Try Best Bargains or Insight for purchasing online. If you get a Voodoo3 3500, see below!

3.11. I installed a Voodoo3 3500, and now when I host via TCP/IP, GPL has poor frame rate. Frame rate is also poor in other sims, including NASCAR 3 and Dirt Track Racing. What's wrong?

A performance problem began occuring on my GPL client after I installed a Voodoo3 3500. This problem wasn't too apparent when I used this machine as a client, but it caused progressive frame rate degradation when I used it as a GPL server. Frame rate started out fine, but gradually declined and after a few minutes the car became undriveable. This progressive degradation was even more apparent in some other sims (NASCAR 3 and Dirt Track Racing) when running as either a client or a server.

It turns out that there is a bug in Microsoft WebTV, which is installed by the Voodoo3 software when you install your Voodoo3. When installed on a machine with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, this bug causes very strange behavior in TCP/IP applications.

Note: This problem can affect any computer that has Microsoft WebTV installed, whether it has a Voodoo3 card in it or not!

To fix this problem, you can either uninstall WebTV (not a great plan), go back to IE 4, or make two simple registry changes recommended in this Microsoft document:


From the Microsoft document:


This problem can occur because when during WebTV Setup, the following Internet Explorer 5 registry values are modified:


AutodialAllName32 value: "sddata.dll"
AutodialFcnName32 value: "BPCInternetAutodialHandler"


WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

For information about how to edit the registry, view the "Changing Keys and Values" Help topic in Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) or the "Add and Delete Information in the Registry" and "Edit Registry Data" Help topics in Regedt32.exe. Note that you should back up the registry before you edit it. If you are running Windows NT, you should also update your Emergency Repair Disk (ERD).

To work around this problem, use Registry Editor to modify the following registry information as follows:


AutodialDllName32 value: change "sddata.dll" to "wininet.dll"
AutodialFcnName32 value: change "BPCInternetAutodialHandler" to "InternetAutodialCallback"

A thousand thank yous to Tracey Miller for this extremely valuable tip!

3.12 If GPL would be the one and only sim or game I ever used, I would simply buy a V5. But ... 3dfx is dead (no more support and so on; also problems with P4). I also think that I would get more power for same money with a GeForce. And all those upcoming new games will probably be using hardware T&L. But on the other hand, d3d looks pretty ugly compared to Glide (especially when you have transparency). What should I do?

I haven't seen a GeForce so I can't compare how they look visually. I have heard that in N4, a GeForce will get 40% better frame rate than a V5 due to hardware T&L. But GPL doesn't take advantage of hardware T&L so this is not a factor if GPL were your only interest.

I love my V5. GPL looks fantastic under Glide with 4x FSAA. I bought it before 3dfx went under, but I think I'd still do it again.

N4 would run better on a GeForce but it isn't a priority for me. I just don't enjoy driving stock cars very much, and I don't like ovals that much either.

You have to look at your priorities and also how long it will be before you buy another video card. As of early 2001, a V5 is a lot cheaper than a GeForce Ultra and is probably better for GPL; everything I've read says that the V5's FSAA looks better than the GeForce's.

On the other hand, for N4 the Ultra or any GeForce would probably be better. Assuming WSC supports hardware T&L, the same probably goes for that, when it comes out, and for any other games that support hardware T&L.

I build a new computer every year or two. I figure by the time WSC is released, I will be about due for another video card and maybe computer.

So I'll enjoy GPL on the V5 for now. It looks simply gorgeous. When I turn off FSAA or go back to my old computer with the V3, I am amazed that I used to think that GPL on the V3 at 1024x768 looked really good. It looks so ugly compared to what I'm used to looking at on the V5 these days! FSAA makes that much of a difference.

See my Thunderbird page for more information on the Voodoo5.

3:13 I heard the Voodoo5 needs an extra connection with the power supply similar to that used by a hard disk. With my current system I don't have any free plugs. How will I connect my V5's power?

The V5 comes with a small power Y-connector. Even if it didn't, you can buy these for very little money at a computer store.

The only problem I had was that the V5 is very long. It's no problem in my new computer, which has a larger case, but in my old computer, which has a fairly compact case, I had to remove the lower drive cage and move the floppy drive to a 5 1/2" bay.

4.1 Will the full version of GPL run in Win98?

Yes. The issues with the original demo version of GPL in Win98 have been resolved, and GPL runs in Win98. I've seen it running in Win98 at Papyrus, and several of the beta team are running it on Win98.

I originally stuck with Win95 for my GPL machine. I found that OSR2 was much more stable than earlier versions of Win95, and it didn't have incompatibility issues that some people encountered with sound card drivers and such in the early days of Win98.

However, I'm now using Win98 on most of my machines with no problem. GPL seems to work equally well on either Win98 or Win95.

4.2 Will GPL run in Windows ME?

I haven't tried this, but I believe some people are running GPL on WinME with no problem.

However, there may be an issue with Windows ME and the drivers for the Logitech Wingman Formula Force wheel and pedals. Go here for details.

5.1 What is an appropriate racing wheel for GPL?

If I were going to buy a wheel for GPL, my priorities are precision, durability, and good ergonomics. GPL has special requirements in that it is a huge advantage to have the pedals on seperate axes, and also it gives the option of configuring an analog clutch, which can help you coming off the grid and also recovering from spins. Also it provides glance left/glance right functions, which can be assigned to buttons on the controller. These are very useful when you are running in traffic.

The GPL 1.2 patch, available from Papyrus, supports Force Feedback. GPL's Force Feedback implementation is superb, the best in the industry at the moment, and this adds an entirely new and exciting dimension to sim racing.

Here's my order of preference:

  1. Logitech Wingman Formula Force wheel and CH (non-Pro) pedals, total cost about $190. See my Force Feedback page for details.
  2. My own custom design, home built Eagle Woman wheel and CH (non-Pro) pedals, total cost about $250 and two or three weekends of construction time. I was considering publishing plans and building instructions, but with the advent of Force Feedback, this project is on hold.
  3. ECCI CDS4000, with dual pedal switch, $1000 to 1300. Until recently, this setup had two drawbacks: no clutch, and the buttons were on the front of the wheel, not the back (my personal preference is to have the shifters on the back, and glance left/glance right buttons on the front). However, ECCI has announced paddle and clutch pedal options which should be available soon. The quality is so high and the precision is so great that if cost were no object, I'd have one. (Thanks to Brant Herbert for bringing these new options to my attention.)
  4. Thomas Super Wheel, with dual pedal switch and fingertip shifters, $250 and up. An optional clutch pedal is available. Note that some models of the cheaper TSW 2 are not suitable for GPL because they can't have the dual pedal switch option installed, and can't have fingertip shifters either. Some of the newer versions of the TSW 2 come with a dual pedal switch standard, which is great. These and the full TSW are excellent, of superb quality, very durable and very precise. If you can afford it, go for it!
  5. Thrustmaster GP1 wheel and CH (non-Pro) Pedals, about $50 for the GP1 and $60 for the CH Pedals. One of the GP1's fingertip paddles can be configured as GPL's analog clutch, and the CH Pedals can be run in dual-pedal mode. The CH pedals are excellent, and very durable. The GP1 is TM's usual poor quality, so be prepared to replace the steering pot frequently when it gets noisy. You can modify the GP1 so it gets 270 degrees of travel; see my web page for details.
  6. CH Wheel and CH (non-Pro) Pedals, about $60 for the wheel and $60 for the pedals. Again, the pedals are excellent, and the wheel seems durable, but the wheel's ergonomics are poor, with only about 170 degrees of travel and a spring that is much too light. Also, this setup has no analog clutch. BTW, don't get the CH wheel/pedal combo; the racing-only pedals in that package are terrible, virtually useless.
  7. Thrustmaster NASCAR Pro (known as Formula 1 outside the US), about $110-120. I am not overly fond of the pedals in this combo either, but at least they can be put on separate axes. The whole wheel has a rubbery feel, and seems to suffer from the usual Thrustmaster durability problems. However, the desk clamps work well.

Unfortunately, I know of nothing suitable in between the GP1/CH Pedals combo and the TSW in terms of cost, unless you build your own, which is what I did. See Lew's Wheels and Wally's World of Wheels for info on how to build your own wheel, but hurry; Wally is taking his site down on Oct. 15.

Update: A German reader, Olaf Port, has purchased a wheel from Fanatec called the Le Mans, and speaks highly of it. Here's what Olaf has to say:

"I just came back from Berlin and found my new Fanatec Le Mans Racing Wheel sitting in front of my desk at home. The first thing I did of course was set it up and fire up the GPL demo - which turned the face of my wife a little bit red, but you have to have principles and priorities.... :-)

"Setting up was easy; the wheel runs smooth with the built in Thrustmaster T1/T2 driver in Win95b. The wheel itself feels very nice; it is covered with rubber. It's easy to mount and sits firm with two clamps on the table. Turning feels good; it seems to be much more solid than the somewhat shaky Thrustmaster wheels. The pedals are a bit unusual, because they have a just short way to go between no throttle and full throttle. But you need just 10 minutes of driving to get used to it.

"Resumee: If you want to have a solid, easy to install wheel with pedals I can recommend it. At around 90$ here in Germany its a bargain. It is certainly not inferior to the Thrustmaster wheels, which sell at a higher price."

I have no information about availability of the Le Mans wheel outside of Germany, although the Fanatec Web site lists distributors in several European countries. Perhaps if enough of us pester them, they'll find a distributor for North America.

There is also a wheel from Saitek. There's a new review of this wheel. If anyone has any experience with this wheel and GPL, please let me know. Click here for a review of this wheel.

Another reader, Peter Ashley, comments:

"I needed to solder a 10k resistor between (I think) x1 ground and y1 ground to get TM pedals to work with a Diamond Monster sound card. TM took a shortcut that works with most cards, but not the monster."

5.2 Should I buy a Force Feedback wheel?

GPL 1.0 doesn't support force feedback, but the GPL 1.2 patch does. With the right wheel, it's terrific. See my Force Feedback page for details.

5.2 I've got a Force Feedback wheel and enabled Force Feedback in core.ini but I don't get any force feedback in GPL. What's wrong?

You've probably used the sample file, core.ini.sample, which comes with GPL 1.2. The fix is easy. Go here.

5.4 I'm having trouble calibrating my controller. Sometimes the calibration goes away after I calibrate it. How do I calibrate it properly?

This advice from beta tester Achim Trensz:

"The calibration feature can be tricky, as during calibration, sometimes the assignment gets lost.

"My workaround is to delete the player_name folder, to calibrate from bottom to top, and to press throttle and brake and then keep them depressed while calibrating the remaining axis."

I believe it's not necessary to delete the player's entire folder, but only the controls.cfg file within that folder. You'll find that folder in the players folder within the GPL installation. For example, if I installed my copy of GPL in the default location, the file to delete would be:


5.5 What about digital controller cards like the PDPI Lightning 4?

Update, November 2001: unfortunately PDPI appears to have gone out of business. However, USB game controllers have essentially obsoleted gameport controllers. I use a USB wheel, and separate USB pedals (available from both Act Labs and CH Products) on my latest racing computer.

I had very good results with a PDPI L4 installed in my P-233. Control seemed more precise, and I believe frame rate improved as well. I tried this in my new P2-350, and got similar results. I feel like I can really feel the car now, more than before. Also, I seem to be able to run with somewhat more graphics detail when racing online, although with a serial port modem I still need to cut back dramatically compared with the full detail 800x600 settings I use offline.

Check CombatSim.com for a review of the L4, and also see Games Domain for another review.

When I tested the L4 (July, 1998), I had to hack the registry a bit to make the L4 support a Thrustmaster wheel & pedal unit. However, I on my P2 installation, I had newer drivers which eliminated the need for registry hacking, at least with my homebuilt controller, which uses normal 100k pots.

Also, there can be issues with controllers that have pedals that switch from single to dual axis, such as the Thrustmaster T2 and CH Pedals. This issue may require jumping through some hoops every time you want to switch between a game which intelligently allows you to assign a game function (such as brake or throttle) to a desired controller axis (e.g. GPL and F1RS), and games with inflexible (I'm trying hard not to say "stupid" here) controller configuration mechanisms (e.g. MTM2 and MS-CPR).

PDPI's new driver has features which address these issues. I haven't tried these features yet, as I am only running GPL right now. If it works as planned, this new driver will not only resolve these issues, it will eliminate the necessity for hardware joystick switching devices such as the Joyswitcher and the CH Products Joystick SwitchBox, and software configuration switchers such as Alex Poplowski's Joystick Switcher.

6.1 How much memory do I need to run GPL? Will more memory make it run faster?

Papyrus says the minimum is 32 mb. I think having 64 mb may speed things up at certain points, but I don't think it will make a huge difference in overall frame rate.

However, with 32 mb you will be able to save only very small replays. As I recall, with 32 mb I could save only a lap or two at the shorter tracks. With 64 mb I could save about 7 to 10 laps of solo play (i.e. no AI or remote players) on tracks like Kyalami and Monza. Trying to save a replay of an entire lap at the Nurburgring was marginal.

With 128 mb, it's possible to save enormous replays. I have replays of most of the Papy Cup races, which are Intermediate Long races (roughly 25 to 30 laps at the shorter tracks) and we usually have a dozen or more players. Almost all of the replays include the entire race and the last part of practice, except at Zandvoort where there were almost 20 players and a lot of smoke and dust was generated, which takes up a lot of room in replays. There, I have all but the first lap of the race. These replay files are typically 20 to 25 mb in length.

So, regarding memory, I suggest getting as much of it as you can afford, and the faster the better.

Update: there is an exception to this. Many Pentium Classics do not have the capability to cache memory above 64 mb, so installing more than 64 mb memory could actually cause GPL to run much worse. See the frame rate and CPU sections of this FAQ for details.

Update: you can make GPL save long replays even if you have only 64 mb of memory. Using a text editor such as Notepad, create a file called core.ini in your GPL main folder (by default, c:\SIERRA\gpl) and add these lines:

[ Replay ]
replayMemoryOverride = 30000

This will make GPL allocate 30 mb of memory for replays, while reserving 34 mb for GPL itself, which is plenty. This will allow GPL to save replays of up to 30 mb in length. If you have more memory, you can try increasing the memory allocation. For example, if you have 96 mb of memory, you may be able to allocate more than 60 mb (replayMemoryOverride = 60000).

6.2 Do I have to upgrade to SDRAM or PC100 memory to get the best speed out of my computer?

In my experience, going from 32 mb of 70 ns FPM SIMMs to 32 mb of 10 ns SDRAM on my P-233 made only a marginal difference in GPL's frame rate, perhaps because GPL uses L2 cache memory deftly to avoid using main memory as much as possible in mission-critical tasks.

The SDRAM did, however, make a big difference in frame rate in MTM2, for what that's worth.

Regarding PC100, you only need this if you have a 100 mhz motherboard and a CPU that can be run at 100 mhz or better. If you're running your motherboard at 66 or 75 mhz than the older SDRAM or even EDO or FPM SIMMs should be fine.

7.1 Does the sound card make a difference?

Steve Smith says: "If you mean, which manufacturer, probably not. If you mean, which kind of sound card, emphatically yes. The second-generation PCI sound cards, like Creative Labs' Sound Blaster Live! and Turtle Beach's Montego, offer impressive audio improvements: the sound is cleaner, with less artifact (that annoying background static), and individual "voices" (engines, tires, etc.) stand out in kind of sonic bas-relief, so you can hear distinctly when Jimmy Clark is overtaking you, for instance...and on which side! Plus a greater dynamic range and support for full 4- or 5-speaker surround sound.

"Moreover, you will get a small but welcome lift in the frame rate; as much as 10-15% if you've got the "sounds heard" slider set to 8 or more. All this for less than half of what a good legacy sound card like the AWE 64 cost a year ago."

2/27/99 - I'm seeing even better results. See 7.3 below.

7.2 How does the sound card affect frame rate?

As far as I know, the principal issue with sound cards revolves around the inefficiency of the DirectX sound driver. If there is not enough memory in the sound card, and you select more than four engine sounds in GPL's Options, frame rate can be adversely affected due to the thrashing of sound samples in and out of the sound card's memory. The DirectX driver is not very efficient at dealing with this issue.

One Papyrus engineer is using a Soundblaster AWE 64 Gold; he says that this card has sufficient memory for him to run more than four sounds without impacting frame rate. I think he can run about 8 sounds, and is delighted with the results.

Another GPL developer suggests waiting for the new Vortex 2 based PCI sound cards, which are due out soon.

Another benefit of a sound card with more memory might be that you might be able to use different, larger sound samples (such as the ones created by Patrick) for the engines in GPL without impacting the frame rate, again because texture thrashing would be avoided.

7.3 Does all this really make a difference in practice?

I'm getting fantastic results with a new SoundBlaster Live! Value, which recently replaced the SoundBlaster Vibra 16 in my PII-350. I can run all graphics on at 800x600, all 19 AI cars, select 16 of engine sounds (GPL's maximum) and still get 36 fps!

Sound quality is significantly better; the popping and scratchiness that plagued GPL with the SB 16 since I installed Windows 98 is completely eliminated with the SB Live! Now I get nothing but good clean sounds.

Online racing is enormously improved. With the SB 16, I typically had to turn off all lighting and special effects (smoke, etc.) and set the mirrors to Cars Only to get a solid 36 fps. If I got anything less than 36 fps, I'd start experiencing clock smashes and disconnects, and even at 36 fps these problems were still annoyingly frequent.

With the SB Live!, I run the same settings I use offline - 800x600, all graphics on - and get 36 fps almost all the time! Plus, it no longer appears necessary to be getting nonstop 36 fps. Clock smashes seem to be a thing of the past, and disconnects have virtually disappeared.

Apparently, traditional sound cards have a significant CPU hit. Testing by Achim Trensz suggests that the SB Live! has virtually zero CPU utilization. For CPU-intensive software like GPL, this is an enormous benefit.

The SB Live! makes a great companion to Patrick's new engine sounds for GPL. I hooked up a pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers (thanks, Steve!) to a Technics stereo integrated amplifier, and turned up the volume to just this side of deafening. Sitting in the middle of a grid of 20 cars, with a symphony of good clean engine sounds roaring all around me...the sensation is indescribable! It's what I always imagined GPL could sound like.

I got the SB Live! Value for $75 in February 1999. At that price, it's a great deal for the GPL enthusiast.

Achim Trenz discusses the SB Live! Value in detail and Steve Smith and Andy Booth both note significant improvements with other PCI sound cards in the hardware section of my GPL Reader FAQ.

7.4 Are there problems with some sound cards and GPL?

Some people report various problems with some of the newer sound cards. I have no experience with these problems and can offer no help other than suggesting that if you have difficulties, try the latest drivers for the sound card, and reduce the number of sounds in GPL's Options.

I am using SoundBlaster 16's in my other machines. They aren't fancy, but they are cheap and reliable, and they work ok.