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SciTech Display Doctor

An Alternative to DirectDraw?

Scitech makes an interesting piece of software which they have called Display Doctor for the past year or so. What in the world is it, and what can it do for you?

Even though I tested the previous version of SDD about six months back, I still felt in the dark about SDD. Why do I need it? What will it do for the average sim user and what specific application does it have for games in WIN95?

It turns out that SDD provides numerous benefits over the existing driver that you can get from your hardware vendors. Some of these are:

1. Support for a more resolutions than the hardware vendors provide, including new game resolutions such as 320x240, 400x300 and 512x384 in all color depths (8,15,16,24 and 32 bits per pixel). Many hardware vendors don't currently have drivers that can provide this support, and if they do it is only for brand new hardware while SDD does it for all existing hardware and new hardware.

2. Support for the latest software standards for drivers, including VBE/Core 3.0 and VBE/AF 2.0. Both of these standards include support for hardware linear framebuffer modes (up to 25 times faster in some cases than the banked modes, on average 2.5 times faster), and support for new hardware features such as stereo page flipping for stereo LC shutter glasses and support for generic refresh rate control (so you can re-program 640x480 to say 120-140Hz for excellent and ergonomic viewing with LC glasses which halves the refresh rate you see per eye).

3. In the new 6.0 version of SDD support has been included for a new, Universal Refresh Rate control utility. This new utility allows control of the refresh rate of the Windows 95 desktop on all supported resolutions, *including* DirectDraw low resolution modes (if they are supported by the drivers). SDD can also center and size the low resolution modes so if the hardware DirectDraw drivers have incorrectly programmed the CRTC controller for these modes, SDD can fix this problem.

So what about Win95 games?

Although support for the above VBE/Core 3.0 and VBE/AF 2.0 standards may seem kind of pointless in a Windows 95 gaming world, they are actually more useful than you might imagine. As well as DirectDraw, there is also an alternative fullscreen graphics technology that we ship with our MGL graphics library called WinDirect.

WinDirect allows games to use the cool new VBE/Core 3.0 or VBE/AF 2.0 features for Windows games. Although it does require that the game be developed to support WinDirect, the MGL libraries allow programmers to support both WinDirect and DirectDraw seamlessly within the same application.

Right now because of the terrible driver problems that game developers have been experiencing with DirectDraw, many developer have been signing up to use the MGL so you can expect to see many new Windows 95 games this Christmas that support WinDirect and will benefit from SciTech Display Doctor drivers.

The first major game to ship that supports WinDirect was WinQuake (Sci-tech helped do the port to Windows using the MGL), and there are many new titles (some of them sims, Combatsim is trying to find out which titles) in the works using SciTech MGL.

So for the average simmer, if the game supports WinDirect, SciTech Display Doctor can help solve compatibility issues with end user hardware. It can also help to increase the speed and responsiveness of the game, which in unaccelerated sim's is still a factor.

Take me to Scitech

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