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Updated November 20, 2004

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Sound Card Compatibility: The Silent Killer of QB Games?
(8/17/2001) With Sound Blaster music and sound becoming the norm for QB games, find out how you can keep modern sound cards from causing your games to choke.

Sound setup menus like this are a professional way to save your gamers from a major headache.

It's a threat that's already beginning to slow down the QB community, but it has nothing to do with any one programmer or any one person-- in fact, the problem of sound card compatibility has been a general's dilemna building up since the first QB game featuring SB sound support was released.

The new problem with sound card compatibility doesn't involve the lack of a sound card, but rather having too new a sound card. With upcoming operating systems like Windows XP offering no DOS support, some sound card manufacturers are making sound cards with more complicated DOS drivers or the lack thereof. If that isn't bad enough, some QB games made in the past don't come with a sound menu or a clean auto-detect mechanism of some sort. If poorly programmed, a sound card routine will force a QB game not to run as it searches for a soundcard that matches the exact specifications of the coding group's soundcard.

Fortunately, all is not lost. The following are some tips for programmers and gamers regarding sound card compatibility in QB games:

For Gamers
Depending on how well and friendly the programmers set up their game, getting a soundcard-compatible QB game to work can be easy or very hard. Not all QB games are guilty of this; S.W.A.T. Academy by Excalibur North comes with an excellent sound setup program, for example. Some QB games won't run at all unless you have a soundcard compatible with their game, but the problem is that some programmers expect you have a soundcard with key settings. Check your soundcard settings by going to the AUTOEXEC.BAT file in the root directory, or consult the documentation included with the soundcard you purchased. Get the base address, IRQ, and DMA channels in particular. Setting these to Address 220, IRQ 5 or 7, and DMA 1, will sometimes get the game to run. Other times you may have to download a DOS driver patch from your soundcard's website. These patches often require you to run an EXE file from DOS to start Sound Blaster emulation, and will require you to include the address, IRQ, and DMA settings in the command line.

Another place to look is the documentation included with the QB game. Some docs include information on how to work soundcard with the settings. Other docs may offer a list of batch files you can run to start the game with or without music. Usually sound-free versions of the game can be played by starting the proper .BAT file.

For Programmers
For the most convenience to the gamer, an auto-detect feature is probably the best way to set up soundcard support in your game. Many popular QB programs like QMidi or DS4QB offer auto-detect features that allow your QB game to weed out or make an educated guess regarding the soundcard. Don't fall into the trap of "Base 220, IRQ 5, DMA 1" either, which is a popular default among QB games. While many soundcards support this combination, not all cards do.

Adding an Options menu like this not only gives your gamers more control, but it can make the game look professional..

Another way to help gamers get the best sound settings is through a Sound Settings menu. If you give gamers ability to choose between auto-detection and entering the Base Address, IRQ, and DMA channel, they'll have the added confidence that your game is trying to work under the specifications of their soundcard. Also, a sound on/sound off option would help gamers who have non-compatible soundcards. A prompt should occur if the soundcard being used by the gamer isn't compatible; the game shouldn't kick you out or cause the computer to freeze.

Perhaps the most important advice is to make sure the default setting is to set the game to "Sound off", then allow gamers to make the sound settings for their soundcard first before turning it on. This seems like a subtle step, but it will give gamers who don't have a compatible soundcard or no soundcard at all a chance to change the options as such. And more importantly, it will give gamers access to your masterpiece, which is always the primary objective.

Article written by Vance Velez, Editor

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