Apple, Tech, and Gaming

Gaming on a Pismo PowerBook

- 2009.08.07 - Tip Jar

Time passes by quickly, and with that passage of time, technology changes. The old saying "out with the old, in with the new" takes over our minds with the release of glamorous new Apple hardware - or does it?

Macintosh computers have a knack for longevity - and for outliving their Windows counterparts. You don't necessarily have to feel obsolete using an older system. Does it mean that you won't be able to use the latest apps and play the latest games? Most likely. Does it mean that you won't stay productive, and won't be able to play any games at all? Not at all!

What happens when you would like to discover the usefulness of a Mac and don't have a big budget to blow? Your best choice is to go bargain hunting on eBay, Craigslist, or to numerous other online resellers to obtain used equipment at a reasonable price.

The Pismo PowerBook

If you have read Charles Moore's columns, you can see that he is truly a Pismo fanatic.

Why is the Pismo so great? It's G4 upgradeable, it's rugged, it has room for two batteries (giving you up to 16 hours of runtime - great for long trips), and it has an AirPort 802.11b slot for wireless connectivity. It also is the most user serviceable notebook Apple ever manufactured, and it arguably has the most expansion options on an Apple portable that are still viable today - more than nine years after its release!

You can even do some nice iMovie or Photoshop work if you go for a G4 upgrade, making the Pismo an investment that will continue to pay for itself into the future.

On the downside, you will also find that a Pismo is quite limited in terms of graphics processing with a weak Rage 128 mobility graphics card with just 8 MB of VRAM. It's hard to imagine, but this machine could possibly have had Quartz Extreme Support if it had been built with a capable enough graphics processor with the thought in mind of later G4 upgrades, potentially unlocking that feature.

Games for Pismo

What options does that leave you with for gaming on a Pismo? Not a lot of notable titles in Mac OS X, but there are plenty of options in OS 9 that will amaze you! I found that the majority of games that made a great impact on the Mac during the time of the Pismo went one way or the other - either too high for the VRAM in the Pismo or too low for OS X. This really shows that the Pismo was one of those "bridge systems" that, in this case, connected the gap from OS 9 to OS X, running both harmoniously!

In the case of OS X titles that could have met the processor specs for the Pismo, the requirements were set too high for the Pismo's video card. Most early OS X titles that could have met the processor specs of the Pismo also called for a Radeon 7000 or better with 32 MB of VRAM. Surprisingly these early OS X games ran on hardware as low as a Beige G3 at 266 MHz or better with a Radeon 7000 PCI video card upgrade, but they could not run on the Pismo, given the non-upgradeable video hardware.

Because of this, the games you had to choose from had to date back a generation to the older video technology of the Power Macs and iMacs that preceded the Pismo. Not until mobile systems started having 32 MB of internal VRAM did we start to see gaming on the go (at least with brand new titles) become a viable option.

Below is a table I've compiled of games that will easily run on a Pismo. As I stated earlier, you have to consider the video technology and its necessity to gaming. With that said, and with the 8 MB ATI Rage 128 Mobility processor in mind, here is a list of games that are best suited for the Pismo that will also run well. Quake 3 will run smoothly in both 16- and 32-bit modes (much faster in 16-bit mode though).

Gaming on a PowerBook G3 'Pismo'

Minimum System Requirements1

Game Title RAM HDD

OS

G3 400? G3 500? G4 550?
Doom 2/The Ultimate Doom 8 MB 17.2 MB

7.1-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Quake 3 Arena2 70 MB 500 MB

8.1-9.2.2

YES YES YES
The Sims Complete Collection 256 MB 3.2 GB

10.4.4+

NO YES YES
Diablo Battle Chest/Diablo 23 256 MB 650 MB

8.1-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Sid Meier's Civilization 24 10 MB 435 MB

7.5.3-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Myst 10th Anniversary 64 MB 400 MB

8.1-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Myst III: Exile 64 MB 200 MB

10.0+

YES YES YES
Unreal Tournament ('99) 64 MB 120 MB

7.6-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Out Of This World5 2 MB <2 MB

6.0.7-9.2.2

YES YES YES
Prince of Persia Collection 2.5 MB 18 MB

7.1-9.2.2

YES YES YES
  1. All games that run on a PowerBook "Pismo" G3 must meet the video card/VRAM requirements to run properly. A PowerBook G3 Pismo has an ATI Rage 128 M graphics processor with 8 MB of VRAM. The VRAM is not upgradeable, so games are still limited to the graphics requirements even with a G4 upgrade.
  2. A patch exists to run Quake 3 Arena in Mac OS X. The Mac OS X patch requires Mac OS 10.2.8 (Jaguar).
  3. A patch exists to run Diablo on Mac OS X. The patch requires Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar).
  4. Civilization 2 will run on any 68030 and better. That dates waaay back. The installer is custom and will allow you to choose a minimal (9.5 MB) install, a standard (55 MB) install, or a large (435 MB) install. More or less files are pulled from the CD depending on the install, but it seems that you need the CD no matter what for the music.
  5. This game is rare and old, but definitely a classic! It's worth a try if you haven't played it. There were many other ports of the game released, most notably on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis.

As you can see, the requirements are quite low for most titles. This list is by no means exhaustive; it is what I would consider a list of some of the better Macintosh games that could run on a Pismo, given the limitations of the Pismo's video card. Just dust off that old copy of OS 9 and install it on the Pismo as a bootable partition. You will most certainly want to make sure that you have QuickTime 4 or later installed (I recommend QuickTime 6 - it was the last version for OS 9) as a rule of thumb.

If you are rusty on configuring OS 9, there are plenty of resources out there. Be mindful that most of these games were designed for Mac OS 7.x through OS 9.x. You will want to boot natively into OS 9 when running these particular titles. Some will run okay on the Pismo using the "Classic Environment" in Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" or lower, but you will be highly disappointed compared to running them natively on OS 9.

Track down a copy of OS 9 if you don't have one (see Low End Mac's Best Classic Mac OS Prices) and give these games a shot. It may be worth it just to discover some of these older games!

Emulation

It this doesn't satisfy your taste, there are other options for gaming on a Pismo, but these options cross into some shaky legal territory and are a completely different subject to be addressed. The act of emulation has always sparked legal debate, but what if you already own the titles? Come back for my next article, Emulation on a Macintosh. LEM

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Dan Bashur lives in central Ohio with his wife and children. He uses various PowerPC G3 and G4 Macs running Tiger and Leopard. Besides finding new uses for Macs and other tech, Dan enjoys writing (fantasy novel series in the works), is an avid gamer, and a member of Sony's Gamer Advisor Panel. You can read more of Dan Bashur's work on ProjectGamers.com, where he contributes regular articles about the PSP, classic gaming, and ways you can use Sony gaming hardware with your Mac.

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