Running games during the DOS era was trouble enough, and today exploring those old games can be a nightmare. Sound card issues, memory management, and other peculiarities of early PC gaming were amplified as OS technology progressed and passed these titles by, leaving many of them orphaned and unable to run on modern systems. Today's answer to this problem isn't digging up an old system or rooting around for special drivers, it's emulation: namely DOSBox. DOSbox uses the SDL library to emulate the early operating environment of the PC. It supports the classic file systems, CPUs, sound hardware, and videocards of that era almost flawlessly, with hundreds of titles on the compatibility list. DOSBox has become something of a standby in this regard, with popular websites like GOG.com using it extensively to get their catalog of PC golden oldies running perfectly for modern customers. SDL also means versions exist for many platforms, including Linux and OS X. The cherry on top? DOSBox is free and open source.
Old games aren't the only ones that cause trouble. Modern 3D titles are rife with disappointments, but perhaps the more irksome to gamers are yestertech graphic options on recent games. Console ports are mostly to blame for this (I'm looking at you, From Dust) as developers are forced to aim for the lowest common denominator targets to maximize sales and homogenize development, but they aren't the only offenders. None of that matters, however when you boot up your new game and find it bereft of features like advanced antialiasing, HDR, or Bloom. Fortunately, you can get all of those effects without updates or patches via the FXAA Post Process Injector utility.
Originally developed by Nvidia's Timothy Lottes, FXAA PPI tool has been embraced by the modding community and expanded to work with both Nvidia and ATI graphics cards. It provides a series of sliders and toggles in a small, tabbed window that allow control and implementation of video features not originally included with a game. In addition to AA, HDR, and Bloom, it also adjusts color, lighting and sharpness along with novelties like a sepiatone filter. Particularly popular with Skyrim and Battlefield 3 users, the FXAA Post Process Injector is free and runs with most 3D games. Careful, though: Some anti-cheat methods used on multiplay servers incorrectly flag use of this tool as a hack.
Now that we've tuned our hot rod, it's time to leave the garage and get our game on.