Rendition video cards were something I was vaguely aware of around the time it was active, but I never had one myself. Until this past year I had only ever seen IndyCar Racing II in software rendering, usually upscaled in DOSBOX; DOSBOX being the recommended way to run the software today because it runs smoothly and allows you to bind a modern steering wheel and pedals to the emulated DOS environment.
What is Rendition?
Rendition is a type of hardware graphics rendering used in video games much like 3DFX Glide, OpenGL and DirectX. The main benefit of Rendition over software SVGA (640×480 pixels) is that the graphics card reduces aliasing (visible pixel edges) to give the impression it’s running at a much higher resolution, and generally allows higher graphics settings due to load being taken off the CPU.
The image below shows a direct comparison between the software 320×200 (displayed at 320×240), software 640×480 (SVGA), Rendition 640×480 and Elkhart Lake HQ version; The HQ version of the track being one produced by Papyrus specifically for Rendition.
As you can see the lines are much more defined with Rendition (bottom-left) over SVGA (top-right) even though the resolution is the same. The main difference comes from the Rendition-exclusive high quality (HQ) track (bottom-right) which upgrades the sky, trackside models and textures.
Rendition v1000 video cards from 1996 were the first PC graphics cards with a programmable core used to render 3D graphics and usually shipped with a copy of IndyCar Racing II. Sierra, the software publisher, even released their own v1000 Rendition GPU bundle under the Screamin’ 3D name. The v1000 had 4MB EDO DRAM and unfortunately soon struggled to compete with other hardware options for most games.
The 1997 v2100 and v2200 chips were essentially an upgrade to the v1000, which is why IndyCar Racing II can be easily patched to run on them. The only v2100 GPU produced was the Diamond Multimedia Stealth II S220 PCI with 4MB SGRAM, and is the one you’ll most likely see today on eBay. The v2200 had a higher clock speed than the v2100 and the larger number of manufacturers selling it all offered slightly different options like AGP or PCI connectivity, 4MB or 8MB SGRAM and even hardware accelerated DVD playback. However, Diamond Multimedia released a BIOS flash update for their v2100 which gave it v2200 clock speeds and basically negates the need to find a v2200 specifically for ICR2.
All Rendition cards appear to have been passively cooled with no heatsinks or fans, but in my experience would benefit from some additional airflow. The Diamond S220 tested in an enclosed environment will lockup and require a system reset after about an hour of gameplay without adequate heat removal.
The Rendition version of IndyCar Racing II is actually pretty hard to find because it only ever appears to have been sold bundled with the GPU. CART Racing Rendition (the IndyCar Racing II re-release) is your best option and can be easily turned into a Rendition ICR2 complete with Rendition HQ tracks by copying over the cars, main.dat, gameopts.cfg from ICR2 and putting and then running the indycar.exe from this Rendition patch in your Rendition CART directory. CART Racing Rendition is found in the DOS then REND folder on most versions of the CART Racing CD.
Obviously apart from transparent smoke and dust, the main visual difference between Software SVGA and Rendition is the anti-aliasing (smoothing of pixels). Not every track in ICR2 is available in Rendition-exclusive high quality (HQ), so in many cases the AA improvement on cars, trackside models and textures is all you get. The image below gives a direct anti-aliasing comparison using an imported Indianapolis Motor Speedway from IndyCar Racing (1993) showing software 320×200 (displayed at 320×240) in ICR1, software 320×200 (displayed at 320×240) in ICR2, software 640×480 (SVGA) in ICR2 and Rendition 640×480.
IndyCar Racing II is hard-coded to run on v1000 chips. If you have a v2x00 you will need to patch the ICR2 exe or it simply won’t run and will lockup your system.
Both v1000 and v2x00 GPUs have a number of visual issues such as the sky textures not working in the rear chase camera, but by default v1000 is the most visually clean and basically requires no work to get running. The v1000 does suffer more with performance issues due to the lower clock speed though, so I would still recommend a v2x00 overall.
There are some v2x00-exclusive visual bugs such as broken mirrors in the cockpit and a missing texture on the dash (see images below – left). The solution for this is to replace the Speedy3D file in the ICR2 folder with this one from a later game, being aware that while this fixes those issues it does make the track surface model triangles visible as green or yellow lines (see images below – right). I generally drive in the cockpit with the v2x00 cockpit bugs fixed, but watch replays with them un-fixed because there is no cockpit view in replay mode anyway.
The last major problem is that if you restart your system after you patch your Speedy3D file to fix those v2x00 bugs IndyCar Racing II will no longer function. You’ve got to remember that you’re dealing with a programmable GPU core and the restart effectively makes it forget what it’s doing. Every time you want to start ICR2 with the v2x00 bugs fixed you need to start it with the un-fixed version first, using the original Speedy3D file, then fix them and run it again. I use a couple of .bat files to delete whatever version is there and copy in the v1000 or v2x00 Speedy3D file depending which one I want, you can download that here.
How It Looks
The video below the screenshots should serve to become the go-to reference for how something looked in IndyCar Racing II on a Rendition video card. It includes footage of everything that looked different and you can jump to anything you want using the timestamps.
00:00 Rendition Intro
01:16 Garage (Car Aliasing)
02:31 Cockpit and pit crew
02:40 Transparent F-screens, dirt and smoke
02:58 Crashes, sparks, transparent smoke
08:55 Elkhart Lake HQ
10:39 Laguna Seca HQ
11:46 Long Beach
13:28 Michigan HQ
17:12 Phoenix HQ
17:52 Portland HQ
20:47 Michigan HQ AI Racing
22:34 Elkhart Lake HQ AI Racing
31:28 ICR2 Rendition Credits
How I’m Running It
I’m using a modern PC with Windows 10 Pro hosting a Hyper-V Virtual Machine. Hyper-V supports PCI passthrough which means the VM can take full control over a device, including GPUs, in the host machine. A PCI-E to PCI adapter allows me to plug the Diamond Multimedia Stealth II S220 PCI that I own into a PCI-E slot. The GPU was not detected by the VM until I got the Windows 10 host machine to accept installing the Microsoft Basic Display Driver so it could output video within Windows 10.
It would be infinitely easier (and what I am going to do when I can) to buy an old PC from eBay with a suitable slot and run ICR2 natively. I would recommend Windows 98 SE as that will allow you to run every Rendition title both within the OS and after exiting to DOS. The highest specification fully-compatible machine from the time to give you best performance would probably be a Pentium 4.
Be aware that whether you are using a VM via hardware output or a compatible real PC your monitor/capture device will need to support 480p when ICR2 is running and 300p @ 70fps within DOS before the simulation is launched.