Question I have a really nerdy and tech savvy question. Could we run a semi modern game like CoD4 with ONLY 486 CPUs?

Dec 6, 2019
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Provided lets say some of us went back and showed off our modern games. I wont even show Red Dead Redemption II as its too heavy, but Call of Duty 4 from 2007 was only about 8 gigabytes and didnt need crazy hardware.

back in 1990 they didnt even have GPUs and companies that made them made their own custom chips and didnt have enough experience how to make them or how they worked.

Im guessing any game that runs ONLY on CPU means the game is software rendered correct?

So lets say we change the code of Modern Warfare 1 from 2007 to accept multiple CPUs and make it so it doesnt really have any compatibility issues or doesnt need Windows XP, all it needs is the horsepower and ram to run. Basically we would be building an ASIC specifically to run ONE game which is CoD4

How many 2Mb ram chips which I think thats what they had in 1990 and 486 25mhz CPUs would you need in a rack so you could run CoD 4 at 60 fps 1080p? 200 CPUs would give it an effective 5GHZ Single Core CPU speed of today so a core i9 9900k except that doesnt even include the latency. And a CPU doesnt process graphics well. Usually it does it at about 1fps software rendered?

So would we need about and Im generalizing here, about 12,000 486 CPUs?
 

NightHawkRMX

Illustrious
The issue is CPU performance doesn't work like that.

If you could put 200 i486 cpus together, you would just have essentially a 200 core CPU running at 66mhz. You would have horrible performance and not support the instructions to run modern games.

Plus, no games now would utilize more than a few of the 200 core, so your essentially having the same performance as 6 or so CPUs running at 66mhz.

The way software rendering worked was using a 2d graphics chip on your motherboard in combination with your CPU to produce a 3d image.

I gave actually ran nfs 2 se on an 4 threaded i5 an igpu. The IGPU obviously didn't support glide api, so i believe it ran in software rendering. Rannvery, very poorly and was horrible looking.
 

DSzymborski

Glorious
Moderator
As Nighthawk says, it doesn't work like this. You could have an infinite number of 486s and not be able to run it. Too many tasks don't scale well. There are a lot of tasks that ten people can do faster than one, but ten people boiling an egg takes as long as one person boiling an egg.

There are only so many parallel tasks in a game. Even though programmers are skilled at using more cores today, there's still a quickly diminishing rate of return for more cores past a certain point. It's like trying to move as fast as a 400 HP Lamborghini by having 400 horses pulling a stagecoach together.
 
As Nighthawk says, it doesn't work like this. You could have an infinite number of 486s and not be able to run it. Too many tasks don't scale well. ...
An interesting question by OP since the question is really totally hypothetical...

Since it IS hypothetical, and Nighthawk posed the 200 486 CPU's as the machine to do it... shouldn't you also include a properly designed OS scheduler, application (game) and graphics API that actually USES those CPU's to best effect in parallel processing ? I'm not saying it would be fast...certainly not as fast as even a low-end modern GPU. But just use the hardware as best it could be.

Sun Microsystems, SGI and Symbolics were early makers of early graphics workstation manufacturers. How did they achieve their performance? Did they use parallel processing techniques?
 

kanewolf

Titan
Moderator
Sun Microsystems, SGI and Symbolics were early makers of early graphics workstation manufacturers. How did they achieve their performance? Did they use parallel processing techniques?
They used custom hardware. SGI graphics workstations required 2 - 4 boards that were 15 inches square. They cost $250K, but they could run GL Quake. It really depends on the SOFTWARE not the hardware. You have assumed all the hard parts away by saying that you "change the code". THAT is the hard part.
 

NightHawkRMX

Illustrious
Sgi machines were very advanced for their time. Like including a gig of ram across like 10 sticks in a time most people had less than a 10th of that.

It would be like someone having a system with a terrabyte of ram now a days.
 

TJ Hooker

Glorious
Herald
If we only consider the graphics rendering portion of running the game, it's an embarrassingly parallel workload and therefore does scale quite well to an indefinite number of 'cores', hence modern GPUs having thousands of shaders.

Back of a napkin calculation:
Minimum GPU requirements for CoD MW is an ATI 9800Pro. Wikipedia says one of these is capable of 3040 MOps (million operations per second). It also says an 50 MHz 486 is capable of 40 MIPS (million operations per second), so we'll say 20 MIPS for the 25 MHz version.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radeon_9000_Series
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80486

I don't know if it's appropriate to equate MIPS to MOps here, but whatever. Based on those numbers, you'd need 152 Intel 486s running at 25 MHz to get equivalent processing power. Of course, there's a ton of other factors like scheduling, cache, memory bandwidth etc. that are being ignored here.

As far as having enough CPU power to actually run the game engine, as said above you can't just mash a bunch of cores together if your workload is limited by the performance of a single thread.
 
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