Boss Rally – Top Gear Rally’s PC Brother

Have you ever had one of those moments when clicking through Wikipedia you learn something that blew your mind? I had one of those moments in 2020. I was clicking through some pages about Top Gear games when I landed on Top Gear Rally and saw the sentence, “In 1999, the game was ported to Microsoft Windows as Boss Rally.” What? I had played Top Gear Rally on my Nintendo 64 since 1997 and never knew a PC version existed. Clicking the link to Boss Rally’s Wikipedia page revealed the original developer of TGR ported the game.  I knew at that moment I had to find a copy.

Obtaining a copy of Boss Rally turned out to be a challenge. There were no copies for sale anywhere I looked online. In contrast, Top Gear Rally had over 200 copies available on eBay. Nonetheless, I created an eBay saved search and went on with my day. About six months later, my search finally got a hit. A seller had a copy for sale and was asking $9.99. I felt that was a fair price for an uncommon PC game with little to no other listings. A few days letter I had the game in my possession.

The challenges of Boss Rally weren’t over yet. The game was developed in the late ’90s when 3D games for PC used graphics APIs like 3dfx’s Glide or Microsoft’s DirectX 7. Glide was never officially supported on Windows 2000/XP+, and Windows Vista or 7 dropped support for early versions of DirectX. With Boss Rally only supporting Glide and DirectX 6, there was no native way to play the game on my PC. That was until I discovered the utility dgVoodoo 2.

dgVoodoo 2 is an excellent piece of software. It’s able to map Glide GPU logic and DirectX pipelines to DX10+ shaders. This means old 3D games from the 90s and 2000s can be played on a modern version of Windows. Plus, installing the software is easy, only copying the required DLL files into the installation directory of a given game. dgVoodoo 2 has become my go-to solution for getting old games running on Windows.

Combining Boss Rally with dgVoodoo2

  • Download the latest version of dgVoodoo from http://dege.freeweb.hu/dgVoodoo2/dgVoodoo2/#latest-stable-version
  • Unzip the dgVoodoo download.
  • Open the MS\x86 folder and copy all the files to the game’s Program Files folder.
  • Navigate back to the top of the dgVoodoo2 folder, right-click on gvVoodooCpl.exe, and choose “Run as Administrator.”
  • Click the Add button and select the game’s install folder under Program Files.
  • On the General tab, choose to run the game as Full Screen or Windowed.
  • Under the DirectX tab, set the following settings:
    • Uncheck “Application controlled fullscreen/windowed state.”
    • Check “Fast video memory access.”
    • Set the desired resolution. This setting will help override the in-game menu from rendering at 640×480. You will also want to go into the game’s options and set the desired resolution.
  • Click the Apply button and close dgVoodoo Control Panel.
  • From the Start menu or Boss Rally install folder, launch the Display Wizard, and select a Direct3d video card. The exact card does not appear to matter.
  • Launch Boss Rally and get racing.

Have fun.
-Tony

The Better N64 Joystick Repair

Today I’m going to describe the installation and review of replacement N64 joystick parts sold by Kitsch-Bent. As described by their website, these parts are made of polyoxymethylene plastic for durability, and I’m impressed with the quality. They look like OEM parts.

https://store.kitsch-bent.com/product/n64-joystick-gears

Why do N64 joysticks wear out? The answer is twofold. The bottom of the stick rides in a bowl and grinds the surface of the bowl away over time. That is the white powder you eventually see around the base of the joystick. As the bowl wears away, the joystick sinks lower into its assembly, and this causes the movement to feel sloppy. On top of that, the joystick slides inside slots to push gears around. The slots will eventually lose their shape causing joystick to have too much play.

Disassembly of the N64 controller is very easy. There are several Philips screws around the perimeter of the controller, plus two more screws in the expansion port. Once you are inside the controller, the next step is to move the trigger button from its home on the backside of the joystick assembly. Now, unplug the joystick from the main PCB and unscrew it from the shell. Finally, carefully remove the last screw from the joystick assembly. There is a spring inside the assembly pushing the joystick down into the bowl, and when the screw is released, pieces may go flying.

The inside of the joystick assembly may look complicated, but the mechanics are simple. As the joystick moves around, it pushes the gears, which turn optical encoder wheels. The optical encoders turn the analog movement into digital numbers used by the controller to determine how far the joystick has moved from its home position. This is the same technology used in older computer mice used. The 8-Bit Guy did a video on how mice work if you want to learn more.

Installing the new parts is straightforward. Remove the joystick, spring, and gears. Remove the old bowl. Transfer the optical wheels to the new bowl. Reverse the process to install the parts.

That’s it. Overall, I’m happy with these parts sold by Kitsch-Bent. At $1.15 for the bowl, $0.95 for the gearsets, and $1.05 for the thumbsticks, you can repair several joysticks for the same cost as one aftermarket replacement. Most repairs should only need new gears and maybe bowels. The longevity of the components is still unknown. I don’t play my Nintendo 64 daily as I did in 1996-1999, so I don’t expect the joysticks to wear out.

Have fun.
-Tony