How did DOS games draw to the screen so fast?

May 27, 2024

The EGA and VGA video standards share some similarities with how the Amiga did graphics, but the similarities end when it comes to the 256 color graphics that defined 90s PC gaming. Topaz walks you through the basics of how those video modes worked, and what made them get so fast over time.

Thanks to Tyrel (!


3d game source code

Code on Hackerbun

2d games and the EGA pipeline

Why are, like, half these examples id Software games?

  • Graphics Programming Black Book by Michael Abrash (
    • This book not only has a lot of incredible detail about the x86 processor, the DOS platform, and how these EGA and VGA modes work, but the author also worked on the Quake engine, and his earlier articles helped John Carmack make games like Commander Keen run so smoothly. Even if you’re not going to write low-level code for retro machines, the first three chapters are a fantastic read for any software developer who gets caught up in prematurely optimizing anything (code, date, features) at any level of the process. Highly recommended.