Coded blue.

Wednesday 3 March 2004

Screenshot ToA character screen

Pic of the day: The new character screen. Incidentally, don't you think fewer men would spend their days playing online games if women came with so simple choices? (Just kidding. Actually I like women fine the way they are!)

Trials of installing ToA

Yesterday I bought one copy of Trials of Atlantis, the second expansion pack for the online game Dark Age of Camelot. You know I have mentioned it already, and not in a purely favorable light. Even so, as the loyal fanboy I am, I bought one copy. This was pretty much exclusively for the improved graphics engine and user interface. I don't expect to actually go to the Atlantis zones, which are not just high-level but also take a long time to complete. I have a job, a diary, and online contacts outside the game. (For instance, ICQ woman is stirring again this week.) So I can't commit myself to a 6 hours adventure. Not to mention that none of my European characters are even above level 25 yet. ^_^*

I bought only one ToA box even though I have two accounts. I reasoned that I would first try it to make sure it improved performance in some way before wasting more money. (My fingers were starting to type "wasting more gold" there, which is a good hint that one has played enough medieval RPGs for a while.)

ToA uses the new "gamebryo" engine, the successor to the game engine used in DAoC and Morrowind among others. It is supposed to continue the trend from Shrouded Isles with performance optimized for graphics cards. Meaning less work on the main processor (and presumably RAM) and more work for the cards, if they are up to it. GeForce 3 Ti 200 isn't exactly groundbreaking by today's standards, but it may still have some untapped potential. Anything that would make it easier to run two accounts at the same time is welcome. Besides, ToA graphics are simply prettier. The interface is better looking as well, and skinable.

This may be a new concept to some. Basically, the game interface (controls, displays etc) are stored in a kind of database. With a skinable interface, you can make your own "look and feel" to the game, while still playing the same game. Other players will not notice any difference, since they see you through their own game client. But you may want things different. For instance Mythic recommends different skins for each of the three realms, basically just different color themes. Rumor has it that one of the user-defined skins has a small travel map, like Morrowind, instead of just a compass. I haven't tried that yet. I have however tried to get the game to run. This was a trial in itself.


I installed the CD, then let the patcher run for quite a while to download all the added (and perhaps some subtracted) features after the initial release of the game. It is my impression that this expansion was less thoroughly tested than the previous, and especially game balance issues were not resolved before release. Anyway, I noticed nothing of that when the download was finally finished and I started the game. I notice the error message "Renderer Creation Failed". Then the game terminated.

A few days ago, Windows Update had offered to download the latest drivers to my graphics card. I had conceded to this, since I was having trouble with playing Morrowind in a higher resolution than my desktop. Higher resolutions is the graphic improvement to Morrowind that causes the least slowdown, pretty much none at all for the first couple resolutions above 1024x768. But when the game was interrupted by Break Reminder after 10 minutes, it crashed spectacularly. The machine ended up in VGA mode and even then it was hard to terminate the other processes in a dignified manner and reboot without pressing the power switch.

Upgrading the nvidia driver improved this point, but introduced other problems. There was a slight delay (1-2 seconds?) in Morrowind when opening windows or moving stuff in inventory. This virtually disappeared after a controlled reboot, though. But now I got this Renderer Creation Failed. Rather than being very creative, I went online to look in the game host's Knowledge Base. And lucky me, I found two entries on this message. One of them seemed reasonable: If you have downloaded a new driver, you have to re-install DirectX, which you can download from Microsoft's home page.

I did, and this took its sweet time, during which I wondered why the operating system hadn't bothered to tell me. It must have known that the DirectX I had was attuned to a certain graphic card and driver. It was a part of the operating system (Windows Update) which brought me the new driver. Yet it did not even mention that I needed a new DirectX, much less offer to fetch it for me from its maker, until later. (It did, later, after I had crashed the game.)

I think Microsoft Windows should be foolproof, because of its target audience. If we enjoyed building and modifying our own operating system, we would use Linux.

That said, once I had upgraded DirectX and rebooted, ToA came up in all its glory. Which was only slightly more glorious than its predecessor, but still. Worth the money? Probably not. But I do play that one account with ToA permanently from now on, on both machines. So I guess it wasn't all bad. If I find a really cool "skin", I'll try to let you know.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Consensus reality
Two years ago: Where knowledge ends
Three years ago: Mornings vs evenings
Four years ago: Weather talk
Five years ago: Dreaming of Saddam

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