Sunday, May 27, 2012

Up The Wall

...Or, Making me second guess myself.

I've gotta confess, FNV is driving me insane, lately. Well, more-so than I normally am, anyway.

There for awhile, I had it working more or less well; and could play mostly crash free. That game is apparently gone. Played most of yesterday, and it's back to its old standby of crashing completely at random. Can be two minutes in, can be two hours; and every third or fourth loading screen results in either crash or lockup. I've gotten quite habitual at tapping the quick save key.

Far as I can tell, it's all memory-related. The game crashes when loading, as in loading screens; but almost every play-time crash is when it's either loading in new terrain/buildings, or activating spawns to "pop in" the 3d models of actors/creatures. With the occasional crash during the start of combat -- but I've ranted more than once over the memory drain of companions when combat starts. I don't know what they're doing, but the game uses a massive amount of memory for about ten seconds and then goes back to normal. If the memory leak that Bethsoft could never be bothered to fix already has the cache in a sad state when that massive draw hits... well, imagine the noise Wile E. makes as he heads for the desert floor.

It's actually gotten to the point that it's made me doubt my PC here. Granted, the eMachine here would turn the stomach of most "serious gamers"; but for the relative pittance I paid for it back in 2007, it's given one hell of a term of service even if it pooches tomorrow. All the crashing, the BSoDs, performance problems; it's all made me think at various times that I had a virus, my RAM was going bad, and the GPU had fried/was in the process of frying (long-time readers may recall that I had a GPU pooch in 2009, taking me out of FO3 for a couple weeks; so I'm a bit paranoid about it happening again).

And of course, the problems are near identical in Skyrim. Random crashes (mostly on loading new cells or assets); and BSoDs if I'm not careful about keeping Firefox reined in before trying to play (Flash has a happyfuntime memory leak, too). So naturally, it's my PC, right?


Occasionally, I feel the need to put things into perspective; or just to play something different. From time to time, I'll abandon my usual haunts in favor or enacting death and destruction on much larger scales -- strategy games. Anyone who's played it can tell you Sins of a Solar Empire is no slouch in the system hardware drain arena, and a while back when frustrated beyond my tolerance by Skyrim, I played an entire medium-large campaign in one sitting. To the tune of seven hours and change; straight. Not only did it not crash, but when done it unloaded from Windows memory without incident (though it took about five minutes to fully clear... yowch) and I was able to continue computing normally.

Huh, so that's what happens when you have an engine written by people who actually play games, instead of people just looking for a paycheck. Between Bethsoft and EA fucking me over every chance they get, I sometimes forget companies like Stardock exist. Shame they don't do sandbox FPS/RPG hybrids. Probably wouldn't have any asinine DRM, either...

Anyway, what got me thinking about all this was yesterday morning I was browsing around a Fallout forum and happened to be linked to Slof's site; where I saw her notation that Fallout 3 and NV were too crash-happy for her and had been abandoned.

It really sucks, because I love FNV and Skyrim in concept. It's just that in execution... Trying to get either game working worth a damn is rather like pulling teeth prior to the advent of anesthetic -- all you can really do is take a big drink of something high-proof, grip the chair arm tightly, and hope for the best. And much like pulling teeth, at the end of the day you usually wish you had spent it doing something else.

On an interesting note: despite being nominally the same engine as the other three (they can say what they want; Skyrim is still absofuckinglutely Gamebryo; just with a more annoying scripting format shoehorned in), Oblivion is pretty stable. I can play it three or four hours; with only the odd (once? twice a week, maybe) crash caused by some less than ideal scripting in some converted Japanese mods I won't go into the exact nature of here. It also at least partially destroys the "it's my PC" theory as well; since the way I have it set up Oblivion is more of an overall memory drain than FNV -- I've installed entirely too many HGEC bodies and armors; and the amount of drain that game can rack up is astounding, even at the relatively low graphics settings I run. Still, the memory leak wasn't as bad in that iteration of the engine, so it takes longer for the game to crash and burn.

Still, I'm not sure what I'm going to do about FNV. It would figure that right after I get my estate finished the damned thing stops working right. Probably has something to do with some mods I installed last month in an attempt to "make the game more interesting". Populated wasteland and casinos, angel park, a world of pain, the monster mod, and a few others...

They fucked my game so bad it's worthy of a Lifetime daytime movie about the evils of rape. I resisted ranting about them at the time because I try hard not to step on other modders' toes; especially when I don't know exactly what went wrong where... and "momod" broke my game so fucking bad I never got a chance to run down exactly what did it. It's MMM all over again. The others were varying levels of suck, fail, and pointless.

I cleared all the stuff out, of course... but not all at once. I had some foolish notions of being able to salvage some of the mods, and kept them active into the early stages of the game I'm currently playing. This, obviously, was a mistake. Judging by how much bigger each save file I make is than the previous one, it looks like there may be some bloat in there someplace. Probably doesn't help that I've modified my load order multiple times, and had to fix the master listing in two WME plugins to get them to behave -- savegames tend not to like having stuff like that changed.

So, it's looking like much as I don't want to -- especially being thirty-four hours in now -- I'm going to have to dump this set of saves; wipe them all, and start an entirely new game, since somehow my "clean save" ended up with Armor By Race in it (don't ask how -- I turned that stupid thing off at least a dozen times, and it would never shut down; I ended up having to delete the piece of shit to make it go away). After, of course, going through my data directory with a fine toothed comb and purging out every mesh and texture that isn't supposed to be there anymore.

I realize they weren't as moddable; but sometimes I miss the old days of gaming. You kids in the audience may not know this, but before the internet became ubiquitous, companies had to put out games that worked reasonably well at release. "Patching" involved disks (yes, with a K) and could be very expensive business. Of course, I don't have to memorize the IRQ, DMA, and Hex address of my game port and sound card for modern games... so there is that up side.

You know, I spent an hour or so yesterday morning working on my 1911's here at the desk while waiting on FNV to stop being stupid, and I have to confess: the older I get, the more I prefer that sort of stuff. I swear, games just get more and more unreliable and randomly coded every year... but steel will always be steel; and will always obey physics. Now if I could just figure out how to get that damned leather to stop squeaking... or failing that, I suppose I could break down and buy my own kydex forming table...


  1. Yes, older games do have their advantages. When I run some of the emulators of the old cart-based platforms on my rig it's necessary to enable FPS limiters to keep the games from running so fast that it looks like a VHS in FFWD. My OpenGL Doom is getting a bit twitchy lately, but that's my own fault for adding animated skies, countless objects that have lighting effects attached, etc.

    But I also tend to agree with you that the problem with today's games is not necessarily the new technology but more likely the people dishing it out to us. My current job is on an assembly line, and when the supervisor gets his shorts in a knot over production rates then suddenly it's: "There's nothing wrong with those parts! Just put them in the box!" I imagine it's pretty much the same thing in software development. "Of course it's not perfect, but it's good enough! Just put it in the box!"

    1. Winchester, at one time was one of the -- if not the -- most highly regarded arms manufacturers in the world. This was, of course, before the company was run by the "bean counters".

      Story goes that once, in the later '80s, such a bean counter was brought in to "improve production". He assembled the assembly workers, and asked them:

      "What is the first question we should ask ourselves?"

      One of the workers replied: "What is the best product we can build for the money?"

      But the bean counter corrected him: "No, what we should ask is 'what is the cheapest thing we can build, that people will still buy?'"

      I've no idea whether it's true or not, since it was long before my entry into the field; but even as an allegory I think it perfectly illustrates the problem with modern production, whether in physical goods or even computer software.

      It's been posited that the reason Bethsoft and others fuck over us consumers so bad is because we'll buy the stuff anyway. "Community patches" come out to fix the problems, they don't have to pay for as much QC or testing... and the "fixed" and modded versions hook so many players that their base doubles between release, and the release of the next almost-the-same game. Sure, it's soul-less and completely lacking in work ethic, but the saved zeros look great in the yearly report to the shareholders. As long as it sells, nothing else matters.

      ...and now I'm depressed.

  2. I heard that Steam can be a problem with preventing the 4GB stuff working (assuming you're using that) with NV.

    That is, besides Gamebryo being a worthless pile of crap of course. (I live in hope of the OpenMW people deciding at some point to add later engine features and driving a stake though the heart of Beths implementations)

    Speaking of the crap companies release nowadays, I think Yahtzee said it best:
    "You couldn't get away with releasing a buggy game in the cartridge and cassette days – you'd get sentenced to a trampling under the company brontosaurus"

    They should being back company brontosaurs :)

    1. Man, don't get me started on Steam... that steaming pile of...

      ...but nevermind that right now.

      Anyhow, being as my craptastic PC only has a gig of RAM, I never saw the need to install the large memory aware whatever patch. The problems the 4gb patch have caused with various versions of FNV have actually made me glad I don't have enough memory to have to worry about such things.

  3. STEAM... there's a topic for an entirely separate hate-blog...

  4. I am running Angel Park, AWOP and MoMod myself (although MoMod is left "un-ticked"), as well as NMC's texture pack, the NVInteriors Project and Requiem for the Capital Wasteland as well as a host of other mods (gear and companions mostly) and I noticed that my game stability has actually increased since adding in some of those. Strange...

    And don't start me on Steam either >.<

    1. "I am running Angel Park, AWOP and MoMod myself (although MoMod is left "un-ticked"),"

      As I recall, Angel Park has the monster mod as a master; so even if it's "unticked" it's still running. Or at least the version I had required it.

    2. Yes, it is still a requirement of Angel Park 2. I doubt dogtown1 will be taking that out anytime soon. Not that I am complaining: it would not be the same without it.

      That said, I realize that it is still running and using game and system resources just being installed. If I ever get energetic, I might fix that for my game.