STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl Tweak Guide
[Page 3] Troubleshooting Tips
This section contains specific troubleshooting tips which address many of the common problems experienced by STALKER players. I can't stress enough the importance of taking the time to go through the checklist of advice below if you're having a problem with the game.
Official Support: If you have a problem with the game, the first place to check is the Readme.txt file found in your \Program Files\THQ\S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl\ directory, paying close attention in particular to the game's hardware requirements. An electronic copy of the STALKER Manual can be also be found in the same directory, which you should read through for gameplay tips. If you still can't find your issue listed, try checking the Official STALKER Forums. If nothing else helps, you can try contacting the Official Tech Support. Obviously also make sure to read through this guide (along with linked resources) carefully as typically many problems are resolved or reduced by configuring your system properly and understanding how the game and Windows work.
If you're having problems running this game under Windows Vista or 7, first make sure that you're using the latest graphics and audio drivers for your hardware, and the latest version of this game (see page 4 for patch details). Next, make sure you don't change your UAC settings after the game has been installed, as due to Virtualization this can change the location of the game files and settings. If you can't launch the game successfully when UAC is enabled, you will need to run the game with full Admin privileges. To do this either right-click on the launch icon and select 'Run as Administrator', or right-click on the launch icon, select Properties and under the Compatibility tab tick 'Run this program as an administrator' then click OK. I strongly recommend that you refer to the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for Windows Vista or 7 as appropriate for more information - in particular check the Graphics & Interface chapter; the PC Security chapter; and the 'Personal Folders' and 'Directory Junctions & Symbolic Links' sections of the Windows Explorer chapter. These will tell you how you can fix issues related to these features.
SecuROM Startup Issues: The SecuROM copy protection system used for some versions of STALKER is known to cause startup issues on some systems, such as not detecting the original disk in the drive. The only solution for those having problems launching the game is to check the SecuROM Support Page. In particular make sure to disable any drive emulation or similar such tools as these are known to be incompatible with SecuROM. Often times removing the game disk from the drive, reinserting it and retrying to launch the game works.
Audio Issues: Given a fair few people are reporting problems with the audio in STALKER, I've covered this topic and possible solutions in more detail under the Sound section on page 6 of the guide.
Quicksave Problems: Some people are having problems getting the Quicksave (F6) and Quickload (F7) commands to work. This happens if your Windows account name has a space in it. You can try creating a new user account without a space in the username and use that to play STALKER. You can also try rebinding the Save and Load functionality to a new set of keys and use them like a quicksave/quickload: start the game, open the console and type the command bind_console save Save1 kF8. This will make the F8 key act to save the game to a save slot named 'Save1' each time you press it. You can then also add bind_console load Save1 kF9 to turn the F9 key into a button that loads the Save1 game each time it's pressed. See the Advanced Tweaking section for more details.
Lag/Framerate Issues: Since STALKER is a relatively system intensive game, many people will find that they get quite low framerates when trying to run the game with either of the Dynamic Lighting DX9 renderers. The result of low framerates is a feeling of 'lag' - a lack of responsiveness in control over your character. To measure your framerate, use a free utility like FRAPS, and note that anything less than around 20FPS will usually result in feelings of lag at various times, especially when you dip into the low teens in FPS. There are no magic fixes - the only real solution to this issue is to raise your average framerates by reading this guide and lowering relevant settings if necessary. However also refer to the 'Max Frames to Render Ahead' tweak on the last page of this guide, as it might help under some circumstances, and be sure to do some general system optimization as covered on page 2 of this guide.
Known Bugs & Issues: There are a range of known issues with STALKER, many of which were resolved with the official patches, but some game bugs may still remain to be fixed. Many of these can only be fixed via official patches, however some gameplay oddities/annoyances have been 'resolved' through unofficial modifications - see page 4 for more details.
Stuttering: Stuttering is something common to most recent games, and is simply loading pauses as new information is being loaded up from your hard drive into RAM and/or into the graphics card's Video RAM. I discuss this in more detail - along with possible solutions such as using the -noprefetch switch - on the last page of this guide.
Background Programs: Disable all background applications - especially virus, trojan and spyware scanners and messaging utilities. These applications can and do use up valuable CPU resources, take up precious RAM, cause memory conflicts and crashes to desktop, but most importantly they interfere with read/writes to your hard drive effectively slowing it down and causing even more in-game stuttering and longer loading times. Full instructions on how to identify your startup programs and services and how to correctly disable unnecessary ones are in my TweakGuides Tweaking Companion.
Overclocking: If you've overclocked any components on your system and are having problems such as crashes, reboots and graphical anomalies, the first thing to do is set everything back to default speeds and try running the game. If you don't experience the same problems at default speed, or they're reduced in severity, then your overclock is the primary culprit. Either permanently reduce your overclock and/or increase cooling to regain stability. Don't assume that because other games run with stability, that STALKER will work fine as well.
That's just a basic rundown of troubleshooting tips. Read the remainder of this guide for more specific settings and tweaks which can help improve your performance and resolve any problems.