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30 October 2005
Just a quick update to let you know that I'm still working on my Quake 4 Tweak Guide. I know there are now a lot of Quake 4 guides and articles floating around the net, however I feel that this guide will capture all the available information in one place, and will also cover tweaking in a lot more detail. Bear with me, it should be out in the next few days. At which time I will receive my copy of Call of Duty 2, and I'll begin writing that full guide for release within around a week after. And I'm also looking to do a tweak guide for Star Wars Battlefront 2 which is due out shortly. I'm being kept quite busy with these guides, and with running the new TweakGuides Forums, but all in all I think it'll be worth it. Keep an eye peeled for these upcoming guides!
Half Life 2: Lost Coast Released
28 October 2005
As you'd probably know by now, Valve have released the Half Life 2: Lost Coast level. This add-on is totally free for all Half Life 2 owners, and can be downloaded through Steam. There are some important things to note: firstly, it is really only a tech demo, and secondly, because it uses High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting techniques, and contains quite detailed geometry, the system requirements are quite steep and many people will not be able to run this on their system. Steam will warn you if your system doesn't meet the requirements before installing, and unfortunately there are no tweaks to circumvent this.
Nvidia NForce4 AMD 6.70 Drivers Released
27 October 2005
Nvidia have released their latest official NForce4 AMD 6.70 chipset drivers. If you run an AMD NForce4 motherboard it is recommended that you download and install these drivers, although it's not vital that you do.
Nvidia Forceware 81.87 Beta Released
27 October 2005
Nvidia have released their latest "unofficial official" graphics drivers - the 81.87 Beta Forceware. The main difference between these and the recent 81.85 drivers is the addition of optimizations/compatibility fixes for Call of Duty 2. If you play Call of Duty 2, or if you just want to stay up to date, I recommend these drivers as they seem to be quite good.
Sandra SR3 Released
27 October 2005
Sisoftware have released a new version of their useful and free system information/benchmarking program Sandra SR3.
Call of Duty 2 Tweak Guide Update
26 October 2005
Call of Duty 2 is becoming available in many countries, however here in Australia I will not be able to buy a copy until early November. So I obviously can't get to work on the full tweak guide for this game, however that suits me fine in a way - I have to do my Quake 4 Tweak Guide right now anyway. For the moment if you've just bought Call of Duty 2, refer to my existing Call of Duty 2 Tweak Guide which although written for the demo, should apply equally to the final product. Once I get my hands on the retail version, I will flesh out the guide with full setting descriptions, screenshot comparisons, and of course more advanced tweaks and tips.
FEAR Tweak Guide Released
24 October 2005
I've finished my full FEAR Tweak Guide, and it comes complete with all the known tips and tweaks for FEAR. The guide includes screenshot comparisons of some of the harder-to-spot setting differences, more detailed setting descriptions, all the working advanced tweaks, and a ton of links to useful resources for troubleshooting FEAR problems. Give it a read through, and remember if you looked at the FEAR Demo Tweak Guide recently, you may need to force-refresh your browser to see the new versions of pages 1 and 2 (press F5).
Quake 4 Tweak Guide Update
22 October 2005
I'm receiving a lot of emails asking me when I'll do a Quake 4 Tweak Guide. All I can say is please be patient, I am currently completing my full FEAR Tweak Guide and can't work on both Quake 4 and FEAR at the same time. However to reassure you, I've created a Quake 4 Tweak Guide page which will be replaced by the full thing shortly. Note the advice on that page, which is to refer to my Doom 3 Tweak Guide for the moment (especially pages 7-9) if you want detailed Quake 4 tweaking advice.
FEAR SecuROM Fix
22 October 2005
For those of you having problems getting FEAR to launch correctly and/or crashing/hard locking often, download this FEAR SecuROM Fix - it's a replacement FEAR.exe file which you should copy into your \Sierra\FEAR directory in place of the existing FEAR executable file. I've just tried it myself and it seems to resolve my problems. Note: the replacement executable is for FEAR Version 1.01 (i.e. it incorporates the first patch).
Update: I still get authentication errors every once in a while, so the patch from secuROM doesn't seem to totally fix this problem. In fact secuROM problems are notoriously difficult if not impossible to fix.
FEAR and Quake4 Performance Guides
22 October 2005
A range of Performance Guides have been released for FEAR and Quake4. These guides aren't quite the same as my tweak guides - they don't cover console commands and .ini/cfg tweaking for example. Rather, they show you lots of useful benchmarks and screenshots on how certain types of hardware perform in FEAR and Quake4. For that reason, they are very handy and definitely complement my guides. You can check them out here: Gamespot FEAR Guide, AnandTech FEAR Guide, FiringSquad FEAR Guide, and HWZone Quake4 Guide. Note that I am still completing my final version FEAR Tweak Guide, but I still haven't been able to crack the command console (aside from using the T talk method). Stay tuned.
Nvidia Forceware 81.85 (Official) Released
21 October 2005
The 81.85 Forceware drivers came out as betas only a few days ago (see below), however Nvidia has now released these as Official WHQL Forceware drivers. That means it's recommended that you install these for optimal performance and more importantly for maximum compatibility with the latest games. I will update my Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide for these drivers soon.
Update: If you've already installed the Beta 81.85 drivers, you shouldn't need to reinstall these 'Official' ones again - they are identical except for WHQL certification.
Quake 4 - First Impressions
20 October 2005
I managed to buy Quake4 DVD Edition at lunchtime today, and I've installed it and had a bit of a play-around. So far, so good. The game is based on the Doom3 engine, which is a very robust and trouble-free engine. While I can't immediately recommend you rush out and buy this game without more testing, I can suggest that it's likely to be less problematic than most other games. I am going to have to finish my FEAR Tweak Guide before embarking on a Quake4 Tweak Guide. For the moment, refer to my Doom 3 Tweak Guide for an indication of what the various settings and console commands do. For example, open your Quake4 icon Properties box, and in the Target box add "+set com_allowconsole 1 +disconnect" (without quotes) one space after the last character in the box and click OK. Now when you launch Quake4, you will skip the starting movies and you can access the console by pressing the ~ key. The full Quake4 Tweak Guide will come within the next week or two.
TweakGuides Forum Changes
20 October 2005
After an initial scare with the TweakGuides Forums going down yesterday, I've made a range of changes to tidy up the forums, add a range of new features, improve loading times, and make them a little less pretty and a little more serious. The forums are going to improve in every way, but for the moment I want them to remain trouble-free while I concentrate on writing guides. Have a look at the forums and start posting your opinions.
ATI Catalyst 5.10a Released
20 October 2005
ATI have released Catalyst 5.10a drivers to resolve problems for people running Quake 4 or Serious Sam 2, especially using the latest X1X00-series ATI graphics cards. These drivers are only for people experiencing "intermittent performance problems" in these two games, as the drivers may cause problems in other games.
19 October 2005
The TweakGuides Forums have gone down due to a mis-installation of the ProfilCP Mod for the board. Unfortunately I'm struggling through this and hopefully I should have the forums back up soon without any loss of data. If you can lend a hand email me, otherwise sit tight.
Update: Ok, Captain phpBB-noob (aka me) has managed to restore the forums. I now just need to re-enable a range of features, but for the moment you can get into the forums and post as usual. Sorry for the scare!
Update 2: The forum is missing username/avatar/rank displays for each post. I need help in resolving this, please see this thread and help out if you can.
Nvidia Forceware 81.85 Beta Released
19 October 2005
Nvidia have released their latest "unofficial official" graphics drivers - the 81.85 Beta Forceware. The changes in this driver set include performance enhancements for dual core CPUs, SLI and a range of bug and compatibility fixes. I suggest you give these a try as they should be fairly safe to use. Some people suggest these may even help with FEAR-related problems, so again you might want to give them a go.
FEAR 1.01 Patch Released
19 October 2005
VU Games have generously released the first FEAR patch on the same day as the game has been officially released. The patch contains a couple of single player fixes and a range of multiplayer fixes, all of which could have been built into the final retail version sitting on store shelves if only Vivendi Universal had actually waited another week before releasing instead of trying to beat Quake4 and COD2 to market.
So does this patch fix the problems I've been ranting about below? Short answer is that the patch did nothing for the SecuROM-based problem, and I haven't played enough to see if the lockups are totally gone. After patching I went to launch the game and found the same "Original disc could not be found or authenticated" error I had before. And I'm not the only one with SecuROM problems. The patch was never designed to fix these problems, remember it was being finalised before anyone even had a copy of FEAR. So now we sit and wait for the next patch to fix this issue. For the moment I can play the game after a reboot and ejecting/inserting the disc...it all depends on whether secuROM feels like having an error or not at the time.
The one thing which VU Games have done to be helpful is post this List of Tech Issues & Possible Solutions. Give them a try, they may help resolve your particular problem, but at the end of the day this is not the way a great game like FEAR deserves to be launched. Hopefully I will have my guide finished within the week. If you have any thoughts or tips/tweaks for FEAR, post them in this thread on the TweakGuides Forums.
FEAR - Patch to be Released on "Official Launch Day"
18 October 2005
Since my last news item on FEAR, Vivendi Universal Games have done two things: they have removed their initial thread basically implying that anyone with problems running FEAR must be using a pirated version. Nice bit of PR that. Next, they've released a new (nicer) thread saying that a FEAR Patch will be released on the "official release date" of 18 October.
Now call me an idiot, but why is a game being released in an unfinished state, with the patch following closely behind it? The common answer I have received from VU and VU fanboys alike is that "all game companies do this, be patient!". Well, I think that speaks for itself: all game companies now release unfinished products and are quite brazen about it, and it is absolutely correct to say that you should be patient - do not buy FEAR until it is successfully patched. I suspect the initial patch cannot resolve all the problems with the game, since it can't possibly have taken user feedback into account - it was being developed while the game was being manufactured. And it's possible it won't resolve secuROM problems, since many games with this copy protection method remain problematic even after multiple patches. Sit tight, don't buy this game, wait for further feedback from the poor saps like me who went out and bought a game mistakenly thinking what I bought off the shelf was a final retail product.
Oh, and I apologize about my continual rants on this topic, but enough is enough. It's bad enough that games companies (not developers) now release games which come with no useful manuals actually describing the in-game options and settings, it's bad enough that we have to tweak the crap out of some games to actually get them to run decently or to enable common resolutions like 1280x1024, it's bad enough that we have to put up with buggy and intrusive copy protection systems, it's getting to the point where we can't even buy a game knowing that it will run as designed without a several-hundred-megabyte patch 'to be released' at some point down the track. People like me will always be able to resolve my own problems and play these games eventually - I'm speaking for those poor guys and gals who may be new to PCs, or who don't want to frig around for hours to get a game up and running. This is what is killing PC games, ladies and gentlemen - game company greed, pure and simple.
F.E.A.R - First Observations
17 October 2005
As I promised in a little rant I had earlier called "Send the Right Message to Game Companies" (see News Archives), I want to inform everyone about how the latest games are playing out of the box. F.E.A.R is one such "latest and greatest" game, and I'm in the process of playing it while writing my full FEAR Tweak Guide. Well although it's a great game, unfortunately it doesn't seem to be without its problems. While playing an early part of the game, my system hard-locked and needed a manual reset to recover. Upon recovering, I went to launch the game again and was given the error message "Original disc could not be found or authenticated". Of course my original FEAR DVD was in my drive, so I ejected and reinserted it, and fortunately the game launched again. Now however I am regularly getting this error when trying to launch the game.
The bottom line of this little story is that it looks like FEAR is in need of a patch - my system is high-end, new, optimized, not overclocked and completely rock solid in all respects. I've also heard of hard locks on a lot of other systems too. Just thought it would be worth telling you all in advance to perhaps wait off until FEAR's first patch is released before buying the game. Remember, the game will still be there in a few weeks time, and if anything you'll save yourself a lot of annoyance if you buy it after the patch comes out, as well as sending the game companies the right message. Stay tuned for my full FEAR Tweak Guide shortly.
Update: I am getting more and more hard locks and errors. Vivendi Universal Games are blaming these problems on pirated copies, which is a total cop out. My DVD Edition of FEAR is 100% legitimate, and was purchased on Saturday at EB Games in Canberra, Australia (pics of my contents here). God I wish these guys would get their act together before releasing games.
Update 2: I now have no doubt these issues are the result of the infamous SecuROM copy protection system, which FEAR uses. Bravo SecuROM and bravo VU Games - another game totally ruined for legitimate purchasers which no doubt pirates can enjoy without the same problems.
America's Army Tweak Guide Updated
16 October 2005
I've gone through and updated my America's Army Tweak Guide for Version 2.5 which was recently released. There are a few changes and additions to the Advanced Tweaking section in particular, so run through the guide to make sure your America's Army experience is optimal.
Stay tuned for more guides soon!
15 October 2005
Just a quick update on what I'm up to at the moment. Right now, I have to update my America's Army Tweak Guide for the changes introduced with AASF 2.5. Fortunately, although there are dozens of changes to the game, most of them are not going to affect the guide - the underlying game engine and tweaks are pretty much the same as 2.4. Once that's finished, I have to start on my full FEAR Tweak Guide. I'm pickup my DVD copy of the game today, so hopefully that guide should be online within the next week or so. Then of course Quake 4 and Call of Duty 2 will arrive late next week, at which point I will start the full Call of Duty 2 Tweak Guide first (which should take a few days), then follow it with the Quake 4 Tweak Guide which should take over a week to produce. I'm going to be very busy!
Meanwhile, if you haven't already, take a good look at the new TweakGuides Forums. After 2 days we already have almost 150 registered members, and the forums have some very friendly and helpful people on them at the moment. You have my guarantee that I'm going to make absolutely certain it stays friendly, useful and abuse-free. And taking a look at the wide cross-section of people on these forums, from literally all over the world, I feel it's shaping up as a great addition to the site. For far too long I've been the only one with a voice on TweakGuides - now it's your turn to speak up and share your thoughts and opinions on the forums!
America's Army 2.5 Released
14 October 2005
A new version of America's Army has been released, bringing it up to Version 2.5. This version brings a whole host of changes, including two new maps, and a range of gameplay changes designed to make the game even more realistic. This is one of my favorite games, and as soon as I get across the changes I will update my America's Army Tweak Guide.
TweakGuides Forums is Online!
13 October 2005
Due to popular demand, I've decided to finally create the TweakGuides Forums! At the moment it's only for a trial period, and a new link has been added only to the top of the front page in bright orange. If the forums prove popular and people find them useful (and don't fill it up with spam), it will become a permanent feature. They should be a great place for TweakGuides readers to discuss the latest in computer hardware and software and of course all manner of tweaking. You can also share off-topic conversations with other readers worldwide. I'm actually very excited to see how the whole thing goes, and it all depends on you joining up and contributing as soon as possible - so get cracking!
ATI Catalyst 5.10 Released
13 October 2005
ATI have released the Catalyst drivers Version 5.10. The changes from these drivers are listed here. There don't appear to be any major changes, however Crossfire support has been added, and there are additional enhancements for Windows MCE. If you run an ATI graphics card, I suggest you download and install these.
Update: ATI Doesn't seem to allow direct linking to their release notes. To see the updates, go to the ATI driver download page and click the 'Release Notes' link at the top of the page.
PCMark 05 1.1.0 Patch Released
13 October 2005
Futuremark have updated the free PCMark05 benchmarking software to Version 1.1.0. You can download either a 5MB patch or a the full 75MB new build of the program.
Steam Interface Updated
12 October 2005
For those of you running Steam-based games, you may already be aware that Valve have changed the Steam interface, both in look and layout. The functionality behind Steam hasn't changed, the difference is mainly cosmetic. I've gone through and updated the Steam section on page 4 of my Half Life 2 Tweak Guide to conform to these changes.
New Windows Updates Released
12 October 2005
Microsoft has released several important security patches on the Windows Update website. I suggest you run Windows Update as soon as possible to download and install these to maintain maximum security.
VIA HyperionPro 5.04A Drivers Released
12 October 2005
Send the Right Message to Game Companies
9 October 2005
Following on from my rant against the BF2 1.03 Patch (see further below), I've received a lot of supportive emails agreeing with my feelings on this issue. Truth be told, people are well aware of just how badly the electronic entertainment industry is behaving towards gamers and they don't need me to tell them. For those of you curious as to why this is happening more and more - the simple reason is because we are allowing it to happen. Only in the computer/gaming world do people accept the concept of purchasing half-finished products in the hopes that they'll be "fixed" at some point down the track. If you console gamers think you're safe, think again as online services for consoles will also tempt games companies to use the Release, Wait and Patch approach.
Ok, so what are some practical solutions? Petitions and angry emails won't do anything. It's quite obvious that companies like Electronic Arts ignore customer feedback - you'll just get a standard reply telling you "We value your custom, and will take aboard your valuable feedback". But this is a multi-million dollar industry, and we the consumers actually have some power, if we just take advantage of it. The following are some practical things you can do to send EA (and other games companies) the right message:
1. The first and most important step is: Don't rush out and buy a shoddy game. Don't buy any game the first few days/weeks it comes out. Here's what you do: Wait for the first major patch, then buy the game. It's incredibly simple, yet you save yourself a lot of heartache, and it sends the message to games companies that we only buy finished products.
2. Join the Official and Unofficial Support Forums for a game (e.g: the EA Games BF2 Forums and TotalBF2 Forums) before buying and see the range of problems being discussed. Start providing constructive feedback and suggestions, and make your anger known (without cursing in capital letters). I usually provide links to these forums on page 3 of every tweak guide.
3. Don't buy lame add-ons like the BF2 Special Forces Expansion Pack if you're not happy with the original game itself. Let them see that if they sucker you once, they can't do it twice.
Basically it's up to us to resist the temptation to rush out and buy a game the day it's released, then sit and wait for the games companies to look after our interests. Games companies sell the majority of their games during the initial period of a game's release, so if we can just hold off for even a week or two, the drop in sales figures and revenue will send them a very clear message: Finish then Release, not vice versa. Can you do something this simple? It won't cost you anything. No angry protests in the streets. No million-signature petitions. No six-page rants about how crap the industry is treating us. It just takes willpower.
MS Hotfix for Dual Core Processors
9 October 2005
Microsoft have released a new Hotfix for systems running dual core CPUs. The fix is a bit mystical though, because apparently MS will only send it to you if you think your system is affected. Read the information in the link above and see if it describes your situation. I don't believe my AMD X2 is suffering from this, and I suggest most people who don't use power management features on XP SP2 will not have this problem anyway, but check it just in case you believe it applies to you.
Firefox 1.5 Beta 2 Released
8 October 2005
Word has spread that Firefox 1.5 Beta 2 is now available. However several things to note: Firstly, this is still a beta and not close to the final which is due in the next couple of months. Secondly, I've been using Firefox 1.5 Beta 1 for a while now and although it is stable and secure, it does have a couple of small bugs and no major new features over the current official Firefox 1.07 release - so don't feel as though you have to try the betas just yet. Finally, if you do want to try it out and you're already running Firefox 1.5 Beta 1, first try updating through the automatic update function under the Help menu. I found that didn't work for me however, so I uninstalled my previous version of Firefox, downloaded the new file and installed it normally.
Battlefield 2 Patch 1.03 Problems
7 October 2005
I'm aware that a whole bunch of you have had various problems, both with installing the 1.03 BF2 patch, as well problems playing BF2 after the patch. Unfortunately there aren't many solutions other than the ones I've linked to on page 3 of my guide. More recently The Inquirer has raised concerns about the patch and CD Key Issues. The hits just keep coming with this patch. I don't usually post editorial opinions about games, but I am fairly pissed off at the state in which EA Games have left Battlefield 2.
I started out really enjoying BF2, but after the first few weeks as players discovered the strengths and weaknesses of the various vehicles and weapons, the game started to crumble before my eyes. Everyone started racking up huge points with cheap tactics like loading up Blackhawk choppers with Engineers, making them invincible airborne point-whoring platforms. Then the virtually-impossible-to-hit Jets came to the fore. Then people started bunnyhopping like crazed jackrabbits. So I waited with hope that after 3 months of this crap, EA would bail us out with the 1.03 patch. Guess what - the 171MB patch hasn't fixed any of the major problems with the game, and in fact has created more bugs and problems for a lot of people.
I apologize for the rant, but really, is it that hard for a multi-million dollar entertainment company like EA Games to actually spend 3 months creating a genuinely useful and tightly-coded patch? Or is it more likely that once they have our money, they view the patch more as a favor, or perhaps as a means of keeping us hanging on so we buy their 'Special Forces Expansion Pack'? Well either way BF2 has lost its flavor for me, and EA Games have cemented their reputation as a company with no commitment to quality in my eyes.
Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide Updated
7 October 2005
I've gone through and updated my Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide for all the changes I have found due to the 1.03 Patch. Virtually every page of the guide has had changes in one form or another, but none of them are major. For the most part the patch hasn't changed the engine or performance of BF2, most of the changes are bug fixes and gameplay adjustments. Anyway if you get the chance go through the guide, you might find a few tidbits of useful new information - such as the fact that 1280x1024 resolution is now one of the standard supported resolutions. If I've missed any changes, please Let Me Know.
Update: Some people have written to me saying they still see the old version of the guide. As always, if you have recently gone through the guide before the 1.03 changes, you may need to press CTRL+F5 to refresh each page to see the latest updates to it on on your browser.
Knights of the Old Republic 2 Media Patches Released
6 October 2005
After a very long time, LucasArts have finally released the KOTOR 2 Media Patches. There is a Movie patch which weighs in at 195MB, and a Music Patch which is 148MB - these patches update the music and movies of the game to high quality stereo audio, since the originals were only in 22KHz Mono. Better late than never I guess, anyway I've updated my KOTOR 2 Tweak Guide with this information.
Update: My mistake - the Movie patch comes in 6 parts of around 195MB each, which add up to over 1.1GB, not 195MB as stated above.
Nvidia Forceware 81.84 Beta Released
6 October 2005
Nvidia have released Forceware 81.84 Beta graphics drivers. Note that the feedback on these drivers is not great, and they have been specifically released by Nvidia to provide compatibility with the game Black and White 2. If you don't play B&W2, I strongly suggest you don't install these drivers. Currently the beta 78.03 are the best in my opinion, as they are fast, stable and have the 'shimmer fix'. The official 78.01 drivers are fine too. I suggest Nvidia users wait for the next official 81.xx drivers which will contain dual core and SLI optimizations as well as general performance improvements.
Battlefield 2 1.03 Patch Released
5 October 2005
Well after months of waiting EA Games have released the new BF2 1.03 Patch. It is 171MB, and the list of changes it brings to the game are covered here. There are a large number of bug fixes, and more importantly, many gameplay changes which should hopefully make BF2 more balanced and fun. As for performance and engine changes - well I haven't had a chance to test these yet, but in the next day or two I will update my Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide with all the new details.
UT2004 64-bit Update Released
4 October 2005
AMD have released a 64-bit Update for Unreal Tournament 2004. If you have an AMD 64-bit CPU running Windows x64, you can install this patch for increased performance in UT2004. The patch will most likely work on Intel 64-bit CPUs as well given the similar architecture, but I can't confirm this.
Call of Duty 2 Demo Tweak Guide Released
1 October 2005
I've prepared a Call of Duty 2 Demo Tweak Guide to provide descriptions of the in-game settings, as well as a range of advanced tweaks including full details of the major command variables you can use in the console. However the best use of this guide is for those who want to see whether they can tweak the game to achieve a good level of image quality vs. performance on their machine, allowing you to work out whether you need to upgrade for the full retail version, or indeed whether it's even worth buying the game if it performs/looks poorly on your machine.
Update: Guide has been revised to include details of how to get cheat mode working and provide more cheat commands.
Battlefield 2 1.03 Patch Coming Soon
1 October 2005
EA Games have released a new Community Update which says that the much-anticipated (some would say well overdue) 1.03 Patch for BF2 will be out within the next few days. Stay tuned - as soon as it's out I will update my BF2 Tweak Guide with the changes. I'm hoping this patch draws me back into the game - I gave up recently because of the lack of game balance and numerous exploits.
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