I bought SS2 for my cousin last year as a computer alternative to whatever other shooter I got him for Xbox. While he was pleased with the gift he did tell me later than after their last 3 computers had all broken due to game related issues (I believe it was Canon Fodder that caused the issues on all three counts) he was not allowed to install a game onto his family computer mainly because his Dad's entire job pretty much existed on it.
Of course I already knew this so it was with a slightly winking grin that I suggested to my cousin to bring the game while he came round to my house for the weekend. Now, I had heard that there were troubles with old games and vista, I also knew that SS2 was itself a game that had problems running on XP as well as Vista, so I didnt expect the process of allowing myself to play the game to be smooth running. What i didnt expect however was the fact that I would have to make such intricate changes to the games files, practically adding failsafes and codecs to allow the thing to even work.
Initially things looked promising. The actual installation seemed to work very well with no problems and I was having hopes that I may actually get a clean installation for once. Unfortunately the moment I attempted to play the game a warning message came up saying that
"System Shock 2 needs 35MB of memory to run, you only have 27 MB of space free"
Noticing that I had 176 GB of memory in my drive I was a tad perturbed. However a trip across internet lane and I discovered that the way to solve this problem was to just restart the system. I did so and the game obliged in its end of the deal to allow me to progress to the main menu, unfortunately that was as far as I would be getting.
Well that's not really fair to be honest. On my first attempt in the main menu i did actually get to starting a game. But no sooner had I walked off the train (there's a train at the start (like the one in the beginning of half life)) the game froze and task manager read the application as "not responding". I would be seeing alot of that over the following days.
My travels through the internet with my 35MB problem had shown me several highly complex ways of solving the problem, and as I really didnt feel like editing the games program files I looked for the most basic alternatives available and they werent particularly helpful. The most frequent of responses was the problem that people were running the game on two cores. A quick look at my system information confirmed that Ihad two cores as well. Hopeful, I restarted the game like it said, Alt-Tabbed to something else, brought up task manager, went to processes, selected SSHOCK.exe, right clicked, clicked on "set affinity" and unclicked one of the CPU's. Praying this would work, I went back into the game and got a black screen when I clicked on start game. Black screens would also prove to be a frequent sight while trying to fix the thing.
The next, and perhaps most obvious solution was to change windows compatibility for the program. This just flat out broke the game for me, sending up "not responding" screams from windows, without even a glance at any loading screens. I was disgruntled, as well as slightly sweaty (I really shouldn't have selected "run in 256 colours"). But I came to the conclusion that I would have to do something major and fix the game myself, and not rely on any quick and easy solutions to fix what would prove to be a fairly hefty task.
picture break time:
Basically, what follows is what I found out through various sources of what I had to do. It's divided into 3 sections so this should help anyone who's having problems installing the game.
1. Running the game
(This is what everyone wants, and this should stop the game from crashing. It's quite a short process but it does require you to follow the steps exactly as written)
-Download the official SS2 patch to upgrade the game to version 2.3
-Search the folder containing all of the installation files. Search for a file called "cam" it should be a .cfg file or just a CFG file.
-Open the file, windows will say it cant open the file, ask it to let you choose a program to open it manually. Open the file in notepad.
-You'll see some writing that you shouldn't concern yourself with. Beneath the other sets of writing (I left an empty line beneath the writing already there and my own) type in:
-Save the file
-Create a new, blank notepad text document and simply save it as "safe_texture_manager"
-Download this file http://www.sshock2.com/files/shock2fixed.zip
-Unzip it, and save the application inside of it into the installation folder you have currently been working within.
-You will notice that this looks like another application file you have in this folder. Rename the application you just downloaded as "SHOCK2.exe" and rename the old application as "SHOCK2.old" (this is to make sure that if you click play when you insert the CD it will choose this new application rather than the old one)
-You will need the CD to play the game.
-If the game is still giving you problems make sure you only have the game running on one CPU. If you didnt read the top bit of my post:
-Start SS2 as normal. Once you are on the main menu Alt-Tab out of it. Start task manager. Go to Processes. Find "SHOCK.exe". Right click on it. Click on "Select Affinity...". Uncheck one of the CPU's. Go back into the game.
2. Fixing your binds
(Some of you may notice that when you go into the inventory screen you are unable to drag or use items there. This will occur if you made your own binds (your own button configuration). To check if this is the problem, load up the default bind set and see if you can drag and drop now. You should be able to and even if you still can't it is more than likely that the following will fix the issue.)
-In the installation folder find and enter the folder named "Binds"
-You should see various "BND Files". You will notice that there are two main names for each file "cfga" or "cfgb". cfga stands for the button configuration while you are in shoot mode and cfgb stands for the configuration while in use mode. The numbers represent which bind it is. bind 0000 is for the default layout, 0001 is for the standard fps layout the game supplies you with, and 0002 should be your binds.
-Open both 0002 files in notepad, and check that at the top it says "My binds" or whatever you saved it as. You can do this with the other files as well if you want to just to make sure.
-In the cfga (shoot mode) file scroll down and make sure that the following is correct, if it is not correct then edit it accordingly:
bind mouse1 +fire_weapon
bind mouse2 frob_object
-In the cfgb (use mode) file scroll down and make sure the following is correct, if it is not correct then edit it accordingly:
bind mouse1 +drag_and_drop_mode
bind mouse2 frob_object_inv
-Save the file, and load up these binds in the game to see if their functions now work.
3. Making the cutscenes run
(There are 10 cutscenes in System Shock 2. Only 3 of them are worth watching as the other 7 are quick 10 second scenes that show your ship coming in and out of dock with space stations, and the credits, and the intro showing the logos of irrational and looking glass. The three cutscenes that are of interest take place firstly when you start a new game, then when you first wake up on the Vaun Braun (this takes place after your third year of training and when a womans voice starts speaking too you), and then there is the last one at the end of the game. I am telling you this because I could not get this to work so if you cant get it to work you can pause the game and find the videos on youtube. But this does seem to be the best solution to the problem.)
-On the System Shock 2 CD locate and double-click on a file called iv5play. This application should install the codec required to play the movies.
-You now need to register that codec with Vista. To do so type "cmd" into the search box. Right click on the program that comes up and select "Run as administrator".
-Type in the following and press return:
BEFORE you do so however you may have to change the C:Sshock2 to wherever you saved the installation files containing the LGVID file.
-Cutscenes now should work.
So yes, that is my story and the results are clear. I can run System Shock 2 really well now, although I can't view the cutscenes. He went home on Sunday so I get to keep it for a while. Hope to see you on board, it's really fun.
-Dr. Janice Polito