Archive for September, 2012

I reinstalled Fallout 3 a while back and ran into a “Gotcha!” that prevented the installation from completing. For what it’s worth, here’s the situation and my solution. All I can claim is that it worked on my rig. Your mileage may vary, depending on where you got your game/DLC and in what format.

I purchased Fallout 3 as a digitally distributed version from Direct2Drive (now GameFly). I also purchased all of the DLC as digital distributions, though they are much less of a problem than the game itself. After all of the DLC had been released, I purchased the GOTY edition on optical media, so I’ve got it both ways. I did not purchase from Steam, so Steam users will likely not run into this issue.

Fallout 3 requires Games for Windows Live and it’s installed as part of the basic game installation. However, like Fallout 3, it has gone through a few updates since. The problem is that the 1.7 patch wants an updated version of GFWL or the install will fail. And since the last DLC wants the 1.7 patch, you can’t install it, either.

I used the digitally distributed version of the game rather than messing with no-CD cracks. This might be an issue on the GOTY version, but it’s not likely.

  1. Install Fallout 3
  2. Go get and install the current version of GFWL
  3. Get and install the 1.7 patch (unnecessary if you have the GOTY edition)
  4. Install the DLC

The DLC, if you have them individually, will want to install somewhere other than the game folder. Normally these go into some obscure folder buried deep inside your user profile folders. To find them, just do an advanced search for all .esm files, but makes sure the “hidden files and folders” option is checked. Once found, they can be moved elsewhere for convenience. Each DLC has a couple of .bsa files and an .esm. Broken Steel also has a .bik or two in addition to those.

I prefer to stick the DLC files inside of my Fallout 3\Data folder, but be aware that if you do this you will not be able to get any achievements on GFWL. Since I don’t particularly care about those, moving the DLC to the Data folder was a no-brainer. Just to be safe, make a backup copy of those files (drop ‘em in a .zip or .rar or something) and put them on an external media of some kind so that the next time you need to install, they’ll be accessible.

The school year has begun, which presented a couple of technical issues that drove me batty (not that I wasn’t already mostly there). Prior to upgrading to Win7, I made backups of my data files. Note the plural. I had two problems to resolve, so two backups were required. I needed to migrate my normal data files from my Vista installation to Win7, so I used Microsoft’s Transfer utility to take care of that. It worked very much as advertised – easy peasy.

The second problem was consolidating the school-related data files that I had generated over the summer (powerpoints, handouts, maps, and that kind of thing) with the existing data files on my school laptop (an old Lenovo clunker that runs XP). In order to accomplish this, I copied my school data folders onto an external drive, copied them back onto my laptop, and deleted the folders from my desktop. The idea was that, once consolidated, I’d run a backup of my laptop and restore that backup onto my desktop. This would cut down on the time needed to run the Transfer utility (I’ve got about 30GB of school related stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years) and produce a fairly well synchronized copy of those folders on both the laptop and the desktop. Easier said than done.

First off, Microsoft removed support for its old NTBACKUP utility from Vista (I have a whole other rant on that topic from about a year and a half ago). But it threw a bone to the masses in the form of a separate restore utility for Vista. The only oddball thing was that you had to go into the Control Panel and turn on support for Removable Storage Management before the utility would work (Removable Storage Management it turned off by default in Vista). But, in its infinite wisdom, it completely removed Removable Storage Management from Win7, so the utility won’t work, leaving Win7 users flapping in the breeze.

Fast forward a couple of years and Microsoft throws another bone to the masses in the form of an NTBACKUP restore utility that would actually work with Win7. Well, sort of. Finding the blasted thing was the first hurdle (I think the good folks at Redmond spent way too much time reading “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”). The second hurdle, once found, was downloading it. Microsoft neglects to tell anyone that you have to use Internet Explorer to download stuff from them. Then, we find out that the restore utility was for the 32-bit version of Win7, necessitating even more hunting for the 64-bit version (including a few pop-up messages about how this update doesn’t apply to my system). Eventually, though, everything gets installed (correctly, I hope).

The big hitch, for those who are used to NTBACKUP, is that this is not a normal utility, so you won’t find it among your Programs. Instead, you must use the utility to open the backup file. From there, it will look and behave like the NTBACKUP that we have all come to know and love.

To save the headache for anyone who need to mess with this, here are the links. Remember, you must use Internet Explorer to get them since the Genuine Windows runs as a browser plug-in. For Vista users, you must also turn on Removable Storage Management (Control Panel –> Programs –> Turn Windows Features On or Off –> check the box for Removable Storage Management and let it go do its thing). Win7 users only need to install it.

Also for Win7 users, Microsoft strongly recommends removing the utility from your system after you are done restoring whatever backups you might need to mess with. They made no such recommendation for Vista users, but the impression that I’m getting is that Microsoft doesn’t want to mess with NTBACKUP any more, so either find another backup utility or live with Microsoft’s Backup and Restore Center. My recommendation is to find another backup utility since the current utility is deeply flawed unless all you want to backup is data files.

A friend recently retired and will soon be moving. He dropped by to have a chat and brought a few brewskis with him. The brews were an odd selection of porters, wheats, and lagers and were meant with the best of intentions. I’m kind of vocal in my characterization of mass-produced American lagers as being on a par with carbonated horse piss, but always with the qualification that there is no such thing as bad beer; there is only beer that you enjoy drinking and beer that you do not enjoy drinking. The major domestic brands fall into that latter category – I do not enjoy them and would frankly rather go without than slog one. Hmmm. A Bud or a Diet Dr. Pepper? The Doctor wins that contest every time.

Anyway, he brought a couple of sixes of odd stuff and it was a thoughtful gift that left me on the horns of a major dilemma. I figure the stuff must have been in the clearance bin or something because all of them turned out to be absolutely flat. Not even so much as a hint of carbonation, flocculated yeast on the bottom of the bottles and all that. Older guys will understand the idea of never wasting wood. Younger guys, I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but you’ll understand eventually. So what does one do with a dozen brews that should never have been sold in the first place?

Option one: save ‘em and pass them off to someone else. I simply could not bring myself to unload them on some poor unsuspecting soul, even someone I didn’t like very much. Yes, I must save you from the curse of “beer that you will not enjoy” even if you’re one of those people who deserves to wake up with coyote-ugly (that’s a level of heinous where you’re willing to chew off your own arm rather than wake her).

Option two: pour ‘em down the drain or toss ‘em. That’s kind of like wasting wood. Beer is Northern Europe’s answer to the mini Ice Age (lasted from the ninth century to the nineteenth century). Kind of a giant extended middle finger in the face of Nature, who deprived them of their vineyards. Like wasting wood, simply disposing of the offending beverages would be an affront to the ancestors and all of those man-rules. While it’s possible, it simply isn’t done.

The only remaining option? Drink ‘em. It is a decision that I will probably end up regretting on some level because this is beer that I DO NOT enjoy drinking. But sacrifice in the name of friendship is what is required in cases like this. Cheers.

Having taken care of hardware and OS upgrades for Skyrim, I thought I’d drop back to the Mojave to see how well New Vegas is handling the change. The short answer is “not well” as the game has a nasty habit of freezing and crashing every few minutes. I’m surviving because of the CASM mod, lots of quicksaves and sheer stubbornness. I’m not sure why this is presenting such a problem, but I’m guessing that it doesn’t thrive in my 64-bit environment, although I’m at a loss to explain why.

At any rate, in spite of the crashing and restarting, I’ve been reminded of a major complaint regarding the Legion faction. I’m not sure that there is any way to fix the problem, but it’s something that I’d love to see avoided in any future games (Elder Scrolls, Fallout or otherwise). If some kind modder can successfully resolve the issue, I’ll be your #1 fan.

Backstory: I typically don’t start out to ally with any particular faction. In fact, I’d like to remain friends with all of them for as long as possible because it lets me do my wasteland wandering with a minimum of fuss and bother. Somewhere up the road from Nipton and down the road from Novac is an overpass where three groups spawn. One group is Legion, one group is NCR and the third is a a couple of trading caravans headed for Novac. I like to catch the caravans early (mainly because I’m trying to build my Caravan deck and they usually have cards at the beginning of the game and I’ve also got junk from Nipton that I’d like to unload), but they inevitably get attacked by the Legion almost as soon as I get there. Since I like to do my trading in peace, the Legion ends up on the losing end of the fight and I get a bad rep with the Legion, basically because I defended myself.

Alternatively, while looking for lost supplies for Forlorn Hope, finding the supplies gets me attacked by a couple of Legionnaires. I defend myself, they die, I’m on Caesar’s shit list.

A little while later, I start getting attacked by Legion assassins, which always pushes my Legion rep down to “Vilified”. Game over as far as Caesar is concerned. So along comes his frumentarii when I grab the chip, inviting me to visit with Caesar at his camp at Fortification Hill. I obligingly do so since most of the quest lines pretty much require it. Whereupon Caesar comes up with the stupidest comment ever to come out of the mouth of a reputedly intelligent guy: you kill my Legionaires and ruin my plans. You got a lot of balls to show up here.

I want to be able to provide a truthful response: You declared war on me, fucktard. What else did you expect? That I should roll over and die for your pleasure? Not gonna happen. Your people picked the fight, so they also picked the consequences of losing. Get over it. If you had left me alone, I would have left you alone.

The developers didn’t provide anything even remotely resembling that response, but it seems to be mostly applicable to the Legion. NCR, the Khans, the Kings, and the rest don’t go hostile on you unless you go hostile on them first. Of course, they’re not prone to shooting at caravans, merchants and the like. Not so for the Legion. Also not true for Vipers, Fiends and the rest of the bad guys who are hostile to everyone on general principles. But Caesar’s folks just have an unerring tendency to piss me off at the first opportunity and then seem genuinely surprised that I don’t just fall down and die for them. This could easily explain why it took me five full months from the game’s release before I picked up the “Render Unto Caesar” achievement.

There is an apocryphal story told by the older brother of one of my high school buddies. The older brother served in Vietnam (Vietnam ended while I was in high school). Marines from the Republic of Korea served in Vietnam alongside American Marines and were reportedly majorly badass. Badass to the point of firefights stopping when they were in the area because neither side wanted to piss them off. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil because I’m the meanest sonofabitch in the valley.” My wasteland philosophy in a nutshell. Too bad the game doesn’t really support it and mods don’t really implement it other than to give me neat toys.