unreal engine config resolution

Just a quick bit of info about a little issue I ran into recently in regards to XCOM2, and it’s a very niche occurrence but here’s the gist of what happened.

I recently switched from using an LG TV as a primary display back to using my old dedicated computer monitor instead. In essence, I’ve traded resolution and screen size for refresh rate. For reference my TV is a standard 1920×1080 @ 60Hz and this monitor is 1440×900 @ 75Hz. The difference between the two is night and day when playing games like Overwatch. With that change in resolution has brought back an old little problem that isn’t seen much nowadays – how games handle a change in resolution. Going from a lower resolution to a higher resolution is normally easy, if the display can support it, but going down is a nightmare at times.

I’m going to cut to the chase and explain what happened to me and how I fixed it.

I run most games in Borderless Window if I can, so I can easily switch over to discord and engage in some jolly banter at will. The issue popped up after I switched back to the smaller monitor, as XCOM2 kept the same resolution but in borderless window mode. Essentially I had the bottom right section of my screen missing. This normally could be dealt with in other games, but all the actual menu buttons are at the bottom of the screen.

This can happen in a lot of games, so having to change config files is a handy skill to pick up. What I’m describing here applies to the majority of Unreal Engine games, both old and new, although there is going to be changes between the config files according to what Unreal version is being used.

Depending on the game, the config files can be found in two different places most of the time. The earlier Unreal Engine games kept their config files in their install directory, for example Unreal Tournament 1999 the config file is found at *game path*\System\unrealtournament.ini . Unreal Engine 3 and beyond has changed this, with the config files being found in the user’s documents folder instead, in this example XCOM2’s config files are found under *user*\My Documents\My Games\XCOM2\XComGame\Config. There’s also a lot more config files as compared to earlier Unreal games, but they all perform the same function.

When it comes to editing graphical settings, the config file you’re going to want to look at is the Engine.ini file. The actual name of the file will change depending on what game you’re looking at, but it’s function stays the same, and it’s where you can tweak a lot of options that aren’t found in the game’s options menu, mainly because some developers can be lazy at times.

There’s a lot of technical stuff in here, and a lot isn’t that useful to tweak for the general user, but there is one section that I’ll focus on. After opening up the relevant engine.ini file in a text editor for [SystemSettings] will get you to the section where you can tweak and potentially correct errors. Some of these you may recognise, but there’s a lot in here.

In my case, fixing the mismatched resolution had two solutions. The first, and arguably the most direct way was to find the ResX and ResY entries and simply set them to the desired resolution. This is another way to set custom resolutions, although that is to be done at your own risk and doesn’t always work properly. Strangely, that wasn’t the solution I used – mainly because in XCOM2’s case the ResX/Y option is at the bottom of SystemSettings and sometimes there’s another solution earlier in the config.

My second solution was switch the game from borderless window back to dedicated fullscreen. This will force the game to look at what display is being used and realise that it can’t render to the old resolution and reset it to a default value that can be displayed. (XCOM2 defaulted to 1280×720 which seems to be a common trend) From there you can use the in-game menus to correct the resolution settings. There’s always going to be times where simply setting the resolution via the config files results in weirdness, so using the game’s option menus can help in getting back to a stable configuration.

The other options in the SystemSettings section can be tweaked to squeeze out more performance on lower end systems, especially if you know what settings hit your system’s performance the hardest. It’s also a handy way to disable motion blur, even if the developers think that their game absolutely has to have it.

Just remember to back up your config files before going on an edit spree, although that’s solid advice when editing anything.

the first step in a brave new world

After being in the internet backwater for what felt like eons, I’ve finally been set up with some pretty decent internet – mainly a proper NBN connection. Whilst the plan that I’ve started on isn’t the beefiest, and is essentially the top tier of what ADSL2 can deliver – the fact is that there was no way that ADSL2 was capable of actually hitting those speeds.

The other big issue was uploads, mainly due to the way that ADSL handles uploads. I’ll have to do a write up on that at some point, but this is all essentially fluff.

I’ve got enough upload speed to be able to stream properly.

You can find me over at https://www.twitch.tv/foureightsixdx

I’m going to try to play a lot of older games, not just old DOS games, but a lot of older windows titles that always get overlooked. I know that I’m planning on getting some mates together an play some Unreal Tournament ’99 very soon.

sympathy for a machine – the turing test

Yeah, it’s been a while, but between classes, assignments, and the never-ending quest for enlightenment through alcohol, I haven’t had much chance to actually just sit down and actually play something new. So, with the semester break coming up, I figured I’d get a head start and look into some of the newer releases, and by look into new releases, I mean go through the listings provided by the various podcasts I occasionally listen to.

Top of the list was The Turing Test, which when I first heard the title & description I let out a near audible groan. “Oh great,” I thought, “A game where we solve puzzles whilst an AI monologues at us in a subterranean science lab. Boy, I can’t wait for the jaunty song afterwards that recaps everything.” Whilst the game draws heavily from Portal, and I really should reign in my cynicism more often, the sheer surprise at the quality on offer here was a very pleasant surprise.

Set on a research outpost under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa, the plot follows Ava, resident icy pole on an orbital satellite that hangs above the other satellite. Sure, nearly everything’s a satellite if you think about it hard enough, but that’s besides the point. Freshly defrosted, Ava is put right to work by her friendly AI pal, TOM. Apparently, there’s a communications problem, and the scientists on the surface haven’t been heard from for over a couple of weeks, so TOM thinks it’s probably best for everyone that Ava go check things out and make sure it’s all hunky dory. Sure, the opening is cliche as hell, but it serves the pace of the game very well to not waste time and get on with the show.

The plot unfolds in rather predictable ways at first, to an almost suspicious degree, and I spent the first half of the game trying to predict exactly what the twist would be. Let’s say that I was close, but way off at the same time. I’m not going to spoil, but the second half of the game introduces a whole new suite of mechanics that add even more context to some of the brain bending things that I ran into in the first half.

From a visual standpoint, the game is pretty damn good looking, although it’s budget origins are visible in some places – the textures on coffee mugs look like they’re from the Unreal Tournament era, rather than running on Unreal 4. Overall, whilst the visuals don’t push the limit of fidelity, the overall aesthetic suits the tone and does the job well. What I will say is that performance wise, the game runs flawlessly on my rig, keeping a steady 60+ at 1080p. I did find it kinda funny that the game defaults to the highest resolution, which in my case is 4k, but that’s through DSP rather than having an actual 4k monitor.

A puzzle game is only as good as it’s puzzles, and this is where the Portal comparisons are going to come thick and fast, and it’s really tempting to just say that The Turing Test isn’t as good as Portal and call it a day. That would be really freaking shitty to do though, so let’s get into detail. The central mechanic here isn’t a gun that shoots blue and orange portals, instead you’ve got a gun that can pickup and move various flavours of energy balls. If you remember how Portal used the energy balls from Half-Life 2, The Turing Test refines them even further. Instead of floating around freely however, they’re either locked in a socket or in the business end of Ava’s gun thingy. different combinations have different effects, and their combinations have various uses. The funny thing is that The Turing Test isn’t reminiscent of Portal to me, it’s got a closer resemblance to something I haven’t thought of in years: Final Fantasy X.

It sounds bonkers to compare the two, but hear me out. Remember the Cloister of Trials in all the temples dotted around Spira, where you had to use various coloured spheres to pick your way to the exit? Now imagine that you pick up those spheres with a gun reminiscent of the Antichamber gun, drape it in a covering of hard sci-fi and some rather interesting questions about the needs of the many, and you’re in the ball park of The Turing Test.

That being said, whilst the puzzles are at times inventive, they do lack a sense that there’s only one solution, and more often than not I found myself second-guessing a solution and wondering if I’m cheesing the solution through carefully lining up jumps rather than perfecting platforms. It also needs to be said that I didn’t find the puzzles to be a major challenge, although that may just be a personal bias – I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed hand-coding assembly language in TIS-100. What I will say is that the optional puzzles are a real treat, with the hardest one involving logic gates that had me making a couple of hand-written notes. I miss having to do that at times, and the rewards at the end of the optional puzzles is amazing at times, with a lot of them giving some extra exposition, or just simply there to mess with your head.

In the end, The Turing Test isn’t Portal. It’s got it’s own flavour, and it’s definitely worth your time. Some have argued it’s a little short, but similar to Portal, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and the final sequence had me actually reverse my decision on who the actual antagonist of the story is. The hardest part of recommending this game isn’t that there isn’t anything to recommend, it’s that if I were to talk about the things I love about it, I’d ruin it for everyone, and going in blind is definitely worth it.

The Turing Test is available on Steam for 19.99USD, and for the price of two pints, I’d say it’s worth it.

–J

whoa it’s been a while

It really has been far too long. I’ve had a couple of people send me some really kind messages, and I don’t want to disappoint y’all. There’s been a lot of, shall we say, interesting things happening in my life at the moment, and a lot of it got in the way of me being able to produce articles and content in a timely manner.

The biggest hurdle was the fact that my faithful main rig finally decided to give up the ghost and return to the PC gaming gods about two months ago. While I’d love to update purely from the 486, the march of web technology rendered that all but impossible. It would have been hilarious and the novelty factor alone was tempting, but it would have been as productive as posting from my mobile phone. I also considered that option, but phone keyboards are annoying enough for text messages, let along long form articles like I enjoy writing.

As for what went wrong, the best way I can describe it is a cascading failure of all parts after someone thought it was a good idea to try and push the creaking old girl far beyond what was ever meant to be achieved with such hardware. That someone was me. I’m not going to go into details, but in an attempt to get some decent performance when running Dragon Age: Inquisition, I disrupted the fragile balance the system had been precariously stuck in for the past two years. Remember that gag from The Simpsons where Mr. Burns is told he has every single disease, all at the same time? It was basically the same as that. I had spent a fair bit of time cleaning out all the physical components, but the years had taken their toll. The power supply was already near death, and the subtle tweaks to the BIOS I made did the opposite to what was helpful. Years of precarious patching and mayguyvering all fell apart ending with a bricked video card. Here’s where it got a bit depressing.

I was running an nVidia GTX 260 with a factory overclock from Gigabyte. 896meg video RAM, and uses a PCI Express 2.0 slot. Motherboard only had a PCIE 2.0 video card slot, however PCIE 3.0 is backwards compatible with PCIE 2.0, so I counted my coins and went and purchased a new nVidia GTX 960 with a factory overclock, this card manufactured by Asus this time. With 4Gb of VRAM I thought I could run that until I had the cash to upgrade the rest of the rig. If there’s anything to take away from this experience is that I am not a smart man at times. With a GTX960 running in a PCIE 2.0 slot, the excess information being sent from the graphics card to the CPU managed to bottleneck the entire system – to the point where the system was unusable in anything other than basic windows usage. It was a battle that was not going to be won without a major CPU upgrade, and considering the fact that I was running an ancient motherboard that only supported DDR2 RAM and PCIE 2.0, it was best to start again from the ground up.

Only problem is that I really don’t have that much money, so I had to spend a month and a bit completely without a modern computer. I had laptops that I could borrow from family, but in terms of a gaming, I was back to the 486 and my PS3/Vita. I sorta lost a lot of momentum and motivation, and let this little project wither for far too long. However, I did manage to save up enough to get the rest of the parts for a brand new rig, and I’ve managed to finally be able to play a lot of games that I was really looking forward to playing, as well as getting others running at respectable framerates whilst looking freaking amazing.

In other news, I’m going to be starting school again, doing a course in IT so I can’t guarantee updates, but if I put together any little projects, they’ll be put up here as well. Instead of being a pure retro gaming blog, I’ll be expanding it to cover anything that I find interesting, or things that I find neat that my mates are probably tired of hearing me bang on about.

–J

learning curves

Unique Hardware = Unique Headaches.

Earlier this week, I was banging on about how bloody rad it was to have all my nostalgia bones tickled by all those awesome graphics, digitized sound and FM music coming from the faithful little beige box. I also mentioned that there was some petty issues that were no big deal.

The petty annoyances are just that: petty, and having that little bit of extra work make the times where I get everything working like magic so much sweeter.

I’d like to point out that I’ve been eating my words for the past two days.

Curiousity Is Cruel Mistress

For the week or two after picking up the machine, I was having a blast. I spent most of my time trying to figure out what games I actually wanted to play, more than getting into any system or OS drudgery. I managed to get a few old favourites working, and even started writing up a review of One Must Fall as the next article. It was all going so well.

So what on earth happened?

I ran out of space on the hard drive. That’s it, the singular proverbial cause of two days of frustration. When I picked up the machine, I was told that there was a 2GB hard drive installed in the machine. Yet, when I checked available space in both Windows and via the dir command in DOS, the total space amounted to 504MB. This is due to the BIOS not recognising any drive over the 504MB limit as a main drive. There’s a couple of workarounds that I came across, but the easiest way I found was through using what’s called a Dynamic Drive Overlay, or DDO.

A DDO is a classic example of bootstrapping, where a small program is used to enhance the capabilities of the initial hardware. In this case, a DDO will override the motherboard’s BIOS’s hard drive controller, allowing the system to access areas of the drive past the 504MB limit. There’s a few options when it comes to DDO’s that work in this situation, but a lot of them are proprietary, and only work with certain brands of hard disk. I eventually settled on using a DDO called EZ-Drive, as it looked to have the best compatibility with the drive I was using. Normally, I’d go into detail about how to get all this running, but Phil over at philscomputerlab.com has a wonderful install guide right here. Go check out his site and his YouTube channel, some interesting stuff over there.

The Big Mistake

All this EZ-Drive and DDO stuff is neat, but in order to access the full drive, I was going to need to format the C: drive. I’ve got a full set of DOS6.22 disks, Windows 3.11 disks, and I made copies of all the drivers that were stored on the hard drive. I knew the models of the sound card, as well as the CD drive. I made sure I had all the software I needed to get everything running, and it would be a fresh install. Everything was set, and I formatted the drive and got EZ-Drive up and running. So far so awesome. Here’s where I screwed up, and it comes as a warning to anyone else working on unfamiliar hardware. I’m going to put this in bold so you know I’ve got my serious face on.

Remember to back up your driver configuration as well as the drivers.

This came back to bite me in the arse something shocking when it came time to install the sound card and CD-ROM drivers.

And Now, A History Lesson

Before I get into what the exact problem was here, a quick look back to the introduction of the CD-ROM drive. Just like any new technology, the CD-ROM was an amazing leap forward, allowing for massive amounts of data to be stored on a single disc, as compared to other removable media like the then ubiquitous floppy disk. So you can get an idea, my first computer had a 420MB hard drive. The smallest CD format can hold 650MB. You can fit more on a CD than most hard drives of the era could hold. Granted, CD burners of the time were expensive and rather unreliable, so most people couldn’t use them to write to, but it’s really damn impressive.

However, when the CD drive was introduced, there was no standard when it came to connecting a drive to the system. Eventually most drives used the IDE standard, but before that was adopted, there was a lot of different ways of connecting drives, and a lot of manufacturers used proprietary ISA controller cards with their own connectors and cables. A similar situation can be seen at the dawn of 3D acceleration, where different chipset manufacturers had vastly different APIs until 3DFX came along with the Glide API and gave a glimpse into the future. A future that 3DFX wasn’t going to see, but others took the idea of a common API for maximum compatibility and ran with it.

Transitional Hardware

Here’s where the root of all my issues came from. The CD drive in my 486 is a Sony CDU33A-01. It’s a 2 speed CD-ROM drive, and is one of Sony’s first CD drives. This specific model was designed to work with either one of their proprietary ISA cards, or with a compatible Sound Blaster card – The Sound Blaster 16 CT2260 MCD. There’s other compatible cards, but this exact Sound Blaster card is installed in my machine, and acts as a controller card for the CDU33A-01. It took a while, but I managed to track down drivers that would work with the card, as well as drivers for the CD drive. Yet even after running the sound card setup and the CD drive setup, the system still refused to recognise the CD drive.

After trawling through every readme file, and attempting to find documentation on some of the most obscure corners of the internet, it turns out the solution was a classic PEBKAC error.

PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

On the setup disk for the sound card, there was two setup files: SETUP.EXE and SETUPSB.EXE. I think you can guess what the SB stands for on the last file. That’s right, Sound Blaster. Old computers suffer no fools, and a lot of the time it’s due to something tiny like this that brings everything down.

For those interested, here’s the line in the CONFIG.SYS file that works for this drive/sound card configuration:

DEVICE=\DEV\SLCD.SYS /D:MSCD001 /B:230 /M:P /K /C

and for the AUTOEXEC.BAT:

\DEV\MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001

\DEV\ is the default install address, and can be changed when you install the drivers.

Finally,

So that’s the story of the first major hurdle I’ve faced. Now I can get back to writing that One Must Fall article.

–J

why the 486DX2?

The incredibly subjective reasons.

There’s a strange indecision when starting up something a new site, or any project for that matter. At times like this, I always find it’s best to start at the beginning.

Intel released the first 486 (also known as the i486 or the 80486) back in 1989 as the successor to the venerable 386 processor, and was in production as late as 2007, which came as surprise to me, but after thinking about it for a while, there would have been a lot of industrial or commercial uses for the chip outside of the home markets. Still, that’s an impressive lifespan, especially when you take into account the massive improvements in processor speeds that were made throughout the start of the new millennium.

I could spend a lot of time rabbiting on about specs and miscellaneous trivia, but there’s a lot of people out there that could do it far better than I. If you’re interested, check out the wikipedia page. (I do like the fact that the 486 was the first x86 chip with more than a million transistors. That’s kinda neat.)

Instead, I’m going to go through some of the reasons why I’m starting out with the 486, some of the downsides, as well as how I went about getting my hands on one.

Games, Games, Games

I’d be lying if I said I wanted to get a 486 for anything other than games. The period of time between 1990 and 1995 is a golden period for the x86 PC’s, rivaled only by arcades when it came to gaming horsepower. With the advent of VGA and SVGA graphics, digitised sound via the SoundBlaster or Gravis UltraSound cards and having the extended storage space provided by the emerging CD drives, there is a massive amount of awesome games that were developed for the PC platform during this time. This was during the infamous console wars, where the majority of school kids would argue vehemently for their platform of choice, almost leading to fist-fights in certain circles. That ended as soon as Doom hit. You had a computer that could run Doom? You had some clout, boy. It wasn’t until the PlayStation and the Nintendo64 came out that fellow students began to migrate back to consoles, and take up arms against each other to fight for their platform of choice.

It was games like Doom, Wolfenstein3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Wing Commander, Day of the Tentacle and The Need For Speed that were the talking points, and the SNES and Mega Drive seemed quaint by comparison.

Sheer Bloody Nostalgia

My first PC was a 486. I remember when my dad brought it home, and we set it up on the kitchen table, all huddled around this majestic beige box as it sprang to life for the first time. The only computers I had used were old Apple IIe’s and Macintosh’s at my school. There was Granny’s Garden and Clockwise, and that was it. I remember seeing Day of the Tentacle for the first time, the bright and vibrant artwork and jaunty music leapt out of the screen. Shareware helped as well, being able to go down to the local newsagent and buy a pack of ten floppy disks each with a couple of games on each was amazing. Thinking back, the majority of games I had back in the day were shareware. I never played the full versions until I was older, fondly thinking back on wishing for the full versions of those games, and wanting to fulfill those unrequited boyish desires for completionism.

The Search Begins

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying another 486 for a fair while, especially after the original machine that we had kicked the bucket. I’d always been keeping an eye out on eBay, but the majority of machines were from the US, and whilst the machines would have been cheap, paying for the shipping made it just out of the range of affordability. I’m not sure what changed, but the realisation that computers from the 486 era were not going to be getting any cheaper, I decided to take the plunge and look in earnest for the nostalgia machine of my dreams.

Where’d the 486 go at?

I was a bit deluded when I started looking. I figured that there would be old 486’s coming out of the woodwork, just sitting in someone’s shed, or down in a storage centre. I’ve also mentioned that I can be a bit daft at times, right? First step I took was to check on gumtree. (Australia/UK’s Craigslist) Best I found was an old rusted case that didn’t boot, had no hard drive, was fitted with a Trident graphics card, and had no keyboard, mouse or monitor. For 70AUD. It was the only one available for sale in my city on gumtree or eBay. I did contact the guy and offered 50AUD, but he had just put it up on eBay. (It sold for 36AUD)

So both eBay and Gumtree were full of duds.

The best advice I can give, and what I ended up doing to get my hands on a decent, working system, is to post to social media. Have a look on Facebook for local computer clubs, or even better, find your local city on reddit. I’ve found the majority of major cities around the world have their own subreddit – just type in /r/yourcity at the end of the url and you should find something close. I managed to find a complete system for 100AUD thanks to a redditor. It was at the top range of the budget, but there’s times where paying a little extra for peace of mind is worth it.

It’s always the little things

Even though I bought a complete running system that had been set up properly, there’s two major issues you’re going to run into. Firstly, getting any software onto the damn thing is going to be a nightmare if you haven’t got the right equipment, and even finding the software itself is a hassle. I recommend getting a machine with a CD drive, just for the fact it’s far easier to transfer a lot of data, and for the great CD games, but even more than that, invest in a 3.5″ floppy drive and some blank disks. eBay is your friend here, although I picked up a USB floppy drive from an office supply place for about 15AUD.

If you get a machine with a network card, transferring via a LAN is doable, but getting a 486 with Windows 3.11 talking to anything past Windows 98 is an exercise in frustration and failure. There’s workarounds, I personally set up a temporary FTP server on my main machine and used WS_FTP on the 486 to transfer some things, but it’s not ideal. (This is definitely a story for the next update)

The other main hurdle is going to be troubleshooting. Google is your friend, but it’s a pretty flaky friend at times, especially when it comes to looking up some obscure setup files. There’s also the jokers who’ll just laugh at you for not emulating. It’s far easier and less stressful to just ignore these people.

Thoughts after the first fortnight

Working with such an old machine is kinda humbling, and puts into perspective how far computers have come, especially when it comes to configuring systems. I never realised how much modern computers rely on things like USB, or how god damn easy it is to network modern Windows machines. The lustre of the rose tint has fallen a bit, but the core enjoyment I had when I was a kid is still there. The petty annoyances are just that: petty, and having that little bit of extra work make the times where I get everything working like magic so much sweeter.

–J

FUTURE UPDATES:

I’m going to be looking at the DOS 6.22 startup files soon, as well as memory management, drivers, as well as the FTP solution for the lack of network shares.

I’ll also start looking at some of the games I’ve been playing.

introductions

Say hello to the class, everyone.

Welcome to foureightsix, the rambling journal of one man’s blind fumbling through the world of vintage computing, as well as other miscellany I come across in my adventures.

So expect a lot of detailed accounts of my idiocy as I fumble my way through re-learning how to run and maintain old computers, and hopefully we’ll all be able to learn from my experiences. I’ll also be taking a look at the games that I remember so fondly from my youth, and whether or not they live up to the hazy memories I have.

It’s shaping up to be a whole lot of fun, so I hope you’ll join me on this carnival ride, even if we have to stop every now and then and figure out why it’s inexplicably crashed.

–J.