Tag Archives: Stalker

GTA3 Modding and Stuff

The day after my last post on Stalker, I finally realized that Stalker sucks. It has a good design but was poorly executed. I came to that conclusion upon getting to the final “level” (should be called an area, but their shoddy translation rears its head again) in which you have to rush through the outer perimeter of the Chernobyl Power Plant in about six minutes before the reactor has a blowout. I wasn’t even told that I had to do everything before the blowout, so my play style dictated that I creep around and then hunker down until the blowout was over; but here’s the thing: it never ends. When I looked it up on the forums and saw that was the case, I just threw in the towel. I had enough of this game and its half-assed gameplay. I only wanted to play it because people related it to Deus Ex repeatedly. But no, it isn’t like Deus Ex; it wishes it was like Deus Ex.

So I was trying to decide what game I would partake in next, and as you could guess from this post’s title, I chose Grand Theft Auto 3. I had only played this game through once before back in 2003. But when I remembered how irritating the gangs were in that game, I grew more uneasy about playing it again. I recalled quite specifically a quote from my (late) blog on January 1, 2003:

… Then I played GTA3 for the rest of the day…or..er..night and early morning. I have 58 of the 100 secret packages, and that armor at my hideout for getting package 50 is going to help a whole lot. I finally did beat the Turismo mission, although I had to cheat to win after about 40 more attempts to win. I had to use the time slow cheat so I could see dangers and react more quickly. The problem wasn’t speed, because I had a Stinger from Staunton Island, but the fucking car blowing up. Once, I was so fucking close to winning, I was on the home stretch with nothing in front of me and could see the final waypoint. Then, because I was in Chinatown, a Triad member shot my car and it was enough to set it over the edge and start burning. I kept going but it blew up within feet of the win. I streamed obscenities for about five minutes and woke up the parents. Usually, though, it was a shotgun-wielding Mafia member that set my car ablaze. When I slowed it down, I made sure to run them over or block their view with another car. It’s too bad I had to cheat, but it wasn’t anything too drastic, only a speed change, so I could react in time. It’s impossible to complete missions in Portland now, though, because all the gangs hate me. I only go back for secret package hunts, now.

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The code to my GTA3 mod.

Knowing the gangs would ruin my gaming experience, I looked around the GTA3\data directory for a config file that handled gang weapons. After I didn’t find anything in the plain-text config files, I suspected the main.scm file handled such attributes. Just from my observations of the file in UltraEdit, it appeared to be a structured scripting language. After a few Google queries, I came up with a very nice program called Barton Waterduck’s Mission Builder that can decompile the script file. Of course, as with any decompiler, you can only get it back into an “assembler-like” format; all control structures except jumps are lost. But I was at home with the code in only a few hours, having successfully implanted some code to change the gang weapons when in mid-game (you can see that code in the screenshot at right). Naturally, I tooled up the mod to work with the game’s story changes so I could release it to the public. Information on the final product can be found here.

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Stalker and Alarm Progress

A couple weeks ago, I started playing Stalker again to see if I could get into it. It’s a bit more palatable with the right assortment of mods but still buggy and not realizing its full potential. Although I’m not experiencing as many locks and crashes during play (since cleaning the computer out), I still get some crashes when loading games or exiting. I also started getting weird input hangs similar to the ones Titan Quest had. Fortunately, the fix was the same; just set the game to below normal priority in Task Manager. I think the problem is caused by a combination of my system and current game technologies and practices, as not all games have the same troubles.

But as I just mentioned, I had to use mods to plug up some of the gameplay holes in Stalker. Actually, I even did a small mod of my own. I found the hunger and starvation aspect of the game to be made an annoyance by the too-frequent need of opening your inventory and double-clicking some food. This gave me an excuse to write a program that can change the necessary hunger variables of an oft-modded game file without overwriting any previous modifications. Probably overkill for such a simple thing, but it’s still a lot more convenient. You can download it from here or a really awesome site for Stalker mods, FileFront. Additionally, I compiled a list earlier of all the game aspects that I thought needed improvement and have mods available to fix them:

  • lowered respawn-makes things repopulate the world less quickly (but apparently some areas continually respawn specific stalkers/creatures, like the industrial region on the way to Yantar). i haven’t actually found a mod to do this one yet, but information on how to can be found at this thread.
  • A-Life-allows the stalkers to move around more, improving the atmosphere by creating unique encounters
  • weather overhaul-you shouldn’t be able to not distinguish between night and day
  • remove annoying sounds like the nightvision loop or the npcs that repeat one phrase over and over
  • non-degrading armor-because it sucks having to throw away good armor that got trashed, unless you have…
  • repair mod-allowing you to keep your weapons (and armor) from getting worn out and jamming
  • detectors-locates anomalies and marks them on your minimap, so you don’t have to spend so much time later in the game watching for anomally effects
  • more realistic location damage-because a headshot should always drop um
  • extended loot mod-puts a wider range of goodies on bodies
  • increased weight limit-because it sucks only carrying around a couple large guns (albeit more realistic). i prefer a 150/200kg limit.
  • increased or no time limit on quests-it’s too difficult getting back in the same day to complete quests. i’d rather just wander around freely and choose when i want to do a quest.
  • increased flash light range-the original flashlight feels unrealistically short-range
  • real-world weapon names-i’m tired of games pussing out and making up weapon names (like CS does and then you have to mod every time an update comes out).
  • mp5/sawed-off/aksmu fitting in the pistol weapon slot-it’s pretty useless only having weak pistols in that slot all the time.
  • decreased stalker vision and perception-too much terminator vision going on here, and it’s hard to sneak up on them.
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June 2007 build

But I haven’t just been loafing around playing games all month. I’ve also made a lot of progress on my alarm program (cleverly named “Snake’s Alarm”), and a closed beta is in sight. I’m fairly certain that I’ve located the reliability bug that existed in earlier beta versions and have thus fixed it. There have been numerous other bug-fixes and changes, but also a lot of additions, such as: handling standby to either wake up the computer for an alarm or keep it awake for alarms; program settings are finally available with about ten useful user preferences; systray popups and message box actions available; multiple sound files for sound alarms; and integrated help documentation.

I just remembered that I also added a new feature to the image viewer pages here. It’s another little icon next to the “Break out of frames” one that will toggle between original image size and a size that will fit in the window. PHP finds a ratio of width to height for the image and then Javascript is used to find the window dimension and size the image according to the ratio. And because it’s just a ratio, you can resize the window to any dimension and it still works. Very nifty.

I also did a little work on a mod of Baryonyx’s Extended World CTW mod for Rise of Nations to make it an “Imperial” CTW. That is, only Gunpowder and Enlightenment age are available. I redid a few scenario scripts and was working on a new field battle scenario with large numbers of troops, moving in groups so they attack in lines. I’m not sure when I’ll finish this–maybe after I’m done with Stalker. Or the next time I spend a week at Kaylen‘s place with only my laptop.

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That’s right it’s a post.

Another semester of college is dwindling down already, providing me with the chance to finally get my thoughts in order enough to post.

I haven’t really made any progress on any projects other than school stuff, so no news there. I’ve mainly just been trying to relax to some good gaming in between the schoolwork. But since finishing Titan Quest, the gaming has been rather ho-hum.

I went back and played Hitman: Contracts, getting Silent Assassin in all the missions. But alas, it made me appreciate the improvements in Blood Money more so.

Now, I’ve just starting working on Stalker but am having mixed feeling about it. First of all, it’s just as buggy as Titan Quest was. I experienced random freezes, stuttering, and save game corruption within the first few hours of play. Thankfully, the Internet provides communities of other irate gamers in the form of forums. I eventually combed through enough search pages that I found a working solution for the most-annoying freezes. Oddly enough, it has to do with the behavior of the OS’s paging algorithm–a hack that shouldn’t be necessary but is because of the half-assed state of the game’s engine. You just change/add two keys to the registry path:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Session Manager/Memory Management
DWORD PagedPoolSize = FFFFFFFF(hex)
DWORD PoolUsageMaximum = 50(dec)

PoolUsageMaximum is a percentage that controls the aggressiveness of the page swapping (this setting may not even be needed). PagedPoolSize controls whether the OS handles swapping dynamically or just lets the pool fill up to a specific size.

Anyways, the gameplay itself is…interesting. At first, it felt like playing Morrowind, but that soon faded as the story drove the game into a more linear style than expected. The game world is not contiguous or load-free, but rather a collection of areas connected together by teleport points. In other words, it’s no Oblivion. It plays more like a perversion of Far Cry than anything else. The few RPG elements almost seem tacked on and only include inventories, looting stashes, and augmenting with passive artifacts. It’s definitely no Deus Ex, either. What it does have are some pretty intense and frequent fire-fights. They actually happen too often, because areas are quickly refilled with mutants and bandits. It’s a real chore to clean out an area on your way to somewhere and then clean it out again on your way back. And there’s no quick travel. I’m unsure I’ll continue playing, because this game is just too in need of polish.

I’ve had a more enjoyable time pwning the shit out of my girlfriend in LieroX ­čśŤ . There are so many weapons in the various mods to try out that it never gets stale. Our favorite right now is the Warhammer weapons mod. It has great effects and good balancing with a wide assortment of weapon types. If you’re unfamiliar with the original Liero, it was basically a side-scroller deathmatch not unlike the popular Worms series (sans the turn-taking). LieroX is just an amped up incarnation with full-color destructible levels, player skins, weapon packs, and Windows and networking support.

And my last bit of news is the conversion of my How-To Deus Column into a plaintext document available on GameFAQs. So my much slaved over guide is finally getting all the hits it deserves. I will, of course, continue to update the original column, as it is easier to maintain in HTML than a heavily-formatted text file.

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