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Old 06-27-2004, 11:25 AM   #1
Henry
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Game Crash Synopsis

Before I start this, I want to make clear that the concept of this document is to explain what kinds of things cause OOTP, or any program to crash. In it, you may find some ideas that you can try out that might help your situation and we, in turn, will continue to try and replicate those crashes we can to see if there are actions we can take within the game.

Starting Point

Let's begin by realizing something, and at least accepting what it means.

"Not all Win99, Win98se, WinME, Win2000, or WinXP customers have crash-related problems"

What this means logically is that "OOTP plus any specific OS" is not the root cause of any crash, otherwise ALL WinME or ALL Win98 customers would experience this problem. If we start with an acceptance of that issue, we can more quickly get to the real causes.

Clarification of the Above

Now that we all accept that the OS is not the root cause, I do have to somewhat flavor that with this...

1. Win98, Win98se, and WinME are not supported by Microsoft to the same level as Win2000 and WinXP. The only updates released for the three earlier versions now only include security related issues that may effect business customers. That, in itself, is the first reason to at least consider upgrading since problems found within the OS code will no longer be fixed.

2. The Win98, Win98se, and WinME code is not based on the Windows NT platform. These OS's are basically an enhanced version of Windows 95. What that means to developers is that programming for these 3 OS's is different than programming for Win2000/XP. It means that Markus must test his code against both environments and "tweak" the coding if differences are found. Looking at this logically, it also means that each option in OOTP may have two code paths to follow - one for Win98/98se/ME and a second for Win2000/XP - further complicating the testing scenario.

3. The Win98/98se/ME platforms have been systematically removed from the corporate environments due to their instability. For an example, MDAC version upgrades on this platform (which are part of the Service Pack updates) consistently broke Oracle and Actuate applications in my company - requiring the developers to go back and modify the custom applications each time a Service Pack was released - or delay the Service Pack until such modifications could be done.

And 4. The root OS database (called the registry) is different between the Win98/98se/ME platform and the Win2000/XP platform. This means the older, Win98/98se/ME registry is much more prone to corruption.

Caveat

This is not to say problems do not also exist with WIn2000/XP, but it does point out that this newer platform is more stable AND is still supported by Microsoft.

Moving Forward

Ok. We've established that Win2000/XP is likely a more stable platform, and that Markus certainly would have an easier time if he didn't have to worry about the Win98/98se/ME differences. But there is more...

Internet Explorer

Some/Most of you might remember when the browser was a separate product. We had Netscape with the largest market share and IE struggling to compete. Microsoft, being the giant it is, decided if IE was programmed INTO the OS, then folks would have less reason to buy a competing product. So they integrated IE into the OS coding, sharing routines with Windows, and insuring Netscape's failure to control the market. From a business standpoint, this was genius. But from a technical standpoint, this was folly. Why?

IE is upgraded separately from Windows. The programming staffs are different, and thus the releases are coordinated, but difficult to plan in such a way as to insure compatibility with all other applications that use the IE routines. Add to that the fact that security has become critical to corporate America and monthly security patches not only modify various Windows routines but IE routines as well... and don't believe for a minute that these new releases were tested against all variations - it's not possible.

So, what does this mean?

What you probably have begun to understand is that the older an OS gets, the less possible it is to insure it will work against all applications and under all circumstances. You should also note that when an issue arises, there are fewer options to get it fixed. Microsoft won't help with a patch, and it's very possible that the fix needed to avoid the issue will break something else.

Ultimately, most developers finally stop supporting the older platforms. In my company, we no longer support Win98/98se/ME. Windows 2000 is the oldest OS we have, and it will be totally removed by the end of 2006.

Now, let's talk about OOTP

I know you've heard this before from me, but please bare with me.

Markus is a single person. He does not have the resources of a programming staff behind him - someone he can delegate tasks to. He does EVERYTHING himself. Now, I'm not going to go down the path of whether that is good or bad. It's his decision, and arguing whether it's right or wrong will get us no closer to solving the immediate problem

Being a one man show, he shares that total time with basically (1) planning V7 and (2) patching V6. It's obvious to all of us that at some point, Markus will have to spend all his time working on V7. We also know that V6 (as every version before it) still has some issues that need addressed - and it's also apparent that all of them will not be fixed in V6.

Now before everyone gets up in arms, this is the way it's always been since the beginning. AT least we have had a developer interested in making things right, and issuing multiple patches per year to try and get there. In addition, I think most of us would agree the game has made significant strides each version.

Getting back to my point, Markus will eventually turn his attention to V7 and whatever still remains as a problem in V6 will stay until V7 is released. I suspect some of the lesser problems with V6 - the ones considered not critical or "the ones that effect the smallest audience" will have to be deferred. This is not anything Markus wants to do, but something he must do if V7 is to be a better game.

What this means is that some of the responsibility for making the game work falls on us, the customers.

So, what can the customer do?

If we're running an underpowered machine and we can't afford to upgrade, be sure the machine is running at peak performance and do not run anything else when running OOTP. If we're running an older OS and can't afford to upgrade, be sure the OS has all the available patches and thta housekeeping (defrag, etc) is done regularly.

All OS's get corrupted over time when we are adding, removing programs and games. Games are the worst of all applications. Since they are not designed for a business environment, the developers basically "don't care" if they follow all the Microsoft programming guidelines to accomplish their goals. Business apps, on the other hand, have to integrate correctly or those folks will go out of business - so it's the games and 3rd party utilities that usually cause the greatest problems. Bad practices leave behind parts and pieces of previous games and entries in the registry. Win2000/XP does a better job of keeping it's registry clean, but the older OS's do not.

In order to clean out these "leftovers" from older installations, rebuild your machine from time to time. Save your data, licenses, etc. - reformat your hard disk, and reinstall everything. Once you see how much better your machine runs, you'll be glad you did. NOTE: If your not comfortable doing this, find someone that can help you. Yes, there is risk if either you, or your "help" isn't well-versed in this, but your choice is to keep your machine where it is and live with the results of poor performance.

Learn and understand as much as you can... that the virus software slows down OOTP, that the IE browser sometimes works better than the internal one, that programs/utilities running in the background can cause issues, that downloads (of OOTP, roster packs, anything) can become corrupted during the process and need to be redone (especially if your on dialup)... that memory is about 50 cents per meg and a 512mb machine is a screamer for OOTP... that an underpowered machine must be given every chance you can give it to accomplish what your asking (a 4 cylinder auto isn't a good choice to climb Pike's Peak)... that your OS should be as close to up to date as possible. If you have dialup and can't download the updates due to your connection speed, you can go to the Microsoft website and get all the updates current to Oct 2003 on a CD, then download the rest. There are many more thing you should know including many that have been posted on this board... the main thing to note is that YOU have to be a part of the solution as well - your machine can't do it by itself.

Summary

The fact that most Win2000/XP customers are playing the game without crashes suggests it's an issue of updates, or third party utilities, or just about anything on your machine. It could be that the registry is messed up from previous game and utility installations and removals - it could be your using a browser other than IE. It could be that you installed Netscape, and some browser files got updated that OOTP doesn't like (this is just an example, I don't know that it's true).

Here's something to note... On my machine (Win2000) OOTP works fine. When I run a virus scan, I note that there are a half million files on my PC. If something went wrong today, I would have little to no chance of figuring out which of the half million files was causing the problem - so I would approach it thus...

I would try and turn other things off, I would uninstall and reinstall the game, I would try and remember what I did just prior to the problem - and attempt to undo that action, I would run antivirus, antispam, hard disk defrag, and anything else I could think of. When all else failed, I would rebuild the machine - knowing the game worked before and can again, and knowing that others have my setup and are ok.

The ultimate issue is that the machine / OS is the ultimate cause of most problems. It may be that Markus may find something that if he changes will help some folks with the older OS's or help some folks who are running Netscape, or help some folks that have not upgraded to all the Windows updates - but as you can imagine, he would have to know a lot about your environment to even know where to begin.

At this point, I'm sure some will say "but it's only OOTP that doesn't work". But what that means (knowing that others have your OS as well and they DO work) is that something on your specific machine is probably at the root cause. Going through the process of looking - and rebuilding if necessary will likely fix that issue on your end so you can get yours to work as others have.

----

I hope this has explained a few things, and I hope no one takes it incorrectly since it wasn't intended that way. I did want to provide some thoughts that may not have occurred to you and explain that the overall problem is a lot more complex than you might have imagined. OOTP isn't the only program that doesn't work on some machines. I more or less do this kind of work for a living in a company of over 12,000 machines and 500 servers, and we are constantly researching and investigating - trying to get things to work together.

I wish there was a bullet list of all the things to check in what order which would lead you to an eventual solution, but the environment is too complex and changing daily to make that feasible.

Keep in mind that others out there have your configuration as well, and the game is working for them. Knowing that, and being a Sherlock Holmes, you'll eventually be able to track down the problem and enjoy this game as you should. Continue to report to us on the board how your coming and share your experiences so other don't have to go through the process yet again.

Last edited by Henry; 06-27-2004 at 12:39 PM.
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