Thursday, September 18, 2008



Last summer 2k Games released a game called BioShock. It was a remarkable hit, scoring numerous perfect 10 reviews. In gaming, those are rare; a 9.5 or 9.6 on most rating sites is considered incredible, 8's mean the game is worth buy, and 7's usually mean it's at least fun to play for awhile. BioShock received over 30 perfect reviews. That says something.

At the time was eager to play it. It was released for the PC and Xbox 360. I do not own a 360 which leaves the PC. I do own a PC. However, my PC had not had an upgrade for 2 years and BioShock required more out the system than almost any other game to date. It was designed with a certain graphics technology called Shader 3.0; my video card only supported Shader 2.0. I couldn't play the game; it would simply load a black screen.

Shortly after it's release (i.e. two days) a fan rewrote part of the code in BioShock to make it compatible with Shader 2.0 cards. This was pretty big news since when 2k Games was asked about this, they claimed that it wasn't possible for BioShock to be compatible with the older technology. They were quite wrong. The modification didn't work perfectly: not all textures loaded properly, lights didn't bloom or create real-time shadows, almost none of the high-end effects worked. But, the game played. Even without all the frivolities and special visuals, the game still looked quite good.

The game is beautiful, but creepy.

I downloaded this patch and after about 2-3 hours of messing with settings on my PC, updating drivers for my video and sound cards and various other changes to my system, BioShock ran. Yes, it took about 6-7 minutes to load and the visuals would occasional crap out entirely, but it ran. I played through what I figured was about half the game, I'm not really sure, but it was a decent portion of it. While the technical issues caused me some grief, the game was amazing. It really did revolutionize what a first-person shooter is and how they can be played and had a great story to boot. The story is basically one giant flip-of-the-bird to Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy. I find that pretty funny.

Last week I finally cracked and purchased a new video card for my computer. It arrived on Tuesday. I installed it as soon as I got home from work and hooked up my new monitor; I almost cried it was so beautiful.

Big Daddy's are mean.

With this new video card, I can now play BioShock. I can play BioShock with all the effects. I can play BioShock as it is meant to be played. I can experience the game that was hailed as a god amongst games! I go to Best Buy as soon as I have some free time and pick it up. When I get home that night, I install it.

The install takes forever. Seriously. It takes over 30 minutes to install the game. After that it doesn't accept my authentication key. Then it doesn't recognize the game disc as the real disc and insists I must have pirated the game. By this time it has been an hour and I'm kind of upset. I know BioShock is supposed to have a state-of-the-art digital rights management system, but the pirated version I had a year ago didn't give me this much trouble.
(I didn't want to pay for a game if it couldn't run on my system; don't judge me.)

4:3 (red) v. 16:9 difference.

Finally I get the game installed. I figure since there's a patch out for it that adds some new features as well as fixes some really, really stupid mistakes (such as the widescreen mode actually shows less than the fullscreen resolutions) I'll download it and patch it up first. When I download and run the patch, it immediately generates and error log and started prompting me with "cannot find file" messages. I'm quite perplexed. I legitimately purchased this game. I just installed it. The game was installed where the patch verified it was. Yet every file it tried to patch failed saying that it couldn't find the necessary files and as such couldn't patch them. Then it prompts me with "patch installed successfully!" and closes.

You heard right. Not a single file was able to install properly, but the patch still thinks it installed successfully. If you ask me, not getting even one of the 20+ files that are supposed to be changed done correctly does not qualify as successful installation.

Fine. The game doesn't want to get patched, that's fine. I still have the game on my PC and can still play version 1.0. It'll have some flaws, but it'll run.

I load it up.

It doesn't run.

It opens with a crash. Literally.

I load it up again. This time it gets to the menu and my speakers start crackling. This was a highly reported issue with BioShock initially; it demands more from sound cards than most people have and as such creates a lot of distortion, stuttering and crackling. It sounds like crap. I spend some time getting new drivers and now it sounds a little better, but for the most part still sounds like crap. Whatever. I have an old sound card, I'm not surprised. The menu screen looks beautiful and that's what I care about.

I click "new game." Immediately a "loading" screen pops up and the status bar starts moving. During the loading screen the images are changing, quotes are fading in and out, everything goes smoothly. Then it stops. The images stop changing, the quotes stop fading in and out, the status bar stops moving. This is not unlike what it did a year ago when I was playing through the game on my old video card. I assumed that because my new shiney video card has twice as much RAM and significantly more firepower it wouldn't take forever to load. I was wrong. Turns out the loading time is related to the fact that I only have 1GB of RAM. Well, that'll be fixed in the coming weeks, but for now it kinda sucks.

I start my stopwatch to see how long it'll hang on the loading screen. The watch hits one minute. Two minutes. Three. Four. At five minutes and about 26 seconds the screen flickers a little and goes black, then fades slowly into the opening animation. Well, 5:26 isn't that long to wait for a loading screen...right?

The entrance to Rapture.

Rapture: underwater utopia.

Watching the opening animation, I learn that this game looks gorgeous. It's beautiful. I get through the intro and start to enter Rapture, an underwater city based on entirely on Ayn Rand's objectivism: each person gets only what he or she earns, no more, no less. The intro to Rapture states, "Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? No, says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican, it belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow, it belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose Rapture." While I'm sitting at my computer, staring at this illustrious game on my new beast of a monitor that fills my field of vision with vibrant color, I'm quite happy.

Then it all goes black and becomes silent. Not black as in a power outage. Black as in my computer dies. It completely shuts off and won't turn back on. I had heard BioShock stresses systems pretty heavily and if they're overclocked (mine is) they don't work very well with it; I didn't expect this. After some fidgeting with the power supply I get it boot up and it gives the friendly beep after post to let me know that everything is ok and it still loves me. I decide not to push it anymore; it's late and I only got two hours of sleep the night before. If I'm not careful it would happen again. After Windows boots completely, I look around for a minute on various drives, make sure everything is still there, then go to bed. When I get off work today I get to try for round two and see if it'll work better this time. My plan is to uninstall the game completely, delete all traces of files (including my saved games from last summer) and settings, then set my computer back to stock settings, reinstall the game to it's default directory instead of one I specify, patch the game, then try it again.

In 3-4 hours I should be able to report whether or not my plan worked. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

EDIT: After about 2 hours of uninstalling/reinstalling files, ejecting/inserting the DVD to make it realize I don't have a burned copy of the disk, and adjusting a few settings (took down some of the light and shadow effects), it works.

I'm gonna play this a lot this weekend.


Brian said...

"how glorious it is to not have to give it a government (Democracy)"

Then there is where it diverges from Objectivism. Objectivism doesn't support anarchy - there must be a government to support and uphold the rights of the citizenry, and for that government to survive, it needs funding.

I thought Bioshock was awesome (sorry for your failure), but the failure of Rapture was due to the lack of a government to protect individual rights - something which Rand does not promote.

When I built my most recent computer, I put a geforce 8800gt in it, and it kept crashing the computer after 10-15 minutes of play. I had to RMA the card and the replacement worked fine.

pynkpandah said...

This is why i own an Xbox360.

Tim said...

That was actually a mistake on my part, not the games. I remembered the line incorrectly. The actual line is "is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? No, says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor."

It has since been corrected in the post.