Sunday, September 20, 2020

Recent purchase of old games on Steam...and labor required to actually get them running

I recently purchased a game package that consists of Railroad Tycoon II Platinum, Railroad Tycoon 3 and Sid Meier's Railroads! on Steam.  Two of these games needed a human (me) to get into the game files to fix them so the games can be run on Windows 10 (or even on Vista or 8).

Railroad Tycoon 3's issue is that it crashes on startup.  The fix is to turn on an option called "Disable Hardware T&L" in the Settings dialog.  The problem is that you cannot turn this option on in-game if you cannot get the game started.


For this, the solution is to replace the engine.cfg file which is found in the game's Steam folder (example: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Railroad Tycoon 3\Data\Configuration).  The source of the replacement engine.cfg file is here: 105_106_RT3_Vista_Fix.zip.  More information about this fix can be found on Hawk & Badger Railroad (backup link).  This video also covers more information about patching RT3:


Sid Meier's Railroads!'s issue is that it crashes constantly, like in minutes.  The fix is to directly edit the game's executable file with a hexeditor to change a specific bit.  You never know when you'll need a hexeditor, so I always install one on one every desktop PC I've owned.  Even still, I've literally not used a hexeditor on game files in over 2 decades.  Anyway, the bug fix description is too involve for me to repeat in this article, so I'll just point to the source article on Steam: Fix Crashing/LAA manual fix (backup link). 


The Steam article employs a particular hexeditor, so if you aren't experienced hexediting files, you may wish to use the recommended app.  Despite the lengthy article, the actual fix is very quick once you find the bit you need change. So far, I've not had a crash since implementing this fix.

Epilogue

When Steam gaming platform first came out, I was not a fan.  I tried to avoid it like the plague, but eventually, AAA games that I wished to play were only available on Steam, so I had to commit.  The game that finally snared me was Civilization 5.

One cool thing about Steam is that they have a ton of old games from as far back as the early 90's (maybe even earlier).  The old games are typically porteddosboxed or patched to run on modern systems.  Although you have to rebuy old games that you wish to play (for rather small prices), it is typically worth the cost to avoid the trouble of working out how to configure a modern PC to run those games.

The problem with Steam is that their updates are often half-hearted efforts.  For example, no efforts are taken to maintain aspect ratios of the original games.  This makes many of the old games appear uglier than the originals.  However, this is typically OK, as you play old games for their game mechanics and functional design more than their outdated graphical design.  A bigger issue is demonstrated earlier in this article.  Some games are so badly adopted by Steam, you, the user, have to manually configure the game files in order for the game to even run (or at least run without a ton of crashes).  

Not all games are fixable.  An example of this is Independence War (a game I loved).  Both Steam editions (original and sequel) appear to have unfixed game-breaking bugs with no community solutions.  These games are only $6, but it's $6 too much for a game that cannot be finished.


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