Friday, April 27, 2012

World Rally Fever: The Road to Victory Part 1

If I were to point to a game that marked the beginning of my massive backlog, World Rally Fever would probably be it. I picked it up in the crappy game section of a local toy store along with Pokémon Yellow in the early Summer of 2001. I played it a fair amount throughout the Summer, nudging my way onto the winner's podium of the game's first cup. By the time Autumn rolled around though, I found myself suddenly swamped in cheap, second-hand PC games, my brother and I had grabbed from a few on-line auctions and classified ads.

When I was only able to get hold of one game every four or five months before, I squeezed every ounce of goodness I could from it. Even if it was bastard-hard or utterly unfathomable to figure out, I'd still sit down with it again and again and try my best to make any progress I could, because what else was I going to play? Now though, I had a crapton of stuff to play. I didn't need to push myself to get past World Rally Fever's fairly challenging later tracks any more; I had Grand Theft Auto and Caesar III and Cannon Fodder to play. And those were only the beginning of a deluge of cheaper budget and used games that grew and grew, year after year, as my disposable income increased and the availability of cheaper games increased. As the number of games I had shot up, so did the amount of them left unplayed, ignored or forgotten sitting on my shelves, but World Rally Fever was the first of them.

With my effort last year to tackle my backlog coinciding with the tenth anniversary of me picking up the game, I knew I had to take a shot at beating this. With wired 360 pad in hand, Joy2Key running away in the background, I set off again through World Rally Fever's first track. This time though it wasn't to test DOSBox's compatibility for the umpteenth time; it wasn't to capture a YouTube video for Listal. For the first time in ten years, I sat down to actually play the game. The only thing that was going to stop me this time was the game itself beating me over the head with it's immense difficulty.(And holy shit, did it beat me. :D)

So, come with me as we take a trip through this forgotten mid-90's racer, as I attempt to finally lay the first entry in my gaming backlog to rest. First stop: Scotland.

Um, before we board for the highlands though, I should point out that none of these videos are from a single run through any of the cups. Most of them were captured as I played through the game last summer, my aim being to get a winning performance to post to YouTube. That only worked out up to a point however, as we'll see later. :D They'll definitely give you a good idea of what I was dealing with though. Now that that's out of the way, the Rookie Cup awaits:

Scotland (Rookie Cup)

As first tracks go, Scotland is no Mario Circuit. There's ample opportunity for calamity with both sides of the tracks dotted with stones. The main obstacle to look out for here is the water. trying to drive through it or colliding with the grass after a botched jump are both going to do a number on you. I've raced this track so many times now though, that cruising to first place is never a problem here.

I've got to apologise for the video quality and lack of sound effects here. This is one of the handful of WRF videos I uploaded to YouTube in the early days of my blog. I didn't actually know the game had sound effects at the time and I was unfortunately relying on Windows Movie Maker for my video editing needs. It really doesn't help that YouTube compresses everything to crap either. I might upload newer versions of these tracks at some point, but the newer videos are stretching my terrible upload speed to capacity at the moment.

Rio (Rookie Cup)

A couple of slightly tricky bends aside, this is a much simpler course than Scotland. I'm a big fan of the upbeat music in this one. Some really impressive fake ads dotted around the track too. Oh, and I've just noticed the super low-res Christ the Redeemer in the background. Awesome! :D

France (Rookie Cup)

Here's where the pain begins. :D France give us out first taste of the developer's penchant for putting walls on race tracks where they just don't belong. And one of them has a absolute bastard of a corner leading up to it. Will I be able to pull another victory out of the bag after an early wall-based setback?  Will I ever manage to take that bloody corner without colliding into it? All will be revealed between multiple sheep blugeonings.

New York (Rookie Cup)

Yeah, I think you guys will immediately see why I held off starting this feature back in September. As for the track itself, it may not be as tough as France is, but with gaps to jump, destructible railings and some more precariously positioned walls, it really makes you work hard for that trophy.


06/08/11 - Beat the Rookie Cup tonight for the first time in ten years. Next up, the Amateur Cup, though Utah is proving to be my undoing ATM. - JiliK's Backloggery

Thinking back to playing the game in 2001, I remembered having a pretty tough time even beating the Rookie Cup. Having clinched it without too much effort this time, I have to admit I was feeling pretty confident heading into the Amateur Cup. I had obviously forgotten about the Hawaii track. But World Rally Fever was about to deliver a refresher course...

On to Part 2

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting Turok 2 to Run on Windows 7

It's fair to say I have some unfinished business with Turok 2. I got the N64 version for Christmas in 1999, but much to my chagrin, the damn thing wouldn't save onto the only memory card I had at the time or any that I got later. Along with its general difficulty and its slightly confusing level design, this meant I was never able to get very far with the game and I eventually ended up selling it off in frustration a couple of years later.

Picking up where I left off in 1999.
Shoot that poison arrow er,..slightly over his baa-ack.

I still kind of wanted to play it though, and the PC version seemed like the perfect way of getting around the game's aversion to third party memory cards. However, any time I tried to run the Turok 2 demo, on Windows 95 or on multiple versions of Windows XP, I could never get past the splash screen - it would always pop up some kind of error and crash. When I decided to give it another shot it on Windows 7 (64-bit) a couple of months ago, that surprisingly wasn't the case. I think I might have gotten an error message, but the game didn't crash this time. Without any compatibility mode set, the game loaded up, and within a minute I was playing through the first level with mouse and keyboard controls, at a nice sharp resolution, and with the ability to finally save whenever and wherever I wanted.

This was as far as I ever got until Windows 7. Goodness knows why.

It took me a while to get a copy of the game for a decent price, but I finally got to take a retail version for a test drive a few weeks ago. Again without fiddling with the compatibility settings, I booted the game up after installing. I got a warning that my graphics card wasn't up to snuff (To run a game from 1998? Sure, Turok 2.) and an error message about glide3x.dll being missing (which pops up every time I start it up), but it ran. And things seemed to be going well as I made my way through the first level.

It was around here I ran into the enemy/texture bug first. Getting pulverised with grenades by an invisible version of this guy was less than ideal.

After saving a few times though, I noticed that when I saved again, all the enemies in the game turned invisible. Now, I know that some enemies have the ability to cloak themselves, but that wasn't what was happening here, the enemy models were just not being drawn at all. I was still getting shot at though, so the enemies themselves were obviously still there. As I kept experimenting, it looked like this bug was randomly occurring after saving, and sometimes making textures in the level and on my weapons disappear too. Reloading the game and my last save sometimes made everything visible again. The best solution though seemed to be pushing through the gunfire to another area, saving, quitting, reloading the game and reloading that save. That seemed to work most of the time, but was hardly a practical way of making it through the game.

Of course, I couldn't get a single texture to vanish when I actually needed it to, so let's just enjoy this tranquil view instead. Ahh.

That wasn't the only problem I was encountering either. The game was also randomly crashing here and there. But more often than not the crashes were happening while I was trying to save or after I had saved. Clearly I need some kind of fix for these problems. I could only hope the internet had one, as I made my to Google to search for any threads about the game on the Vogons message board. I knew I'd read a few there before and they're usually pretty helpful.

Has Windows ever found a solution to even a single crash?

Going through the few topics that popped up, it looked like any solution was going to a pretty long-winded one. I didn't try any of them out right then. But it turned out that I didn't need to. Later, when I was having a look through some old folders on my PC, I found an unofficial patch for Turok 2 that I must have downloaded from the same message board a few years ago. The patch seemed to be designed just to get the game's CD soundtrack playing (which I didn't even know it had earlier), but the Readme mentioned that this version included a uni-processor mode patch, which might fix crashes on systems with multiple processors - certainly a possible cause of my problems. I wasn't too hopeful about the patch, but I decided to give it a try anyway, backing up my Turok 2 directory beforehand.

The Turok franchise in a nutshell.

I ran the patch, pointed it to the game's single player executable (Turok2English.exe in my case) and confirmed that I wanted to apply the uni-processor fix.  After that, I started up the game again, and since then I haven't had a single crash, the textures or enemies aren't disappearing any more and I've been enjoying the kind-of-cool, but also quite repetitive soundtrack for the first time since sometime in early 2000, I guess (not too sure if the N64 version even had music). I'm about halfway through the second level at the moment, saving every couple of minutes, like it's going out of style. :D

The grey fog remains firmly in place, patch or no patch.

While this patch won't work for everyone I imagine, with the recent meltdown of various file sharing services, there mightn't be another copy of it out there any more, so I'll keep one linked to from this post. Good (dinosaur) hunting, everyone.

Download the patch here.

Update 02/06/14: Got an email from -=CHE@TER=-, the creator of the patch a few days ago. He's put out a new version to fix compatibility issues with Windows 8.1 so I've swapped out the version I have up on MediaFire for the new one and updated the link above accordingly.

Update 13/01/15: Updated patch to the latest version, v1.6.

Update 23/06/15: Updated to the latest version, v2.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cooking: Pecan Pie, Banoffee Pie

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

I've wanted to try pecan pie for ages and the only way that was ever going to happen over here was for me to make one myself. To that end, I've been on the look-out for a bag of shelled pecans for a while. The best I could come up with though was two 200g bags of pecans in shells, which proved to be absolute bastards to break out of those shells in one piece. I must have spent about an hour picking broken shell bits off the nuts inside, bit by bit, finishing up with a coating of a fine, red pecan dust all over my hands.

The pie itself, based on this recipe, was much smoother sailing. Though there were still a few small bits of shell perilously lurking within, the pecan-caramel combination was great, especially with some of the maple cream from the same recipe.

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie is something else I've been meaning to make for ages. I was hopeful I could make one with a tin of evaporated milk, rather than condensed milk as I ended up with one lurking in the cupboard with no real use for it. Sure enough, after a bit of internet detective work, I came across this recipe posted on some mum-based forum. They weren't wrong about the toffee part, which probably took a good bit longer than 40 minutes for me, but it was indeed pretty damn "gorg". I did bump up the amount of digestives, bananas and cream in mine though, so I guess that helped (though certainly not in the waistline department. :D).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Backlog Assault: 2011 Wrap Party - Morrowind Edition

Title: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  
Platform: PC

Bought: 02/01/10   
From: Steam   
Price: €4.99

Beaten: 26/10/11   
Final Game Time: 99:42   
In-Game Days Spent: 369   
Journal Page Count: 295
Price/Hour: €0.05

Backloggery Dump:
  • --/03/10 - I've just  arrived in Ebonhart for the fist time to drop off a slave I've been rolling around with. Picked up some sweet Dark Brotherhood armour too.
  • 02/05/10 - I'm still doing early Thieves Guild and Mage's Guild quests mostly, but I've made a little story progress now too.
  • 06/09/10 - I'm about halfway through the Thieves Guild and Mage's Guild quests now, still only eight missions into the main quest though.
  • 08/10/11 - Almost done with the Thieves Guild quests, but their conflict with the Fighters Guild means I need to take care of those quests first now.
  • 14/10/11 Burned my way through what feels like dozens of Fighters Guild quests the other night. Delivering potions to mines? What a lame-ass guild.
  • 17/10/11 - Finished the Fighters Guild, Thieves Guild and Bal Molagmer quest lines last night. Feels good man.
  • 26/10/11 - Finished off the Mage's Guild stuff a few days ago and finally got around to smoking Dagoth Ur's ass last night.
Previously on JiliK's Blog:

15/01/10 - Dammit, just when I thought I was done with the sale this pops on the second last day as one of the daily deals. Again, I've yet to fire it up, but I suspect there's an awful lot of content in there for a fiver.


With almost one hundred hours logged into this, I'm pretty sure I got my fiver's worth.:D

I booted this up for the first time in March 2010, probably not long after it finished it's hefty download over my terrible connection, just to check it out. Before playing I was worried that I'd never have the patience to master the mountain of stats and the various systems present in the game, but the world of Vvardenfell and the ability to interact with it any way you desire - to go anywhere, do anything, to really play a role of your own choosing were so engaging that I ended up hardly able to pull myself away from it for weeks.

He was still Trogdor!

Not knowing anything about anything, I started off by creating a character. Basing my choice of race solely on who looked the coolest, I ended up with a grey-bearded Nord, who I called Trogdor. After being released by the in-game authorities, I started wandering around the starting area for a while, just exploring. The basic controls were pretty simple to grasp. At it's core, it played like a slow-moving FPS with sword combat. Having completed a simple quest for one of the townsfolk, I was feeling a little more confident about the game as I set off for Balmora in pursuit of the main story line. I really shouldn't have been. What followed was a baptism of fire if ever there was one.

I wandered around alone, in the rain and the dark for days, lost in the aptly-named Bitter Coast Area. The signs seemed to lead nowhere; I was moving at a snail's pace, even by running; and every encounter with the even smallest enemy brought me closer to my seemingly-inevitable end, as I wrestled with the clunky, chance-based combat system. When I finally stumbled across civilization, it was a ramshackle fishing village run by elves, who made it abundantly clear that no Nord was welcome there and that I should fuck at the nearest possible opportunity.

After another spot of aimless wandering I decided that I could possibly reach Balmora by trekking over a rather steep mountain range that stood between me and it. No mean feat with my character's then-tiny athleticism skills, but I somehow I managed it, crashing down from on high into town, at last.

Balmora. Things get pretty wild after dark, let me tell you.

After meeting up with a perpetually shirtless man to receive my first story quest, I set about joining some guilds, as requested, and tackling some of their missions. As I began to get into the swing of the game, I came to two conclusions: 1. Thieving was pretty bad-ass and I should continue jacking anything I wanted for the rest of the game, dispensing anyone who stood in my way; and 2. The town guards were dicks and I should level up enough in order to kill one as soon as possible.

My first stash site in the north-west of town.

Being a filthy thief, I started accumulating a pile of items quite quickly. Not being entirely sure of which ones would later prove to be useful and not being able to carry everything at once, it became clear that I needed to commender some storage space.  I started off by stashing my ill-gotten goods and various collectable items in some crates and urns at the North side of the town. Later, as my lock-picking skills increased, I was able to do as spot of breaking and entering and I set up a sweet squat in an unoccupied house at the opposite side of town. It was there I set up my base of operations for the rest of my time in Vvardenfell, building up a fine collection of illicit and occult materials there by the end of the game.

Home, sweet home. I thought that blue lamp was quite fetching,
so I stole it.

Drugs, occult relics, some dude's skull - business as usual in château Trogdor.

Within easy reach of my new pad was a guard tower, which may not have been the first place I dispatched one of Vvardenfell's finest, but was certainly the site of my most triumphant spots of guard slaughter, giving me access to the tower's hefty stash of weapons. Too bad I just left them there and wandered off, only to discover another sodding guard standing in my way on my return. After the effort it took to see off the tower's original guardian, I decided I'd let him be. For now.

I didn't play through the game as a complete dick though. Actually, I spent most of my game time being a bit of goody two shoes.  I was especially obsessed with freeing slaves whenever I encountered them. - I'm not sure where it was, but on one occasion that lead me to dispensing a slave owner to get his key, in order to free a group of Khajiit slaves from their cells. Unfortunately, he didn't have the key; the key for those cells didn't actually didn't exist in the game. Those slaves were absolutely going to die of starvation and it was all my fault. :D I did kind of owe the slave population of Vvardenfell though after one I was escorting early in the game helped me take down a member of the Dark Brotherhood, giving me access to his incredibly high level armour way earlier than I'd be able to get anything approaching it elsewhere.

Some hot, modded-water action.

As much as I was enjoying the game though, after several months and several long stretches of playing little else, it became clear that if I didn't take a break, it was going to be a long, long time before I got around to beating anything else. This, together with the fact that I was going to have to navigate the frustrating, confusing-ass mess that is Vivec to progress in several of the guilds, saw me putting the game aside for 2010. Well, aside from installing a whole mess of graphical mods later in the year, as well as a few others to help with some of the more frustrating elements of the game. I'm looking at you, cliff racers.

Cheating like a pro.

Picking up where I left off in 2011 as part of my backlog assault, I decided I was going to cut a few corners in order to speed up my progress. Rather than going to sell my valuables to one of the two merchants in the game that actually has enough money to buy anything valuable, I started using the console to add the item's value in gold to my inventory and disposing of the item. I also made quite a bit of use of the no collision command to get me past awkward or confusing areas by floating around or walking through walls. And the browser in the Steam overlay became my best friend, allowing me to look up confusing quest details and hard to find areas without exiting the game - areas I would then warp straight to, thanks to an extremely useful fast travel mod I'd installed the previous year.

A tricked-out Trogdor from slightly later in the game. You know you're ballin' with a supply of golden saint souls on tap.

With those concessions in place and the sound of dub step in my ears (thank you, Steam browser and BBC iPlayer), I was able to ascend to the head of the thieves, mages and fighters guilds and finally get moving on the main quest. As I'd heard before playing, it really wasn't the greatest. It felt like a real achievement though to be able to finally say that I beat Morrowind - something I never saw happening, stumbling through my first few hours of game time almost two years earlier.

What's that? "Was it good?", you ask. Um, yeah, it was alight. Some strange-looking orcs though:

Obviously a Britney fan.

More pics over here.