Gaming My Way

04 May

Final Fantasy VII Taught Me How to Get More Out of My Computer

A Short Warning: This post contains some minor spoilers for Final Fantasy VII… though seriously, if you’re reading this, you’ve most likely played it anyway, or have no desire to ever play it. If you haven’t played and do want to, this is your warning a couple minor plot points may be spoiled.

Edit: If you’re looking for help getting Final Fantasy VII to work on your computer, you want to read Making Final Fantasy VII for the PC Work. The post you are currently reading is more about general things you can do to get more out of your computer, which I learned while playing FFVII.

A Short Introduction
Final Fantasy VII was the first computer game I knew I had to have. I’d played the game on a friend’s Playstation for a short time, and just made it outside Midgar. I didn’t have a Playstation at the time, nor the money to afford one. Then I saw the game was released for the PC. I was ecstatic.

There was only one problem. The game is way worse on the PC than on the Playstation. This didn’t stop me from enjoying it for the most part though. When I encountered bugs from shoddy porting though, it was a bit less enjoyable. These bugs are what led me to learn a lot about computers.

Lesson 1: PC Games Don’t Always Work As Expected
When I got to the North Crater for the first time, the game crashed during the full motion video sequence in which the Weapons are awakened from their sleep and cause all sorts of trouble for everyone trying to escape from the crater. So, I replayed the half-hour to get there a few times, and got the same crash everytime. This was, of course, frustrating. So, I looked for a solution.

Lesson 2: Tech Support and Troubleshooting Guides are Rarely Helpful
I looked at all the guides that Eidos and Squaresoft had on their websites, and none of them even mentioned my specific problem. However, there were some similar problems, so I tried some of the fixes they recommended for those similar bugs. None of them worked. I tried updating my video card drivers, as was also suggested, which didn’t work. I tried lowering the resolution, which didn’t work. In short, nothing they suggested worked, and this is largely true of most bug fixing guides I’ve seen from companies about their games.

Lesson 3: Updating Drivers is Good
Even though it didn’t solve my problem, updating my video card drivers as suggested did make my games run a little bit better. In addition, I learned that video card drivers can be updated, which was good to know when it came to squeezing more performance from my computer.

Lesson 4: Forums Have Better Fixes Than Companies Who Release Games
That’s right. Eventually, I stumbled across a forum that recommended I download a save file for a part of the game shortly past the part of the game that was crashing. There was even a save file available on the forum to download. Eventually, Squaresoft or Eidos, I forget which company, offered the save file on their site as a workaround too, but the forum I went to had it first. However, I do appreciate once they became aware of a solution, they made people aware of it on their site as well.

Lesson 5: Sometimes Small Things You Wouldn’t Expect to Matter Do Matter
Finally, I found a way to “fix” the problem. It was to switch to software rendering mode while playing through that part of the game. While in software rendering, the game didn’t crash during the video sequence. This let me actually see what happened, which was nice, though not overly important to the overall plot. It also taught me to fiddle with absolutely everything, because it might matter.

Overarching Lesson
Regular computer maintenance, such as updating drivers and defragmenting the hard drive regularly, is a good thing to practice.

Sometimes, programs don’t work as intended when you get them your computer. Many times, when something doesn’t work how you want it to, it’s up to you to find a way to make it work. If the people who make the product you’re using can help, so much the better, but you can’t depend on it.

Finally, the best way to make a computer do what you want it to do is to dive in and change things until you can make it work, then remember what you did in case you need to do it again. You may not know why changing something makes things work, but as long as you find it, you’re golden. Just don’t mess with the settings that the computer says might break it unless you’re very, very confident. Forums with fans of your program are a great place to get suggestions for fixing things if the company who develops the program doesn’t have any helpful advice. As you figure out how to fix things on your own, more and more often, you’ll be able to pull out your bag of tricks to solve more problems without seeking help.

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