Starlancer – Day 4

I watch the latest news report before I start mission 4. These mission reports are all the same and the woman reading them is slightly irritating. Out of all the things in the game I could remember from playing it 10 years back, the thing that sticks in my mind is her introduction and sign off which is always exactly the same. Our squadron gets a mention this time but only in a supporting role.

Mission 4 involves escorting some radar ships to plug a gap in our defenses. I’m sorry to say that this mission crashes at exactly the same point every time, just after I clear the first nav point and am receiving a message. At this point I officially throw in the towel. I’d like to play Starlancer again but it isn’t worth this much hassle. As soon as I fix one problem, it just crashes somewhere else in the next mission. This has to be one of the least XP friendly games ever created and short of building a PC which will run Win98 I’m out of ideas. It’s a pity as I think I would have quite enjoyed this. To fill the space sim gap I’m going to try my first fan game and play Wing Commander : Unknown Enemy next.

Starlancer – Day 3

In the end I hardly managed any time on Starlancer this weekend so I’ve just got the two missions to report. I spoke too soon in my last post when I said I’d fixed my technical problems. In the end I am running this on XP and I’ve had to turn off all the other cores in my BIOS which seems to have done the trick but I’ve thought that before. The imagecfg program was setting it to run on 1 CPU without any problems but it was running the icd and exe on different cores still which may have been the problem. 

Mission 2 has us meeting up with the Puma sqaudron to help more of our retreating ships. The mission has a few stages including escorting a cap ship while the Puma’s are busy elsewhere.

For the final stage of the mission, we come up against an enemy capship and we have no means of taking it out. It’s soon joined by a second. We are given the command to retreat but as soon as we finish off the fighters the cavalry arrives.

With a couple of torpedo bursts our ship takes out the opposition in seconds. There is a phased explosion on the capships as they burn to a husk from one end. The graphics in this game are growing on me – the advances from WCP are subtle and are in the explosions, ship animation and the like. There are little details like a slight corona appearing around planets when they are in the correct light. The actual models are arguably less interesting but the little details make up for it and this cutscene looks good by any standards.

My debriefing after the mission is in the form of a text message. Each mission has several sub elements – I’m assuming I could fail one or all of these affecting this text and possibly future missions. This works ok but it’s less interesting than Wing Commander 2’s cinematic equivalent.

For mission 3 I’m sent out to retrieve a flight recorder from one of our ships which was destroyed. Our rookie squadron is going to team up with a veteran one including ace Klaus Steiner. 

The recorder in in the middle of a mine field. I have to track it down using a homing device style beeper. Steiner speculates on where the enemy are coming from since there are not supposed to be any carriers around here.

We soon find out when we are ambushed at the next nav point.

We are all sucked into a wormhole…

…only to emerge at Neptune.

It appears the coalition has some new technology. I’m ordered to go and destroy it.

I have to fly in close and then blast these armour panels off before shooting the core inside.

This starts the collapse of the wormhole and I have to fly back in asap while its still open.

We make it in time with and the wormhole collapses behind us leaving us to mop up the enemy ships.

In yet another stage, I then have to disable this science vessel for capture. Rather than having ion beams I have to blow the engines off to achieve this.

I’m getting the hang of Starlancer now and found these two missions a lot easier than the first one. There are a few little quirks which take some getting used to, such as a varying turning speed depending on how fast you are going. The ships all have a blindfire which is taking a lot of the skill away. This is similar to the Excalibur in WC3 where it aims for me only this seems to be much more accurate. The laser recharge rate is quite high here and has a rapid refire which also helps. In some ways this feels closer to Privateer 2 than Wing Commander because of this. Even some of the taunts the pilots use are stolen straight from Priv2.

I’m impressed with the scale and variety of these two missions for such an early point in the game. From what I’ve seen so far this will be far better than I remembered although without the strong storyline I’m never going to like it as much as the Wing Commander series no matter how good the missions are.

Starlancer – Day 1

After directing Wing Commander, Chris Roberts broke away from Origin and started work on Freelancer which I’ll be playing at some point in this blog. He also took his brother Erin along who had previously worked on Privateer 2 and it was Erin who headed up the Starlancer team. They may have left Origin but this is hardly a change in direction and was very much on the lines of Wing Commander.

Things start well enough in that I can actually run this game on Win7 without any problems. Hypersnap have released an update and I don’t have any trouble capturing the video screenshots either this time.

The intro is fairly lengthy and impressive for the time. The action doesn’t rely on aliens to provide the opposition as is Wing Commander and this time the war is entirely human. It shows a peace treaty being drawn up between the Western Alliance and the Eastern Coalition. The East were just using this as a ruse though and a load of ships uncloak and wreak havoc. A news bulletin describes the devastation and calls for volunteers which is where I come in. I’m flown to my base ship and given the introductory talk.

The interface for the game in interesting in that I walk around my bunks in first person, 7th Guest style. It’s nicely done actually and adds a bit of atmosphere. I can just click to skip the animation if I’m feeling impatient and when the novelty has worn off will no doubt do exactly that.

My commander gives me a tour of my bunk via the video screen. It has all the usual areas seen in games like Wing Commander or X-Wing.

First stop is the flight simulator for some training.

There are 3 training missions. I start at the beginning with HUD training. I’m shown being shoved out of my base ship by a giant metal piston – this is nowhere near as nice as the Prophecy launch sequence.

Once in the cockpit I’m talked through all my instruments. This is a long process and the mission takes about 15 minutes in all. The interface is quite nice in that it slides in relevant bits as and when. These then vanish when nothing is changing giving an unobstructed view.

I get to blow up my first ship as part of the mission. The animation here is well done with the ship being blown into polygons.

I then get to blow up my first cap ship. I can blow turrets and things off this in the same manner as prophecy. The turrets are a bit more detailed than the octagonal blobs from WCP but its not a huge improvement. The ship is arguably a lot less interesting than the giant alien destroyers from that game.

After enough shots the capship blows up into pieces. I see electrical sparks and things but I’m too close up for a good view.

I dock back with my capital ship at the end of the mission. I know this is only training but I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed by my first mission. This game came out years after WCP and I’m not entirely convinced that it doesn’t look worse. There is nothing new whatsoever in this first mission either and I know the story elements will be weaker also so this isn’t a good sign. It’s early days though so I push on to mission 2.

The second training mission is much shorter and deals with navigation. Here I have to assume escort formation by flying into the red box.

After a bit of escorting I then have the obligatory flying through rings bit. The rings are a long way apart even using afterburners and this is not any sort of challenge. It certainly pales compared to Xwing or Tie Fighters mazes.

I can’t get the 3rd training mission to start as the game just crashes. I decide to just press on and start the real missions. The first person FMV here even has me walking all the way to the briefing room.

I do like the first person FMV a lot – the video quality is excellent and far better than for the introduction. The mission briefing uses more FMV and has me escorting the British fleet.

I get to choose from one of four ships which is surprising at this stage. It looks like this is a game with a lot of ships from but I stick with the default option for now.

There is another FMV showing me running to start the mission.

The first mission has me taking out fighters initially, then intercepting torpedoes. It’s pretty tricky for the start of the game although I just about manage it on my first attempt with severe damage. At the end of the mission the game crashes. I’m sorry to say this was a bug that was also present in Vista and I haven’t managed to find a solution to it. I expect I’m going to have problems repeatedly with this blog and if I’m going to make any serious attempt to play these games I’m going to be forced into setting up an XP partition. This is going to delay things a bit but I’ll be back as soon as I get XP set up.

This post is a day late as it got left on my pen drive. Since then, I’ve set up XP in a new partition on my hd and the process was fairly painless if lengthy. The only problem I had was during the first attempt to boot from the hard disk. I had to use the Win7 CD to repair the boot record, then boot Win7, add the XP partition as an extra boot option, before booting it to continue the install. 1gb+ of driver and update downloads later and I’m all set up. Starlancer is running and the 3rd training mission works now so it looks like the hanging is fixed and I can get on with the game again.

Starlancer – Day 2

You may be reading this wondering what happened to day one. I’ve written the post, its on my pen drive and been left in the office – twice. Writing it again seems like far too much effort so if I ever remember to pick it up I’ll post day 1 then. My attempts to play Starlancer are turning into something of a non event so far anyway so you haven’t missed much.

In Day 1, I was struggling to get the game running and had managed to play a couple of training missions then completed mission 1 of the game proper only for the game to crash every time I tried to land. Since then I’ve installed Windows XP on a new partition on my hard disk and things look promising as the 3rd training  mission which I previously couldn’t play works straight off. This mission is target training and starts out with some armoured targets. I have to shoot them when the armour opens.

I then get a course when I have to fly through rings shooting more targets. The rings are in a dead straight line so this isn’t too hard. When I attempt to land I get the game crashing bug at the end of the mission exactly as before though.

Not to be put off I restart the game. On the way out, I have a look at my ITAC. This is where a lot of the games plot will be related via news stories and also has the killboard, ship details and I can go back and rerun FMV’s. I attempt to replay mission 1 at this point but don’t even make it through the briefing without the game seizing up again. I hate to give in but I think I’m going to have to admit defeat on this one. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the web with people unable to run it and nothing much in the way of solutions. Starlancer is a game I’ve played before right back when it came out at least. I remember being quite underwhelmed by it. The graphics were nice but the gameplay was uninspired and the plot very minimal. I was looking forward to giving it another go for all that as there has been a dearth of space sims in the years since. I’m open to ideas if anyone has got this running but failing that I’ll leave Starlancer and move onto the next game.

EDIT: It’s a couple of hours later and I’ve figured out what the problem was. I thought I’d get Thief up and running and started getting the same problem only I managed to find some help on the internet which pointed me in the right direction. The crashing was caused by running the game on a multi-core processor. Having been single core up until a few weeks back its not something I’ve seen before but its easily fixed by patching lancer.exe and lancer.icd using imagecfg so that the game only uses a single core.  I think there is an option in my bios to turn off hyperthreading + the extra cores in my bios also but this is a better solution. It’s now running perfectly on Windows 7 and I just completed the first mission without a scratch this time around and better still no crash when I tried to land.

It’s kind of interesting that I’ve seen a load of posts on the web with people who had the same problem on Starlancer and not a single one of them mentioned multi-core CPU’s as being the potential cause yet as soon as I try to get Thief running I find the answer in no time.  I know what I’m doing now to get these games running at least and will get a good few hours in on Starlancer at some point over the weekend.