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pjf (2464)

pjf
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http://pjf.id.au/
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I run Perl Training Australia [perltraining.com.au].

I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.

I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.

Journal of pjf (2464)

Tuesday February 06, 2007
09:31 PM

Hi-res Morrowind

[ #32330 ]

Hi-res Morrowind
Warning: This is written primarily for myself and others wanting to get Morrowind to run at high resolutions and frame-rates. If you don't play Morrowind, you may find it extremely dull.

A while ago Jacinta found me Morrowind in a bargain bin, and brought it home. I've only just got around to playing it, and it's made me realise just how fussy I can be about my games.

After installing the game, two expansions, and three patches, I start the game at its highest resolution (1600x1200). I play for a bit, it's fun, but there's a lot of text in a small fantasy-styled font, and that gets painful after a while. So I go looking for mods (Morrowind has lots of mods) to increase the font size, and find none whatsoever. Damn.

Luckily, there's a Morrowind.ini file with settings inside it. Morrowind seems to use its own font format, and the game comes with three font packs. I try to set the larger font for regular text:

Font 0=century_gothic_big

Sure enough, the game starts with a lovely, clean, large, sans-serif for all the dialogues. Excellent! Unfortunately, trying to read a book or journal results in text being written outside the drawable container, which results in an exception, which results in pain and suffering. Damn.

Try number two, alter the in-game font to the cleaner, console font:

Font 0=century_gothic_font_regular

That works a treat, with the text at a regular size, but still much easier to read. The game doesn't get upset about this. But that doesn't mean that I'm finished.

Having been out for a few years, the game has lots of community-written content. I'm not interested in most of it, but I'd love updated textures and scenery so I don't feel like I'm playing a game from four years ago. I download the Morrowind Visual Pack which has a lot of gorgeous retexturing, and the Unofficial Morrowind Patch which fixes hundreds of in-game bugs.

Can I play the game yet? Nope, I'm still not happy. You see, Morrowind only runs at 1600x1200, and I have a 1920x1200 display on my gaming laptop. I don't want a distorted display, or sideways letterboxing. I want to use the whole display, and I want it in windowed mode so I can use my second monitor at the same time. Heck, I may even want the game to extend across monitors.

This is when I find an absolute masterpiece, the Morrowind FPS Optimizer. Most importantly to me, this allows one to directly set the resolution used by the game, and also modifiy the Field Of View (FOV) calculations so there's no distortion. That in itself makes me extremely happy, but it gets better.

The FPS Optimizer's main use is ensuring the game always plays at a reasonable number of Frames Per Second (FPS). When I first read about this I thought that it would dumb things down, remove small objects and complex textures, and make the game plain but playable on older hardware. I didn't think I'd need that.

What it actually does is extremely cool. Jaw-dropping cool. It's something I'd wanted all my gaming life, and never known I wanted.

The FPS optimiser modifies the display settings of the game, on-the-fly in real-time, to ensure that a consistent FPS is achieved. This means that when you walk out into the wilderness your visual range extends way out, and things look awesome. When you're in town or combat with heaps of polygons and light-sources and shadows, visual range drops back a bit, and the game remains smooth.

In other words, you get the best possible gaming experience that your hardware can offer, with settings dynamically adjusted based upon your GPU's processing load. The overall experience is fantastic. You can bump your rendering settings up to full, and you still get the impression you can see forever, and there's never any jerkiness. It even fixes the mouse moving painfully slow at high resolutions. I love this program.

Why can't other games do this? Why do I always have to choose if I want a game to look awesome most of the time but jittery in high-poly/high-shadow situations, or be smooth and plain always? Why why why? Why doesn't every game have an FPS slider? It's great for old hardware, and it's great for new hardware. Ensuring a minimum FPS is one of the most important aspects of the user experience, so why can't games have this built in?

I'm now at the point of actually playing the game, but I'm looking at mods like the Morrowind Graphics Extender to push my graphics card even more. Given the huge community that's sprung up around the game, I figure it must be pretty good. ;)

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