Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shrek IV: Installing The Ogre

I just resolved another minor technology crisis. As I've done before, I decided to write it up in case anyone else has the same problem (or in case it happens to me again and I forget how I fixed it).

My son got Shrek's Carnival Craze Party Games for Christmas from his uncle. It's a DVD-Rom PC port of a console game. I haven't had enough interest in the game to play it much myself, so there will be no review forthcoming from me, although my son seems to quite enjoy it.

My role in the process was getting the game installed and running on one of our computers (Simeon). As experienced PC users know, getting new software working isn't always a matter of sticking the disc in and running the installer. This game was no exception to Murphy's Law.

The installer said that I needed DirectX 9.0c, and offered to install it for me. I already had DirectX 9.0c installed, and verified that with DXDiag, so I declined. The game seemed to install, but failed to run. I kept getting an error that a file named "d3dx9_37.dll" was missing.

Strike one for Activision, the game's publisher. My system met the requirements stated on the package, but the game didn't run out of the box.

I uninstalled, rebooted the PC, and reinstalled. This time I let the installer go ahead and install its DirectX version. That filename seemed pretty likely to be a DirectX component, and my system already contained plenty of files with similar names (just the number at the end was different), but not that one. When it finished, the exact same thing happened: "d3dx9_37.dll" was still missing.

Strike two for Activision. Their own installer didn't do the job.

I turned to Google for advice at this point. I found lots of sites offering free downloads of assorted malware packages named after that DLL file (security tip for the day: don't download system files from random websites, kids), but most discussions of the matter agreed that downloading the latest DirectX update straight from Microsoft is the way to go.

For various reasons, some of which may have to do with my Windows XP key and the word "activation", I don't tend to frequent Microsoft's website. Even assuming that I'm legit on all my software licencing, I don't like the steady intrusion into what I do with my PC that Microsoft and their pals so enjoy. Sony's rootkit debacle marked the end of my allowing any Sony product, hardware or software, into my home. Microsoft is one "phone home" applet from the same treatment. When - not if - I switch completely to Ubuntu for everyday use, the ultimate reason will be Microsoft's mistaken assumption that they, not I, own my computers.

The next thing I tried was browsing into the DirectX folder on the DVD itself and running the Setup.exe therein. Lo and behold, a different DirectX installer launched. I ran the Shrek game installer again, and this time everything worked fine. I'm tempted to call this strike three, since requesting DirectX installation from the main menu should have installed the same thing as the Setup in the subfolder, but I'm willing to let this one slide. Activision made it through - just barely.

This demonstrates two things for me. First, the primary advantage of consoles over PCs: in general, if you buy a game for your console, it just works. Console manufacturers are trying their hardest to eradicate this advantage with the recent spate of "basic" and "deluxe" versions of their machines, but they still hold an advantage over PCs.

Second, and closely related: Joe and Jane Average simply will not be able to get this game (or many others) working. When I think down the list of my friends, relatives, and acquaintances, very few of them would have been able to troubleshoot this problem and get the game working. In fact, pretty much the only ones who could have are those who have worked on computers for a living at some point. All the rest would have given up on it and either tried to return the game to the store as defective, or (more likely) put it on a shelf, never to be looked at again.

Wait, I forgot one other option: almost all of them would have wound up calling to ask me to come fix it.

This is why (a) I don't answer my phone, and (b) I encourage non-techies to buy consoles if they want to play games.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a waffle shaped like Mickey Mouse. I assume the restaurant's management pay proper tribute to Disney's legal department.

1 comment:

ART said...

Many thanks man, it really works!