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STALKER: Clear Sky Tweak Guide

[Page 3] Troubleshooting Tips

This section contains specific troubleshooting tips which address many of the common problems experienced by Clear Sky players. I can't stress enough the importance of taking the time to go through the checklist of advice below if you're having a problem with the game.

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Official Support: If you have a problem with the game, the first place to check is the Readme.txt file found in your \Program Files\Deep Silver\S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky directory, paying close attention in particular to the game's hardware requirements. An electronic copy of the Clear Sky User Manual can be also be found in the same directory, which you should read through for gameplay tips. If you can't find your issue listed, try checking the Official STALKER: Clear Sky Forums. If nothing helps, you can try contacting Official Tech Support via this Feedback page, or using the details provided at the end of the ReadMe.txt file or your user manual. Obviously also make sure to read through this guide (along with linked resources) carefully as typically many problems are resolved or reduced by configuring your system properly and understanding how the game and Windows work.

Known Bugs & Issues: There are a range of known issues with Clear Sky, many of which are resolved with the latest official patch (See page 4 for details). However some game bugs may still remain to be fixed, and some bugs and quirks are unfortunately part of the game's design. Many of these can only be fixed via official patches, however some gameplay oddities/annoyances have been 'resolved' through unofficial modifications (again, see page 4 for details). Don't assume however that every problem or crash you have is a bug - some quick reading of the official forums will tell you whether something is likely to be an actual bug or not, and whether there are existing workarounds or fixes due to be incorporated in upcoming patches. I've played this game and tested it continually for hours on end without a single crash, so the game is not so bugged as to constantly crash and glitch.

Startup Problems: The English (Western Europe, Australia, North America) version of STALKER: Clear Sky uses the TAGES copy protection system as noted on page 4 of the guide. This system is not harmful, however it can cause problems with the way the game loads up, because it incorporates a disk check. At times the game may not detect your DVD in the drive; this is usually solved by retrying to launch the game, or reinserting the DVD in the drive. More importantly however, sometimes when you launch the game, it will open in a window rather than in fullscreen mode, and become unresponsive. To prevent windowed mode, right-click on the Clear Sky launch icon, select Properties, and in the Run box change the setting to 'Maximized' and click Apply then OK. If the game becomes unresponsive during launch, wait a while and it should still launch OK, but if not, bring up Task Manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) and end the game process. Unfortunately it appears that these problems are a side-effect of the TAGES system.

Lag/Framerate Issues: Clear Sky is very similar to Shadow of Chernobyl, however the new 'Enhanced' rendering modes are relatively system intensive, and many people will find that they get quite low framerates when trying to run the game with either of the 'Enhanced Fully Dynamic Lighting' DX9 or DX10 renderers. The result of low framerates is a feeling of 'lag' - a lack of responsiveness in control over your character. Firstly, to measure your actual Frames Per Second (FPS), use a free utility like FRAPS, and note that anything less than around 20FPS will usually result in feelings of lag at various times, especially when you dip into the low teens in FPS. There are no magic fixes - the only real solution to this issue is to raise your average framerates by reading this guide and lowering relevant settings as necessary, as well as general system optimization as covered on page 2 of this guide. However there is one very important workaround to getting better performance in the new Enhanced modes - it relates to the 'Sun Rays' setting and is discussed in detail in the Conclusion section of this guide.

Stuttering: Stuttering is something common to many games, and is simply loading pauses as new information is being loaded up from your hard drive into RAM and/or into the graphics card's Video RAM. Unfortunately Clear Sky follows in Shadow of Chernobyl's footsteps to some degree in having noticeable pauses and stutters as you wander the game world. However unlike SoC, I don't recommend using the -noprefetch switch (See the Advanced Tweaking section), as it's likely to make the stuttering and pauses even worse. Aside from general system optimization, including disabling background programs (see below), to reduce the stuttering you should try lowering your Texture Detail setting as well as disabling Dynamic Music, and also lower your Shadow Quality and Anisotropic Filtering settings as these will help reduce the amount of data that is constantly being loaded up.

Background Programs: Disable all background applications - especially virus, trojan and spyware scanners and messaging utilities. These applications can and do use up valuable CPU resources, take up precious RAM, cause memory conflicts and crashes to desktop, but most importantly they interfere with read/writes to your hard drive effectively slowing it down and causing even more in-game stuttering and longer loading times. Full instructions on how to identify your startup programs and services and how to correctly disable unnecessary ones are in my TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC). The TGTC also covers a more performance-orientated approach to the use of malware scanners in the PC Security chapter.

Overclocking: If you've overclocked any components on your system and are having problems such as sudden crashes, reboots and graphical anomalies, the first thing to do is set everything back to default speeds and try running the game. If you don't experience the same problems at default speed, or they're reduced in severity, then your overclock is the primary culprit. Either permanently reduce your overclock and/or increase cooling to regain stability. Don't assume that because other games run with stability, even the original STALKER, that Clear Sky will work fine as well - especially if you're using one of the new Enhanced rendering modes.

That's just a basic rundown of troubleshooting tips. Read the remainder of this guide, as well as the relevant TweakGuides Tweaking Companion, for more specific settings and tweaks which can help improve your performance and resolve any problems.