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Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Tweak Guide

[Page 3] Troubleshooting Tips

This section contains specific troubleshooting tips which address many of the common problems experienced by Dark Messiah 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\Ubisoft\Dark Messiah of Might and Magic directory. Importantly, note the system requirements for this game, as if you do not meet them, you will have a lot of problems. If you're having issues with the game see the Ubisoft Support Centre. If you can't solve your problems at all using this guide or the resources throughout, you can post on the Official Ubisoft Forums.

Windows Vista Users: If you're having problems running this game under Windows Vista, first make sure that you're using the latest Vista graphics and audio drivers for your hardware, and the latest version of this game (see page 4 for patch details). Next, make sure you don't change your UAC settings after the game has been installed, as due to Virtualization this can change the location of the game files and settings. If you can't launch the game successfully when UAC is enabled, you will need to run the game with full Admin privileges. To do this either right-click on the launch icon and select 'Run as Administrator', or right-click on the launch icon, select Properties and under the Compatibility tab tick 'Run this program as an administrator' then click OK. I strongly recommend that you refer to the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion for Windows Vista for more information - in particular check the 'Gaming in Vista' section of the Graphics & Interface chapter; the UAC section of the PC Security chapter; and the 'Personal Folders' and 'Directory Junctions & Symbolic Links' sections of the Windows Explorer chapter. These will tell you how you can fix game-related issues and also explain the relevant differences of Vista.

Steam Issues: Steam is an online distribution/validation/updating software which is generally required for Dark Messiah to work and remain updated, especially if you want to play Dark Messiah Multiplayer. If you're having issues with Steam, check out Steam Support, and also make sure to check out the Steam section on page 4 of this guide for important information on installing and updating Dark Messiah, whether you have the retail or the Steam version of this game.

SecuROM Launch Issues: Dark Messiah uses the SecuROM copy protection system. This is a system known to have certain issues, particularly on PCs which have any virtual disc emulators or specific types of disc copy software. The only real solution is to uninstall such software if you keep having launch problems. If launch errors keep happening, or if you have specific error messages, see the SecuROM FAQ. If nothing else works, send an email to SecuROM Support or run the game through Steam (See page 4 for details).

Known Bugs & Issues: Arkane Studios has admitted to several known bugs with the game - note that stuttering is not really one of them; see further below to understand why. However a large number of bugs have been fixed in the latest patches so I recommend you install these - see Page 4 for details. Some solutions for common bugs are below:

  • GeForce 6800 owners should either use the 93.71 Forceware or newer, or revert to the 84.21 Forceware drivers due to a memory leak issue with the 91.47 drivers.
  • The GFX Quality setting constantly returns to Medium even when set to High - the latest patch resolves this issue, however if it still occurs check the mm_fxquality_level command in the Advanced Tweaking section.
  • If everything is running fine then things suddenly get worse, try this fix.
  • If you're having random freezes in Multiplayer try this fix, and note that another multiplayer patch is on its way.
  • Make absolutely certain to install the latest DirectX which should have been installed with the game, but can be found under the \Disk1\Support\DirectX directory of your Dark Messiah DVD, or here. Reinstall this if necessary.

  • Obviously there are more bugs that will need to be fixed, but for the moment the only real solution for many bugs will be further patches. Again, most stuttering and even crashing issues are not bugs as such, see below for details.

    Stuttering/Audio Looping/Loading Issues: By far the number one problem with Dark Messiah is the existence of long loading times, combined with lots of in-game stuttering/hitching and audio looping. These are basically due to the way the Source engine upon which Dark Messiah is based tries to load texture and audio data up 'on the fly' as you move through a level. It has been a problem with the Source engine since Half Life 2 was released two years ago, and is detailed here and here. As such, it is not a 'bug' unique to Dark Messiah, and it is unlikely to be totally patched out of the game since it is a part of the game engine and if it were going to be repaired it would have been by now. Valve have released many 'stutter fixes' with mixed success, so it has not gone unnoticed, but it is essentially an unfixed problem.

    On systems with lower amounts of RAM (i.e. 1GB or less), combined with slower hard drives and sub-optimal configurations, the stuttering becomes really pronounced. This is particularly true in Dark Messiah because it uses much higher quality (and many more) textures than other Source games like Half Life 2, so as you walk around a level, whenever new objects, sounds or world data need to load up, your system pauses momentarily to load these from your hard drive into RAM (often needing to remove some other information to fit it in if you have low RAM, and this info is written back into your pagefile), and this in turn creates stuttering and/or audio looping while the data is being loaded.

    For people who are skeptical of Dark Messiah's massive amount of data, note that the game itself installs almost 7GB of data (right-click on your \Program Files\Ubisoft\Dark Messiah of Might and Magic\ directory, select Properties and look at its Size). Furthermore, when the game is running after a period of time, I've noticed that on my system the mm process in Task Manager takes up to 1.1GB of memory or more! Thus there is a huge amount of data flowing around while you're playing this game, so it is not so much a buggy or badly coded game, it is just very, very detailed and data intensive. Fortunately you can reduce stuttering, although it requires a bit of system optimization and advanced tweaking. You will need to do the following:

  • See the tips further below and on the previous page to completely defrag and optimize your system (e.g. removing all unnecessary services, background programs, etc.). Going through the free TweakGuides Tweaking Companion in particular makes a very big difference in reducing stuttering in Dark Messiah and in most other games too.
  • Check the In-Game Settings section of this guide and note that by far the most important setting related to stutter is Texture Detail. Lowering this to High or Medium (equivalent to Medium pre-1.02 Patch) or Low on systems with less RAM will reduce loading times and noticeably reduce stutter on most systems.
  • Check the Advanced Tweaking section for use of commands like heapsize, and in particular look under the Performance Settings area of the Advanced Tweaking section on page 8 for a dozen specific commands which will genuinely help reduce stutter if used as advised. Read page 7 carefully to see how to apply them correctly.
  • Make absolutely certain that you do not disable your pagefile - in fact set it to at least 2.5GB (see the Memory Optimization chapter of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion). Also make sure that you have a fair bit of disk space available on the drive which Dark Messiah is installed, otherwise the game will have an even harder time swapping information to disk and back. The simple fact of the matter is that Dark Messiah cannot possibly load up all its data into RAM, even if you have 4GB of RAM, so it must use your hard drive and pagefile, so these must be optimal.

  • Read through the rest of this guide for other methods of improving overall performance and reducing stutter, but in general the higher the settings in Dark Messiah, and the less RAM you have, the more stutter you will experience. I strongly recommend that if you can afford it, you upgrade to 2GB of RAM as this is now almost the 'standard' amount for recent games like Dark Messiah, BF2142 and Oblivion given they are very data-rich. A faster hard drive (a newer 10,000RPM or SATAII 7,200RPM model) is also advised if you want to truly be rid of stutter, but obviously this can cost quite a bit.

    Crashes to Desktop: Crashes to desktop usually occur in any game when there are problems with the way the system is managing memory, and it has to instantly abort the game - thus it is cleared of RAM and you're dumped back to your desktop. Follow the general tips in this guide to optimize Dark Messiah as this will improve performance and stability, but also note that you will need to optimize your system to improve its stability, and in particular if you're overclocking you must wind back or remove your overclock. Even if you're not overclocking, check your system temperatures to make sure it is not overheating under the strain of the game, as that also leads to a great deal of instability. It is possible to get Dark Messiah to a stable state on your PC; most crashes to desktop are related to system-specific sub-optimal conditions and are not a game bug. Dark Messiah brings these out more than other games because it is incredibly memory-intensive.

    Defragging: As mentioned above, it is vital that you make sure that after installing Dark Messiah (and all relevant updates through Steam) that you defragment your hard drive. It is particularly recommended that you use a third party disk defragmenter like Diskeeper or PerfectDisk as these do a much better job of defragmenting the very large .gcf files which Dark Messiah uses to store its data. If you do not defragment your drive properly then you will greatly increase the stuttering issues in this game, so it is a must-do.

    Virus Scan: Do a full scan of all your files using the following excellent (and free) tools: AVG Virus Cleaner for viruses, A-Squared for trojans, and Ad-Aware SE for spyware/adware. Viruses, trojans and spyware can cause unexplained behavior, general file corruption and system slowdown, and can also steal your CD Key. It's best to make sure your system isn't infected before moving on to any other other optimization measures. However make sure to disable any background scanning programs once you're done (See below).

    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. This is a very important step you should not miss.

    Overclocking: If you've overclocked any components on your system and are having problems such as 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, or even other Source games like Half Life 2 work fine at a particular speed that Dark Messiah will do the same: Dark Messiah is a very strenuous delicately balanced game which is using a custom-enhanced version of the Source version. It is not advised that you overclock your system while playing this game.

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