Posts Tagged ‘hacking’

It was a line I fell in love with the first time I heard it. 

There’s a moment in Alan Parker’s completely over-the-top but also strangely subtle Angel Heart (1987) where Robert De Niro’s Lucifer cooly informs Mickey Rourke’s character: “The future is not what it used to be, Mr. Angel.”  The line–which many have attributed to French poet and critic Paul Valery–makes sense in the context of the film, where a man discovers that everything he thought he knew about himself is frighteningly wrong.  Our sense of who we are, let alone our sense of our future potential, who we might become, is completely dependent on our sense of who we have been.  This is true not just for individuals, but for developments in art, science. . .pretty much anything, really.  Writers from George Orwell to Milan Kundera have understood this clearly: control people’s perception of the past and you control their future.  Potential is based on memory.

Angel Heart explores what happens when our memory can’t be trusted.  But what if you have no memory at all?  You get the world of game development.

A Sitting Duck

Recently I found myself missing inhabiting the Star Wars universe, so I decided to re-install X-Wing Alliance (1999), the last in he series of superb space combat simulators produced by Lucasarts and Totally Games.  I’d run the game under XP before so wasn’t anticipating any problems.  I fired the game up, jumped straight into combat. . .and the problems began.  Any time I tried to target an opposing ship, my cross-hairs disappeared, as did the enemy ships.  All my weapons refused to fire. . .which didn’t stop anyone else being able to fire at me.  A little bit of research led me to the fansite X-Wing Alliance Upgrade where I learned that these are relatively common problems experienced by people with more recent Nvidia graphics cards (and when I say “recent” I do not in any sense mean “cutting edge”).  This is but one of a whole host of problems experienced by people trying to run the game, some of them related to graphic capabilities, others to problems with newer operating system architectures.

The good news is that there may be a fix, at least for my issues (I haven’t tried it yet).  It comes courtesy of a person who obviously has way more diagnostic talent and programming know-how than I and who has produced a series of patches, many of which involve hacking the actual executable files of the game.

What I have described here, however, is an all-too common experience for people trying to run older games.  And one common response from gamers (one that cropped up a couple of times on the X-Wing Alliance boards) is along the lines of “Dude, it’s a ten-year old game.”  But the more appropriate response should be “Dude, it’s only a ten-year old game.”