A small ini file is all I ask for…

On Friday I decided that I needed some mindless entertainment. Since I was in the mood for space adventure, smuggling and dogfights in asteroid fields I dusted off my copy of Freelancer. I would go with Frontier which is probably the best game ever made in the space sim genre but I didn’t feel like setting up DosBox to play a retro game again…

Freelancer is much less complex game. It was made some time around 2003 and it was already old when I first got it. I never really got far in the game. I guess I was expecting something more like Frontier. Instead I got a space shooter with some trading elements. That kinda killed the game for me. This time around I stopped comparing it to other stuff, and just played the game for fun. And it worked! It’s actually a really decent game if you give it a chance. I actually really like it this time around!

As I was mucking around I noticed that it placed an interestingly looking file in its installation folder: freelancer.ini. I poked around some more, and found dozens of other ini files all over the place. It turns out that this game is as modder friendly as they come. Most of the in game specs (ship specs, comodities, planets, shipping lanes and etc..) are contained in user editable ini files. All you have to do is edit them! There is a thriving modder community for the game that adds crazy amounts of new content to the game – from small tweaks to ship and weapon stats, to complete overhauls of the game – like the user made Free Worlds expansion.

In fact I think the main draw to this game might be its customisability. For example, the freelancer.ini file tells the game which dll’s it should use when loading. This makes applying mods easy – instead of backing up and replacing the game’s resource files, you simply modify the ini file. Similar thing goes for the game intros. When you load the game you are treated to 3 short skippable movies. They are listed in the ini file like so:

movie_file = movies\MGS_Logo_Final.wmv
movie_file = movies\DA_Logo_Final.wmv
movie_file = movies\FL_Intro.wmv

Now if you want to, you can plug your own WMV files in there, or if you are like me and you don’t like to waste time pressing ESC to skip them you can simply comment them out:

;;;movie_file = movies\MGS_Logo_Final.wmv
;;;movie_file = movies\DA_Logo_Final.wmv
;;;movie_file = movies\FL_Intro.wmv

Lo and behold – game loads and goes directly into the main menu. Sigh, I wish other game developers would take a cue from this and use this sort of ini files. I would love to be able to disable the intro movies in some of the other games out there. Seriously having a little config file like this in every game would really make me a happy camper…

Sigh… Or maybe this is a Linux user thing. I like the plain text config files – kill me, but I do.

[tags]freelancer, frontieer, space simulation, space combat, space trader, ini, config, configuration files, modding[/tags]

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10 Responses to A small ini file is all I ask for…

  1. Fr3d UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I recently played Red Alert 2, and had to edit the .ini file to make the resolution run higher than 1024×768.

    For most games, you can delete or rename the movie files, if you can find them, and the game will just go straight to the main menu :)

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Yeah, unfortunately though some game designers choose to hide them by giving them nonsensical names and extensions or compressing them in archives… Meh…

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  3. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Fr3d – Have you managed to get Red Alert 2 working on XP?
    If yes, please share your secret :wink:
    I found RA2 in a big stack of old games, remembered some fun times and tried to install it but it kept failing at a particular file in the install process :(

    apparently it has a lot of problems on XP but I swear I used to run it on this machine

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  4. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Matt – I haven’t tried installing RA2 on XP but what you describe might be a problem with the CD. I had similar things happen to me with some game, but I fixed it by wiping the big fingerprints from the CD.

    It also could be privileges problem – are you running as Admin?

    I thing nearly anything that used to work on a Windows system should run on XP. Old DOS games like Frontier for example are the tricky ones. But anything that used to run on Win95 and up should be just fine. Or at least in most cases.

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  5. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    yeah.. I figured it was probably an issue with the disk :(

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  6. Fr3d UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Yeah it worked fine – I installed it from the C&C First Decade DVD, which includes patches and the Yuri’s Revenge expansion pack, but it also works fine if I install it from my CDs :)

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  7. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I’ve found a workaround :)
    But I won’t be mentioning what it is since its legality is questionable….
    Or is it.. If I still own the original copy of the disks am I allowed to seek alternative copies when they go kaput?

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  8. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Theoretically, yes. I think it would fall under fair use. In most cases you are allowed to make backup copies of your media. So you should be able to borrow someone’s backup too – as long as you use it with your own CD key or whatever. It’s a gray area though.

    In practice – probably no – it’s probably explicitly forbidden by the EULA that comes with the game.

    And then you have to consider the legality or enforceability of click through EULA’s…

    So… Who knows.

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  9. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I always wonder exactly how much of whats in there, they can really hold you to
    I know that if you dont want to be caught out you should read it before you proceed.. but who really does that?

    Besides, by the time you’ve bought it and got it home, you may not be able to return it fully (e.g. Game (games shop, unsurprisingly) won’t allow you to refund a PC game, only get store credit. Presumably so people cant buy, copy and return games)

    There was something I saw on TV – a reality show where they get two friends, one a spender, one a saver, and give one complete control over the others finances for a few weeks (yeh, lame) He signed a credit agreement whilst blindfolded because otherwise he would never agree to sign it and then when he found out he returned it and refused to pay – the agreement wasnt enforceable because of how he had signed it

    If the important part there is that he never read it….
    On the other hand, thats probably not applicable to software since theres no reason why you couldnt have read it.

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  10. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    That’s what I’m saying – depending on the contents EULA may or may not be enforceable. For example Microsoft could put “I agree to give Microsoft 10% of my annual earnings” in their Windows license agreement, but no judge in the world would treat this as a valid contract.

    IANAL but I don’t think that there is much case law in this area either. Most copyright infringement suits ask for such outlandish damages that most of them get settled out of court.

    You can return software if you don’t agree with EULA but you need to send it back directly to the manufacturer. Most stores won’t accept open software back, but most companies with those big EULA’s will give you your money back if you send them back your box and proof of purchase.

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