Tweaking Dawn of War


I was a bit under whelmed after I made my first badge and saw it in game. Everything looked blurry, and despite having a reasonably new graphics card installed, the in-game graphics seemed a lot more low-rent and chunkier than I was expecting from all those juicy screengrabs. The first thing I usually do with a huge 3D shooter game is to scour the web for some tweaks; so I simply did the same for Dawn of War. A quick search for game revealed a couple of sites: one in French, and a lone user page. I figured it was high time RTSC provided an English speaking version!


Just some words of warning:

Most lag on Dawn of War network games comes from excessive graphics settings, not network traffic. Actually, the amount of network traffic generated by even an hour long game between eight players is miniscule. Dawn of War uses a peer to peer (or P2P) networking system, which means there's no one central server hosting any game. This can lead to some frustrating problems with networked games, especially with NAT routers. Make sure you've set your modem correctly!

Notes: NAT

For the uninitiated: NAT is an acronym for the Internet networking protocol called Network Address Translation.

NAT was invented to allow a single IP address to be used for an entire network of computers connected to the Internet. (Basically, they were running out of IP addresses!) The most common use of NAT is in the home, where several home computers all connect, via a router, to a single modem to access the Internet. As all the home PC's talk to the Net, NAT makes it look like there's only one computer connected to it. Your NAT router cleverly remembers which network packet came from which computer, and makes sure any answering packets are returned to the right one.

Problem is, NAT has security associated with it that can obstruct peer to peer networking, Dawn of War netgaming being one of them.

While you do can suffer network lag, you can also bog your PC down by setting your graphics too high and lag the game even though you might have a clean cable connection. This game syncs to everyone's frames, so if one machine is struggling to keep up, the game slows down to accommodate it to keep everyone in sync.

In any case, once a game's under way, it really doesn't matter if your environment has no interactive lighting, low resolution shadows or no bodies and decals cluttering up the battlefield. Gameplay is that good! Many people play with medium settings Online, and then switch to nice, high resolution settings for the playback.

Anyway, on with the tweaks. Open up your Dawn of War folder on your hard disk. Inside you'll find a mass of little files, including the actual game executable itself and a whole swag of folders. You'll need to grab a text editor as well, because many of these tweaks involve editing some .ini files. With your text editor, open the following files and make the following changes.

Notes: .ini files

For the uninitiated: ini is short for initialization.

An .ini file is a Windows text file that records all the settings the game uses when it fires up. Every time any Windows program starts up or initializes, it reads all its .ini files and sets all its options accordingly before it presents you with the main menu. Every time you change your graphics, sounds, game controls or other settings, these .ini files will dutifully record everything for next time.


First up, editing your Dawn of War shortcut. If you don't have a Dawn of War icon anywhere, you can always make a shortcut of a new one by opening up your Start menu, and bringing up Programs / THQ / Dawn of War menu, and then right click and hold the Dawn of War game icon in the menu and drag and drop it to your desktop. (Note: I can do this in Windows 2000, but had unsatisfactory results in Windows XP.) You'll be given the option of making a shortcut.

A more reliable method is to open your Dawn of War game folder and simply make a shortcut of the original W40K.exe file.

For Winter Assault, you would be making a shortcut of the W40KWA.exe file in your game folder.


For Dark Crusade, you want to make a shortcut of the Dark Crusade.exe file in the "Dawn of War - Dark Crusade" game folder. For some inexplicable reason, it is impossible to change the name of this folder when you install the game - which must be an annoying first in the fifteen years I've installed software and games on my PC's. We're stuck with a long name with far too many spaces! :P Bah humbug.

On either shortcut, right click your new shortcut to open its Properties, and then edit the Target: field. You can add either of these two options:

-nomovies

Like other Relic games, you can disable the barrage of opening logos when the game first fires up by including this option in the Target: field. It'll jump straight into the main loading screen instead. However, this feature will also disable that amazing opening animation by Blur Studios, seen in the first two games.

-forcehighpoly

Using this option forces the game engine to use the most detailed versions of all the models representing units and buildings. You may not notice too much different with your characters, but buildings will suddenly look more sharply defined and you'll be able to pick out much cleaner details on your favourite heroes. This increased graphic setting will tax slower systems though, so be warned. I only use it for watching playbacks, myself.

-modname [name]

This option sets which custom mod you want to play when the game starts. At this point in time most mods won't work for Dark Crusade. At least, not until official mod tools are updated or the modding community cobbles tobgether its own fixes. For example, if you were going to run the DoWPro mod, you'd add this:

-modname DoWpro

In the first two packages, DoW and WA share the same folder. If you want to start with Winter Assault as a default, you'd use this instead:

-modname wxp

You can still switch between any mod you like in the Game Manager (found in the Main Menu), but its simply a convenience to jump straight into the mod of your choice. In Dark Crusade, the unmodified game does not appear in the list. More details on that when I get around to it. Most custom mods come with their own shortcuts anyway, so you'll rarely have to do this. Note: If you omit this command, the shortcut will simply start you in the custom mod you were in last.

But it didn't work!

Its not unusual to set up all these shortcuts, only to find nothing happens when you try to use them. First thing to do is make sure you've actually spelt everything correctly; typed in commands are extremely finicky, and Windows (like all operating systems) wants things juuust right - otherwise, it'll simply refuse your request. This includes putting the hyphens before commands correctly and exact, anally retentive use of naming, capitalis and spacing. Computers might be incredibly high tech and impossibly fast, but they have an IQ of exactly 0. They are absolute retards, and you must spoon feed them all of the time.

For Winter Assault, make sure you made a shortcut from W40KWA.exe and NOT WinterAssault.exe. For some reason, WinterAssault.exe won't let you apply any options or changes to its shortcut. Its a bit like those logos on your DVD that you can somehow never skip, pause or fast forward through.

If it can't find the game when you click on it, put the path name in the Target field in double quotes. For example: "C:/Program Files/THQ/Dawn of War - Dark Crusade/DarkCrusade.exe"

Can you see why long convoluted names with lots of spaces are best avoided on your PC? Keep it short and simple and things will be less prone to errors. PC's are complex and confusing enough as it is.


 

Notes: Wot's a path name?

For the uninitiated: This is the name and location on your hard drive when the game file lives. Its like an address really: all computer systems use them to identify files and installations. Try this more exact definition here.

Any path name with a space anywhere within it will need to be put in quotes to stop it from being read by Windows as two seperate commands. Spaces are used to seperate commands. Sharp eyed readers will realize that "Program Files" has a space in it by definition, so without quotes, your default Dawn of War shortcut will be trying to find two seperate things, C:/Program and FIles/THQ/Dawn of War/W40K.exe, neither of which would exist on your drive - and thus it fails.


Setting anti-aliasing in-game

By default, Dawn of war is "aliased", which means there is no smoothing of edges in the graphics. This can be a little unsightly, especially if you're someone finicky about their juicy graphics card, and for some inexplicable reason there is no option to set it anywhere in the Options menus! I tried dabbling with some global graphic driver settings in Windows, but all this did was cause some ghastly graphics malfunctions and some outright crashes.

Edit the W40K.ini settings file in your Dawn of War game folder with a text editor (like NotePad or TextPad). Change the line screenantialias=0 to screenantialias=1. Again, be careful: anti-aliasing chews up graphics resources and the in-game fonts will go blurry. If you're using some of the latest graphics cards, you probably won't notice any performance drops, but older cards may start to lag. The solution is to either drop to a lower resolution or turn it off again. Personally, I keep it turned off.

Notes: on/off

For the uninitiated: in computer terms, 1 is the same as "yes" or on, while 0 is the same as "no" or off. Setting an option to 0 basically turns something off, while 1 turns it back on.

1 and 0 are the only numbers used in binary, the mathematics of computers, which deep down are just vast electronic circuits made of billions of simple on/off switches.


Setting high resolution badges and textures

Edit the local.ini settings file in your Dawn of War game folder with a text editor. This time you're adding a new line to the bottom of the file: fullres_teamcolour=1. Exact spelling IS important. This graphics setting sets the badges, banners and all the other textures throughout the game to full resolution - no more fuzzy blobs for your banners and badges - but it will require more graphics memory. You'll be able to see the wrinkles in the Force Commander's eyes and all that lovely detailing Relic put into everything will jump out in sharp relief. I ran a 128Mb graphics card without any lag issues, but I would guess a 256Mb card would be far safer for network play - but I also use a lot of onboard system RAM (1 full gigabyte) which is probably recommended for most big games these days... :/ Save the high resolution settings for replays; really, if you're admiring the pixel quality in an actual game, you've probably about to lose. You'll notice load times increasing with the higher resolution artwork being loaded.

fullres_teamcolour=1 was actually applied in the 1.5 patch - causing all kinds of lag throughout the DoW community. (Along with other lag issues as well) It was removed in the 1.51 patch. I wouldn't use it unless your PC is very powerful.

Here's one I prepared earlier...

Before

Dawn of War regular graphics settings, all set to High. There's no anti-aliasing and no forced high polygon models. The badge (an excellent Ultramarine badge by Hangar-8) is definitely not displaying its 64x64 pixel resolution. Like many games, DoW uses levels of detail (LoD), a graphics technique that substitutes low rez models for objects far away in your view. There's no point getting all detailed if the object's too far away to see the details, right?

After

Textures instantly jump into focus. You can now see all those wrinkles on the Force Commander's frown! Anti-aliasing, along with the texturing makes all FC's armour look much more readable. You probably won't notice too many differences between with forcehighpoly enabled, as LoD is the same in tight close-ups. But you should notice buildings and characters retaining their detailed models as the camera trucks away from them.


Notes: ReadMe's...

For the uninitiated: at the risk of sounding very rude, RTFM.

Winter Assault and Dark Crusade's readme documents are particularly informative, covering everything from game tweaks, troubleshooting, how to fix game lag and even how to configure your NAT Router for network gaming. You obviously took the time to read this page all the way to the end, so why not have a squint at the readme_wa.txt in your game install? True, there aren't any nice pictures of heroic Force Commanders fondling their big guns in a lowly text file, but from such humble sources you find great knowledge. You can access the game readme from the THQ menu from Window's Start -> All Programs button.



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Last modified Wed, Sep 13 2006 by Lindsay Fleay