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SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Application

 
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SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Application - 1/8/2018 2:01:51 AM   
Korvar


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EDIT: SeaBee has been released! See bottom of this post for download link & instructions!

I would like to announce the development of SeaBee, a utility application designed to help install and configure WitP:AE.

We have WitP Tracker, Combat Reporter, and Intel Monkey to serve all sorts of useful in-game functions. But what about getting WitP:AE installed and running in the first place? This is the gap SeaBee is intended to fill.

The purpose of SeaBee is to make installing and configuring WitP:AE to a "play ready" state as easy as possible. My goal is to reach new players and to help remove any technical barriers standing in the way. I would like to help bridge the gap between potential players who have the interest to play and perhaps some knowledge of history, but are for whatever reason not as comfortable getting "under the hood" of computers.

It is named in honor of the US Navy Construction Battalions ("CBs" or "SeaBees") who turned small jungle islands in the Pacific into the road to victory. SeaBee is also created in the "Can Do!" spirit of the SeaBees, which is also their motto. Like the real SeaBees who built the ports, airfields, and facilities that made fighting the war possible, SeaBee will help "build" an updated, "ready to play" copy of WitP:AE for a new player who may not be familiar with the game (or even veteran players who want an easy way to reinstall WitP:AE) - and by doing so, will help "build" the WitP:AE community.


A sneak preview of "coming attractions" - the screen to select WitP:AE switches and create a game shortcut:





This is an idea I've had for some time, and I've pushed the project forward to its first milestone; SeaBee is now capable of creating a fully functional game shortcut, complete with any game switches.

There is more work that needs to be done before I can begin to release SeaBee to testers. In the meantime, I would like to begin sharing progress and receiving feedback from the WitP:AE community.

To that end, I would like to share a brief roadmap of where SeaBee is today and where I would like to take it. This is, of course, subject to change. I will update this as I receive more feedback.

Alpha
Alpha 0.1 - Basic Shortcut Code Functionality (complete)
GUI Development / Manual Shortcut Creation (complete)

The goal here was to get basic functionality - create a working WitP:AE shortcut, complete with shortcuts, via a manual GUI selection process. This has been completed. It works.

Alpha 0.2 - Compile .exe / Legal Due Diligence / Basic Automation & Feature Extension

Compiling the program and adding an EULA will allow me to release to alpha testers. The first automation feature has been completed - SeaBee automatically detects the install directory of WitP:AE (with an option to manually select for cases of multiple installs). The next step is to include automatic resolution detection. Menus, help, and an update feature will be added. The end state of Alpha 0.2 will be a (more or less) "release ready" app if creating shortcuts was the only function SeaBee was intended to do.

Alpha 0.3 - WitP:AE Install Assistance

The details are less certain, but the overall goal will be to allow a new player to largely automate the process of installing WitP:AE; that is, going from "nothing installed" to a "fully updated" game with the latest patches, AI files, and data files. No artwork assistance will be included in this version.

Alpha 0.4 - Add WitP:AE Art Assistance

A player isn't fully enjoying WitP:AE without the opportunity to update stock art. The ability to update the map, air art, ship art, and interface art will all be included here. Note - SeaBee will not (likely) provide any new assets, but will facilitate the installation of assets created by our community.

Alpha 0.5 and beyond - TBD

I have ideas, but it's too early to make any determinations without community input.


Beta - "Feature Complete" Testing / QA

When I've decided to freeze the addition of new features. The focus will be on "stress testing" SeaBee and refining existing features.

1.0 Release - "Complete" & Tested Application




Download Link:


SeaBee .zip file download

Current version: Alpha 0.1a (3/31/2018)

Install Instructions:


Just extract the .zip file to a directory of your choice. The .zip file already contains a SeaBee folder, so you don't need to create one.

You may create a shortcut to SeaBee by navigating to the SeaBee directory using Windows Explorer, then right-clicking the SeaBee.exe file and clicking 'Create Shortcut'. You may then move the shortcut to a more convenient location such as your desktop. You can also pin the shortcut to the start menu or taskbar by right-clicking and choosing the appropriate option.


Changelog:

Alpha 0.1a (3/31/2018) - Initial alpha release



Please let me know what you think.

< Message edited by Korvar -- 4/1/2018 3:59:37 AM >
Post #: 1
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/8/2018 8:32:22 AM   
Denniss

 

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Looks great.
Does it require additional runtimes to work ?

(in reply to Korvar)
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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/8/2018 12:18:51 PM   
MBF

 

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Genius !! Thanks for undertaking this :-)

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/8/2018 12:58:53 PM   
Barb


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Great idea! You've got my support. Currently it can really be a nightmare for a new player to install all the things needed to play.
Going from Full install, last official patch, picked beta, extended map, extended map art, particular scenario ... get the tracker/whatever running comfortably. Takes time, effort and workflow. With your utility it can be question of few picks!

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/8/2018 5:42:55 PM   
Korvar


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Denniss

Looks great.
Does it require additional runtimes to work ?



No, the plan is to compile it into a single .exe file or at least have a self-contained install. I want to stay away from external dependencies because SeaBee is supposed to be the 'starter motor' that gets everything else running.




quote:

ORIGINAL: MBF

Genius !! Thanks for undertaking this :-)



You're welcome




quote:

ORIGINAL: Barb

Great idea! You've got my support. Currently it can really be a nightmare for a new player to install all the things needed to play.
Going from Full install, last official patch, picked beta, extended map, extended map art, particular scenario ... get the tracker/whatever running comfortably. Takes time, effort and workflow. With your utility it can be question of few picks!



Thanks!

The idea for SeaBee began with thinking about how different my copy of WitP:AE looked and functioned from the stock game I installed a few years back. It went from a small window with an unresponsive interface to a 1920x1080 fullscreen game with almost entirely new art assets (map, air art, mission art, LCU art, interface, etc.), an improved AI, and many errors in the data files corrected. Yet it also took me a year of reading the forums and slowly tweaking the game here and there.

The tragedy is when new players give up before realizing how good the game can be.

(in reply to Denniss)
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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/12/2018 12:44:54 PM   
VPaulus

 

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It looks great.

(in reply to Korvar)
Post #: 6
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/12/2018 2:00:07 PM   
Wikingus


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You sir are a gentleman and a scholar!

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/13/2018 7:55:26 AM   
Chris21wen

 

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Looks as if it'll help newbies but if that is the only screen then it's lacking resolution options at the moment.

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/17/2018 5:43:04 PM   
Korvar


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A quick update - I've had a brutal work schedule as of late.

I'm hoping to carve out time this weekend to complete what needs to be done for an initial alpha release. That way you can experiment with SeaBee and give feedback for improvements.

One of the reasons I held back the release - I really want the initial release to have an auto-update feature, which will make it easy for everyone to be on the same page as new releases of SeaBee come out. The back-end code is already partially completed - I just need to finish it up and add it to the GUI.

Thanks for the feedback so far, and I'll keep everyone apprised of developments.





quote:

ORIGINAL: VPaulus

It looks great.



Thanks!



quote:

ORIGINAL: Wikingus

You sir are a gentleman and a scholar!



I hope to have SeaBee in your hands soon to help diagnose the display issue you have.




quote:

ORIGINAL: Chris21wen

Looks as if it'll help newbies but if that is the only screen then it's lacking resolution options at the moment.



Resolution options are included under the "Display Switches" category (2nd column on the program window). There is a "force resolution" yes/no option followed by two input boxes that will become active once "yes" is clicked.

I plan to add an option to automatically detect the resolution of the monitor, as well as some basic validation of the resolution inputs (i.e. no more than four numbers long).

Let me know if you'd like to see something specific regarding the interface, and I'll consider incorporating it.

(in reply to VPaulus)
Post #: 9
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/18/2018 6:26:59 AM   
Barb


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I had an idea... maybe for some later release... In case I would like to "reinstall" from scratch or make exact copy:
1. Functionality: Detect every already existing instance of WITPAE and "read" its configuration to a file/directory (command line switches, mods, maps, scenarios, updates, pwhex, etc) that can be stored somewhere.
2. Functionality: Pick up a configuration from the file and upload it to the SeaBee utility - so you can install absolutely the same version.

_____________________________

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/18/2018 12:58:23 PM   
cardas

 

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In a somewhat similar vein how about checksums of the exe and data files. Reading AARs it seems surprisingly common that even veteran WitP players don't manage to get the same version of everything (say, pwhexe.dat file or scenario files) when starting up a PBEM game. Doing checksums on them before would hopefully help them get it right from the start by giving them number to compare.

(in reply to Barb)
Post #: 11
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/18/2018 6:38:27 PM   
Korvar


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Barb

I had an idea... maybe for some later release... In case I would like to "reinstall" from scratch or make exact copy:
1. Functionality: Detect every already existing instance of WITPAE and "read" its configuration to a file/directory (command line switches, mods, maps, scenarios, updates, pwhex, etc) that can be stored somewhere.
2. Functionality: Pick up a configuration from the file and upload it to the SeaBee utility - so you can install absolutely the same version.



I like your ideas -

Not only would this be useful for recovery purposes (e.g. migrating to a new computer, replacing a bad hard drive, etc.), but this would be good for PBEM games; that is, to create a "handshake" between the two copies of WitP:AE so that PBEM compatibility is ensured. Tied into that would be the management of multiple copies on the same computer for players who have multiple PBEM games going at a time.

I had vaguely similar thoughts during the planning of SeaBee, but only in relation to the PBEM aspect of the game. So it would be Alpha 0.5+ territory, yet I think you make a good point that there is reasoning to incorporate a recovery aspect sooner than that.




quote:

ORIGINAL: cardas

In a somewhat similar vein how about checksums of the exe and data files. Reading AARs it seems surprisingly common that even veteran WitP players don't manage to get the same version of everything (say, pwhexe.dat file or scenario files) when starting up a PBEM game. Doing checksums on them before would hopefully help them get it right from the start by giving them number to compare.



You've hit upon the core functionality that is planned for Alpha 0.3. My thought was to create tabs just under the title of SeaBee - so the shortcut creation will become just one part of the process.

The first tab will be about installing the game files and including all the various updates available (excepting artwork). It will have two primary purposes:

1. Letting the player know what is available - all in a single, convenient location. The default setting would be the latest versions of everything, but deviations would be allowed for support of older ongoing PBEM games or scenarios that require a specific configuration.

2. File validation using something like md5 checksums - to make sure there were no download or hard drive errors in the process. The checksums can also be used for file version comparison later on.

The fully automated PBEM "handshake" part will come slightly later in Alpha 0.5+. The goal of Alpha 0.3 will be to get as close as possible to a "one button install" of the base game, assuming the latest & greatest of everything is desired. If there is a lot of demand for the PBEM "handshake" feature, I might have to bump it up in the development schedule and include it with Alpha 0.3 - before the artwork functionality in 0.4.

(in reply to Barb)
Post #: 12
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/19/2018 10:25:37 AM   
Barb


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The handshake idea is using my original idea a bit further and is a great point! One player just makes his install, creates a "config.file" and send it to his PBEM opponent who can create identical configuration with just few clicks... That would be [that F word] great and helpful!

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 1/20/2018 11:06:05 AM   
tocaff


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I'd like to give this a go, but the link provided doesn't work.

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Todd

I never thought that doing an AAR would be so time consuming and difficult.
www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=2080768

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Post #: 14
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 3/4/2018 2:43:25 AM   
Korvar


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Apologies for the late reply, and thanks for everyone's patience.

I had a couple RL things that prevented work on SeaBee for some time, but I'm back at it now. No download link has been provided yet, but one will be available soon(tm).

The core of SeaBee, that is, the creation of 'complete' WitP:AE shortcuts, has been complete for some time now (excepting minor tweaks). Tooltips have been added to all the options, offering an explanation for each. I'm currently finishing up the auto update system as well as compiling SeaBee so it will have no external dependencies, or, at most, perhaps one Microsoft Visual C++ library that is an easy download/install from Microsoft.

A key objective of SeaBee is to help onboard new players and to that end SeaBee has to be as easy to use as possible. If a player can manage to successfully download/install SeaBee one time, then SeaBee will keep itself updated as I push out new features and fixes. All it needs is an internet connection.

Here is a new preview showing an example tooltip, as well as the new menubar at the top:




EDIT: resize image to better fit thread

< Message edited by Korvar -- 4/9/2018 10:08:00 PM >

(in reply to tocaff)
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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 3/12/2018 4:42:08 AM   
Korvar


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Progress Update:

- Update system implemented & confirmed to be working - checks for updates upon start & automatically downloads/updates as necessary
- Update screen added (see below)
- End User Licensing Agreement finished
- SeaBee remembers if you've agreed to the EULA, so you only need to see it once per install/update
- Added link to this thread under the "Help" menu
- Added Dedication pop-up under the "About" menu (see picture below)
- Added link to SeaBee Wikipedia page under "About" menu
- Added manual update check ability under "Update" menu

To Do Before 1st release:

- Refactoring of code to decrease footprint of compiled files
- Ensure all dependencies are accounted for


Some other items will be put off for the 0.1b+ releases, which will be smaller incremental updates in between the .0x releases. I'll elaborate more in future posts.

Now, for some more previews!


An example of the Properties page of a shortcut created with SeaBee:




The Dedication pop-up found in the "About" menu:




The update screen/page:




EDIT: added a couple more previews


No update needed pop-up:




Update successful pop-up:



< Message edited by Korvar -- 3/12/2018 5:04:12 AM >


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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 3/12/2018 7:25:46 AM   
Barb


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Good job so far! Keep it up!

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 3/21/2018 6:02:36 AM   
Korvar


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Thanks Barb!

A brief update:

Free time has been scarce lately (I haven't played a single turn of WitP:AE since the beginning of January), but I set up the virtual environment to compile the code. I'm going to compile SeaBee as a 32-bit application so both 32 and 64-bit systems will be able to run it without issue. From my tests SeaBee only uses about 16MB of RAM - so nowhere near warranting a 64-bit version (the threshold where 64-bit becomes necessary is at 4GB of memory usage). SeaBee will be Windows only, but so is WitP:AE!

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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 3/23/2018 3:04:25 AM   
Korvar


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We're getting closer to a first alpha release!

I've been working with whatever free time I have to get SeaBee out to everyone. The delay has been the result of two factors: (1) my lack of free time lately and (2) the high initial requirements for SeaBee. The good news is that there is finally "light at the end of the tunnel" and my insistence on high(er) requirements is paying off.

What do I mean by "high" requirements? This specifically refers to the auto-update feature built into SeaBee as well as the requirement for SeaBee to be self-sufficient (i.e. minimal or no external file/software dependencies). SeaBee might have been released several weeks ago if I had shipped it as a "bare bones" application where the user would need to be much more hands on with regards to installing and configuring SeaBee for use. This was unacceptable to me because the utility of SeaBee will be ultimately be determined by how low it can "set the bar" (in terms of a hurdle / barrier to entry) for installing/configuring WitP:AE. Requiring manual re-installation of updates for SeaBee or requiring several software packages to be installed beforehand wouldn't move the bar very far from the current procedure for installing the game.

I previously reported on the functioning auto-update system, and now I can confirm that the first compiled version of SeaBee is operational! It has been compiled as a 32-bit application to ensure maximum compatibility. So far I've successfully tested it on Win 10 x64, Win 7 x32, and Windows Server 2012 R2. It hasn't been tested on Win XP, Win Vista, or Win 8, but I think I'll allow some of you to be the guinea pigs for those tests as I don't currently have easy access to any of those variants of Windows. From my initial tests in these environments, I'm also happy to report SeaBee does not require any dependencies - it is bundled with everything it needs!

SeaBee doesn't currently have an installer - installation will simply consist of downloading a .zip file and extracting it at a location of your choice, followed by right-clicking the .exe file to create desktop and/or Start Menu shortcuts for easy access.

I'm slightly disappointed with the ~5 second start time (YMMV depending on your computer), but SeaBee is coming in under 12MB including everything! The "batteries included" part of SeaBee makes the start time a bit easier to accept. RAM usage is a very light 16MB from initial tests.






The file structure is also quite simple:





Some details about the .exe file:









Obviously file sizes will change a bit as I make final tweaks, but this gives us a pretty good idea of where we'll end up for a 1st release.

It's looking like we'll have a solid foundation to build upon moving forward. When helping someone configure their copy of WitP:AE, we won't be worrying who has what version of SeaBee or if someone skipped step 7 of a 12-step install process. A lot of the due diligence items have been taken care of, so more of the development time can be focused on building out core features. First up on the agenda will be to refine the shortcut building process until any remaining bugs are worked out as well as making it even more user friendly. I have ideas on what I'd like to do, but I'm anxious to hear what your thoughts are.

< Message edited by Korvar -- 3/23/2018 3:05:41 AM >


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RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 4/1/2018 3:48:05 AM   
Korvar


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See the updated OP for the download link for the 1st alpha release of SeaBee!


Some notes:

1. An update check is only required once per day, so SeaBee will only prompt you to check for updates if its the first time you've opened SeaBee on a particular day. For now that will allow me to be responsive with patches with the requirement hopefully not being too annoying.

2. The option to disable in-game animations (i.e. the "-noFire" switch) was added to the last line of the "Performance Switches" column.

3. If you hover over any of the buttons, graphics, or interactive elements (radiobuttons, check boxes) - there are tooltip pop-up boxes which will appear to give you more information about that particular item. The actual switch name is used in SeaBee, so you'll know exactly which switch(es) you're using. This is helpful for cross-referencing with other sources of information regarding the switches.

4. SeaBee will automatically detect the install directory for WitP:AE; however, if you have multiple copies of WitP:AE installed (for multiplayer or modding purposes), make sure to check the "Manual Browse" checkbox underneath the "Build Shortcut" button to make sure you are creating shortcuts for the intended copy.

5. You can quickly create shortcuts for both the beta and non-beta versions of WitP:AE (assuming you have both installed) by making all of your configuration choices, then clicking "Build Shortcut", followed by selecting the other "Use Unofficial (Beta) Release?" option and then clicking the "Build Shortcut" button again. SeaBee will label the beta shortcut by appending "(Beta)" at the end of the shortcut name.

6. If you wish, you can help others who are having configuration issues by asking them for the install directory of their copy of WitP:AE and then creating new empty folders on your own computer to mirror their folder structure, assuming you don't already have the same structure (i.e. this will most likely occur if both of you used the default install location for WitP:AE). Then use the "Manual Browse" option when creating their shortcut, and use the empty folders you created to find the "fake" WitP:AE install directory. Then e-mail your friend the shortcut link OR make a .zip file with it and attach it to a forum post.

7. If you have any feedback or questions, please post in this thread. I will answer whenever possible, but please feel free to also answer questions if you know the answer(s)!

8. I hope you enjoy SeaBee!

_____________________________


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Post #: 20
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 4/8/2018 10:26:47 PM   
fcooke

 

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Hi Korvar,

Thanks for this - very helpful. I have a new PC and it was driving me bonkers trying to get AE working properly with the switches. My speed scrolling and speed of execution are sorted. I have tried leaving the display as default 1920x1080, which is the native resolution of my PC, but is brings me black bars on both sides of the display. Trying to force the display leads to the dreaded everything shifted down to the right so you cannot get to everything. Any ideas?

Also - I have been using the create different versions of the shortcut and every time I do it inserts a 'beta' into the string before the executable. Not a biggie - I just remove it but rather odd.

Thanks again for this.

Regards,
Frank

(in reply to Korvar)
Post #: 21
RE: SeaBee Alpha - WitP:AE Install & Configuration Appl... - 4/9/2018 2:50:33 PM   
Korvar


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Joined: 9/3/2014
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Hi Frank,

If by black bars, you refer to the loading screen:






That's completely normal when running at higher resolutions for which the game was originally intended. The good news is this behavior is limited only to the menu screens; once you load a game, the game map should fill the screen.

The most straightforward thing to try is 'fullscreen' mode with 'force resolution' set, like the following:





It doesn't matter which circled 'fullscreen' option you try, they only vary by the frequency of game autosaves. SeaBee defaults to 1920 x 1080 when forcing the resolution, so if you needed something different (not applicable in this case), you'd change that too.

I've heard mixed reports about how "graceful" using the Alt+Tab key combination to switch between the game and Tracker while using fullscreen mode. That's typically why you'd use 'windowed' mode - if you want to frequently switch between applications (such as the game and 3rd party utilities such as Tracker); otherwise, fullscreen is the easier of the two modes to set up. Using windowed mode makes Windows add a title bar to the top of the application window, so you either need to move the title bar offscreen (via a utility) or reduce the game resolution a bit to allow for the title bar, making sure to maintain the aspect ratio of your monitor. If you are using 'windowed' mode, that's why everything gets shifted down and slightly to the right.

Let me know if you want to use & configure windowed mode, as it's a full discussion in it's own right.

If you get any "image ghosting" or other artifacts while in 'fullscreen' mode, try turning off the -dd_sw switch as described by Admiral DadMan in the discussion of settings differences between fullscreen and windowed modes.


As for the insertion of 'beta2' into the string, pick "No" for the "Use Unofficial (Beta) Release?" option to stop this from happening (see below). If you install the unofficial beta (available on the forums), it will add the "Beta2" subdirectory in the game directory. The beta executable (.exe) file is then located in that 'Beta2' subdirectory, which is why SeaBee adds this into the string when you wish to use the beta. Note you can also make all your other selections in SeaBee, then create shortcuts for both the official and beta .exe files by creating the 1st shortcut, then selecting the other option under "Use Unofficial (Beta) Release?" and hitting the "Build Shortcut" button again. SeaBee labels the beta shortcut with "(Beta)" at the end so both shortcuts can coexist with one another, just like the .exe files do.




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