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VonS

Thoughts on Multiplayer in FE2

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Hello Gents',

 

I have been investigating the core string and ini files that make up FE2 - primarily to see if multiplayer can be reintroduced. The relevant files can be found in the MenuData.cat and MenuText.cat files of the "Menu" folder of the actual game (not in the user folder for the game).

 

I managed to restore the "multiplayer" button to the main screen of the game, but it leads nowhere. Also possible to restore was the "network" button under the options settings - but again this led nowhere when you click on it.

 

It seems that each STR (string?) file requires a corresponding INI (initialization) file to work at all. Most of the files have both components, such as is the case with OPTIONSSCREEN.INI and OPTIONSSCREEN.STR - the ini file contains the relevant buttons, lists, codes, placements, lots of other things too, and the str component file contains the relevant data calls that correspond with what is called for in the ini file.

 

I was however stumped to find that most of the network sub-option files have the STR component files in place - but ini files for those are all missing, perhaps having been removed by the game designer - or perhaps there is a more obscure way of calling up those string files that I am not aware of with my very limited knowledge of program/app coding.

 

As an example, the NETWORKCONNECTIONSCREEN.STR file and the NETWORK.STR file - obviously important ones (and it's obvious what they are for) - cannot be called up in game, likely because corresponding ini files for those are missing. Looking through some of those network option str files shows, in some cases, more than 30 or 40 different data calls. I can only imagine then how much time it would take to create corresponding ini files for all of those different data calls in the str files, with all of the relevant buttons, menus, submenus, toggles created in the corresponding ini files - to get mutliplayer up and fully functional in FE2 - a daunting task that while theoretically possible would probably take a good month at least of full-time work on it (and then there is the risk of how stable the setup would be when done).

 

Those who are inclined to tinker further with multiplayer possibilities in FE2 are advised to look at the main Options.ini file first that's in the user folder for FE2. The multiplayer settings should read as follows to be enabled:

 

[MultiplayerOptions]

LobbyLaunched=TRUE

 

The following should also be toggled but I didn't experiment with correct values:

 

[Multiplayer]

Connection=0

PlayerColor=0

SessionType=0

GameType=0

Password=MyPassword

MaxPlayers=8

IPAddress=127.0.0.1

 

In the OPTIONSCREEN.INI file that should be extracted to your "Menu" folder, the following should be toggled:

 

[NetworkOptionsButton]

StickySelection=TRUE

Active=TRUE

 

In MAINSCREEN.INI, also to be placed in the "Menu" folder, the following should be toggled:

 

[MultiplayerHotspot]

Active=TRUE

Enabled=TRUE

 

Also, the following should be modified to look as you see here, from the same file indicated above:

 

[MissionControl]

SingleMission=SingleMission

InstantAction=InstantAction

Campaign=Campaign

Multiplayer=Multiplayer

 

And finally, the relevant STR files that are missing corresponding INI files - or maybe requiring some other kind of call that I'm not aware of, are:

 

NETWORK.STR

NETWORKCONNECTIONSCREEN.STR

MPDOGFIGHTSCREEN.STR

MPHANGARSCREEN.STR

MPMISSIONSCREEN.STR

MULTIPLAYERSTATUS.STR

PILOTRECORDSCREEN.STR (this one is to enable flight recording in multiplayer)

 

As far as I can see, it's more feasible to continue improving the single-player side of the game, such as improvements in AI, scenery, also the great plane and skin mods that often come out for FE2. And thanks to all who contribute to this game and make it great. Those interested in pursuing the multiplayer aspect further will hopefully find my post useful. I will not be pursuing this topic further since I don't consider the project to be worthwhile.

 

Happy flying,

Von S

 

Edited by VonS
Edited post.

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I'd talk to JonathanRL about this. he tried to to the same thing in SF2 a few years back. I guess lots of multiplayer stuff was left in but there was some key stuff that was missing and it seemed like in his opinion it was insurmountable.

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Thank you WhiteKnight for the helpful info. - have now PM-ed JonathanRL and will see if he has any comments on this interesting topic.

 

Happy flying,

Von S

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The key involves reverting back to DX9, but TK may have deleted code/hooks that render that path impossible without carefully merging some code from SFP1/WoX games. It would be a daunting task unless you can read hex code like a dick and jane book.

 

I found it is a lot more practical to try to retrofit SF2 material back into WoI with the last expansion pack. Up to a certain patch level, SF2 3d models could be retrofitted back into This version of WoI, which retains multiplayer. However, that final WoI+Expansion pack needed a patch to fix some bugs, and TK abandoned it. Also, getting the nicer, newer 3d models into the older game is one thing, but the RWR and some other functions take a step back. It would take a lot of work to bring all the aircraft, weapons, ground objects and terrain from all of the other games into this one installation. In the end, the original multiplayer was so limited in capability, it would largely be a waste of time to do so.

 

The best path is to multiplayer is to play the original SFP1/WoX/FE games as is (with everyone sharing compatible mods). For all their limitations, I had a lot of fun playing them online. But, I have tried the DCS World F-86F online before the flyable MiG-15bis was released. You could fight AI with co-op or fly F-86F vs F-86F. It was so much better than any SFP1 based mutliplayer: runway starts, full graphics for terrain and clouds, complex AI scripting, landing/refueling/rearming. DCS still needs the SF terrain, plane, and ground object libraries, but the engine is pretty solid. The release of the F-14 and F-5, combined with Nevada and the MiG-21bis largely replaces the SFP1 experience with a far superior multiplayer setup. However, finding a multiplayer server that runs during your free time with people that want to play the same way you do remains the challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed the one F-86 server, but it disappeared after the MiG-21 was released, and I never really found another server that caught my interest.

 

As a single player game, the SF2/FE2 series still has a lot to offer that you can't do with DCS World, yet. But multiplayer for the SF series just wasn't ever good enough to draw a crowd, and much better options are available. If someone wants to try to get an online group going for the old games, I can try to participate. I have all the old games and will install them as necessary to try. But there are some tricks required to get anything beyond Wings Over Vietnam or SFP1 running via HyperLobby. The real trick is using virtual LAN software to get around the issues DirectPlay and the SFP1 series games have with routing/firewalls. Hamachi used to be perfect for getting players all joined together despite routers, but it has changed over the years and I am not certain it is as useful any more.

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Yes, it seems to be the case that the code needed to "make" the multiplayer part of FE work is missing from FE2. But the single player aspect of the game is excellent and more than makes up for lack of multiplayer. Thanks Streakeagle for the detailed info. I hadn't thought about the hook/reverting back to DX9 that's needed - but it makes sense, as does the absence of a lot of necessary code to enable the multiplayer part.

 

Speaking of old games that are still good for multiplayer, I still have my dozen or so theatre installs of RB3D handy, also the MMP patches - I'm pleasantly surprised that there are still three or four servers up in MMP RB3D and ready for action. Another great one was the F/A-18 Hornet 3.x and Korea series by GraphicSim that I have from the Mac OS 8/9 days - very good multiplayer in that one and it still plays well. Just visited the GraphicSim site today but it seems they're now only supporting an iPad and iPhone version of the game. Oh well, not much point in tinkering with multiplayer in FE2 then considering that it was never the main focus of the FE/SF series.

 

Happy flying,

Von S

Edited by VonS

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I'd talk to JonathanRL about this. he tried to to the same thing in SF2 a few years back. I guess lots of multiplayer stuff was left in but there was some key stuff that was missing and it seemed like in his opinion it was insurmountable.

In short: The reason why SF2 lacks multiplayer is because the Microsoft Service TK used for the Multiplayer (cheapskate...) was removed from later versions of Windows due to the evolution of broadband and non-dialup solutions. Remember, SF2 MP was pretty much 1990s stuff with no lobbies and only LAN working reasonably well. Most of the stuff that make it work is in there but the entire connection service is gone because it was never part of the game to begin with.

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As a single player game, the SF2/FE2 series still has a lot to offer that you can't do with DCS World, yet.

 

Agreed.  I have been experimenting with modding a number of different combat flight sims.  What I found was none of them have a clear superiority over any of the others - in every case, it was a matter of balancing complexity against capability.  The TW series have always suffered from a lack of development which probably explains their lack of commercial success, but they are some of the easiest to mod and have significant unrealized potential.

Edited by Geezer
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