Fixing Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection for Windows 10…

It really is a shame that Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection has been more or less abandoned on Steam/PC.

This past weekend, I went to the Houston Arcade Expo for my annual classic arcade gaming fix. While there, I noticed that for the first time they not only had Mortal Kombat II, but the original Mortal Kombat and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 as well. Of course, I had played for several minutes on UMK3 before realizing, “Hey, I could be playing this at home…”

Now, I have Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection for both Xbox 360 and Steam, but my Xbox 360 is currently packed away (more info about that in a later post, hopefully). So, that night, while waiting for friends to be ready to play Team Fortress 2, I plugged in my USB gamepad and launched MKAK for some classic MK action.

That was the plan, anyway. What ended up happening was that the game hung at the title screen; it said “Press Enter”, but completely ignored when I pressed Enter.

After doing some research, I found that the problem was that MKAK requires Games for Windows Live, which Microsoft had ended up abandoning. While many games were patched by their developers to use Steamworks, MKAK was already essentially abandoned by WB Games and was never patched. In fact, MKAK is only available for me because I purchased the game; it’s no longer available on Steam for purchase.

Fortunately, there IS a fix. I mostly got the fix from this guide, though I ended up modifying it via trial and error and looking at one or two other sites as the steps as given don’t work on Windows 10.

The procedure is:

  1. Go into Apps and Features on Windows 10 (right click on the Start Menu to reach it), and uninstall “Microsoft Games for Windows – LIVE Redistributable” and “Microsoft Games for Windows Marketplace”.
  2. Reboot your system. (This IS required.)
  3. Download two GWFL files: xlive.ini and xlive.dll. You can download them from my Dropbox here.
  4. Place the two files into your MKAK install directory. The default should be C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection.
  5. The game should now work properly.

I really do wish WB Games/NRS would support MKAK again, as I can’t imagine there isn’t a market for the classic games. In the meantime, though, for those of us who bought the PC version and found it didn’t work on Windows 10, I’m hoping this will help. :-)

The State of the Geek – IT

It’s been an interesting change for me the past few months, as far as my personal IT stuff is concerned.

It’s really no big secret that the services for my domains were hosted on my own personal servers, and that the servers were located at my house. I was able to run everything locally because I had a business-class internet connection at the house, and as such had the ability to pay for static IP addresses. It admittedly wasn’t the cheapest solution, but I went with it because I could deal with issues locally and I had been running things that way for something like fifteen years.

Of course, the fact that I was facing unemployment meant that I couldn’t really afford to run things that way anymore. So, I had to look for a solution, even if it was only a temporary one. I ended up moving all of my services to a cloud-hosted VPS, and we migrated the home connection to a residential-based one.

In retrospect, while I had originally considered this a temporary move, I kind of wish I had done it sooner.

The VPS isn’t quite as powerful, RAM and storage wise, as the virtual machines running on my virtual host server at home, but it’s compensated by the fact that it uses SSD storage and is on a much faster pipe. In addition, running the server off-site meant that my servers aren’t affected when there’s a power outage at the house (the local Comcast node doesn’t have redundant power, so even though the local servers were on battery backups they lost internet connectivity), and our personal web browsing and streaming aren’t affected when the servers are uploading backups to my backup provider.

Moreover, even with paying for the lowest tier of internet service and a monthly fee for the VPS, our total bill is less than half what we were paying before, and we have faster internet speeds to boot. This doesn’t even account for the fact that I don’t pay for a cable modem rental anymore, as I’m using a cable modem I purchased from Amazon instead of a forced rental from Comcast Business. We also have power savings because the servers are now shut down.

At this point, it’s unlikely I’ll be powering the local servers back on unless there’s a demand for them, and I don’t see that happening in the immediate future. As much as I enjoyed running stuff locally the past fifteen years, this arrangement is more cost-effective and practical. We’ll see how things go, but right now, I’m happy. :-)

Fixing a Samsung home theater…

In the previous post, I mentioned that I had repaired my Samsung home theater unit. Seeing as the issue is a common problem for this model, I figured a post detailing what I did would be useful.

(I apologize in advance for a lack of pictures; the unit is assembled and back in the home theater and it would be a pain to disassemble again.)

First, a little bit of background: we purchased a Samsung HT-E6730w back in 2012 to replace my ailing Onkyo home theater unit. It’s an integrated home theater unit, including Dolby 7.1 surround sound, wireless rear speakers, a Blu-Ray 3D player, and vacuum tubes. The purpose of the vacuum tubes was to improve the receiver’s sound quality, and are not uncommon in much higher end units.

It was working great, until several months ago. The unit started developing a fault where it would start lowering the volume on its own. It was as if the volume button was being pressed, as we could hear the beeps that indicated the front panel was being operated. It happened randomly, and we would need to fight with it via the remote. Eventually, it got to the point where it was happening frequently and we would lose the fight, ending up with no sound. I took it to Best Buy’s Geek Squad to get it fixed, but they wanted a few hundred dollars to fix it. It turned out to be a moot point anyway, as they found they couldn’t get replacement parts. So, it was sent back unrepaired.

Frustrated, I decided to do some research, and found the cause of the problem: there was a design flaw involving the aforementioned vacuum tubes. They were located right next to the front panel controls, and the heat from the tubes ended up damaging the volume controls.

Fortunately, if you don’t mind going remote-only (like we do), there IS a fix. Note that these actions WILL void your warranty (if you still have one), and done wrongly can damage your receiver. Proceed at your own risk.

You need to take the top cover off the unit first. In the middle of the mainboard is the cable connecting the front panel to the mainboard; go ahead and remove it. Then, remove the front panel via the tabs at the top, bottom, and sides.

At this point, you can see two interface ribbons that plug into the front panel circuit board. One comes from the main front panel controls, and the other from the volume controls. All you need to do is slide out the interface cable from the volume controls. In my own case, it was easy to see the damage caused to the volume touch controls; the volume down button was almost completely transparent compared to the other button.

The volume controls are fixed at this point, and you can replace the front panel and reconnect its interface cable to the mainboard. However, I seriously recommend that the vacuum tubes be disconnected at this point as well. The daughter board they’re part of is connected to the mainboard via an interface cable with a white plug right by the tubes. Just disconnect them, and the vacuum tubes will stop working as well (as well as the USB microphone port). The reason I recommend disconnecting the vacuum tubes are that they do not affect system sound as much as implied, and more importantly their heat could damage other front panel controls. I kept my vacuum tubes connected, only for the eject button to be damaged by the heat and start malfunctioning as well. To fix that, I disconnected the main front page controls’ interface cable, and then disconnected the vacuum tubes.

Since then, my receiver has worked more or less perfectly. We don’t hear any sound difference, and while the front panel controls don’t work anymore, we never used them anyway. We’re just glad we didn’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a new unit.

Hopefully if you’re having the same problem, this post is of use to you. :-)

An end to using multi-IM clients…

I admit to a little bit of geeky sadness.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’m on several different IM services. For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been accessing them via third-party clients that could support multiple services simultaneously. I started with Pidgin, but then transferred to Trillian some years back, especially when Trillian released an iOS app. However, this past weekend, I uninstalled Trillian from all of my devices.

To be perfectly blunt, there wasn’t a need for it anymore, as it only hosted a single IM service I still used.

The first IM service I removed from it was Skype, as changes Microsoft made to the compatibility layer resulted in Trillian simply being unable to connect to the service. Shortly afterwards, MSN Messenger stopped working in the iOS client; by that point Skype worked for both contacting both Skype and MSN accounts, so I installed the Skype iOS client and deleted MSN Messenger from my Trillian account. (I already had the Skype desktop app for video calls, which Trillian didn’t support.) The next service I removed was Facebook Messenger, as it stopped working properly in Trillian and I would get notifications about messages from the Facebook app anyway.

The final straw came when Yahoo announced that they were retiring their desktop Messenger app, and they noted in their FAQ that third-party clients would no longer be able to connect to the service. At that point everyone I had been talking to via Yahoo had already switched over to Google Hangouts, and I found that the only contact I had online on my AIM account was someone I hadn’t spoken to in several years. The decision was made, Google Hangouts was installed onto my phone and tablet, and Trillian was uninstalled.

On one hand, it’s a shame because it tended to be convenient to talk to people on different services using one program. On the other hand, as Yahoo Messenger was the only IM service I used where you could only be signed on via one device at a time, it was a tad annoying and removing it made using cross-device IM a little easier. Streamlining my IM profile was a good thing, as well, as I didn’t need to be signing into AIM or Yahoo if I no longer used them.

In the end, I may be a bit wistful about the lack of cross-compatibility and using multiple programs instead of one, but there’s not really much I can do about it all things considered. It did give me an excuse to eliminate services I was no longer using; I’m thinking that, in the long run, that consolidation will make this more a positive. :-)

It would be heresy for me to skip this game.

It’s no secret at all that my favorite board game is Talisman, considering how often I’ve posted about it in the past. I even picked up the Steam and iOS versions of the game. Now it appears that the developer of the video game version, Nomad Games, is releasing a new version called Talisman: The Horus Heresy.

Talisman: The Horus Heresy is a sci-fi game based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. The titular Horus Heresy is an event that takes place ten thousand years before the 41st millennium setting of the game universe, where half of the human Space Marine legions turned traitor and aligned themselves with the evil Chaos Gods, leading to a Imperium-wide civil war. As the title suggests, the game takes place during the Horus Heresy, where players play as either a Loyalist or Traitor Space Marine legion commander, making their way through the regions and gathering forces and equipment, before reaching Terra and facing either the Emperor of Mankind or Horus (warchief of the traitor legions).

Making a Talisman game set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 might seem a little strange, but the two have been linked previously. While Talisman is currently published by Fantasy Flight Games, the original developer and IP owner is Games Workshop. More, the second edition of the game had an expansion called Talisman Timescape, which included characters and concepts from Warhammer 40,000.

The game is currently scheduled to be released on Steam next month, with pre-orders opening on the 26th. Nomad Games was less specific about the release date of the mobile versions, saying only that they’d be out in spring. Personally, I’ll be waiting for the iOS version before I buy the game; while I have the Steam version of the original game, I almost never play it except to play friends in online multiplayer. Most of the time I play on my iPad.

In any event, if The Horus Heresy is as polished as the original game, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun with it. I’m looking forward to when it drops. :-)

Cutting the proverbial cables…

It’s amazing what you can get away with getting rid of these days.

Recently, Jennifer and I discussed discarding services at the house. After some discussion, we decided it was time to get rid of two home “mainstays” that we realized we no longer needed anymore: our land line phone, and our cable TV service.

Getting rid of the land line was a no-brainer. Essentially, we only used the number as a spam trap, and the only people who would call us on that number (other than solicitors) were Jennifer’s parents. It also helped that our cordless phone system had support for two cell phones via Bluetooth, so we could make and answer calls while our cell phones were in their normal charging locations. Since canceling the land line, we almost literally have not noticed a single difference outside of our phones not ringing that often anymore. :-)

Getting rid of our cable TV service, on the other hand, required a little research beforehand. We had to make sure that we could access all of our shows through other methods. Fortunately, most of the shows we watch are available on Hulu. Other than those, the main shows Jennifer and I watch that would not be available on Hulu right away are Doctor Who, Star Wars Rebels, The Big Bang Theory, Elementary, and those shows on the Food Network. We decided that we could wait a season on The Big Bang Theory and Elementary, and catch them when the archives hit Hulu or Netflix. Doctor Who and Star Wars Rebels are both available to purchase on Amazon Instant. Food Network shows appear to be completely unavailable, but for me at least, I can go without them.

In the end, we replaced cable TV service with over-the-air, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant. Fortunately, our home theater receiver in the living room already supports all three apps. The only hardware I ended up purchasing was an HD antenna for the living room to receive over-the-air broadcasts, and a Roku 1 for the bedroom TV in order to watch the streaming services. It’s only been a couple of days, but I honestly can’t say we’re missing the cable TV at all. In fact, the thing I miss most is the clock that was on the front of the DVR. :-)

All in all, we’re happy with our decision. There was no point in paying for a land line that we didn’t need at all, and Hulu and Amazon Instant are much cheaper than cable TV service. That might change later down the road, but for now, I think we made the right choice. :-)

Preparing for mobile Kombat…

I admit to some surprise.

A couple of months ago, NetherRealm Studios released a new mobile fighting game called WWE Immortals, which is a “card-based” fighting game similar to the mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us. With the release of WWE Immortals coming so close to the release of Mortal Kombat X for consoles and PC, I took that to mean that we wouldn’t be seeing a mobile version of the newest MK.

It turns out I was wrong. Yesterday, NRS announced that they were releasing a mobile version of Mortal Kombat X.

On one hand, I’m really looking forward to this game. I haven’t owned a dedicated portable gaming console since the Game Boy Advance, so the most “recent” (as opposed to a port of an older game) Mortal Kombat I’ve had in a portable format was Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition, which was a companion release to Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance for GBA. It’ll be nice to be able to play MK on my phone and my tablet, which have essentially become my portable gaming devices in the interim. Mortal Kombat X will apparently have the same kind of gameplay as Injustice, which I found to be fun to play. The gameplay style works well on touchscreens; I had EA’s port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iPhone, and found that even with the simplified controls it was annoying to play.

On the other hand, Mortal Kombat X is also similar to Injustice in that it’s free-to-play. While I enjoyed playing Injustice on my tablet, I realized relatively quickly that in order to make any large amount of headway in the game, I would have to play either an insane amount of time or buy a lot of credits from the online store. I’d much rather pay a fixed price and have everything available from the get-go. Of course, that’s not going to happen, as free-to-play is much more profitable than a fixed price is. I also worry that the game may not run properly on the iPhone 5c I use; I’ve already encountered one recent game that won’t run on it (Vainglory).

In any event, I’ll still definitely pick it up when it becomes available. Even if it doesn’t run on my phone, it’ll run on my tablet. The free-to-play portion will annoy me, but if the game is fun enough I can deal with that. Either way, it’ll be nice to have a recent MK game that’s portable and plays well. :-)

My gaming choice for this generation is decided.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been trying to decide which way to go this gaming generation, when it comes to the platform. I had been looking at Playstation 4, Xbox One, and even some variation of PC. In the end, I finally made a choice.

For my birthday, Jennifer got me a Playstation 4.

While I have an Xbox 360, I’ve never been a purely Xbox person. It was my console choice of the last generation simply because it had more games that I wanted to play, like Gears of War. The generation before that, I started with a Nintendo GameCube (because of Metroid Prime), then ended up purchasing a Playstation 2 when Mortal Kombat: Deception wasn’t announced for GameCube. This generation, I didn’t see anything that was exclusive for Xbox One that grabbed my interest, while at least one game for Playstation 4 (Mo Man’s Sky) caught my eye. In the end, I went with the system that interested me most.

I admit, I had considered going PC-only this time around. The issue I mainly had was the cost, as all of the research I did towards upgrading my desktop PC for recent games showed that I would likely end up spending more than I would if I were buying a new console. Not only that, the machine would not last as long as a console would; my desktop PC’s memory, CPU, and motherboard were last upgraded in 2010, while I had my Xbox 360 since 2006 or so. Also, if I wanted to play on my TV, I would need to either put together a small Steam Machine to connect to the TV so I could stream my gameplay or connect the PC directly to the TV via an extra-long HDMI cable.

In the end, I decided it was easier to just go console-only for gaming. I’m not even going to bother making my current PC gaming-worthy anymore; if anything happens to it, I’ll likely just replace it with my laptop and be done with it.

As for games, I only had one game I really wanted to get: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. However, when we went to purchase the console, we were offered the limited edition console with Destiny included. I had heard of Destiny, of course, but hadn’t had much interest in it. However, as it was a Bungie game and I had enjoyed their Halo games, I decided to go ahead and give it a shot.

As it turned out, I’m actually enjoying Destiny more than Shadow of Mordor. In fact, it’s the first MMO I’ve gotten into since EverQuest, even if I haven’t being doing any raiding or much multiplayer. It’s fun for some casual gameplay, especially when I just want to blow off some steam in a FPS. That’s not to say Shadow of Mordor isn’t fun, too; it plays very much like a Batman: Arkham game set in Middle-Earth. If anything, the only thing I don’t like about Shadow of Mordor so far is the fact that there are several orc chieftains who’ve kicked my ass enough times that trying to fight them usually ends up with me getting killed AGAIN pretty quickly… and they love to show up when I’m busy doing missions to cause me grief. :-)

Since getting those two, my friend Josh also got me a game called Transistor. It’s a nice little action RPG that takes place in a bit of a cyberpunk world. It’s not the sort of game I would have purchased on my own, but after a few nights of playtime, I’m really enjoying it.

Right now, there are only two upcoming games that I’m waiting on: Mortal Kombat X and Batman: Arkham Knight. I’m sure there are others coming that I’ll want to get, but I’ll take those as they come.

It’s nice finally getting up to speed with the current generation of gaming. In a sense, it’s sad that I’m more or less leaving PC gaming behind, but then again that sadness is due to nostalgia more than anything else. It’ll mean less money out of my wallet for hardware, and it wasn’t as if I play very much on my PC these days anyway. It’s for the best, and when all is said and done, I’ll be able to play the games I want. :-)

A shadow over hobbits and games…

I don’t think anyone would be too terribly surprised that I like The Lord of the Rings.

I think what would actually surprise people is how relatively late I got into it. Despite my love for the fantasy genre, I didn’t actually read The Lord of the Rings until 2001, in preparation for watching The Fellowship of the Ring. I hadn’t even read The Hobbit until then, either; I read that first, and when I was done I read my mom’s copy of The Lord of the Rings (which was actually older than I was). Since then, I’ve picked up my own hardcover collectors’ editions of both books.

The movie trilogy is also one of my favorite movie series. Jennifer and I happen to watch it whenever it’s on TV, even if we happen to be flipping through channels and just happen upon it by random. Needless to say, we were both excited by the prospect of a movie series based on The Hobbit, and had originally been looking forward to it.

I know I’m a bit late to the game in saying this, but neither one of us particularly enjoyed the films as an adaptation of The Hobbit. The big problem, of course, is that the film trilogy is the same length as the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, while the source material is about half the length of The Fellowship of the Ring. The amount of padding needed for the film trilogy was best shown when I was re-reading The Hobbit; at one point early on, I turned to Jennifer and said, “Hey, honey? I’m on page 42 and am already an hour into the first film.”

The additional changes were also an annoyance. As much as I like Sylvester McCoy, Radagast did not need to be in the movie. Jennifer was also surprised when I pointed out that not only was Legolas not in the original book, Tauriel was a character invested solely for the movies. Once we finished watching the second movie and noticing all of the changes made, I decided to myself that it would be much better if I simply enjoyed the trilogy on its own merits. On its own merits, The Hobbit trilogy is a decent fantasy series. As an adaptation of the original novel, it leaves a LOT to be desired.

What might also be a surprise is that I don’t have any Lord of the Rings video games. The closest I’ve come to getting one was being tempted to get The Lord of the Rings Online, after seeing it demonstrated while at E3 in 2006. What stopped me was the simple fact that I had burned out on MMORPGs a few years before, and could not see myself getting back into them. I simply hadn’t had much interest in getting them, especially as the majority of them appeared to be real-time strategy games; I tend to be terrible at strategy games. :-)

Recently, however, WB Games announced a game that actually piqued my interest: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Instead of being a strategy game or a straight adaptation of one of the films, the game takes place between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and follows a ranger named Talion who, after being killed and brought back in a form of undeath, investigates the rise of Sauron in Mordor. The gameplay is described as a cross between Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham; the latter drew my interest as it’s one of my current favorite game series.

While I’m interested in getting it, there is a slight problem. As I don’t have an Xbox One or a Playstation 4 (and have no plans to get either), I would need to get the game for either my Xbox 360 or my PC. Unfortunately, my PC doesn’t quite meet the minimum requirements; I would normally download a demo to see if it would work, but there is no demo available on Steam. As a result, that platform is off the table. However, the Xbox 360 version has its own issues. One of the game’s main features is referred to as the “Nemesis” system, where orcs you encounter and fight remember you and adjust their tactics and actions to take your own actions into account. However, word is that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions had to have the Nemesis system scaled way back due to the difference in system capabilities.

The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions aren’t due out for another couple of weeks. If the reviews are not promising, I may skip the game. Otherwise, I might just rent it from Redbox and see if it’s worth purchasing.

It’s a shame that the two biggest and most recent adaptations of Tolkien’s work are so hit and miss. Still, while I’m questioning whether to get Shadow of Mordor, I’ll definitely still see the third Hobbit film. While it’s terrible as an adaptation of the original novel, I can still enjoy it as a fantasy movie. I just hope it won’t be a disappointment. :-)

Going legit with the pinball machines…

Apparently today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Honestly, the day never had any appeal to me. I’ve never been that interested in piracy as a concept or reality, and the closest I personally ever came to having the term applied to me in the real world had to do with software piracy. Even then, what little piracy I partook in ended something like fifteen years ago, for the most part. I essentially got over the fact that software cost money and realized that the developers needed/deserved to be paid for their efforts. If there was something I needed to do, software-wise, and I couldn’t afford to pay for it, I found and used a free and/or open-source equivalent.

The one difficulty might have been gaming, but the fact of the matter is that gaming is a want, not a need. Price isn’t even that much of an issue anymore, anyway; unless it’s something I want to play right away (in which case I’m willing to pay full price), I can always get it used or on sale via Steam. Even arcade games of old are now easily located in Apple’s app store, whether individually sold (Pac-Man, Space Invaders) or as part of compilations (Atari’s Greatest Hits, Midway Arcade).

Unfortunately, until recently, there was one exception to that rule: pinball games.

I really enjoy playing pinball games, and I tend to eschew the video game-based ones that don’t emulate other tables. Fortunately for me, a game called The Pinball Arcade came out a couple of years ago that exclusively emulated actual pinball machines. While I bought a couple of favorites like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Monster Bash, I still kept Visual Pinball/VPinMAME installed on my desktop PC for my two all-time favorite pinball games: Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Doctor Who. I honestly didn’t see either one coming out for The Pinball Arcade anytime soon.

It turns out I was at least half wrong. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released for The Pinball Arcade this past weekend.

The port itself is pretty good, and I’m finding it to be far closer to the actual table than the Visual Pinball version is. For example, the skill shot timing matches the actual table, and it doesn’t have the same problem with locating and maintaining the balls that the Visual Pinball version does. The only glitch I’ve noticed is that sometimes the ball will launch from the launcher automatically instead of waiting for you to press the “LAUNCH BALL” button; if you’re aiming for big points on the skill shot, then you’re down to luck whether you’ll hit at all when that happens.

The biggest advantage to this port, though, is the platform. Visual Pinball is only available for PC. While The Pinball Arcade is available for PC via Steam, I actually use the iOS version. That way, I can play via my iPad when at home, and via my iPhone when on the road.

Now that I’m down to one table on Visual Pinball, I may as well delete it from my PC. I’ll be going without the Doctor Who table, but to be honest, it’s rare that I play it anyway. (Playing pinball via iOS is far more convenient than booting up the PC.) I also have no expectation of Doctor Who coming to The Pinball Arcade, as the TV show is so popular now that the licensing fees will likely be exorbitant. For that table, I’ll settle for playing it whenever I go to a real arcade like the Game Preserve or Pinballz Arcade.

All in all, I’m a happy camper. One of my favorite tables is now available for me to play on my preferred platform, and in a port that’s closer to the original than I had been playing. Not only that, I’m doing it legitimately now. I may not get Doctor Who anytime soon (if at all), but being able to play Bram Stoker’s Dracula is more than enough for me. :-)