As we’re on the brink of a new console generation, with both Sony and Microsoft heading towards a newer generation, it’s as good a time as ever to reflect on how this kind of transition plays out on PC.
Strictly speaking, when looking at generations of gaming, the PC is both in constant generational transition, and never really shifting. On the one hand, we see new PC hardware and components releasing on a regular basis, with hardware being pushed forward all the time. On the other hand, games from decades ago can still be played on the latest computer systems, often with significant improvements and graphical enhancements.
Some games can fall through the cracks though, where either due to changes in the underlying hardware or changes Microsoft have made to the Windows operating system, we can see situations where games either become entirely unplayable or at least get some major bugs and glitches that didn’t affect the game at launch. Microsoft famously killed support for the DRM scheme Securom with Windows 10, which caused all games that used it to be no longer playable, without using fan-made tools to excise the DRM from the game.
Mass Effect Visual Bugs
Beloved space-opera sci-fi epic RPG, Mass Effect from Bioware has been one such game with major bugs when played on modern computer systems. Specifically, the first game in the series, originally released on PC back in 2008, has had a graphical bug affecting particular in-game areas, where the playable character plus party members would be replaced with a blocky shroud of black pixels. The game would still run and play correctly, but this visual bug is obviously less than ideal, and kind of ruins the immersion.
This bug first affected users with Bulldozer-core based AMD processors, but it also affects newer Ryzen processors too. With no kind of official remasters or rerelease on the horizon, this has left a lot of players high and dry, with no way to play Mass Effect without enduring some pretty serious visual bugs. This is particularly disappointing since an older game like this should on paper run beautifully on more powerful modern systems.
Perhaps if this were not a beloved game, the story might have ended there, but there’s been a significant amount of interest in getting this game fixed. Interest that has ultimately led to one intrepid modder spending time digging through the code, to see if a solution can be found.
What’s The Solution?
A modder who goes by the name Silent, famous for his work fixing up games like Yakuza Kiwami 2, The Wonderful 101: Remastered, Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Director's Cut, and various Grand Theft Auto games, has now turned his attention towards Mass Effect. Over on his blog, he explains how this related to now-dated aspects of DirectX that the game relies on, built in a way to optimize for performance rather than accuracy back in the day:
“With this in mind, we revised the theory behind that bug – without a doubt, the game is at fault for being too sensitive to issues, but with additional tests, it seems like D3DX may have been written with fast math in mind, while DirectXMath may care more about precise calculations. This makes sense – D3DX is a product of the 2000s and it is perfectly reasonable that it was written with performance being the main priority. DirectXMath has the “luxury” of being engineered later, so it could put more attention towards precise, deterministic computations.”
Read the full blog post explaining the bug in extensive detail if you want to find out more about the technical aspects of the problem, and the process involved in developing this solution. Or if you just want to get the patch so you can enjoy the game, grab the download here. Installation is extremely straightforward, you just extract the files included in the download into the game install directory, and it will work straight away, with either the Steam or Origin version of the game.
It’s great news to see a game that was broken for many users now become fixed. A piece of gaming history has been preserved, and people can now play and enjoy Mass Effect without having to deal with this issue. Whether it’s new players diving into this world for the first time, or fans of the series wanting to revisit its roots.
This mod and all the other mods that Silent maintains are made available for completely free, but he is on Patreon if you’d like to show some gratitude for his work.