Tender Loving Care: More tech stuff

After my post about my difficulties getting TLC working, I got a couple of comments with suggestions. Unfortunately, neither has been enough to get things working.

The first suggestion, from Jason Dyer, was to get the official patch from archive.org. Unfortunately, the copy there seems to be corrupt: it’s a self-extracting executable, and it failed to unzip itself. However, finding a patch there inspired me to look for patches elsewhere, and I found a working zip file (not a self-extractor) at patches-scrolls.de. This had a tangible effect: after installing it, I no longer got the error messages about inability to adjust the DVD volume. However, it still skipped over all the video content.

The second suggestion, from malkav11, was to use a video player, such as VLC. A surprising suggestion, perhaps, but apparently Groovie isn’t so much a programming language or development system as a video playback system with a certain amount of scripting capability. Which explains a lot about the design of The 7th Guest. True, it’s a bit more powerful than ordinary DVD scripting — consider T7G‘s infamous microscope puzzle. But even an ordinary DVD player has to be capable of doing more than just playing a sequence of data tracks on a playlist. DVD data includes menus, and that means responding to user input in a scriptable way. Viewed thus, there’s no reason a DVD player couldn’t handle TLC if it could load its scripting engine.

That said, after an evening of fiddling with VLC, I still haven’t convinced it to do anything more than play the individual noninteractive video and audio tracks. Much of the video content is in the form of VOBs, the familiar elements of ordinary video DVDs, but since they’re not in a directory called VIDEO_TS, DVD players won’t recognize the disc as something playable. So, obviously I’m hoping that malkav11 will respond with more details about how he got this to work (although I’m not hopeful, because he barely remembered as much as he said).

Browsing forum posts, I find it suggested that my problems might stem from the lack of an MPEG2 decoder card. Now, I hope that isn’t the case, because that would be silly. No one who has a machine capable of playing Half-Life 2 needs dedicated hardware for DVD decoding. But I don’t know a lot about how Windows DVD drivers work; I’ve basically assumed that programs that need to do MPEG2 playback just make some system call that can be handled through either software or hardware, but what if I’m wrong?

[ADDENDUM] I’m seeing some evidence that there are in fact two different DVD versions: a Groovie-based DVD-ROM one (which is what I have), and a standard DVD version that can be played in an ordinary DVD player. It seems like the simple-DVD version would lose any advanced Groovie scripting, but I don’t know how much TLC takes advantage of that anyway. It’s kind of like the whole problem with “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” interfaces: the interface tells you very little about the underlying model. You just can’t tell how deep or shallow it is from a single playthrough. It might be all on the surface, a simple series of forking paths, or it might be keeping hidden variables, using all your past actions rather than just your present choice to determine what happens next. At any rate, I’m giving up on the play-it-in-a-media-player route for now.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 26 Jan 2009

    You might at least want to try Microsoft’s instructions on testing MPEG2 compatability and updating associated software.


  2. malkav11 on 26 Jan 2009

    Ah. I think I might have the standard DVD version, then. Maybe. I have no idea. I’ll pull it out again and see if I can figure out what I did to get it working. Because I know I did – played all the way through to the shocking conclusion.

  3. malkav11 on 27 Jan 2009

    I put the disc in the drive, opened it in Windows Media Player, and everything ticked right along. I think it must be the standard DVD version.

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