This is a walk through for sending Cryptic Studios crash reports for these situations:
• Game lock ups, where Windows can still be navigated, but the game may have crashed or closed with the Task Manager
• System or driver crashes such as the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) or when your system resets without warning and no BSOD
• Hard-locks where the system must be restarted by holding the power button.
Game preferences file
The steps below are instructions on how to retrieve your game preferences file for diagnosis.
1. Open My Computer and navigate to the drive your install of Champions Online is installed to (this is C: by default).
2. Navigate to C:\Program Files\Cryptic Studios\Champions Online\Live\localdata
a. Windows Vista and Win 7 Users will see this. C:\Program Files (x86)\Cryptic Studios\Champions Online\Live\localdata
3. In this folder you will see a file gameprefs.pref make a copy of this file to send with your dxdiag and crash dump.
Creating a DXDIAG text file
How to create a dxdiag report
1. Windows Vista/7 users open the start menu and in the search field type “DXDIAG”.
a. Windows XP users open the start menu and select run then type “DXDIAG” and click ok
2. If this is your first time running dxdiag, click *Yes* to launch the DirectX Diagnostic Tool.
3. Click *Save All Information* to create a dxdiag report.
4. Choose a name, file type (.txt please), location for the dump file (recommend desktop) and click *Save*.
Forcing Crash Reports for Locked Game Application to appear
If the OS is still responsive, but the game is locked, please use Cryptic Error to trigger a crash report/dump. It may be several hundred megabytes in size, and it may take a long time to produce or send in to us.
Follow these steps:
1. If the game is running full-screen, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete simultaneously.
a. On Windows XP Home, this will open Task Manager
b. On Vista and XP Professional, this will bring up the login/lock workstation screen.
c. Hit escape to exit the login screen or Task Manager.
d. Windows should return you to the desktop or an application.
2. Double-click the Cryptic Error icon in the System Tray.
a. If the Cryptic Error application doesn’t show up in your system tray, navigate to the folder where Champions is installed and run CrypticError.exe
i. In the Processes window find and select Champions Online.exe and click the Send button. This will gather the appropriate data and submit the crash dump to us. Please copy down the Error Ticket ID number and reply back with that ID number.
3. Enter a description of what you were doing at the time of the crash or instructions for reproducing the lock up, if it appears to happen in a consistent way.
4. Click the Send Button.
Reporting System Crashes
If you are experiencing system crashes, use the following steps to send us a Windows kernel crash dump:
1. Enable full kernel crash dumps, and configure your system to restart automatically after writing the crash dump as follows:
a. Open the Control Panel.
b. In Vista/Windows 7 only, click classic view on the left hand side of the window.
c. Double click on System.
d. Click the Advanced tab (Vista/Windows 7 click on “Advanced system settings” on the left side of the window).
e. Click the Settings button in "Startup and Recovery" towards the bottom of the window.
f. In the section, "Write debugging information" choose "Kernel memory dump" in the drop down menu.
g. Note the location where the crash dumps are written. The default is %SYSTEMROOT%\MEMORY.DMP, which will probably be located at C:\WINDOWS\MEMORY.DMP.
h. Close the open windows.
2. Make sure your system has enough page file memory to store the crash dump. If it's not large enough, Windows cannot write the crash dump. If you have multiple hard drives, the page file on the volume containing C:\WINDOWS needs to have a very large page file.
a. The available storage must be greater than the potential size of the crash dump. This may be anywhere from 300MB to 1GB depending on the version of Windows you are running, and how much memory is installed on the computer.
b. To view or change the page file size:
c. Open the Control Panel.
d. In Vista/Windows 7 only, click classic view on the left hand side of the window.
e. Double click on System.
f. Click the Advanced tab (Vista/Windows 7 click on Advanced System settings on the left side of the window).
g. Click the Settings button in "Performance" section.
h. Click the Advanced tab.
i. In the section, "Virtual memory" click the Change button.
j. If the page file size is lower than 500MB check the information for, Paging file, on this Microsoft site: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/969028 for instructions in changing the page file size.
3. Launch the game and play until the computer to crash BSOD (Microsoft Blue Screen of Death).
4. If you can see the Blue Screen message, make a note of what item Windows thinks caused the problem.
5. Wait for Windows to write the crash dump to your hard drive. This may take a long time.
6. When the crash dump is complete, if the system does not automatically restart, manually restart it.
7. Log in to Windows.
8. Windows will display a system error recovery dialog. We recommend you allow your system send the crash information to Microsoft.
9. If the computer appears locked up and the blue screen does not appear, please see instructions in the section, Manually Triggering Crash Dump.
10. Locate the crash dump file noted in step 1-f.
11. Compress the Dump file, your dxdiag, and the gameprefs.pref file, and set the ZIP file name to your account name.
12. Upload the crash dump to Cryptic using an FTP client
Compressing files for uploading to the FTP
These steps below will instruct you how to use a compression tool to take multiple files and turn them into one single file.
1. First you need a compression client, and there are many out there but here are the two most commonly used. The first one is Winzip which is the most user friendly but not the most advanced compression tool. The second one is 7-zip and this one is much more complicated. 7-Zip provides many options for advance users, but I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you have a good understanding of file compression tools. http://www.winzip.com/index.htm http://www.7-zip.org/
2. Once you have a compression tool select the files you plan to send to Cryptic (gameprefs, dxdiag, crash dump). Compress these files and use your account name to label the zip file so we can sort through them easier.
How to FTP the collected information to Cryptic
If you do not have an FTP client please download one, FileZilla is a good free FTP program. http://filezilla-project.org
1. Open your FTP client, Start a new connection
2. In the Host dialog enter the ftp server address: ftpcorp.crypticstudios.com
3. For the Username dialog use: dumps
4. For the Password dialog use: cryptic
5. For the Port dialog use: 21
Connect to the server with these setting and upload the compressed file containing your crash dump file, your dxdiag and the game prefs file. The transfer may take up two hours depending on your internet connection speed.
Manually Triggering Crash Dump
WARNING! Please use caution when following these instructions from Microsoft. We are not including our own summarized version of these instructions due to their complexity. We do not recommend these procedures for non-technical users.
If your system hard-locks, such that Ctrl+Alt+Delete does not do anything, and the mouse cursor does not move, but does not display a BSOD, these instructions may allow you to generate a crash dump report to send us.
What is a System Crash, or Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)
First, this is an explanation of system crashes. When Windows detects certain kinds of errors, it stops your system immediately to prevent corruption of any additional data (like corrupting your file system on disk), which is generally considered worse than losing whatever data is unsaved in running applications.
Only a few things can trigger a system crash: Programming errors (bugs) inside a driver, the operating system itself, or faulty hardware. Applications cannot directly cause a BSOD, though they can install drivers or misuse existing drivers and therefore cause crashes. We explain later how applications like our game might indirectly trigger a system crash.
Windows takes extensive measure to prevent an application from crashing the system or accessing parts of the computer for which it doesn't have privileges. This includes accessing other application's memory, certain protected files, and all the data inside the Windows kernel, like driver memory, and other communication to drivers. This is to keep the computer stable against accidental corruption by buggy apps, and to prevent malicious programs from doing things like stealing private information (like passwords) from other programs or the operating system.
This is very different than a program crashing. If Windows detects these kind of bugs in a running application, it will terminate just that program. Similarly, our application will sometimes terminate itself if it internally detects these kinds of bugs.
Why does my computer crash when playing Champions Online?
So why do our users experience BSODs when running our game, when only drivers can crash the system? Especially when other games or applications run without problems?
We know of two things our application is doing which we believe may stress operating system resources enough to trigger problems in drivers that have certain kinds of bugs. These bugs would not be exposed under lower memory use conditions. Also, as of 10-1-2009, we know of at least one existing bug in Nvidia drivers. This is in versions up to 190.62, but according to Nvidia may already be fixed in an upcoming release. Note this is not to point the finger at Nvidia, as they have been good at working with us to resolve any driver problems we bring to them. It may be that some unique part of the way our application uses Direct3D that triggers the problems inside their driver, but they have not explained in much more detail what is going wrong.
We ask Direct3D to put texture images and models, and other graphics data, into your video card, and perform rendering to show our game's graphics. This indirectly consumes a critical operating system resource called paged pool kernel memory. This resource is located in system RAM, not video memory. Regardless of how much total RAM is installed in a computer, this pool typically has a much smaller limit, especially under Windows XP. There are a couple other important memory pools that also have similarly small limits regardless of total RAM.
As our game consumes more of this resource, Windows must write other drivers' paged pool memory to disk, so the graphics card and Direct3D drivers can use that memory for our application. Windows restricts drivers to accessing this paged memory only at times when the operating system will be able to read the driver's data back from disk, if it has been written out. When a driver attempts to use memory it expects is still loaded in RAM, but is not, Windows will trigger an immediate system crash. This means this bug is only exposed in conditions where other drivers have consumed lots of memory, but also when the timing is right such that a driver accesses the memory when the operating system is unable to handle it being paged out. The error you will see on the BSOD in this case is the DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL stop code. According to Microsoft experts, this is a very common driver bug. For detailed information, see the following Webcast:
Other potential problems are that a driver may overwrite memory in the graphics driver, or any another driver, causing a several different kinds of BSODs. Unfortunately, these kinds of problems are somewhat complex to diagnose. And, they may corrupt an infrequently used driver or part of the system, which means the problem may not show up until long after the bug occurs. Even worse, Windows may not be able to properly identify the source of the error on the BSOD.
However, Windows includes various tools to help users track down problematic drivers. One important on is Driver Verifier, see the following link for more information:
We are trying to throttle our use, indirectly, of all kernel resources to make it less likely that we expose such errors in either the graphics drivers or any other driver. Nvidia has already made one driver change for us to help throttle use of kernel memory. We now have some reason to believe this is causing more extensive problems, and we are adding diagnostic tools, and restructuring other parts of our games to reduce use of this resource.
Finally, we are using new features in Nvidia and ATI drivers that were exposed for us and other developers, to work around limitations in DirectX 9 related to multi-sample antialiasing. We are not sure that this is related, but it is using a relatively new driver feature.
• Check out forum posts by other users, some of whom have diagnosed and fixed their own crash problems.
• Many users are recommending diagnostic tools for testing for hardware problems. Run system burn-in or stress tests.
• Get up-to-date drivers for all system devices: motherboards & chipsets, disks, network cards, video cards. Any driver may be a source of your crashes.
• Try various versions of graphics drivers. We have reports from users that one driver version works for some people, but not for others.
• Try disabling any overclocking. Check your BIOS to ensure that your system was not shipped overclocked.
• As a temporary workaround, lowering some graphics settings might help reduce our resource consumption.
• If you are experiencing system crashes interacting with NPCs, try adding this option in the Advanced command line field in the Launcher Options dialog: -SetTestingMode -headshotMaxPerFrame 0
• For further explanation of BSOD error codes see: http://support.microsoft.com/service.../wct072001.asp or http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms789516.aspx
• Use Windows Driver Verifier to enable additional tests on drivers indicated by the BSOD: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/244617