PSA: Updating Your NAM Version? Don’t Uninstall The Old One (and Other Advice)

The NAM Team has encountered quite a few tech support cases recently, with users who have recently gotten around to picking up the latest version, and subsequently finding that some transit item in their city has gone missing.  In every case, this has been the result of users heeding long-outdated advice from 5+ years ago, that suggested uninstalling the old version before installing the new one.  This, however, is no longer the case, and since the NAM 31.x series of releases in 2013, it has been the official advice of the team that users should NOT uninstall their previous NAM version while upgrading to a new version.

The NAM installer was completely overhauled for the move to the “Monolithic” package that has been the norm since NAM 31.0 in March 2013 (thanks to z1), and it is a lot smarter than the NAM installers of yore.  Namely, just as it can read whether or not the game has been patched, it can locate a user’s NAM installation, and is able to determine which options were installed.  With the old installation in place, the installer can then read the files, and will automatically select the same components that the user had previously for the new installation.  Additionally, many of the old issues with outdated controllers and the once-dreaded “red arrow bug” have been solved by the current package as well.

If one instead follows the outdated advice of uninstalling the old version, the old NAM installation is no longer there for the installer to reference, and it is then entirely on the user to ensure that they select the same options they were previously using.  With as many options as there are now in the NAM, that is no small task, and the possibility for installation error increases exponentially.

If you happen to be concerned about outdated/conflicting files, there are mechanisms in the installer to handle this now, including running the built-in version of BSC Cleanitol.

A few other related pieces of advice, to help streamline your NAM installation and upgrade experience:

 

The Version Check and Switching from Disc to Digital 

This one has come up a lot lately as well, and quite understandably so.  Microsoft has been doing everything in its power to try to eradicate the secdrv.sys driver file, which disc copies of SC4 require, including the infamous KB3086255 update for Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1, and the complete omission of the driver in Windows 10.  As a by-product of this, many users have been switching over to digital copies of the game, from Steam, Amazon, GOG.com, Origin, GamersGate, and other sources.  The NAM requires the game’s executable to be at least Version 1.1.638 (the version number of the disc copy with the EP1 Update 1 patch), and all of these digital copies are updated to Version 1.1.641, and do not need to be patched.  However, if a user happens to have an unpatched disc copy (Version 1.1.610 or 1.1.613) still installed after installing the digital copy (or has a $%&^! installed in the folder for the original disc copy), the Windows Registry will still point the installer toward the old SC4 installation, not the new digital copy, and the installer will fail.

There are two ways to get around this.  Probably the cleanest in the long run would be to uninstall both the disc and digital copies, and then reinstall only the digital copy, at which point the Windows Registry will then point to the digital copy, and the NAM installer will be happy.  The one case where you might want to preserve the disc install is if you’re planning on also installing the game’s official Building Architect Tool, which, reportedly, at least some digital versions with DRM (i.e. Origin) apparently prevent.  In that case, the best solution would be to patch the disc copy, at which point the NAM installer and the BAT installer would see it as valid.  The disc copy may subsequently be removed once the BAT has installed.  For more on the BAT installation matter, see rsc204‘s post here.

 

DatPacking and the NAM

Another piece of advice that is of the same vintage as that uninstallation advice, that the NAM should not be “DatPacked”, using a tool like wouanagaine’s SC4DatPacker, or memo’s JDatPacker, because of its negative impact on NAM upgrade installations.

In the case of Mac users, however, the number-of-files limit present on the newer digital versions of the Aspyr port requires DatPacking (using JDatPacker, which is cross-platform) in order for the game to run properly with a larger NAM installation.  This limit on the Mac port is not impacted by the size of the files, but merely on their number–enough empty subfolders will trigger it.  With respect to the Windows version, the improvements to the installer prevent a DatPacked NAM installation from causing a “red arrow bug” in doing an upgrade (this was the main reason it was discouraged in the past), but because some users have exhibited a tendency to discard the pre-DatPacked files, leaving just the massive “Network Addon Mod.dat” file created by the DatPacker tool, the same issues caused by uninstalling occur, namely that the installer will not be able to discern the contents of the massive single .dat in the way that it could with the original file architecture, making installation error far more likely.

Thus, for Mac users, DatPacking is recommended, but for Windows users DatPacking is still not recommended (unless you really know what you’re doing).

 

Keep the Installer Handy If You Change Your Mind on Features

Particularly if you’re on the fence on installing a feature, or if you’re a new user who doesn’t know what most of the options do yet, it can be to your benefit to keep the installer for the current version handy.  If you decide you want to change options, leave your existing installation in place, and run the installer again.  Just as with upgrades, the installer will be able to read your installation and the current set of options installed, which will help out immensely in determining which boxes to check and uncheck.  And again, as with upgrading, it is not at all recommended to uninstall before running the installer again, as this makes re-installation a far, far more daunting task.

 

Hopefully, this proves to be a useful reference for those of you installing, re-installing, or upgrading your NAM version.  Happy NAMing!

-Tarkus

Introducing QuickChange Xpress (QCX) – The “Scandalous” RHW Feature So Many Have Wanted

Yesterday (July 12th), I posted a video on YouTube showing something that, up to this point, has been deemed completely off-limits for RealHighway (RHW) development (hence the quotation from Earthbound/Mother 2’s infamous final boss in the title).  For those who haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

Yes, that is basically what it looks like–a full-on pre-fabricated diamond interchange for the RHW, placed in one click.  It’s something we’ve been adamant about not including in the past, as evidenced by question #17 on the FAQ in the first post of the RHW development thread at SC4 Devotion:

 

17.  Will “Maxis-styled” prefab/plop interchanges ever be produced for the RHW?

No.  The massive amount of time required in making one, the size limits imposed on them, the fact that they would duplicate already existing functionality, along with the rigid inflexibility of such setups and the massive number that would have to be made in order to account for all the networks included in the RHW renders the notion of plop interchanges impractical and unworkable.  The QuickChange system is the closest we will come to making full prefabs.

 

This of course, begs the question–what changed?  Believe it or not, the biggest game-changer in this situation was the steady march away from the traditional “static” puzzle pieces, toward FLEX setups, which already permitted the QuickChange system, introduced in NAM 32.  The “official” term I’ve devised for this new full interchange setup is QuickChange Xpress, or QCX–a rather unique acronym, as it includes both a Q and an X (and indirectly pays tribute to Q and X enthusiast and RHW project founder qurlix).  The name represents the fact that it takes what QuickChange brought to the RHW system, and has sped the interchange creation process as fast as it can go.

The traditional pre-fab interchanges for the Maxis Highways are massive static puzzle pieces, which require a lot of Instance IDs (IIDs) in order to function, and as a result, are very tedious, painstaking items to develop.  Had this interchange been developed the conventional “static” way, as this piece is 15×4 with a bumpout on either side in the middle for the Road crossing, we’d be potentially looking at 62 IIDs, plus a lot of tedious exemplar editing, model shifting, and pathing.  Plus, in order to fill demand, we’d need to make versions for several different RHW networks, multiplying development time considerably.  It becomes abundantly clear why RHW pre-fabs requests were vehemently shot down in the past.

However, the QCX is built entirely from existing FLEX pieces, plus the L1 Road Viaduct starters on either side.  The original FLEX pieces themselves are being dropped in place here, just by virtue of using RUL0 to reference their anchor points and filling in the gaps with base network tiles, which RUL2 overrides then handle as needed to form the full interchange.  And as with other, smaller FLEX pieces, we can use the same placeholder dummy IID that’s been around for a decade with the original FLEX piece (the Diagonal Streets from NAM 20 in 2006), there’s exactly zero new IIDs required.

Nil.  Zilch.  Donut.

No pathing, no exemplars, no model manipulation outside of the preview model (which is by far the most difficult part of making a QCX).

For those of you out there who are RHW power users, this doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon the advanced, modular side of the RHW.  Far from it.  It does, however, open what has long been considered (even by many advanced users) a maddeningly complex system to a much wider audience.  We’ll continue to develop new RHW content, focusing on the traditional, smaller modular pieces, in FLEX form, but now, we’ll also look at ways to assemble these FLEX items into larger QCX setups, that can get anyone up and running with the RHW, which takes surprisingly little time.  About 30 minutes elapsed between when I started making that first functioning QCX prototype and recording that video.

The QCX in the video is by no means the final design, and we are looking at some potential improvements to it, trying to find the right balance of ease-of-use, realism, and in-game efficiency.  Some of the improvements being considered may necessitate pushing the rollout of QCX out until NAM 36 (NAM 35 is the version currently in development), but rest assured, the RHW will soon be a far more approachable component of the NAM.

-Tarkus

2 June 2016: Update on SC4 Devotion Server Move

EDIT: As of 7 June 2016, the site is back up and running.  Thanks to everyone for their patience, and to Jeronij for his valiant and patient efforts battling the technical issues.

As many of you in the community have noticed, the SC4 Devotion forums have been in “Maintenance Mode” for awhile now, with a message about the site being moved to a new server.  The process was started on May 23rd, and while we hoped that it would be a smooth process that would take a couple of days at the most, it has unfortunately turned into a very complicated process, which Jeronij, the site owner and webmaster, is still working to resolve.  I’ve been trying to relay what I do know about the process in a thread over at Simtropolis (thanks to their staff for their support while we’ve been down), and thought I would also try to answer some of the common questions I’ve encountered from community members during our downtime.

Unfortunately, I don’t know that much, as the process is largely something that only Jeronij can do as the site owner, but I have had some communication with him since the closure, and will do my best to shed a little bit of light on things.

When will the forums be back?

The reopening of the forums is entirely contingent on getting the new server operational.  The URL still points to the old server at present, and Jeronij is waiting to get the new server fully up and running before requesting the DNS change to point to it.

There is no reliable estimate that we can give as to when the forums will be back.  Jeronij indicated that any post made after the move was initiated would most likely get wiped out upon its completion, and locking down the forums was a safeguard, to prevent anyone from losing a Mayor’s Diary update, or some other equally critical forum post.

What is the issue with the new server?

There are some database issues across the board on the new server, and in particular, the LEX is completely inoperable.  The site owner has been working with our webhost’s technical support team to attempt to resolve the issues since May 23rd.

 

Is the LEX still open?

The LEX isn’t locked down right now, but it’s only partially open.  Anyone looking to upload a new file to the LEX should refrain from doing so until after the server move has been completed, as anything uploaded after the forum lockdown (May 23rd) will also likely hit the bit bucket, as will any LEX comments made after that date.  Uploading/commenting would have been locked, but there is no mechanism available to do so in the LEX Admin Panel.

Is the LEX on a different server than the forums?

No.  The entire site exists on the same server.  If we were to request the DNS change before the issues were resolved, the LEX would be completely knocked out, preventing access to a number of dependencies used cross-site.  It would effectively drive the community to a halt more than the current forum closure would.

Can’t you partially reopen the forums, perhaps in read-only mode?

There’s no reasonable mechanism by which to do so with our forum software.

Is this going to turn into another SimPeg?

No.  SimPeg suffered catastrophic database failure and lacked a backup, meaning the site was completely lost (save for a majority of the files on their exchange, which had been mirrored at Simtropolis).  While there are database issues on the new server, the old server is still up, and there are backups.

 

Hopefully, this helps give you a little better idea of where things currently stand.  We hope to be back up soon, and the staff thanks you for your patience while our webmaster valiantly slays the technical gremlins.

-Tarkus

EDIT: As of 7 June 2016, the site is back up and running.  Thanks to everyone for their patience, and to Jeronij for his valiant and patient efforts battling the technical issues.

NAM 34 Gets Mac OS X Bundle Release with CAM 2.1.0

Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising new member at SC4 Devotion, Mero90, Mac OS X users can once again enjoy the latest NAM release.  Like the previous NAM 32.1 release, this new package is set up as a Wineskin port of the Windows installer.  Due to the fact that the new CAM 2.1.0 release by InvisiChem also needed a Mac installer (yes, there’s a new CAM, too!), and the large file overhead from Wineskins, both NAM 34 and the new CAM are included as a bundle, though there is no requirement that users install both.  As this package was built using the newest Wineskin engine on El Capitan, it also marks the first time that the NAM can run properly on that version of OS X, since the previous NAM 32.1 installer was stymied by the new Security Integrity Protection (SIP, AKA “Rootless”) feature.

The new bundle is available at both the SC4D LEX and ModDB, and runs about 363MB.  It is doubly compressed in order to keep the filesize and bandwidth consumption down, so like before with NAM 32.1, you’ll need an app that can open .7z files.  Mero90 has created his own support thread for the bundle at SC4D, which can be found here, and contains more information about installation and the like.

-Tarkus

NAM 34 Now Available

We’ve finally done it–landed a NAM release on December 25th, just in time to give your copy of SimCity 4 a Christmas stocking stuffer.  Just one short month after our last release, NAM 34 is here, with a few exciting new features.  The release announcement thread with more details is here.

The download is presently up at the SC4 Devotion LEX and Simtropolis STEX.  ModDB doesn’t yet have it, but will quite soon (I’ll update this post once that happens).

Enjoy the release and the holiday!

-Tarkus

Gobble Up The NAM 33 Official Release

It’s finally here.  After a nearly two-year development cycle (phew!), the NAM 33 official release has finally arrived, just in time for Thanksgiving here in the US.  The official announcement can be read at SC4 Devotion, here.  There’s a couple of very interesting surprise features that have made their way in since the pre-release from this summer . . .

nam33new

Download Links

ModDB

SC4 Devotion

Simtropolis

Note that there is no Mac version presently.  Mac support is on hiatus due to a lack of personnel, and issues created by the new features of OS X El Capitan, which have blocked the existing NAM 32.1 Wineskin-based installer from running.

-Tarkus

The RealHighway (RHW) System Turns 10

Ten years ago, on November 16, 2005, the first ever public build of what was then called the Rural Highway Mod, or RHW, was unleashed.  It was a simple proof of concept, for a new, modular highway system, with a limited set of features.  Based on initial ideas from modding pioneer Teirusu, it was ultimately seen through by qurlix, with texture work by nooneatall and Zeddic.

It couldn’t even really do interchanges then.  There were two puzzle pieces, and only Rails and Streets could intersect it at-grade.  (This was my personal first interchange that attempted to use the RHW . . . complete with lack of slope mod.)

From that limited set of features, some of us who tried out the mod in its early days saw a glimmer of amazing potential, for a new modular highway system, and the ability to cause the game’s default networks to behave in new ways, helping bring about the draggable revolution that has changed the landscape of SC4 transit mods.

Ten years later, the RHW–now RealHighway, as it has long surpassed merely being “rural”–is still going.

It’s been an amazing ride–thanks to everyone who has supported this project over the past decade, and to all the other developers and contributors I’ve had the pleasure of working with, who have helped pave this road.  Here’s to many more years of the highway revolution.

-Tarkus

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