Mid January, 2004
Well, they don’t call it “sea duty” for nuthin’!
My carrier strike group is back at sea once more, only 3 months after our return from our last deployment. Luckily I completed my computer rebuild just in time to bring it with me on the ship. After setting the PC up in my stateroom, I brought in a pilot buddy of mine who’s also a big NR2003 fan and online racing partner. I wanted to show him my new Officer Stateroom Entertainment System in all its glory. We watched one race replay, then I decided to alter my in-game graphics settings with the game’s graphics settings program. When I got back in the game, I discovered to my horror that the cars were all poorly rendered, with large strings of texel triangles replacing all the sharp lines and color demarcations on each car. The game looked horrible, like some modern art interpretation of a NASCAR race! Resetting my graphics to the original resolution didn’t fix the problem. I started wondering if I had damaged the mobo or graphics card somehow, or if I had botched the Windows install.
After hours of fruitless troubleshooting, I tried using some NR 2003 graphics tweak tips from a web site devoted to racing sims. Making some of their suggested changes to the player.ini and d3d render.ini files in the game regarding texture sizing, I got the good looks and clean lines of the cars back. Somehow the graphics engine had put in a bogus entry to the .ini files during its test of my graphics card, and my alteration to them fixed the problem. I am still at a loss to explain how this happens (and it still does). At least it wasn’t a hardware problem, and I now know how to fix it. Perhaps an update to Windows will fix this problem — or a new graphics card.
Having tried a few races in NR 2003 season, I noticed that the in-game sounds on my rig were, well, awful. Having played the game on my wife’s Dell, I was aware of NR 2003’s penchant for the occasional snap, crackle and pop during races (much like the sounds on an old LP record, for those that can remember such things). While I also had these artifacts on my home-built’s sound, the sound coming through my on-board sound chip had even more issues. It was very flat in tone, and I was unable to discern tire noise above the engine sounds being generated. The sound card didn’t seem to be able to generate all the various sound in NR 2003 at the varied output levels commanded by the game. Since the sounds in NR 2003 provide critical car performance cues in a race as a way of compensating for the lack of “seat of the pants feel” (much like the airframe buffet cues in MiG Alley or IL-2 FB), you can’t very well race at peak performance without them. On top of that, my sound card couldn’t decide how to present the engine noises, so it frequently made random “burping” noises about 10 dB greater than the nominal sounds, with a lot of distortion added in for good measure. This inability to present the sounds of NR 2003 in any acceptable manner was a no-go for me, so I opted to purchase my new Audigy 2 ZS at my next liberty port of call. As our next port call timed perfectly with my payday, a quick trip to a local computer hardware warehouse store was all that was needed to pick up a new Audigy 2.