Here is some tips and advice from someone who a) develops PC games b) used to be a PC systems engineer and c) handles tech support for a games company.
So your PC game is crashing. You probably want to contact tech support from the developer or publisher, or seek help from other players on their forums. This is the information you need.
- The EXACT version number of the game. A lot of games stick this on the main menu screen, or in the ‘readme’ text file in the games folder.
- The EXACT model of your video card. Go to control panel, then click system, then device manager and look for your video card. You should see the details there. It’s probably some variety of ATI or NVidia.
- The version of windows you have. Is it 64 bit? 32 bit Windows 7/XP/Vista?
- if you are doing *anything* unusual, such as running a windows emulator on a mac, or running a beta version of windows, or using beta video card drivers etc.
- EXACTLY where the game crashes, and the content of any error message that is displayed. You need every detail. ‘It crashed and said something about X’ isn’t specific enough. Especially note any error numbers.
- if it happens in fullscreen or windowed mode, and your screen resolution.
- If the game crashed once, or many times, and if the crash can be repeated on demand.
- If you run other games, and if they work ok. If everything crashes randomly, the game is not at fault.
- If you have managed to reproduce the exact same issue on a different PC.
Those factors collectively will really help a tech support person. Here is stuff you can try whilst waiting for them to reply.
- Reboot your PC and try again. A lot of bad applications can crash and leave your PC, specifically it’s video card driver in a ‘corrupt’ state. Rebooting fixes all stuff like this.
- Check there isn’t already a patch for the game. if there is, then install it, because it may well fix your crash. Not every patch notes file contains *all* the fixes.
- Install the very latest video card drivers for your PC. You can find a slightly old, but still relevant guide to that here. You probably need to go to nvidia or ati
- Go to windows control panel (view by large icons), then administrative tools, then event viewer. windows logs, application log. Look for anything with a red icon, with the name of the game that is crashing. If you find one, click it and you will see in the pane below all kinds of stuff that might help. This is worth sending to the developer in some cases. If the ‘faulting process’ is ATI or nvidia something… then you may have a driver issue, rather than a game code bug.
- Check your PC for malware. I recommend antimalwares malwarebytes (free) and microsoft security essentials. Do a deep scan of your whole PC. This could take all day. It is worth doing. A lot of malware generates random-crashing style symptoms, and obviously it’s stuff you want rid of anyway. I have both these programs installed and they are fine, and not at all intrusive.
- Check your PC doesn’t badly need defragging. Right click the C drive under windows explorer, select tools, then defrag. If it’s higher than 4% then I’d say do it. If nothing else it speeds up your PC. While you are there, also check your disk for errors, just in case.
- Now we are getting more obscure. is this bug a totally random crash? If you are at your wits end, turn off and unplug your PC. Open the case, and take out the video card and then put it back in. This is called re-seating , and sometimes corrects tiny problems with the socket. Do the same for all of the RAM. In my day, we had a tiny toothbrush to clean the gold connectors with :D. if you aren’t confident opening the case, get your local geek to do it.#
- Check your hard drive isn’t full (almost certainly not). In windows explorer right click the C drive and select properties. Do you have at least 1 gig free?
- Still no joy? Try running the game as administrator. Right click it’s icon and you will see it as an option. Failing that, experiment with the compatibility mode options in the same place.
If you actually have found a bug in the game, then be aware that this is pretty RARE. You wouldn’t think so, given by online gaming forums, but take a game that sells 50,000 copies (low for retail, high for indie). If there really is a bug, even an obscure one, it’s definitely affected at least 500 people. Maybe 1 in 5 of them emailed the developer. The chances are, the bug was found and patched after the 20th email, let alone the 100th. This is why you should always check your game version number before anything else. It’s still worth emailing the developer with all this information. It will likely help them rule out certain things, the more examples they have.
If you are one of those lucky people to be reporting a bug before it’s fixed, what the developer wants is something called ‘steps to reproduce’. You can be 99.9% sure that the developer has never experienced the crash. If they did, it would be fixed, which means that there is something about how / when / where you play the game that is different to the way the game was tested. Good steps to reproduce look like this:
- Start Game in fullscreen mode at 1920×1200 resolution on windows 7 64 bit with nvidia video card, latest drivers
- Click ‘new game button’
- Click ‘mission 3’
- Select Arch wizard chipmunk character, and set all attributes to 7
- Play mission until you encounter the 5th hobgoblin.
- Click the ‘use death ray’ icon
- Game crashes immediately you click the button…
Ideally, what you would do is identify only the steps that cause the game to crash. So if you try to reproduce it, but this time click the ‘use freeze ray’ icon and it still crashes, then you know its not specific to that one button. What the developer really needs is the minimum steps to reproduce the crash, and also to know what is a red herring (in this case, the choice of weapon). In tech support, we called this ‘drawing a box around the problem’. You need to be identify what causes the game to crash, and what is just filler and side-show.
Lastly, remember the game developer isn’t your enemy, they want it fixed more than you do. You aren’t the only person with the bug, and they would rather be coding new stuff than debugging, so they want it done as fast as they can.
If you have any other tips, or suggestions that you know have helped fix awkard and obscure PC game crashes, post them below.