Author Topic: FF7_GameConverter_7H.exe Review  (Read 3032 times)

picklejar

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FF7_GameConverter_7H.exe Review
« on: 2019-05-29 01:24:36 »
Here is my review of the GameConverter. Specifically, the FF7_GameConverter_7H.exe version from the 7th Heaven Modding Tutorial thread.

Background:

I have installed "Final Fantasy 7 without 7th Heaven" in two different ways now:

Install method #1: Without GameConverter: I manually installed all of the following: FF7 base install (v1.0), the official 1.02 patch, Aali's 0.8.1b driver patch, laptop keypad patch, modify registry entry, copy movie files over. I took each of these steps slowly to understand what they were doing, and I have a pretty good idea of the individual files that were changed. Result: The game is functional and works great as a baseline without major mods.

Install method #2: With GameConverter: (After uninstalling FF7 and cleaning registry entries.) I just did a fresh FF7 base install (v1.0), then I ran the GameConverter on top of it, then manually copied movies over. By the way, I used git + registry dumps to track which files and registry entries were changed as a result of using GameConverter. Result: There are multiple ff7 exes in the directory now; when I run ff7.exe, I get a popup error and a hint to go look at APP.LOG for more info, but the game starts and is functional except the field music does not work; the APP.LOG contains a few lines of informational logging plus one error line: ""ERROR: couldn't open music file: C:\ff7\/music/vgmstream/OB.ogg".

So here is my review, based on the experience described above.

Pros:

It inspected the registry, detected my installation location, and correctly detected the version (v1.0 English).

It detected my virtual drive with the FF7DISC1 volume label, and correctly modified the registry setting for DataDrive (changed it from "C:\" to "F:\").

It automatically applied the official v1.02 patch.

It automatically applied Aali's 0.8.1b driver patch (except for the "direct" and "mods" directories, see below).

It automatically applied Aali's 0.8.1b driver registry entries.

It gave me the option to install laptop keyboard patch, I chose yes, and it worked.

It modified the registry to set the movie path (although the directions were incorrect and confusing, see below).

Cons:

Bug #1: The instructions for the "movies" folder are incorrect and confusing. (Note: My base install directory is "C:\FF7". The installer uses "C:\Games\FF7" in its examples, but does not say that it requires such a path.) The first confusing thing was, it said that it created a "movies" folder under my install directory, but then it asked me to enter the path to it, and gave C:\Games\FF7\data\movies as an example. I checked, and it did not create a movies folder under C:\FF7\movies nor C:\FF7\data\movies. I manually created C:\FF7\data\movies and gave that path to the converter, but when it modified the registry, it just used C:\FF7\movies. Luckily, I was closely watching all of this, so after inspecting the changes it made to the registry, I copied all the avi files from my install discs to C:\FF7\movies, and the movies worked fine after this.

Suggestion: Fix the automatic "movies" folder creation, and fix the directions, and add more information to the user and explain that they are supposed to actually copy the game's video files to that directory. And if the included patches/mods support enhanced/upscaled videos, show off that feature as well.

Bug #2: The field music does not work. Based on looking at the APP.LOG, I'm assuming that it's assuming that the user is going to manually place files such as OB.ogg in the ff7\music\vgmstream directory. But I never saw any such directions. BTW, I'm a musician and eventually would love to get the OGG files on there, but in the short-term, it would be great just to have the MIDI stuff working. But I couldn't even get that to work. I even ran the newly installed RunVIIConfig.exe file and tested the MIDI settings, and the music played fine in the config utility window, but in the game itself, after the opening video's music finished, it was just silent.

Suggestion: Music should not be "broken by default" without any explanation. In an ideal case, the GameConverter should ask the user whether they intend on adding the OGG files, and if so, configure the music to use that accordingly, otherwise, it should let the MIDI stuff work.

Bug #3: When installing Aali's patch, it did not include the "direct" and "mods" directories. Granted, these are not "required", but they are part of Aali's patch, and if the GameConverer does not create those directories, then modders will need to manually create them, in the right places, to take advantage of those mod features. And that means that they will need to manually download Aali's patch and copy only part of it. This seems silly and redundant if GameConverter is supposed to include Aali's patch out-of-the-box.

Suggestion: When installing Aali's patch, include the "direct" and "mods" directories and subdirectories.

Lack of documentation: In general, although the GameConverter is doing a lot of great stuff, and although this forum topic provides a brief list of the stuff that in includes, it doesn't explain a lot of the after-effects. Why did it create ff7_bc.exe and ff7_mo.exe, and when should the user choose one of those over ff7.exe? (A new user won't have a clue that the new exe's are Beacause and the Modal/Window mod.) Why did it create RunVIIConfig.exe and RunVIIConfig.bat, and when should the user choose? (I don't even know the answer to this one.) Why did it create "all those extra files" (from Aali's patch)?

Suggestion: Better documentation.

Also, wanted to share some final thoughts:

I'm looking forward to trying out 7th Heaven, but I haven't even gotten to actually using 7th Heaven yet, and I'm already frustrated. The tutorial says that the GameConverter is required, and the GameConverter forum topic says that the GameConverter is in BETA. From my perspective, this "forces" 7th Heaven to be "BETA" as well, because it has a dependency on GameConverter. And if you're thinking "well, technically, 7th Heaven doesn't require GameConverter, it only needs parts X, Y, Z", well that's great if it's true, but the problem is, there is zero information on how to get 7th Heaven to work without it.

Come to think of it, I think my main complaint is that the GameConverter is trying to do too much. It feels like the original intention was to convert non-English-v1.02 versions to English-v1.02. But now it feels like a bunch of other stuff has been thrown into it, when not all of it is required. I bet most of us would agree that Aali's driver is pretty much "required", but some of the other stuff is just thrown in.

Primary suggestion: We need to be breaking up "big" projects like GameConverter, Reunion, etc., into smaller, modular pieces. At minimum, split GameConverter into "pieces that 7th Heaven absolutely requires" (and consider pulling that functionality into 7th Heaven itself) and "optional pieces" (and consider making those pieces into 7th Heaven IROs themselves). If we don't follow a modular approach, it means less customization and less combinations of options for the user.

Anyway... having said all that, the GameConverter is very impressive in the areas where it's working. But, sorry, I don't like all the extra stuff that's thrown in there, and I'm such a believer in the modular approach that I'd rather find a way to "make 7th Heaven work without GameConverter", at least for now.
« Last Edit: 2019-06-04 13:49:12 by EQ2Alyza »

picklejar

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My main suggestion for any "product" is that it should have a clear purpose. If it has multiple purposes, it might be fine to bundle them together, as long as it is broken into parts and gives the user options on which parts to use.

7H has a clear purpose: it's a mod manager that lets mod authors package up mods, and enables mod users to choose which mods to use.

GameCoverter does not have a single clear purpose. It should be more transparent about all the stuff it includes, and give users options to choose which parts to apply.

I haven't tried Reunion yet. But so far, it doesn't sound like it is designed with modularity in mind. It sounds like, once it's installed, you're "stuck" using it, and everything else you do will have to fit it into it. Kind of like a proprietary product line.

There are definitely advantages to that approach, and if done well, it can be successful (think Apple iPhone). I would just suggest that you make your purpose and your target audience clear.

It's just... When I hear you say "it should work with 7H though it's largely meant to be used on its own" it sounds analogous to getting Apple products and Microsoft products to work together. And when you say it's meant "for modders to arrange mods for it" it sounds analogous to Apple expecting everyone to write apps in Objective-C programming language so that it will run on their platform. (If my understanding and my analogies are way off, I apologize.)

Kaldarasha

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The converter has one single purpose. To patch all game versions to be able to use the English FF7.exe and it's file system. Though, wouldn't have implemented Aali's driver into it by default. It would have been better if you had to place the recent version of the driver into a folder for it and the GC would have install it from this source. I think the big problem is that the GC does do too much automatically and people just don't know why and what they actually install. Be it as it is, since R06 is coming there no point into updating the GC anymore.

picklejar

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"since R06 is coming there is no point into updating the GC anymore"

If a person is using R06, they might not need the GC, but if a person just wants to use 7th Heaven, won't they still need a Game Converter?

Kaldarasha

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7H is designed to deal with any new tool. R06 is mostly an advanced options of the direct mod which 7H can handle pretty well. So it should work. But of course with no tests no one can say for sure. Even if 7H and the new modmanager do not work together, we can use 7H only without to use the new one. The reunion comes with vital improvements for the game so there's actually no options to not use it.

picklejar

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When you say "the new modmanager", I assume you're talking about a Reunion mod manager that supports only the Reunion mods and not other mods, correct?

EQ2Alyza

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The reason picklejar's post is "nonsense" is because this thread is not the same GC as the 7H version. 7H requires a bit more setup, hence why it's written in the Install Tutorial that 7H_GameConverter_Final is required.

I don't care what you have to say about its automation process being a problem. If we went back to the old days of manual installation, we'd still see many users installing it incorrectly because they're too lazy to take the time to read instructions. It's a lose/lose situation, so I'd rather take the automation.

I didn't create the 7H Modding Tutorial because I invisioned a better and grander way of how I personally wanted to mod the game. I created it for general users specifically based off my experience and feedback working with PitBrat when Bootleg was the main modding tool. Getting tired of seeing veteran users insulting the work of others because you can't branch off your own vision of how FF7 should be modded.

picklejar

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EQ2Alyza: I'm kind of confused, because I feel like you're lashing out at me, but I feel like I'm on your side.

So maybe let's break this down into separate topics.

Topic #1: Regarding the issue that some people have a philosophy of "my way of modding is the best, and everybody should use my way": I am also heavily against this philosophy. In fact, I feel like that's the whole point of 7th Heaven: It gives people the power to pick and choose whatever mods they want. (However, I also recognize that it can be a successful business strategy, such as Apple's proprietary product line.)

Topic #2: Regarding automation: I'm in favor of automation, and I'm in favor of anything that makes the end user's experience better. I'm in favor of making "supporting 7th Heaven" easier, and therefore I'm in favor of anything that makes your life easier.

So, we have two idealistic goals: (1) don't assume "my way is best", but instead, give users freedom to pick and choose what mods they want; and (2) automate things for lazy users and give them high quality experience.

Topic #3: The challenge with topics #1 and #2 is, it's very difficult to maximize both of these goals at the same time. It's more practical, from a development standpoint, to build something that prefers one over the other.

Reunion disregards Topic #1, and as it gets bigger and bigger, it's going to clash more and more against 7th Heaven, which is going to make things more difficult for you or anyone associated with 7th Heaven. Reunion believes their vision of how FF7 should be modded is the best vision. On the surface, they say 7H "should" work with it, and they say "we can make IROs from the Reunion stuff", but given how radical their changes are, I somehow doubt non-Reunion mods will work with their stuff, and they've stated that if someone wants to add other mods, they actually expect people to mod against their stuff, or else they're on their own. If they want to use 7th Heaven, they're on their own. Users won't be able to mix and match "Reunion mods" and "non-Reunion mods", unless they use two different mod managers: one to enable and disable Reunion mods, and 7th Heaven to enable and disable all other mods. Awesome, 7th Heaven is going to get even more complicated. You're going to love supporting 7th Heaven when R06 comes out!

This brings me back to the 7H version of the GameConverter. (And the reason why I'm discussing Reunion on a thread about GameConverter.) Do you know what the 7H_GameConverter really is? It's basically a R06 teaser. It automatically includes Reunion mods. It includes Beacause and Menu Overhaul. And it auto-configures your setup in preparation to use Anxious Heart. So I hope you can see why I felt like it was doing "too much".

Are you working heavily with the Reunion team, and are you still cool with all of the changes they are doing? Do you like Kaldarasha's suggestion to let R06 take over the GameConverter functionality? If so, 7H will officially be dependent on Reunion, right? And are you planning to modify the 7H tutorial to tell people to install R06 first before 7H? How will you support "people that don't want Reunion, but want 7H"? Are you planning to write two different tutorials, or just the one that tells people to install R06? Won't you then be abandoning all the people in Topic #1? This is the path you're headed towards if R06 replaces the GameConverter.

If you are actually still reading this, thanks, and sorry for the rant. Bleh. I think there might still be some disconnect or misunderstanding going on, and I'm generally pretty open-minded about this topic, so if you (or anyone else reading this) have a different perspective on this, I'm all ears. But again, I'm guessing most people are thinking "no biggie, eventually we'll just chop up R06 into separate IROs", but I doubt it's just gonna work that easily, it will probably require 7H to make major code changes.

7H requires a bit more setup, hence why it's written in the Install Tutorial that 7H_GameConverter_Final is required.

The link in the Install Tutorial is pointing to a file called FF7_GameConverter_7H.exe. Is that what you meant? That's the one I wrote my review for. And sorry if you felt like it belonged in another thread. (Which one would you have recommended?)

EQ2Alyza

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Nope, not meant for you :)

Some modders tend to speak their mind about others work. I don't normally speak about it because I'm in favor of free speech and opinion. But when you go silent about it for years, sometimes you just gotta let off some steam.

I appreciate your feedback. I think it's best left for a PM or in the 7H thread. This post was the converter used before 7H existed, and it didn't work at first until Compass and I worked together to modify it for 7H. But, like ALL modders I work with, they quit and disappear before the work is done, leaving me to scrape together something with my limited skills. I'm more for testing, feedback, and suggesting new ideas.

picklejar

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Glad we're on the same page!

EQ2Alyza

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Since we're on the same page, let me follow-up about your OP review...

What version of the game are you applying FF7_GameConverter_7H.exe? I personally have no issues with the SE Store and Steam versions, but the original CDs don't patch perfectly. Since I understand what should happen, it's not difficult for me to fix it manually. Compass has been long gone, so I don't really have a reliable programmer who can look into it anymore. But I never saw this as a major issue since both digital versions are more obtainable and affordable than the original CDs, and ultimately what most users are playing with.

Reunion R06 has been in production for centuries, so I'm really hoping for its release soon. Like many things moving forward with this patching process and 7H, I think it's best to wait and see what R06 can do before making anymore drastic changes that require a lot of work/time. It would be most ideal if R06 could patch everything upfront (at the minimum) and allow for 7H to mod whatever thereafter.

1. Install FF7
2. Install Reunion (with hopefully a mandatory patching that replaces the GameConverter)
3. Open 7H
4. Workshop -> General Settings -> Set your paths and subscription option (would love to see more independently made subscriptions)
5. Workshop -> Aali Driver Settings -> Set your preferences
6. Download, Activate, and Configure mods
7. Launch Game
« Last Edit: 2019-06-04 13:50:35 by EQ2Alyza »