Sunday, July 19, 2009


This weekend I picked up a copy of the Penumbra Collection. The three-part game is on sale this weekend and, since the developers were good enough to produce a native Linux version, I was eager to support them by making the purchase.

I paid for and downloaded the game, ran the installer, and launched it. This is when I ran into an issue. As soon as I launched the game, my monitor (actually the TV in the living room) went dark and gave me a message about the signal being unsupported. I had audio and heard the game intro playing, but I couldn't escape the window. My only option was to reset the computer. Great, I thought, what's wrong now? Driver issue? Do I need to tweak xorg.conf? I set about digging for an answer.

The first thing I did was install and enable dontzap so that I could at least restart X without resetting the whole computer, which did help as I ended up launching the game a few times as I tried to troubleshoot.

As an alternative to restarting X the good old fashioned way, I also did the following: when the game started and I was left with no display, I dropped into a virtual terminal (ctrl+alt+F1), ran the top command, found the PID for the game, and killed it (sudo kill -9 [PID]). However for whatever reason, I was still unable to get back to my graphical terminal after doing this and had to restart X anyway by running sudo /etc/init.d/gdm restart. So, a simple ctrl+alt+backspace was still the way to go.

Anyway, on to the information hunt. A few google searches as well as a look through the devs' Linux support forum turned up a few related or similar problems, but nobody seemed to be running into the exact problem that I was. The ones that were similar were all running Intel or ATI graphics cards (I have NVIDIA).

Normally, my first trick in troubleshooting this kind of thing is to run the program from the command line and see what errors it throws. However since I was running into a situation where I had to restart X or take the entire system down, anything displayed in Terminal would obviously be lost. So, I decided to dump any Terminal output into a log file by running:

/home/rick/PenumbraCollection/Overture/penumbra > ~/Desktop/penumbra.log

The log file contained only this:

Penumbra: Overture exited unexpectedly, please check
for any error messages
Also try running
ulimit -c unlimited
And re-running Penumbra and try and recreate the error
then submit the generated core file or stack trace

This output was generated only when I killed the process. I wondered to myself how there could not be any errors thrown when I launched the game. Then it hit me: there were no errors thrown because the game was running just fine! The problem was with my monitor-- the signal was unsupported, but it was receiving something. I looked in ~/PenumbraCollection/Overture/config/default_settings.cfg and found what I expected in the form of the following line:

Screen Width="800" Height="600" FullScreen="true" Vsync="false"

Cripes, I thought. It was simple all along! The 1080 TV I'm using doesn't support 800x600! Insta-facepalm. I edited the line, replacing 800 and 600 with 1920 and 1080 and viola! I had picture when I launched the game again. The problem was far more simple than I had imagined. Now I know what I'll be doing for the afternoon...

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