This sort of guide explains how to archive and store safely the patches for FFXI so that you don’t have to download and reinstall 700+ Mb of patches in the case you have to format the hard disk. If you are on dial-up (ISDN, in my case) you know how *painful* this could be.
Now FFXI has already an horrible installation. Yes, the game is huge and has a lot of content but if we consider the low resolution textures and the reused assets there’s really no justification for an installation that arrives at 6.75 Gigabytes. It’s just insane. I’m not sure about the causes but my suspect is that it’s a raw, direct port of the PSX2 version, so that they can keep updating both client without double work. It seems that the PC version is more like an emulator that parses the data file and makes them work as they are on the console. The result is that we have this insane installation as the consequence of a data format that isn’t really appropriate for the PC.
A confirmation of my suspects came after I (successfully) tried to save and archive the patches. I reinstalled the game recently, I have the original american version with Zilart included, plus Chains of Promatia CDs. So I had the game client updated to September of the last year, when CoP was released. Basically about a year of patches to download and apply. Which translates to about 3500 files for a grand total of 700+ Mb to downlad again and install.
The surprise was when (after more than eight hours of download) I finally zipped those files to burn them on CD once for all. With Winzip set on “normal” compression the final archive was barely above 300Mb.
Now my question: why Square doesn’t send these damn patches compressed and then expand the files when they are already on the PC? You know, it would “just” hugely impact the server load when a new patch is released and it would be a positive improvement for all those players that aren’t on broadband and that do not like to spend hours waiting the new patch to download. In particular when for each update there’s the need to rescan all the files. A process that takes alone more than *30 minutes* on a Ultra-ATA hard disk.
I guess this comes along the other inexplicable, annoying quirks of the game I listed at the end of another article.
Beside these “pointless” disquisitions. I have a rather simple way to save those patches so that you don’t have to redownload them in the case you need to reinstall the game. Unfortunately, this is possible only if you “plan ahead” to build the archive since you cannot save the files after the client is patched successfully. So if you want to save those files you need to restart from a clean installation and go through the upgrade process at least once (or save only the most recent patches that will be released in the upcoming months).
If you do this (or will do when you’ll have to reformat/reinstall), remember to install the original game, Zilart and CoP. I underline this because the three installations don’t start automatically and if you leave an expansion out you’ll have to redo most of the patching. So install everything in the proper order, launch PlayOnline and the update to the game. At this point the client will check all the files one by one (the 30+ minutes scan) and then start to download those that changed (at this moment, with all the expansion installed from scratch, it’s about the 3500 files I pointed above).
Those files will be stored in the game directory before they will be actually installed. In order to catch and save them you have to *stop* the updating process before the installation of the files happens. So I suggest to stop the update when only 10 or so files are left to download. When you reach this point and PlayOnline is halted, you should go on Windows start menu -> Search -> For Files and Folders. Here you select “all files and folders”, then in the “look in” field you select the directory where you installed the game and in the name field you insert *.tmp2 which is the extension of the files downloaded before they are installed. And press “search”. If you followed the instructions you’ll get an endless list of .tmp2 files. You go to the “edit” menu, press “select all” and then right click on the files. If you have Winzip you’ll have an option saying “Add to Zip”. You select it, give a name to the archive you want and, most importantly, select the “save full path info” checkbox. And press “add”.
The archive will be built and once done you can burn it on CD or put it wherever you want.
When you’ll have to reinstall the game you’ll just need to decompress the archive in the game directory (pay attention so that the files go in the right place) and launch the update from PlayOnline. After the scan is over the client will see that the files are already available and will install them directly without redownloading them. Which is exactly the goal of this guide.
I didn’t test directly if it’s possible but I believe you can then work with Winzip to update the archive with the latest files when a new patch is released. So that you can keep just one archive instead of one for each different patch released.
I guess I could upload the archive on the site and make it public as I do with WoW patches, but for now I think I’ll avoid the option.
I lost the install CD 2 and 3 despite I usually keep care and store safely my games. Thanks to eMule that wasn’t a big problem. Speaking about the utility of P2P.