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The Polar Express Widescreen (and other 6th gen games)


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Hello there.  I have recently bought a retail copy of The Polar Express for PC, since the holiday season is upon us.  And it, like many 6th generation games, doesn't have a Wiki page, much less any sort of fixes or hacks.  I would've taken this thread to WSGF, but unless I can't find it the link to do so, I wasn't able to sign up to make the thread, so this may be helpful here.

 

Alright, according to this game's intro videos, it seems to be using RenderWare, which may be a well documented engine at this point.  What I would like to know is if anyone would know how to make the game play in widescreen instead of stretched from 4:3, since playing in windowed mode is apparently out of the question.  Ideally, what I'd like to do is learn how to widescreen hack games, which does seem like an involved process, and don't want to bother others for what is a rather niche title.

 

Any and all help would be appreciated.  If I posted this in the wrong section, feel free to move it.

 

Thank you, and happy holidays!

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Unfortunately there is no single approach for getting widescreen working (even when games share the same engine).

 

In this case widescreen resolutions can be set in the registry but are stretched from 4:3 (this also makes menu backgrounds disappear, but the text still works). Changing the aspect ratio values in the EXE doesn't seem to have any effect, so some more advanced fix would be required. ThirteenAG's Widescreen Fixes Pack has such fixes for many RenderWare games along with others, but these have to be made specifically each game.

 

One option would be to make a 4:3 custom resolution equivalent to your native height (e.g. 1440x1080 if you have a 1920x1080 display) and then change the GPU scaling setting so you get a nice crisp pillarboxed output. You can set this resolution in the registry if it doesn't show up in the config tool.

Windowed mode is available, but it's stuck at 640x480 (the config tool resolution seems to be ignored for this). You might be able to force a bigger window with Borderless Gaming or similar.

For windowed mode:

  • Use Config.exe in the installation folder to choose a different resolution (if you haven't already) to generate the necessary value.
  • Go to the registry location - this will be something like HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Classes\VirtualStore\MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\BlueTongue Entertainment\The Polar Express
  • Open the vidmode value.
  • Change the 01 on the second line to 00. The game will now run in a window.

You can also set the resolution in the vidmode value (on the first line replace pairs 1-2 with the width and 4-6 with the height using hex values), but as mentioned this won't affect the resolution for windowed mode.

 

EDIT: for WSGF registration try going directly to the create new account page.

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The Polar Express apparently doesn't allow controlling camera, at first it looked that the game uses fixed camera angles. Therefore I don't consider widescreen resolution important, widescreen could also cause graphical bugs when the game renders areas that aren't visible during normal gameplay.

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Hey Garrett, thanks for all the info, I'll be sure to check it out when I get the chance.  I always wondered how you force games to be pillarboxed on widescreen displays, you'd figure there would be an option by default for most games, so thanks.  I'll also consider WSGF as well, and maybe ThirteenAG could be commissioned to do a fix.

 

@Mars Icecream, it uses fixed angles, but most of the game world is indeed rendered, and cutscenes show a fully rendered world.  Chances of a widescreen mode causing glitches seem minimal at best.

 

Edit:  When you say "You can also set the resolution in the vidmode value (on the first line replace pairs 1-2 with the width and 4-6 with the height using hex values)", 4-6, do you mean all three values, or just 4 and 6?  Or was it a typo?

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Most older games were not designed with aspect ratios in mind and simply set the chosen resolution directly (so it's then up to the display or video card to handle it from there). Some newer or re-released games do their own letterboxing by using a widescreen resolution and then scaling the output within that (e.g. many of PopCap's non-widescreen games have been updated to do this).

 

As for the resolution, you change the pairs to match the equivalent pairs for the resolution you want, e.g. if you had set 1280x960 in the config tool that first line in the registry will look like this:

 

00 05 00 00 C0 03 00 00

 

00 05 represents 1280 while C0 03 is 960. These can be substituted with the appropriate values from that hex values table, e.g. for 1920x1080 you have 80 07 (representing the width of 1920) and 38 04 (representing the height of 1080) so it would look like this:

 

80 07 00 00 38 04 00 00

 

This sort of approach applies to many games that require a hex change in the EXE/DLL or registry.

 

I have made a basic wiki page for this game.

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Alright, I've managed to set the image scaling via nVidia control panel, and now plays a 4:3 image in its native res on my monitor.  I have to use 1280x960, as 1600x1200 will just ignore it and fill the whole screen.  Likewise, I've tried hex editing the vidmode value in the registry editor, and according to my research (using a screen resolution of 1440x1080), the hex should look like this.

 

A0 05 00 00 38 04 00 00

 

However, it doesn't seem to change anything, the screen res is still what I've set in the launcher.

 

Also, I've edited the article a tiny bit, added minimum and recommended requirements lifted directly off the game's manual.  Thanks.

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Holy crap, someone actually did make a fix for this.  I wonder if it was because I requested some folks if they could do it, that's a christmas miracle right there!

 

There's still plenty of 6th gen PC games that don't have widescreen patches, such as Shrek 2/Team Action, I really ought to learn how to hack games so that I could create these patches myself.  Thanks for the find, Garrett!

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