Game Troubleshooting (Windows)

  • This article covers various technical troubleshooting workarounds and fixes for Urban Assault on Windows with modern hardware systems.

    1 Information

    This is the main technical assistance and troubleshooting article for Urban Assault. Please read this section carefully to find appropriate solutions for specific game issues.


    2 Overview

    Urban Assault usually runs well on modern Windows systems. But there are certain problems that occur on Windows Vista and newer. Many issues are also chiefly dependent on individual hardware models or specifications and their compatibility with the game engine. This page contains solutions for commonly known issues and problems, as well as some additional information.


    This article does not apply to OpenUA/UA:Source.


    3 AI Helicopter Problems

    Main Article: AI Helicopter Glitch


    Unresponsive helicopters are common on all modern computers regardless of the operating system. Helicopter problems are covered in another article.


    4 Disable desktop composition

    Disabling desktop composition is often useful as it may resolve several types of graphical problems:

    • Game screen goes black immediately after startup or after a video.
    • The button texts in the game installer are not visible.


    To disable desktop composition, right-click the desired executable (UA.exe for original UA; Ua_xp.exe for Metropolis Dawn; ua_trial.exe for the Trial version; Setup.exe for the installer etc.) → Properties → Compatibility tab → Check Disable desktop composition.


    On Windows 7, composition can also be disabled globally by selecting a desktop theme that does not use Windows Aero.


    5 Intro videos and startup problems (black screen/purple screen/red screen)

    If the screen gets black (the 'black screen' issue) or the main menu's colours get distorted after any intro video (such as the 'red screen' issue), disabling the game's video player may help.


    The recommended official method to disable the game's movie player is via editing the Nucleus.ini config file in the UA directory: open the config file located in the game's main folder and set the option gfx.movie_player from on to off, then save the file to apply the change.


    If the intro videos are enabled, third-party video decoders and renderers may cause startup problems. This has been observed with (obsolete) versions of FFDShow but more information is needed. If you suspect problems, disabling such video utilities for UA may help.


    Note that rendering mode may also have an effect on the startup problems (see below!).


    5.1 Choosing the rendering mode

    UA supports both hardware rendering via Direct3D and software rendering via machine CPU. The choice between hardware rendering and software rendering depends on which mode works better, and the personal preference of the player. Changing the rendering mode may help if any of the following symptoms occur:

    • Game screen goes black after startup.
    • Game screen has distorted colours or wrong aspect ratio, typically after startup (more common with software rendering).
    • Game performance is inconsistent; for example, the game may run too fast (may happen with software rendering).


    Rendering mode can be selected in UA options, under Direct3D device. The typically available options are Software (software rendering) and Primary Display Driver (hardware rendering).


    It is also possible to set the rendering mode option directly (and externally) by editing guid3d.def file located in ENV folder. Known possible options are <software> and <primary> (<software> is for software rendering, <primary> is for hardware rendering).


    Hardware rendering provides smoother graphics and it is generally considered better in terms of graphical quality. However, certain effects such as colour inversion during beaming or the blue light when destroying certain units, are only visible in software rendering mode.


    NOTE: After changing the rendering mode, the game resolution usually resets to 640×480. Return to the settings menu to change it.


    5.2 Enable DrawPrimitive

    It is almost always recommended to turn DrawPrimitive on in UA options. It can be especially useful if any of the following symptoms occur:

    • Game crashes when playing or when starting a mission.
    • Major graphical issues such as game scene not rendered properly or at all.
    • Minor graphical issues such as the preview model not visible or not spinning properly in mission briefing.


    NOTE: The DrawPrimitive option does not have any effect in software rendering mode. But when hardware rendering mode is used, it is highly recommended to keep it on.


    6 UAC file system virtualization (missing save data files problem)

    If Windows User Account Control (UAC) is enabled and UA is installed into the default program directory (<drive>:\Program Files\ …) and run without explicit administrator privileges, it cannot write files such as configuration and saved games into the program directory.


    In this case, the UAC file system virtualization redirects the write requests to another directory, VirtualStore. This can be quite a nuisance in many instances, and may also cause a loss of save data tracking in a user profile.


    There are a few different ways to prevent it:

    • Install UA into a directory that is not protected such as your home folder (recommended!). Do not install it to any Program Files or other protected folder.
    • Disable User Account Control and use administrator account (not recommended for security reasons).
    • Run UA as administrator (inadvisable). Certain compatibility modes do this automatically, otherwise you must do this every time and it can lead to slight problems if there are already files in VirtualStore.


    Depends on system settings and configurations, sometimes the files may not simply generate inside at all. However, there is no report of this instance for the game so far.


    7 Proper uninstallation and reinstallation

    If UA was installed using the official installer, it should be uninstalled using the official uninstaller before attempting reinstallation. The official installer creates the registry keys which override certain configuration files of the game, most notably assign.txt.


    If UA was 'installed' by copying the game files from a CD manually, the registry keys will still point to the old location if they exist. The uninstaller removes these registry keys. They can also be removed manually, but one should be careful when editing Windows registry.


    Reinstallation using the official installer should be safe even without uninstallation, but it is still recommended to uninstall the game completely before the process.


    The official Metropolis Dawn installer (Setup.exe) will not work if the registry keys for the original UA do not exist. The most straightforward solution for most users is to use the official installer to install the base game first.


    8 Setting up DirectPlay

    UA requires DirectPlay to work, even if multiplayer features are not used.


    DirectPlay is not included with Windows 10 and above by default, but when a program that requires it is started, Windows should ask about installing DirectPlay and install it automatically. If this does not happen, you may have to manually enable it with the following method.


    Go to Control Panel → Programs and Features → Turn Windows Features on or off → check Legacy Components (DirectPlay).


    9 In-game soundtrack/music data

    The in-game music data is stored on the game CD as standard CD audio tracks (from track numbers 2 to 6; track 1 contains the game data) and the game plays it using the CD audio interface. In order to get the music to work, the game CD must be in the CD drive.


    Alternatively, you can use a virtual drive software and load the game CD image into it. Note that the virtual image file must contain all the tracks and the software must support mixed-mode images. For example, WinCDEmu does not support mixed-mode images.


    If the music does not work, check if the Music option is enabled in the game's options. Also check that the CD audio line is not muted in Windows audio settings.


    10 High-definition resolution patch (experimental; optional)

    UA originally supports display resolutions up to 1024×768. An experimental patch has been made to allow higher resolutions up to 4k level.


    Author's Note: Since OpenUA/UA:Source now fully supports the vanilla engine functionality, I highly recommend using it to play the game on higher resolutions instead this experimental patch for the original UA engine.

    -- Charlotte


    11 DirectDraw Modification

    Under Construction.


    12 OpenUA/UA:Source

    Main Article: OpenUA (UA:Source)


    OpenUA/UA_Source is an open-source UA engine re-implementation/reverse engineering project. It can be reliably used to resolve most problems related to modern computers and operating systems of the game and is otherwise a perfect alternative option to play the game.


    As of 2023, it supports all vanilla game functionality, and after a continued development the frequency of bug occurrence is minimal. However, the multiplayer layer may contain numerous bugs, and the latest versions may inevitably introduce new kind of issues and glitches.


    Currently, OpenUA can be reliably used as a comprehensive alternative to play the game on modern hardware and systems regardless of OS or specification. If all else fails, always use OpenUA.


    13 Notes

    If you require further technical troubleshooting or assistance for OpenUA-specific issues, please open a support ticket on the forums or visit the Discord server.

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