Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guide to Moving/Copying MMO Client Installs

As I've been setting up and testing the new computer, one of the questions I ran into is how to avoid re-downloading the 100+ GB of MMO clients I had installed on my old machine.  I tried Googling the question of how to move/copy an MMO installation and got very incomplete/fragmentary information which varied by game.  I decided it would be quicker to break out the portable hard drive and test for myself.

All testing was done on a fresh 64-bit Windows 7 install.  I was able to log into a character on every game except where noted below.  This is presented for informational use only, and PVD takes no responsibility for any technical support or performance issues.

World of Warcraft
  • Game Version: Cataclysm Patch 4.3
  • Files copied: Entire WoW directory (28.3 GB, including screenshots and UI mods)
  • File to launch: Launcher
  • Comments: No issues, game immediately launched as if it had always been there.
Lord of the Rings Online
  • Game Version: Rise of Isengard, Update 5
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (14.3 GB)
  • File to launch:  Turbine Launcher
  • Comments: The first time I tried to log in, the launcher crashed just after selecting my server.  Undeterred, I tried again, and got in fine.  I'm pretty sure I remember the same thing happening on my other machine the last time I did a clean install. 
Dungeons and Dragons Online
  • Game Version: Update 12
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (6.46 GB)
  • File to launch:  Turbine Launcher
  • Comments: Same issue as LOTRO, probably unsurprising since both are the same engine.  Second login attempt went fine
Runes of Magic
  • Game Version: 4.0.6
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (10 GB)
  • File to launch:  Runes of Magic
  • Comments: No issues - real relief to have this one installed fully patched, because their patcher is a very slow and painful process.  
EQ2 (streaming client)
  • Game Version: Game Update 62 (Age of Discovery launch update)
  • Files Copied:EQ2/assetcache folder (14.2 GB)
  • File to launch:  Launchpad
  • Comments: I did this one by downloading the installer for the streaming client, installing it, and then closing the downloader.  I then added the assetcache folder to the new install.  This folder contains all of the fixed data about content (e.g. textures, music, etc).  After copying this over, I re-launched the downloader and let it mop up what was left, which was under one GB.  No issues.  
  • Game Version: Game Update 8
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (17.7 GB)
  • File to launch:  Launchpad
  • Comments: This time I encountered an issue - the launchpad took my login and downloaded the updates, but I did not have any version of DirectX installed on the machine and was not able to launch the client.  I downloaded the DCUO installer from the DCUO website, and it offered the option to "repair" an existing installation (rather than install a new one or uninstall an existing one).  I selected this option, it downloaded the missing DirectX, and the game launched smoothly with extremely limited download time.
  • Game Version: Don't remember, probably 1.5 or 1.6.
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (~10 GB)
  • File to launch:  RiftPatchLive
  • Comments: I initially tried running the "Rift" executable before I got DCUO up and running and received the same error message for missing DirectX.  Apparently DCUO installed a version that Rift was happy with because the game launched without issue.   It's entirely possible that Trion also offers a repair tool that could have rescued this issue, I just happened to have done DCUO's first. 

    Update: I initially copied this to Program Files on my SSD for faster loading, but noticed that screenshots were not saving, apparently because Windows does not want the client writing to the program directory.  I moved the game to Users/Public/Games and the problem was resolved.  
SWTOR (see note)
  • Game Version: Thanksgiving Beta Weekend
  • Files Copied: Entire Directory (18.5 GB)
  • File to launch:  Launcher
  • Comments: I don't actually own an SWTOR account yet, so I don't know for sure whether this works.  The patcher patched itself and gives me a login screen, but I can't download the updates (or log in, obviously).  This entry is included primarily because people often find posts like this through Google months after they've been written - I will edit this once I actually have a SWTOR account to verify that it works, but I do not anticipate issues. 

Conclusions I've heard conflicting things about whether MMO clients could be copied without issues, but it appears that the modern MMO patcher is able to recreate whatever it needs to function (e.g. registry keys) if deposited in a new location with minimal issues.  This has a few practical implications:
  • If you're moving from a still-functioning older machine to a new one ,you can move the data over via a portable hard drive, network sharing, or whatever other means are at your disposal.  You could probably even use multiple DVD-R's for clients that won't fit on one disc, as long as you can break it up and reassemble it correctly.   
  • If you are using an SSD that has room for some, but not all of your MMO's and you do not play all of them every month, it is possible to copy over your current favorite, and send it back to the data drive the next time your subscription lapses.
  • If you have just the one hard drive (with enough empty space available to duplicate the clients you want to copy) and you need to reinstall Windows for whatever reason, you could, in principle, create a new partition and send your clients (and/or other files, though I would definitely back up anything that can't be easily re-downloaded given time) into that area for temporary storage.  Then you can format the original system partition, reinstall windows, recover the files, and remove the partition. 
Breaking news?  Probably not, but it was useful for me, so perhaps it will be useful for someone else out there.


Stropp said...

The biggest indicators regarding portability like this is if the application uses the Windows Registry, or installs DLL or config files in the Windows systems directories.

It's unlikely these days to put a DLL outside the application install, but at one point it was MS recommended practice. If you're trying to copy an older MMORPG that might be an issue.

The registry is still used, but less so these days. I think MS recommends against it now. But some apps put licencing data in there. So if you're having problems it might be an idea to see if you can find the registry entries on the old machine and try to copy them to the new. Searching the registry on the application name will help.

The same thing applies to DLLs if that is a problem. You might be able to copy them from the system or system32 directory.

One thing though, going from 32 bit Windows to 64 bit might require a reinstall.

Mika Hirvonen said...

Windows Vista and 7 have a workaround for legacy programs that try to write to the Windows system directories or the program's own directory under Program Files. Instead of requiring the program to be run with administrator privileges, Windows silently redirects those writes to C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Local\VirtualStore. If they try to read from a privileged folder, the VirtualStore is checked before the actual folder is.

And in general, programs have become smarter when it comes to the registry or the AppData folder. If a specific file or a configuration value doesn't exist, the program doesn't crash. Instead, it silently reinitializes it with the default value.

Helistar said...

LotRO: the user preferences are NOT STORED in the application directory (contrary to wow and its wtf subdir), as a result if you only move the LotRO install, you lose all your preferences and keybindings.

Kaz Dragon said...

I always found Guild Wars an interesting case study in this. You can copy the 93KB (IIRC) executable, and the game will allow you to play with just that, downloading the assets you need on-demand.

Sure, that's not the same as having to "avoid downloading the entire thing", but what you really want to achieve is the fastest way to get back into the game, right?

Nazaniel said...

SWTOR does work with a straight copy - my partner and I copied it from one machine to the other as we didn't want to spend the bandwidth downloading the whole game twice.

Mika Hirvonen said...

Does LOTRO work like Eve Online? Eve stores the settings in AppData in a folder named after the installation folder. Unless the folder is renamed, Eve will look for the settings in the wrong place and use factory defaults.

In Eve Online's case, the reasoning for those named folders is to allow the player to run multiple Eve clients simultaneously with different settings.