By December 10, 2008

A fix for video artifacts / corruption in Fallout 3 for Windows PC

I really enjoy playing Bethesda’s Fallout 3 role playing game for Windows. One thing I don’t enjoy about it, however, is the rampant bugs associated with the game. There is already one official patch released for it, and some community-generated fixes as well for audio and video issues.

Unfortunately, I have a reoccurring graphics problem. Everything is fine when I play the game for the first time after a fresh start. The problems show up when I quit and start the game again later. I have graphics “tearing” and corrupted pixels all over the screen.

At first I thought this was due to outdated drivers, so I made sure I had the latest final drivers from Nvidia, and the latest drivers for my motherboard. I also made sure my Windows Vista operating system was up to date. No dice.

I run a dual display, and thought perhaps that was the cause of the whacky graphics. In desperation I started monkeying around with the options in my display control panel (now called “personalize” in Vista). I changed my display bit depth from 32-bit to 16-bit. I restarted Fallout 3 and nothing changed. I switched my display back to 32-bit and ran the game again, just for shits and giggles.

Lo and behold, the corrupted graphics were gone.

So, if you are having unexplained graphics problems with Fallout 3 that you can’t fix with an official patch or driver update, try this:

  1. Make sure the game isn’t running.
  2. Change your desktop “Colors” from “Highest (32-bit)” to “Medium (16-bit).”
  3. Click “Apply.”
  4. Click “OK,” just to make sure.
  5. Click “Yes” when Windows asks if you are happy with your changes.
  6. Return the “Colors” from 16-bit to 32-bit.
  7. Start Fallout 3.

For the record, here’s the output of my DirectX10 diagnostics run:

Operating System: Windows Vistaâ„¢ Home Premium (6.0, Build 6001) Service Pack 1 (6001.vistasp1_gdr.080917-1612)
Language: English (Regional Setting: English)
System Manufacturer: System manufacturer
System Model: System Product Name
BIOS: BIOS Date: 10/24/08 22:39:57 Ver: 11.03
Processor: AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5200+ (2 CPUs), ~2.6GHz
Memory: 8190MB RAM
Page File: 2506MB used, 14109MB available
Windows Dir: C:Windows
DirectX Version: DirectX 10
DX Setup Parameters: Not found
DxDiag Version: 6.00.6001.18000 64bit Unicode
Display Devices
Card name: NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT
Manufacturer: NVIDIA
Chip type: GeForce 7800 GT
DAC type: Integrated RAMDAC
Device Key: EnumPCIVEN_10DE&DEV_0092&SUBSYS_C5183842&REV_A1
Display Memory: 2280 MB
Dedicated Memory: 248 MB
Shared Memory: 2031 MB
Current Mode: 1680 x 1050 (32 bit) (60Hz)
Monitor: Dell E228WFP
Driver Name: nvd3dumx.dll,nvd3dum,nvwgf2umx.dll, nvwgf2um
Driver Version: 7.15.0011.7824 (English)
DDI Version: 10
Driver Attributes: Final Retail
Driver Date/Size: 10/7/2008 13:33:00, 8459264 bytes
WHQL Logo’d: Yes

So far I have done this about a half dozen times, and it has worked every time. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass, but it is better than rebooting your system just to play a game. I don’t have large blocks of time to devote to gaming every day, so being able to play for a half hour at a time and then come back is very important.

Give it a try if you’re having problems.

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