Windows tweaks and troubleshooting

Urban Assault usually runs well on modern Windows systems but there are certain problems that occur on Windows Vista and newer. Some issues are dependent on hardware. This page contains solutions for common problems.

This article does not apply to UA Source.

Helicopter problems

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

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, Ua_xp.exe for Metropolis Dawn, 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.

FIXME More information about desktop composition on Windows 10 is needed.

Intro videos and startup problems/black screen

If the screen gets black or distorted after startup or after any intro video, disabling the videos may help. This can be done by deleting or renaming the MOV directory (located in the data directory), or by editing nucleus.ini. The option is gfx.movie_player.

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 FIXME 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).

Choosing the rendering mode

UA supports both hardware rendering via Direct3D and software rendering. 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 colors 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's also possible to set the rendering mode by editing guid3d.def file in the ENV folder. Known possible options are <software> and <primary>

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

In hardware rendering mode, DrawPrimitive should be enabled (see below).

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

Enable DrawPrimitive

It's 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

FIXME The DrawPrimitive option does not have any effect in software rendering mode, but if you use hardware rendering, it's highly recommended to always keep it on.

UAC file system virtualization (Vista/7/8/10)

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 very annoying if you want to manually edit the game files. 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 folder.
  • 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.
  • Disable User Account Control and use administrator account (not recommended for security reasons)

More information:

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 is installed elsewhere by copying the game files 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's still recommended to uninstall the game completely.

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

This information does not apply to UA Source (see below) as it does not use Windows registry.

In-game music

The in-game music is stored on the game CD as standard CD audio tracks (tracks 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 image 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 that it's enabled in UA options. Also check that the CD audio line is not muted in Windows audio settings.

High-definition resolution patch

UA originally supports resolutions up to 1024×768. A patch has been made to allow higher resolutions up to 4k level.
More information:

Setting up DirectPlay

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

DirectPlay is not included with Windows 10 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.

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



UA_Source is a game engine reconstruction project. It's already playable and can be used to solve most problems related to modern computers and operating systems. As of February 2018, it does not support multiplayer.

windows_tweaks.txt · Last modified: 2020/04/25 13:23 by Ormu
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