Oblivion playing with Xfire

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FULL DISCLOSURE NOTICE The author of this article, WoogieMonster, at the time of writing is a highly ranked member of a gaming clan that at the time of writing is officially sponsored by Xfire Plus.

Being able to communicate with friends while in-game is a problem that many have attempted to solve over the years. Using an email based messenger such as MSN or Yahoo is okay, but they both require you to tab out of your game to use them. And if you're in-game when someone IM’s you, you have no way of knowing unless they buzz you and hope you hear it over the sound of gunfire and explosions.

In-game messengers such as Game Face, seem to solve the problem, but only for certain games and only on certain PC configurations. Then along came Xfire, the do-it-all messenger that replaces email messengers, records your videos replacing FRAPS, takes your screenshots even in games that don't want you taking them replacing Purrint, and even logging and tracking your weekly and total play hours so you can prove to your clan Matriarch that you really did practice for two hours like she told you to.

But all these great features come at a massive price to TES players. While using Xfire, Oblivion becomes more unstable than usual and there doesn't seem to be any obvious reason to explain the rise in game crashing. Well, the reason is there, you just probably ignored it when you saw it, that is if you saw it. Most games that utilize an in-game mouse cursor, disable your desktop cursor or integrate it as the games own. Oblivion is no different, it has its own cursor so it disables yours. But Xfire also has its own cursor which it activates when you open the messenger window. Somehow this causes Oblivion to release your desktop cursor. The result is that you then have three (3) cursors, all responding to the commands of your mouse, and each at its own settings.

Most people may not even notice the extra cursors on the screen because they are not always visible as they are in the shot above. They blink in and out randomly and disappear completely if you stop moving them.

There does not seem to be any real danger to having a gang of rouge cursors running around your desktop, at least none that I could detect, but if you have icons or shortcuts to other programs on your desktop, as most people do, then you may be in for quite a bit of annoyance. If you desktop cursor should be over an icon when you click something in-game, such as changing menus, then there is a slight chance that Oblivion will crash. What's worse is that the program you clicked may not even launch, but it will register momentarily that something tried to start, which is just enough for Oblivion to realize it is no longer the center of attention. And we all know what happens when a spoiled kid like Oblivion is not the center of attention, it breaks something. Maybe good for a laugh at the title screen, but not so much in the bottom of a new dungeon when your last save was three hours ago. Now I want to break something.

There is a good chance that your game will never crash while just browsing the menus with Xfire active. However, if you are a NightBlade, Thief, Rogue, Assassin, any variant thereof, or even just a well-rounded adventurer, then you probably pick a lot of locks. This adds a whole new ingredient to the mix, your lockpick.

But Woogie, my giant bald friend, a lockpick is not a cursor.Actually, during the lockpicking mini-game, it is. On this screen, you have two (2) cursors by design, both owned by the game. Not a problem unless you let the gold Oblivion cursor get too close to where your Start button is located (I will get to that in a moment). Picking a lock with Xfire active makes the guards the least of your problems by far. You can have as many a four (4) cursors active all at the same time, all moving at different sensitivities, all looking for something to click. Again, you may not actually see them all, but trust me, they are there. Here, even without Xfire, there is potential for a problem. If the gold cursor gets too close to your Start button, you may see your taskbar pop up in the corners of the screen. Clicking while its there would have the same affect as pressing the Windows key. Just to throw salt on the wound, the game may crash after picking a lock even if you managed to do it without clicking on anything outside of the game. Maybe the game feels as though you're taunting it and it wants to show you who really is the boss. I used a create lock spell to relock a chest after I picked it. I then picked the lock 30 times. Having no icons on my desktop, I only had to keep the gold game cursor and the desktop cursor away from my Start button. I successfully picked the lock each time with no problems from the extra cursors, but 24 of those times, the game crashed anyway after the screen was closed. Of those 24 crashes, there were 13 cases where the game suffered a massive graphical glitch before finally kicking the bucket.

That said, there is a way to use Xfire and minimize problems. Use the games hotkeys for spells and items to minimize how often you're in the menu. You can also use a spell to open locks, but you will not get credit for it on the stats menu under Number of locks picked. And save often, whether you use an in-game messenger or not.

Xfire is an outstanding free program. Using other programs to do what it does can cost upwards of $35. So if you already have it, keep using it. If not, you should get it. Either way, just remember to turn it off before you start to play Oblivion. And if you're curious how long I researched this before writing it down, see for yourself.

See also

Oblivion Xfire fix