tools


Opening animation replacement

Replaces the opening animation with a single frame containing the LDW logo. The original was very pretty, I know, but it took a full minute to open on my netbook and I thought it was just going to crash. This opens in less than 3 seconds and goes straight to the loading screen.

It will work for ANY Virtual Villagers game. Just copy and paste it into the

c:\where you installed the game\Virtual Villagers 4 – The Tree of Life\Assets\
directory.

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Download the PNG

Put this in your c:\where you installed the game\Virtual Villagers 4 – The Tree of Life\Images\
directory.

Why? Because my eyesight is horrible and scanning all over the map for little mushrooms are simply painful. I tried adding a simple glow, but that was nowhere near enough. These are stroked in 2 pixels of red. There is NO WAY you could miss them.

Screencap for glowing collectibles

Clicking and dragging on a laptop (or netbook) is simply a … a… drag. I mean, it should be a simple enough action, but with the touchpad it’s almost impossible to play through a round of any time management game. Let’s not even mention Virtual Villagers, which is the bane of all people with carpal tunnel.

After trying to play the latest VV on a netbook, I got fed up. I mean, there has got to be a way for me to get through this game without both hands on the keyboard at all times squeezing into a little 2 inch square worth of space. Then I remembered Autohotkey.

I’ve written scripts for other LDW games before to reduce hand strain, so why not this one too? After a few experiments, I came up with this baby.

Clicktodrag.exe

It’s very simple to use. Just run it. It will turn ALL your taps into clicking and holding. Then just tap again to drop whatever you were holding. The side effect is that anything else that required a single click will need double-clicks. When you don’t need to be dragging all the time, press F1 to turn it off.

Games that this script would be handy for:

  • Any of the Virtual Villagers games (and any other games by LDW)
  • Drag-3s
  • large file adventure games (when you’re trying to combine every single inventory item with another)
  • copying and pasting text on a laptop

Have fun. If you want to pass the file along, just pass this page along – the file doesn’t come with any instructions. Also, if you got it from here, I KNOW it hasn’t got a virus on it because I made it myself.

I just got my hands on a Lenovo S10. It was really cheap on tigerdirect (actually, the day after I ordered it, the price went up by $20 and then it went out of stock) and I ended up paying less than $300, tax included. One caveat: the native resolution is 1024×576. 576? Wow, that’s random. Seeing that the vast majority of casual games run on 800×600, we’ve got a problem. Unless I want to 1) stick to games that are 640×480; 2) use an external monitor to set resolution or 3) have all my games cut off at the bottom, I need a software solution.

Now, while the default resolutions are either 1024×576 or much less, netbooks DO support higher resolutions. You just need to find them.

  1. Right-click on the desktop and choose “Properties”
  2. Click on the tab that says “settings”
  3. Click on “advanced”
  4. Click on the tab that says “Monitor”
  5. Find the line that says “Hide modes that this monitor cannot display” and uncheck the checkbox to its left.
  6. Click ok.
  7. choose any resolution you want. 800×600 should be available now.

Now when you load up a casual game, you can move the mouse up or down to the edges to scroll.

There is a little problem to this particular approach: in order to change your desktop back, you’ll have to go through the steps again and change your resolution back. I’m assuming you don’t want to keep your resolution at 800×600.

There is a software solution that I absolutely love. Best of all, it’s freeware. Download this little piece of software called Screen Mode Switch. It sits in your system tray where you can use the right-click menu to get to any of the modes you set up, and it also works automatically. i.e. If you load up a program that runs full-screen at 800×600, it will change your res to 800×600. Once you exit the program it switches you back to the native resolution. Neat, eh?

VMN Toolbox is a nice little utility that does all sorts of things.

  • Screen capture and email
  • Color picker
  • Sticky notes
  • Virtual Rulers
  • Magnifier

All packed into a tiny little light weight utility. It’s easy to use, and great for sending screenshots. Nothing quite like sending me a link to a screenshot to solve all your gaming problems, eh?

I’ve recommended other screencap programs that are free before, but VMN goes beyond the usual screen cap programs by being intuitive and easier to use than any others I’ve seen. I’ve heard from many that they feel “uncomfortable” with the process of screen grabbing, but VMN throws it into a 2-click procedure that you can’t mess up.

As a graphic designer myself (yes, that’s the real job. This is just for fun!) I find the ruler / magnifier / color picker very useful, and the sticky notes is definitely a notch up from the little pieces of paper scattered around my desk. A thumbs up.

Download VMN Toolbox. (It’s freeware)