New Left 4 Dead 2 DLC Breaks GeForce GTX 400 Cards

New Left 4 Dead 2 DLC Breaks GeForce GTX 400 Cards

Last Thursday, Valve released "The Passing," a much-anticipated update to its popular Left 4 Dead series that features the protagonists of the original L4D meeting up with the Left 4 Dead: The Next Generation cast. In addition, the DLC promised new weekly "Mutations," new co-operative modes of play, and an as-yet unidentified bug that crashes the game on any GeForce GTX 400-series product. We're assuming this last is not a hidden feature.

Google for "L4D2 197.41," the latter being the latest set of GeForce drivers and the only set, including beta versions, that supports the GTX 400 series, and the very first post is titled "GTX 480 + L4D2 = Crash." We ran into this problem ourselves last night while trying to benchmark in Left 4 Dead 2; the game loads the intro and menus flawlessly but crashes as soon as a level is loaded. Occasionally, a level will load for a split second, but typically the program dies after playing 1-2 seconds of audio.


Ahh, the undead Tunnel of Love. Brought to you by Half-Life, circa 1998.   

The 'solution', for now, is to run the game using Medium shaders. This works, insomuch as it gets the game operational, but the video quality is lousy to say the least. We can't categorically state that there's no other workaround to restore visual detail, but we adjusted multiple game settings using both the driver control panel and in-game options without seeing the slightest effect. The problem does appear to be on Valve's end—the 197.41 drivers have been out for weeks and L4D2 ran just fine with them right up to last week's DLC.

There are reports that this problem is also affecting other GeForce cards, but we haven't had time to confirm that. If you own both Left 4 Dead 2 and have a GeForce card running the 197.41 driver series, feel free to drop a note confirming or denying if you see the problem. We notified Valve yesterday when we first encountered the problem and confirmed it was popping up in multiple places; we haven't heard back from the company but are hoping we'll see a fix in place soon. The good news is, owners of the new cards can keep slaughtering zombies—they'll just be a little uglier than usual.     
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Now that they're adding Mac support, I wonder if the Windows versions of Source games will regain the '-gl' option that was present in the older Goldsource engine. That would potentially have given you a workaround, if this is specifically related to the driver's implementation of HLSL.

I kind of hope that option comes back anyway, because it could drastically improve Source performance under Wine.

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That would be pretty awesome 3vi1.

I wonder if this affects any other source games.

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"I wonder if this affects any other source games."

I would say no because this was caused by the new DLC value released.

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Tried it with my shaders on very high (I originally set them to medium for performance) and was able to run it without crashing on my EN9800GTX+. However, that's under Wine, so everything's being converted behind the scenes.

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I play it just fine with my 8800gts 320 and high shaders. Though I had to turn some settings down because the rain storms crushed my frames per second, but it loaded fine on high the first time.

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I concur, for some reason the "Mutation/Passing" update will not allow High or Very High shader settings on the Geforce GT240 even though i and my 2 other team mates have been using Very high for the last 6 weeks, so i expect this is a global Geforce issue.

Yes we are using 197.41

Steam has not reported back to me since we all logged support tickets on the the day the update came out.

However i think we came of lightly, one of my team has a GT240 under vista (the rest of us use xp) and his left 4 dead 2 would only connect to the xbox  online games and as a result crashed instantly he tried to play online  (two networks are not compatible).

However i think we all need to lobby the steam support and ask for compensation if they can't fix this issue as i think this will be the only way of getting our graphics cards supported AGAIN.

ps, i don't want compensation i want to see the gore that i paid for.

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PeteUK:
However i think we came of lightly, one of my team has a GT240 under vista (the rest of us use xp) and his left 4 dead 2 would only connect to the xbox  online games and as a result crashed instantly he tried to play online  (two networks are not compatible).

What?

 

 

Also Steam is usually pretty quick with support tickets. Jen send one in the other day and got a response back in under an hour. It was about an update for TF2 that was giving her issues. They even checked back later on to make sure that everything was working. So I find it hard to believe they are just ignoring you.

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bob_on_the_cob:

PeteUK:
However i think we came of lightly, one of my team has a GT240 under vista (the rest of us use xp) and his left 4 dead 2 would only connect to the xbox  online games and as a result crashed instantly he tried to play online  (two networks are not compatible).

What?

 

 

Also Steam is usually pretty quick with support tickets. Jen send one in the other day and got a response back in under an hour. It was about an update for TF2 that was giving her issues. They even checked back later on to make sure that everything was working. So I find it hard to believe they are just ignoring you.

 

The mutation icon was listed on his machine as "#L4D360 UI_main_menu_play_challenge" and below in the description it mentioned connect to other xbox players so our impression was that it was trying to connect to a 360 network, which is not that implausible as both the xbox and a pc will probably have some code reuse and maybe have settings flags that allow the same routine to be used in the different systems.

If i am wrong ,sorry!  But having worked in the IT sector for decades i can  say this issue could have been solved through better testing of the release, I suspect no testing was done on the newer geforce graphics cards.

With regards to support tickets its taken 5 days to get to get a confirmation of the issue.

On a +ve note, Left 4 Dead 2 is still a great game, so if you don't have it buy it.

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...why would Valve break the games you paid for? Especially when these are brand-new cards? Are you thinking Valve has a conspiracy against NVIDIA owners? :P

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"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." (Hanlon's Razor)

Or, in this case, an incomplete test environment. I'm sure the DLC creators are getting no joy from this. They just didn't test against the latest nVidia drivers on these newer cards. It's likely a problem with the way the drivers handle the newest cards - I know I wouldn't have expected the same shader code to work on older cards and break on newer ones, so I can't blame them.

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Joel H:

...why would Valve break the games you paid for? Especially when these are brand-new cards? Are you thinking Valve has a conspiracy against NVIDIA owners? :P

I hope not, i am sure the physics engine is based on NVIDIA code and that's why nvidia cards can still hold there own against the more modern ATI cards in valve games.

 

But maybe i am wrong.

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3vi1,

If this problem is hitting the GTS 240/250, those cards aren't new at all. The entire G210-G250 series has been out 9 months to a year.

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Still - They can't test against every card/driver level combo. They may have tested those very cards, but against the most commonly deployed driver (the version that MS currently includes in their Windows Update site, which typically lags way behind the latest and greatest).

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3vi1,

The weird thing about this is that it's somehow a Valve issue, not a GeForce issue. We know all the cards worked before The Passing...so what the heck happened? Breaking compatibility with a brand-new architecture is one thing, but the GT200 architecture is nearly two years old.

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Good question, Joel. I do agree that we know Valve instigated the breakage with their update, but I disagree that we know (for sure) that this is a Valve issue.

My reasoning is: if the same shader code runs fine on other nVidia cards, or will run at other driver levels on the affected cards, well... that's just inconsistent driver/API implementation (i.e. nVidia's fault).

Of course, if the same thing were to happen with a console release - I would be the first person shouting about how bad Valve's QA process was. :)

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I have a 9800M GTS running 197.44 and it crashed when loading the 3rd part in The Passing.  Don't know if it's related to this but that's what happened to me at least. 

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3vi1,

We know it was (it's fixed now) a Valve issue. Think about it.

Prior to "The Passing," L4D2 ran fine on everything.

The Passing is released. L4D2 stops running on High or Very High on multiple flavors of GF cards, including cards with completely different architectures.

Valve patches L4D2. It works again at High or Very High.

If you read that and think: "Well, we don't know for SURE...than you're mistaking cause and effect. :P

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>> Valve patches L4D2. It works again at High or Very High.

But did they fix a bug in their code, or work around an inconsistency they uncovered in nVidia's driver?  It's quite possible that their code was flawed - but without more details about what they actually changed, it's impossible to say who's really at fault. 

Think of this hypothetical: 

  1. Say I write a program that calls an nVidia API and the documentation says it's only going to return a 0 (memory allocation successful) or 1 (memory allocation failed).  So I write it to check for '0' and do its work.  I test it, and it works everywhere.
  2. Now, while working on an update, I 'improve' the code and end up reversing the logic to check for '1' and in that instance I free memory and retry the allocation, and otherwise I fall through to do the '0-stuff'.  I check it out on a couple of cards and it works fine.
  3. Now, what if the newest nVidia driver, when run on a particular card I didn't test and in contradiction to their documentation, returns a 2?  (let's say they added a new feature in the driver, only for hardware that can support it, that means:  "memory allocation pending asynchronously, call another API to check for success"').  This kind of thing actually happens - Microsoft considers it a fun game to play with their APIs in every new version of Windows (just read through the patch commits to WINE).
  4. Now, on these untested cards+driver my program's going to get the 2... fall through to the '0-stuff', and I'm going to do "bad things" when I try to work with memory I didn't allocate.

My fault?  Eh, not really...  I can't be responsible for a change to the API that should have warranted a new API.

So, I'm not willing to accept it's Valve's fault without technical info on their fix.

But It could just as well be their fault, as you attest.  They might easily have made some silly assumption in their code that didn't apply to all cards and they did not set up any check to catch the documented exceptions.  This might even be the more likely case, it's just impossible to be conclusive either way.

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