Author Topic: Instructions for manually installing FreeSpace Open and mods (Windows)  (Read 298964 times)

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Offline jg18

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Instructions for manually installing FreeSpace Open and mods (Windows)
This installation method is the one where you download everything yourself and then put things where they should go. It may sound scary, but it really isn't.

These instructions are for Windows only.

If you use Linux or Mac OS X, please see the other installation methods:


If you don't have FreeSpace 2, get it from Good Old Games (GOG).

The instructions in orange are required. Everything else is optional.

If you encounter problems, please read the Troubleshooting FAQ.

Step 1) Install FS2
  • Install the game to C:\Games\FreeSpace2\ unless you have a really good reason to choose a different location, in which case see the notes at the end.
  • If you already have a directory named C:\Games\FreeSpace2\, either delete it or rename it to, say, C:\Games\FreeSpace2old\ before installing FS2.
"C:\Games\FreeSpace2\" is the install location used by the original retail disc release of FS2.
The GOG version will default to installing to "C:\Program Files (x86)" (especially for 64-bit versions of Vista/Win 7) and we do not want that location.
Why? Because it's a protected operating system folder that is covered by UAC and will therefore make it very difficult, if not impossible, for you to use mods or make changes to your install.

Step 2) Get OpenAL
  • Download and install OpenAL, which is a free audio library.

Step 3) Get the latest official FSO build and the launcher
  • Get the 3.7.4 Final build and the launcher from the release thread.
  • Extract the contents of your downloaded files to your C:\Games\FreeSpace2\ folder.
In general, the FSO builds and the non-wxLauncher are the only things that should ever be added to the "root" FS2 folder unless otherwise mentioned.
If you want to try a more recent but possibly unstable build called a "nightly build," see the notes at the end.

Step 4) Move the cutscenes to \FreeSpace2\data\movies\
  • If you have the GOG version of FS2, move the .mve files (which are the cutscenes) from \FreeSpace2\data2\ and \FreeSpace2\data3\ to \FreeSpace2\data\movies\ . IF THE FOLDER DOES NOT EXIST, CREATE IT.
  • After doing that, delete the \FreeSpace2\data2\ and \FreeSpace2\data3\ folders and any files left in them.
The other files in those two folders are unnecessary and can even cause problems.
Want to save a little disk space with the cutscenes? See the notes at the end.

Step 5) Set things up
  • Open the launcher that you downloaded in step 3.
  • Click on the "Browse" button at the top of the launcher.
  • Select the build you want to use. This is the FSO game engine you downloaded in step 3.
    Select the one whose file name does not have the word "DEBUG" in it, such as fs2_open_3_6_18.exe or fs2_open_3_6_18_SSE.exe or so on.
  • If you got a nightly build (see the notes at the end for a description), again select the build that does not have the word "DEBUG" in it.
    Want to know what the "DEBUG" means? See the notes at the end.
  • Open the Audio/Joystick tab and make sure that Generic Software is selected.
    If you have a joystick, you can also check that it has been detected properly.
  • Open the Video tab and make sure that 32-bit color depth is selected.
  • If you want, open the Features tab and enable any features you want. This page describes the features.
  • Click "Apply" at the bottom of the launcher to apply the changes.

If you don't want to download another 500 MB for the graphical enhancements right now, then just go and play using the retail assets and effects. Otherwise, continue to Step 6.

Step 6) Get the MediaVPs (recommended)
  • If you want FS2 to look its prettiest, download the MediaVPs, which are a compilation of graphical enhancements, including high-poly models, improved textures, and new effects.
  • Most mods require the 2014 MediaVPs, but some older mods might only work with the 3.6.12 MediaVPs.
  • After you're done following the MediaVPs' instructions, you might want to look at some sample lighting settings.

Hurray! You have now successfully installed FreeSpace Open.
NOW GO AND PLAY! :) You can read the rest later if you want.

2012-05-01: Added a note to the cutscene part that it is indeed possible for users to create new folders. --Jeff Vader
« Last Edit: February 12, 2017, 02:56:37 pm by Mongoose »


Offline jg18

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Re: Instructions for manually installing FreeSpace Open and mods (Windows)

To update FSO, the launcher, or the MediaVPs:
  • To install new FSO builds, just put the new builds in \FreeSpace2\ and use the launcher to select the build you want to use. You can remove old builds, but leaving them won't cause any problems, since you can only run one build at a time. The other builds won't do anything during that time.
  • To install a new launcher, simply replace the existing launcher with the new one. Fun 'n easy.
  • To install new MediaVPs, find the latest MediaVPs' release thread (which should be stickied in the FreeSpace Upgrade forum) and follow the instructions there.

Installing mods
Note: Before installing mods, download and install 7-Zip, which is a free program that will allow you to open the .7z and .rar file types that many mods use for their downloads.

Installing mods is very much like installing the MediaVPs. Any recent mod should have accurate installation instructions in its release thread, but if this is not the case, or if you run into problems, you can always follow the instructions below.
  • Create a subfolder \FreeSpace2\<mod name>\ for the mod. For example, if you want to install the excellent Wings of Dawn, create the folder "\FreeSpace2\Wings of Dawn\".
  • Download the mod files from the release thread, which in this example is here.
  • If the downloaded files are .zip, .rar, or .7z files, then open them with 7-Zip: for each file, right-click on it, select 7-Zip on the menu that comes up, select "Extract files...", click on the "..." button on the right, find the mod subfolder that you made and press OK, then press OK.
  • If the downloaded files are any other kind of file, then just move them to the mod subfolder you made.
  • Put the mod in \FreeSpace2\<mod name>\ , or in this example, \FreeSpace2\Wings of Dawn\ .
  • Open the launcher and select the mod folder as your mod, in the same way you did with the MediaVPs in step 6. In this example, you'd select \FreeSpace2\Wings of Dawn\ .
  • Click "Apply" at the bottom of the launcher to apply the changes.

Important: To keep your pilot files from getting corrupted, create a new pilot for every mod that you play. At the first menu that appears when you start FSO, either create a new pilot or clone an existing one. Cloning a pilot copies the pilot's settings (including key bindings) but not its stats.

Also important: When you start the game, go to the campaign room and select the mod's campaign (in this example, the Wings of Dawn campaign), because the main FS2 campaign is selected by default.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2012, 05:03:38 pm by jg18 »


Offline jg18

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Re: Instructions for manually installing FreeSpace Open and mods (Windows)

Everything in this section is optional.

If you must install FS2 to somewhere other than C:\Games\FreeSpace2\
Note that
  • having FreeSpace 2 in My Documents or the Desktop will cause errors.
  • really long directory paths cause errors.
  • in Vista/Win 7, having FreeSpace 2 anywhere inside \Program Files\ can cause all sorts of surprising errors/problems.

Nightly builds
If you want to try the Source Code Project's latest version of FreeSpace Open, grab the latest nightly build from the nightly builds board. The most recent versions of FSO might have new features, bug fixes, or even improved performance, but they might also have new bugs. If you see SSE or NO_SSE and don't know what they mean, see the release thread for an explanation.

You'll need to download and install 7-Zip to uncompress the nightly builds download. Once you've downloaded your build of choice, find it in Windows Explorer, right-click on it, select 7-Zip then "Extract files...", click on the "..." button on the right, choose your FreeSpace 2 directory, then click OK.

Saving a little space with the cutscenes
Download the cutscenes in .ogg format, put them in \FreeSpace2\data\movies\, and either delete the .mve files or move them to somewhere else. Note that the .ogg cutscenes only work with FSO; retail FS2 requires the .mve files.

FSO build differences (or what the "DEBUG" means)
When viewing the builds in your \FreeSpace2\ folder, you'll notice that there always seems to be a pair of builds, with a difference of a few characters between them. If the file name contains the word "DEBUG", it means that that build is a "debug" build (for example, fs2_open_3_6_18_DEBUG.exe). Debug builds are used for generating debug logs (called fs2_open.log) when you run into problems using FSO. They are NOT meant for casual playing. Also, contrary to popular belief, debug builds do NOT magically solve whatever problem you're facing.

The builds that are not debug builds are "release" builds. Release builds have file names where the "DEBUG" is missing (for example, fs2_open_3_6_18.exe). Release builds are the ones that you should be using if all you want to do is play the game. So unless you need to generate a debug log, go for a "release" build, NOT a debug build.

Thanks to Fineus and Jeff Vader for writing an earlier version of these instructions.
Special thanks to jr2 for his help with revising the previous version and for pointing out that the instructions needed to be rewritten.
Special thanks also to Zacam for his help with writing the Quick Start.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 02:57:13 pm by jg18 »