Tinker with Microsoft Games in Windows 7 to bring back some Ultimate Extras


EDIT: updated – Tinker now downloadable, see bottom of post

Windows not-so-Ultimate ExtrasI was lucky enough to win a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate (WVU) a couple of years ago.

WVU didn’t offer much that you couldn’t get from somewhere else as a free download so I would have stuck with the Business edition otherwise.

One “bonus” of having the Ultimate edition (apart from geeky bragging rights) was Microsoft’s promise of regular “Extras” to make Windows more fun and easier to use.

The Problem

Unfortunately they only released 5 extras (not including the unnecessary Language packs)

    • From http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/extras.aspx

    • Hold ‘Em Poker

      Take a break from work and add this to your Windows Vista game collection. The Hold ‘Em Poker extra pits you against the computer for a high-stakes experience that won’t empty your pocket. Have fun and bet what you want—the computer can’t make you pay up.

    • Microsoft Tinker **

      Even robots get lost sometimes. Help this one get home by solving puzzles that untangle a surreal and misleading world. Tinker is a new game that features an original score, compelling visuals, and 60 levels. With the level builder download, you can even create your own level and baffle your friends.

    • BitLocker and EFS Enhancements

      This extra offers tools to help secure your PC so you can worry less about loss or theft. The BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool configures your hard drive to run BitLocker Drive Encryption, which addresses the threat of data theft or disclosure from lost, stolen, or inappropriately decommissioned PC hardware.

    • Language Packs (updated for SP1)

      Now everyone in your household can use their preferred language on the same computer. Each user can choose the language that displays when they log on. And if you’re learning a language, you can easily switch back and forth between language options.

    • Windows DreamScene and content packs

      Your desktop comes alive when you download DreamScene and content packs. Ditch your still photo or picture slide show background and replace it with a high definition video. Windows Vista Ultimate now offers an exclusive Windows clip, three vivid nature scenes, and other video content packs to download as options for your background. Or use your own video to truly personalize the Windows experience.

    • Windows Sound Schemes

      You can choose what you want to hear. We combined the familiarity of classic Windows sounds with the new soft, clean visuals of Windows Vista. Check out two downloadable themes:

      • Ultimate Extras Glass Sound Scheme: a reflective, instrumental theme that echoes the iridescent visuals of Windows Vista.

      • Ultimate Extras Pearl Sound Scheme: a rich, percussive theme with a subtlety that matches the Windows Vista look.

      • Ultimate Extras Tinker Theme: a sound theme to match the Microsoft Tinker original score.

To add insult to injury, when you upgrade to Window 7 ultimate they are all removed!

I wasn’t very happy about this, it seems like a real kick in the teeth to the poor people that actually paid for the Ultimate edition. They aren’t exactly majorly complicated features that would have been hard to carry over. My son really likes having a dreamscape video wallpaper and the different sound schemes are popular within our family.

Experiments

I thought I would see if I could get some of them back on my Windows 7 laptop by copying the files over and I had mixed success.

  • Hold ‘Em Poker & Inkball (not an extra but still removed)
    • I copied the folder from “%programfiles%Microsoft Games” but when you run them nothing happens. The compatibility wizard didn’t help either
  • Sound Schemes
    • As expected, the sounds can just be copied into “C:WindowsMedia” folder along with all the existing system sounds. You then need to manually assign them in the Sounds control panel applet which is very time consuming and something I’m not that bothered about.
  • DreamScene
    • I love this, I think it looks really cool and futuristic and can’t understand why it’s not included as a standard feature. How hard would it be to allow a user to right-click a video and choose set as background. People complain it’s a resource hog but that simply isn’t true. Luckily (thanks to Xombie at Windows 7 Taskforce) there is a hack to re-enable it Woo-hoo! *How to Install and Enable DreamScene in Windows 7. It isn’t quite perfect (you can’t preview videos in the Desktop Background applet) but works really well. They should still include it by default though.
  • TinkerTinker running in Windows 7 Ultimate
    • This is a very cute game where you can guide a little robot around an obstacle course. My son’s all enjoyed playing it and they are 4, 7 and 9. It was full of good little cryptic puzzles for them to solve. You could even create your own levels by downloading the still available editor. Luckily I could get this working! Just follow these steps
    • Copy the folder “C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft GamesTinker” (or “C:Program FilesMicrosoft GamesTinker” for non 64bit PCs) from a WVU machine to a W7U machine
    • Install DirectX9 from the “C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft GamesTinkerDirectXRedist” or download and install from the Microsoft site
    • If you try and run it now you will get the error “Only supported on Windows Vista”. No problem, just go to the properties of tinker.exe and set the compatibility to Vista SP2!
    • You can add a link to this in the Games Explorer by dragging the tinker.exe file and dropping it into the Games folder
      • Tip 1: The shortcut is created using the exe name. To customize the name, first create a shortcut to the game somewhere, rename it, then drag the shortcut onto the games explorer window
      • Tip 2: Add “ –mce” to the “tinker.exe” shortcut to run the game in proper full screen Media Centre mode (e.g. “c:Program Files (x86)Microsoft GamesTinkerTinker.exe -mce”)
      • Issue: The Games Explorer window won’t show ratings/high scores etc.  because this is stored as XML strings in the registry. Maybe I could have copied them over too but the functionality wasn’t really worth the effort.

All of this tinkering got me thinking about other things I missed from Vista and XP, so with a bit of file copying it was easy to run the full Windows Movie Maker and even Pinball!

Vista Movie Maker in Windows 7 Pinball running in Windows 7

Hopefully, the release of Windows 7 will bring with it a surprise goody bag of bonus extra’s available to everyone (maybe through Windows Live or the Windows site) but we will have to wait for the RTM to see

 

* The linked file only works for 32-bit machines. However, I found a working solution for 64-bit machines on this forum. As you can see in the forum it does make your Desktop Icon text disappear when you play a DreamScene.

**Update 27/10/09

Good news, Microsoft are going to Make Tinker and Hold ‘Em available as a free download to Windows 7 users

http://www.microsoft.com/games/en-US/community/newsarticles/pages/tinkercomingsoon.aspx

Update 16/12/09

You can download Tinker now at the Microsoft Games web site – http://bit.ly/tinkergame

It has been slightly enhanced for Windows 7, with improved graphics, more levels and integration with “Games for Windows Live”. This means you get gamer points as you increase in rank through the game. Some people have complained this now means they need their kids to have a “Live” account. I’m not sure whether that is good or bad. The accounts can be monitored through Microsoft’s parental controls so it shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

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