Windows 8 runs the 1999 game Age of Empires II better than Windows 7, which curiously messes up the screen graphics unless you terminate the Windows Explorer process – a fact that I noted in December 2010. Here is the game in Windows 7:
and in Windows 8, without fiddling with Explorer:
The fact that the game runs better in Windows 8 is probably due to some obscure bug-fix, though I like to think that somewhere in the development team is a fan of this old but excellent game (it is great multi-player) who decided to make it work.
Age of Empires 2 is one of my favourite games, especially multi-player. Age of Empires 3 was better in some ways, worse in others; somehow it is not as much fun. One of the problems with version three is that the scenarios are more constrained; and the introduction of home cities and colonies changes the game in a radical and not altogether welcome manner.
The good news is that Age of Empires 2, also known as Age of Kings or with the expansion pack Age of Conquerors, still runs on Windows 7 – impressive for a game that was released ten years ago. The bad news is that the graphics are messed up. Here is how it looks:
It’s playable, but that purple-stained sea and mottled grass is just not how it should be.
Fortunately there is a fix, and you can get Age of Empires 2 looking like this instead:
The fix? Terminate the Explorer process. Here’s what you do:
1. Run Age of Empires 2
2. Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and click Start Task Manager
3. Click the Processes tab, find explorer.exe, select and click End Process
4. Switch back to Age of Empires 2 with Alt-Tab
Presto! the graphics now work.
Once you are done playing, exit Age of Empires. If Task Manager is no longer running, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to get it back. Then click Applications, New Task, and type Explorer in the dialog. Click OK and your taskbar and desktop will return.
The only remaining question: why does this work?
Note: kudos to TechSmith Snagit which was able to capture the screens successfully; the first two capture utilities I tried could not do so. I had to set DirectX as the input type and use a timed capture.