Gaming in the Cloud

I’m going to have to start off this post with a little background story. Last night at approximately 8PM I lost all the data that was stored on my MacBook’s hard drive. That’s over 400GB of movies, TV shows, pictures, and music. I also lost the local copies of all of my websites. Lucky enough for me I work on all of my sites live with Coda, therefore nothing was completely lost.

How did I lose this, you ask? Well, on my MacBook Pro I had two partitions, one for Snow Leopard and the other for Windows 7.  Yeah yeah I know, an Apple fanboy using Windows, but let me just mention that I use it for the sole purpose of gaming. Anyway, back on topic, I noticed that my Windows partition wasn’t mounting in Snow Leopard any more, so I went to try to diagnose the problem. I went into Windows and set the active partition to the Snow Leopard partition (I deduced this solution from my days of a hackintosher), though this did not work and actually did not let me boot into Snow Leopard OR Windows 7. I didn’t panic because I figured I could pop in the Windows 7 installation disc, open up a command line, and then set the Windows partition as the active partition. Little did I know that trying that would convert the whole drive to MBR, thus making both partitions unbootable and unmountable. I went through and tried to repair either of the partitions just so that I wouldn’t lose anything, but each repair procedure I tried ended in failure.

That’s when I just got pissed and frustrated and just decided to screw both installations and start from scratch. The only thing that I really REALLY wanted to save were my saved games for Oblivion. I was able to pop in the 7 install disc and grab the files off of the partition before I wiped everything. I mean, hey, I spent over 48 hours in that game. Anyway, I got everything reinstalled and kept thinking there had to be a better way to prevent this.

A while back I read that Valve was planning on doing some type of cloud saving platform with Steam. I figured there’s gotta be some simple DIY trick to produce the same result. It was actually very simple, use Dropbox and symbolic links.

From Wikipedia: “In computing, a symbolic link (also symlink or soft link) is a special type of file that contains a reference to another file or directory in the form of an absolute or relative path and that affects pathname resolution.”

It’s really a simple process:

  • Download Dropbox and sign up for an account
  • Find the locations of where your games put their saves (Most “Games for Windows” games use My Documents/My Games. Steam games running the source engine usually stores them in Steam/steamapps/<username>/<game name>/<game short name>/SAVE)
  • Back up your save games to a location in your Dropbox (Use some type of hierarchy for organization if you wish)
  • Run the following command in command prompt:

mklink /j [full path to original save folder] [full path to Dropbox save folder]
For example, I made my Dropbox location at C:/Users/Pat/Documents/My Dropbox. Then I moved the “My Games” folder located in My Documents to my Dropbox. Then I ran the following command:
mklink /j "C:/Users/Pat/Documents/My Games" "C:/Users/Pat/Documents/My Dropbox/My Games"
For a source engine game such as Half-Life 2 I ran the command
mklink /j "c:/Games/Steam/steamapps/fireflyti/half-life 2/hl2/SAVE" "c:/Users/Pat Hartl/My Dropbox/My Games/Steam/Half-Life 2/Saves"
Voila! All of your games will now save “in the cloud”. Note that they will make a local copy on your machine and then upload it to your Dropbox. Also with this you can set up the same situation on another computer and share the saves between the two.

So far it’s been working out pretty well, and I doubt I’ll have any quirks about it. It has really given me the sense of security in that I know that my saves are backed up in a secure location.

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