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When I run TF2 (Team Fortress 2) all my other sounds get quiet! Windows 7

So I’ve been running the Windows 7 RC for awhile, but I haven’t really been playing many games. I’ve started playing TF2 again with my brother, and I noticed that every time I loaded the game any music I had playing in Windows Media Player, or even my Ventrilo volume would drop extremely low. It was quite frustrating as I could no longer hear my brother in Ventrilo over the volume of the game I was playing.

I spent a little time looking into the problem and it all came down to the same source as the culprit, Windows 7. It turns out that Windows 7 has a new feature that when it thinks you’re communicating with someone, ie. voice chat in TF2, it automatically reduces volume of all other applications by 80% as a default. You can change this by going to Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Sound -> Communications. You have the option to mute all other sounds, reduce the volume of all other sounds by 80%, reduce the volume of other sounds by 50%, or do nothing. I personally have chosen to have Windows 7 do nothing.

If you happen to like this feature and want it to happen most of the time you can always open your game or communications software first, and then open your other application, such as Windows Media Player or TF2, and it won’t modify the volume. I hope this helps those of you out there experiencing the same problem.

Team Fortress 2 on Vista crashes on map change, “Can’t load lump x, allocation of x bytes failed! Engine Error”

I’ll get straight to the point.  I’ve been playing Team Fortress 2 with no significant issues since the beta was published via Steam…until recently.  For some reason I was randomly getting crashes when the map changed on a server.  The specific error is as given in the title of this post.  I could not for the life of me figure out what might have changed that would have caused an issue like this (completely forgetting I had recently reinstalled Vista).  Instead of actively searching out a solution I continued restarting the game each time it crashed.  This seems to be a problem of mine, putting a band-aid on the problem rather than researching the cause to find a true solution.  Well it turns out it was actually a problem caused by Windows Vista itself in the way it handles memory allocation. 

This issue actually affects more than just Team Fortress 2, but my exposure to the problem was limited to this game.  The solution is a patch provided by Microsoft which I had installed on my previous instance of Vista, and was the reason I had not experience crashing prior to my reinstall.  Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve taken the initiative to research your problem rather than trying to do what I did.  I have been running successfully with no crashes since installing the patch.  With that said, install the patch and get back to the game!

Microsoft KB Article 940105 – Virtual address space usage in Windows game development

Voice chat in Team Fortress 2

I know this is off-topic, but it has been a frustration of mine since I reinstalled Windows and I just resolved it.  I reinstalled Windows only to find out that Steam and Team Fortress 2 did not like my Soundblaster X-Fi Platinum and my mic set as Line 2 instead of microphone.  Initially I set voice_forcemicrecord to 0 in team fortress 2\tf\cfg\config.cfg instead of 1 so it didn’t default to the Windows sound device of microphone, but the game still wouldn’t accept my in-game voice chat.   I could use Ventrilo just fine, but Steam and Team Fortress 2 would say “nay nay!” to me using Line 2 as the microphone input. 

It turns out that it was a simple Windows Vista configuration error of not having Line 2 set as the default.  It appears that Steam/Team Fortress uses whatever Windows has set as the default recording device, and in my case it wasn’t set to anything.  I would click on “test microphone” and it would immediately turn on and then off without actually testing it.  As soon as I opened “Recording Devices” and chose Line 2 and clicked on “Set as Default” in-game voice chat started working.  Hopefully this post will help someone out.  Also, if anyone knows what you may install that would suddenly cause hl2.exe to crash constantly (regardless of being Team Fortress 2 or Counter Strike:Source) I would appreciate it.  I ended up just reinstalling Windows Vista and I’m sure there was a much easier method to fixing the issue.  Recently I had installed AIM, and the newest Creative Soundblaster X-FI drivers from October.