Fixing the black screen

If you’re a Windows gamer, you’ve very likely had the issue where you’ve installed a game (including, but not limited to, Scrapland or System Shock 2), and when you start up the game, you get a black screen. Maybe there’s sound, maybe not. Maybe the application works except for the video – and maybe it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you often have to use control-alt-delete to break out and kill the process.

There’s a bunch of possible causes, but one of the most common ones is easy to fix.

The most common case is related to ffdshow. Now ffdshow is, granted, somewhat awesome. Unfortunately it can interfere with video playback for some games, especially when it kicks in when it is not supposed to. Since almost everything kicks off with an intro video, it looks like the game is hanging with a black-screen at startup. Sometimes it just crashes.

Thankfully, it’s easy enough to fix.

You see, you can tell ffdshow not to fire for certain applications.

Depending on exactly which version of ffdshow you have, you may get a little FFv icon in your system tray when you’re playing a video. If you do, great:

  1. Play a video to bring it up.
  2. Right click on that, and select ffdshow Video Decoder.
  3. Select Directshow control from the list.
  4. Make sure the box marked Don’t use ffdshow in: is checked.
  5. Add the program filenames to the text field, separated with semicolons. For example, for Scrapland you’d need two: scrap.exe;scrapland.exe; (and make sure you put a semicolon at the end to be safe). You can list a lot in here.

Adding ffdshow exceptions through the video decoder configuration

If you don’t get the system tray control to use, you can still do this with a little registry editing.

  1. Run regedit.
  2. Use it to navigate to: My ComputerHKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareGNUffdshow
  3. There should be a key there called blacklist.
  4. Double-click on that and add the program filenames to it, the same way as step 5 above.

Adding ffdshow exceptions through regedit

Not everything that you might need to add here is necessarily a .exe. If you’re not sure, go to the task manager while the program is running (or hanging), and select the Processes tab. Find the program name in the image name column. Use that name. For some protected games it might be something.icd or some other unusual extension.

That should fix 7 out of 10 (or more) of your problems with a game hanging with a black-screen on startup.

2 thoughts on “Fixing the black screen”

  1. This trick works brilliantly with Scrapland, thanks a lot. Good job, it shouldn’t have been easy to find.

  2. I worked pretty hard trying to nut the problem out, and it works for a whole slew of other games with mysterious black-screen startups or older games that start up and then crash almost immediately.

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