Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Auto Sync And Backup Any Savegames On The Cloud For Free

Or How To Integrate Steam Cloud Features Into Any Game
Updated 19th January 2011: changed name of Windows Live Sync Beta to Windows Live Mesh 2011 to reflect name change of the service. At present, the program, service and UI are identical to Live Sync Beta.

A World of Warcraft Interface folder being synced.
The Steam Cloud is a service that allows the synchronizing of savegames and settings from one computer to another. This means that one could play a Steam game on one computer, and then when logging into Steam on another computer their savegames and preferences would automagically be transferred. This is a feature on many Steam games such as Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Torchlight, Trine, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Plants vs Zombies etc. However, although Steam Cloud is not available for all games it is still possible to sync savegames over the cloud using a program called Windows Live Mesh 2011. This free utility offers 2gb of storage (soon to be upgraded to 5gb) as well as automatically cloud syncing and peer to peer syncing.

Windows Live Mesh 2011 is far superior for the purposes of PC gamers to other popular syncing cloud services such as Dropbox. This is because Dropbox only allows a single designated Dropbox folder to be automatically synchronized. If you wanted to have automatic backup and syncing of say, your Mass Effect save game, you would have to either 1) manually copy the files or 2) create a fiddly symbolic link. Windows Live Mesh 2011 allows you to specify individual folders. This makes it possible to be extremely flexible in exactly what you want to synchronize. Windows Live Mesh 2011 also gives the option of direct peer to peer transfer bypassing the cloud, which gives a very good performance boost to certain syncs between computers and networks. Anyone who has used Dropbox or older versions of Mesh will know that it takes a long time to sync large files only through the cloud, so the peer to peer option is welcome.

Guide To Syncing Any Savegames Using Windows Live Mesh 2011

Step 1) Download the latest version of Windows Live Mesh 2011 using this link: Windows Live Sync Beta is only available as part of the Windows Live Essentials Beta package. Make sure you only install what you need to (make sure to install Live Sync).

Step 2) Synchronize a folder by running Windows Live Mesh 2011, and then click 'Sync a folder'. Select SkyDrive to allow syncing to the cloud. For a helpful list of savegame locations, there is a wiki available: For example for Dragon Age, savegames are held in My Documents\Bioware\Dragon Age\Characters\.

Step 3) If you would like to sync to other computers, all you need to do is install Windows Live Mesh 2011 on the machine. On the other machine, select the folder you want to sync and press 'Sync this folder'. Then select where you want this to go and it should download either from the SkyDrive cloud storage, or directly from another computer if it is running Windows Live Mesh 2011.

A Rose By Any Other Name

There has been some confusion regarding exactly which service is being supported by Microsoft. This is because confusingly, Microsoft have run two separate syncing services.

1) Live Sync - was the peer to peer syncing service that required both PC's to be running in order to sync a folder.

2) Live Mesh - was a 5gb cloud based storage which also has VNC (remote desktop) capabilities. It also had a robust web interface which allowed you to individually upload and download files.

Windows Live Mesh 2011 is really a descendant of Live Sync, even though Live Mesh had a better feature set. I suspect that because of Microsoft's push towards Live Essentials 2011, they decided to keep Live Sync alive because of its integration into this service, and decided to can Live Mesh. Slowly but surely, they have been reintegrating features from Live Mesh into the new product Windows Live Mesh 2011 such as cloud storage (only 2gb, soon to be 5gb) and remote desktop. You can read about it on the official Windows Blog.

All you need to know is that Windows Live Mesh 2011 is the only supported cloud storage service from Microsoft, and that you should migrate to it to get future added features and updates.

Tips For Using Windows Live Mesh 2011

Savegames are held in many different places, it may take some Googling to find where yours are kept. Often, Steam savegames are kept in a different place from savegames from retail releases.

You should store things like your patches and drivers here, especially if they are hard to find or are rare. This can save hours of time if you have a hard drive failure.

Holding onto savegames like Mass Effect (which will enable continuity onto Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3) and Dragon Age are ideal candidates for savegame syncing. I've heard countless stories of people losing their character due to hard drive failure or migration to a new machine. With this method you can automatically backup your saves.

World of Warcraft AddOn and Interface settings and be synced between say, your desktop and your laptop. Simply add folders such as World of Warcraft\Interface and World of Warcraft\WTF\Account\ folders. I would not recommend sharing the WTF folder itself as this includes your file which contains settings on screen resolution and graphical fidelity, which may not suit lower specification laptops.

Games For Windows Live places savegames differently depending on whether you are logged into an account. If you want to transfer saves on a GFWL game, make sure you are consistent with your account logins (i.e. either logged in on both computers, or neither) otherwise your savegame sync won't be detected by the game.

Back in February 2010 I submitted this tip to PC Gamer UK, which was to use Microsoft's product called Live Mesh. However, Live Mesh is no longer supported. Readers should switch to Windows Live Sync 2011 for future support.