brandorf.com The everyday ramblings of one nerd.

31Jul/11

DIY Steam Cloud

One of my favorite uses of Dropbox is not something they advertise on the tin.  Currently Dropbox will only sync files are are actually in the dropbox folder, however with a little magic, you can trick all kinds of programs to saving their data to dropbox for you.

I like to use it to keep my saved games safe and synced between my various computers.  I'll guide you through how do do it for VVVVVV which was recently updated to actually have external save files (as opposed to the flash cache).

1) Find the save files.  Most windows games are going to keep their save game files in one of two places.  Either in the document library (or the My Documents folder, if you are still on Windows XP), or in the directory where the game is installed.  When in doubt, a Google query will usually turn up where the files are hiding.

2) Make a directory in dropbox.  I've made a folder hierarchy called Steam/GameName

3) Move the save files from the game's directory to dropbox, then delete the folder from the game directory.  Don't worry, your saves are safe on dropbox now.

4) Create a symlink where the original folder was, pointing back to dropbox instead.  Here's the magic folks.  Symlinks work like a shortcut to a different file or folder, but at the filesystem level.  Programs don't "see" the difference.  Once I've created a symlink, VVVVVV will see all the save files exactly where it expects to, but the are now actually stored in my dropbox folder.

The easiest way to do this (especially if you are going to be doing this for several games) is to install the Link Shell Extension, which will let you add symlinks in a drag and drop fashion. As I'm doing here:

If you don't want to install the extension, you can also use the command line, the command for the example I'm using here would be this:

C:\Users\Brandon Kiesling\Documents>mklink /D VVVVVV "C:\Users\Brandon Kiesling\Dropbox\Steam\VVVVVV\"

5) Test it.  Try launching the game, if you are able to load your existing save games, you're golden.  If you save again, you should see dropbox sync briefly though depending on the game, it may not sync until you exit the game.

6) Repeat.  For each computer you want to sync the saved games for, repeat these steps.  Note that in step 3 you may not want to overwrite the files already in your dropbox, if that's the case, just delete them.

A few more notes:

  • You can symlink a single file instead of a whole directory.  Some games keep their save files as a single archive file or similar.
  • Make sure you have enough storage on dropbox for the files.  Some modern games, especially RPGs can have some pretty huge files.  (800mb for my Witcher saves, for example.)
  • Depending on the game, it might be disastrous if you attempt to play the game at the same time on multiple computers.
  • Both Mac and Linux support symlinks in this manner too. Assuming that the various cross-platform editions use the same save file format, you can have cross-platform sync as well.

Don't have dropbox?  I can help with that part , get it here.

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