Experienced Points:
Games for Windows FAIL

By Shamus
on Nov 26, 2010
Filed under:
Column

You’d think a multi-billion-dollar company would be able to make a digital delivery platform that didn’t completely suck.

The sad thing is, Microsoft rose to power partly because of their relative mobility. In the early 80’s, it was said that it would take IBM 9 months and millions of dollars to ship an empty box. Their internal bureaucracy and culture was so top-heavy and encumbered that they couldn’t spot opportunities and take advantage of them. Microsoft could, and David gave Goliath such a humiliating defeat that the story has served as a cautionary tale against companies becoming too entrenched. Which is exactly the lesson Microsoft needs to take to heart today.

The thing is, the Xbox is a pretty descent console. They do have smart people working at Microsoft, somewhere. But Games for Windows LIVE is such an amazing failure on so many levels. They entered the game way later than they should, they missed the point when designing the system, they made something buggy and cumbersome, and then they failed to adapt when it was clear their effort wasn’t nearly good enough.

I really don’t know what they’re doing. There is no way GFWL can beat Steam in its current state. (Ignoring all the bugs and crashes, this design has very little to offer the end user.) But they don’t seem to be making any effort to really improve it. They also aren’t interested in giving up or starting over. I really do suspect they’re just too big and clumsy to compete here. In the 80’s, IBM eventually realized they couldn’t win, and so they gave up the PC market. I keep hoping that Microsoft will do the same with GFWL.

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  1. ima420r says:

    GFWL would be neat if I could play xbox arcade games on my PC but I dont think thats an option. Or even play them on a windows 7 mobile phone. Allowing someone to play the games over multiple devices is a great idea that they don’t seem to have implemented (like I thought they were going to do).

    edit: Wow, i’m first!

    • Michael says:

      That is (or at least sounds like) kinda what OnLive is promising. Kinda. So far as that goes though, I’ve found that being able to run my 360 through my monitor is ridiculously convenient.

      Off Topic, thanks for reminding me to check to see if there’s a key for AoE3 associated with my account finally, (which there is.)

      • Zukhramm says:

        OnLive runs the game for you and just stream the picture. What ima420r suggests doesn’t sound like what OnLive is at all, but rather what Steam is doing with Mac, where if you buy the game, you can play it on any of the avalible platforms.

        • Mersadeon says:

          I wouldn’t like Microsoft to try it. The idea is great, but I don’t even want to know what Microsoft would do to it and how horribly wrong it could go.

  2. Christopher M says:

    It’s paradoxical because Microsoft is the very groundwork of the PC market: most PCs run Windows, and use DirectX. If MS drops out of the picture entirely, either everyone switches to OpenGL for new, improved graphics (making cross platform stuff even harder) or, I dunno, we all start gaming on Macs. (Heaven forbid! Seriously, those things aren’t made for gaming.)

    • wtrmute says:

      I don’t think Shamus advocated MS dropping out of computers at all; he was specifically talking about digital content distribution, which is what GFWL does. DirectX does accelerated graphics (although OpenGL is a good alternative, and easier to use to boot) and Windows does basic OS services, and Vista aside, works tolerably. GFWL — and the Windows app marketplace that seems to be coming on the horizon — are another game altogether. And MSFT can’t seem to grasp online content distribution, or else we’d have an equivalent to apt-get on Windows a decade ago.

      • Falcon says:

        Vista is an example of another botched Microsoft product. A case where their hubris got the best of them, ‘everyone will use Vista because we’re microsoft’ etc. Thing is Vista can be a fairly decent system if either a) you have a government level supercomputer that isn’t bogged down by Vista’s useless features or b) you know how to turn off Vista’s useless features, making it a much leaner and fairly decent system overall.

        Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an analogue to the msconfig routine to turn off GFWL’s brand of stupid.

        • Avilan says:

          I disagree. Vista is better than XP, hands down. 7 is better than both, but I never got the Vista hatred. And you DON’T need a “super computer”. The laptop I used before this one came with 32 bit Vista Home Premium almost 3 years ago (1.8Ghz dual core, 2Gb DDR2 memory, 512Gb Dedicated graphics) and it ran it like a dream. I know that there are a lot of people on stone age machines but Vista was not meant to be installed on those.

          • krellen says:

            You really are easy to please. Vista is an utter boondoggle, and I can get you the performance comparisons to prove it.

            Put XP on that same laptop and see how much better it runs.

    • Foota says:

      How in the world does openGL make cross platform harder? You are aware that directX doesn’t natively run on anything besides M$ windows (and maybe Xbox not sure). openGL in made to be portable and runs great with external libraries like SDL whose sole purpose is portability across platforms! Also how are Macs “not made for gaming” while I may not even own a mac theres nothing wrong with gaming on one, but because of the monopoly on games that Microsoft has and also in-part because of the stereotype that macs aren’t made for gaming, there are very few games made for Macs.

  3. Deoxy says:

    Wow, those comparisons were harsh, even for you. Not inaccurate, mind you…

  4. Fists says:

    I was expecting “But this isn’t competition at all” to be followed by “this is a massacre!”

    You seem to be running a rather less stable system than most people these days, you get considerably more crashes in most games than other anecdotes suggest is normal, are you using an odd hardware setup?

    • Velkrin says:

      He’s a geek. We like our computers like we like our women. Highly unstable.

      Now if you’ll excuse me my girlfriend is charging me with a fork in her hand.

    • Irridium says:

      Or it could be that certain games/programs just hate his setup. His rig is probably stable, just doesn’t work well with the programs.

      Tends to happen to certain people for certain reasons.

      • Will says:

        To be honest, based on some of the things Shamus talks about with crashes, i don’t think his system can be called ‘stable’ by any means.

        I suspect that, like most computer geeks, Shamus has extensively customised his system in both hardware and software because while GFWL is a pretty shitty system, there’s no way it should have caused the kind of shenanegins listed there.

        • Shamus says:

          My system is pretty off-the-shelf, aside from the TV Tuner card.

          It runs just fine otherwise. I play a lot of games, run a lot of demanding software, and I normally measure my uptime in weeks. You can read accounts from other people in this thread and at the Escapist – my experience is not universal, but it is by no means unique.

  5. krellen says:

    Microsoft hasn’t been the same since Bill Gates decided doing good was more fun than making stuff people wanted to give him obscene amounts of money for.

    Sadly, all Microsoft seems to want these days is the obscene amounts of money, and have completely bypassed the “making stuff people wanted” part of the equation.

    • Neil Polenske says:

      I still can’t understand how people can be surprised or angered when a corporation acts like a corporation. Microsoft’s digital distribution platform doesn’t work cause that was never the goal. Someone in the Escapist comments mentioned with glee at Microsoft’s ignorance assuming Digital Distribution (DD) wouldn’t be a viable market for another 10 year…back in ’03. But I don’t think he realized that they were probably viewing it from the eyes of a corporation who has to be aware and account for the entire market, of which DD I think now currently makes of 15% last I heard…and that’s in regards to PC purchases. Factor in videogame sales in total and can you really be surprised that they don’t give a shit?

      A consumer’s needs in regards to a business of Microsoft’s size are ultimately an ethical issue, not a business one. They’re not beholden to cater to our needs or even provide a functioning product. It was never my assumption that that was their goal. While they’re math may be off, I think that Microsoft truly believes that DD isn’t worth looking at for another 10 years – again, from the perspective of the overall market – so what we have now is a placeholder. Something that doesn’t need to work, but needs to have the Microsoft brand and be on our computers. I doubt I’d be wrong in assuming the majority of the people here have GFWL on their computer like I do and for the same reason I do: because there’s a lot of very popular games that require it in order for us to play them.

      In summary:
      It just needs to be there, it doesn’t need to work.

      And more importantly:
      We don’t matter.

      • Zukhramm says:

        I thought corporations tried to sell, and in that aspect Valve is acting like a corporation and Microsoft does not.

      • krellen says:

        I’m talking about more than just GFWL. Vista and even Windows 7, as well as the new versions of Microsoft Office, are all signs of Microsoft acting like a monopoly, not a corporation. They expect us to take their new crap, regardless of quality, and be glad to pay them for it, because they assume they are the only game in town.

        Windows XP still controls 60% of the PC market, but Microsoft has made a non-profit-driven decision to stop selling and supporting it, despite its overwhelming popularity.

        • SKD says:

          I think you are failing to factor in a couple of things regarding your XP argument. When it comes to OSes you can’t sit on your past success and stop moving forward, XP is a decade old next year, you can only go so long patching up holes before you got to get a new boat. In the computer industry if you sit on your laurels your business will fail. The windows OS was due a major overhaul and they did it although they stumbled with Vista. Same with Office.

          Back to the article, GFWL could have great potential but MS needs to really start paying attention to it and making it work as well as XBox Live or they will lose the market entirely.

          Personally I prefer Steam although I do find a problem once every so often, but otherwise Valve has done an outstanding job and MS should take a good long look at Steam to find out what they need to fix.

          • krellen says:

            Why was the Windows OS “due a major overhaul”? Given the same hardware, XP still consistently outperforms both Vista and 7 – clearly they did not make any significant improvements, and in fact only added overhead. XP is not only more popular, but provably superior to both follow-up OSes in performance. And as XP has a 64-bit version, there’s no compelling reason whatsoever to “upgrade” to Vista or 7 – other than the fact that Microsoft, for some reason, would prefer people to pay for that than to pay for XP.

            NT was an improvement, and XP was the perfect marriage of the NT line and the 9x line. But neither Vista nor 7 provide any compelling upgrade – aside from DirectX 10, which, for a much smaller cost, could have been integrated with the XP kernel instead.

            • Mersadeon says:

              Exactly. Also, XP is way better when it comes to gaming, because most things simply WORK. I had Windows 7, and it was hell. I am just so, so, SO glad I switched back to XP. 7 was nothing but trouble. Finally, my PC again starts after a few seconds. With Windows 7, it took 5-10 minutes to just start the computer.

              • Stellar Duck says:

                I have the opposite experience. Vista and Win7 is a lot more more stable as far as I have experienced and after I switched to Win7 I am very happy. The only problem I have running games/programmes is when I want to run 16 bit stuff. I can’t do that in a 64bit environment. But there are solutions to that as well.

                I boot Win7 in about 45 seconds. Vista took perhaps 2 minutes. So I see improvements.

                Hell, I liked XP, but you’ll never see me reverting to it. It’s old as bugger and I honestly don’t want to use it when better alternatives exists.

                All this goes to show is that mileage may vary.

                Just not when it comes to GFWL. That sucks and no two ways about it. :P

                • Rosseloh says:

                  I’ll throw in my note — while I wouldn’t say 7 is more “stable” (I rarely got crashes whatever I was running), it works a hell of a lot better than vista did. But to be completely honest, I wouldn’t have switched if I wasn’t a student and got it for $30 last year.

                  XP is still the best running of the lot since I’ve been gaming, and yes, their dropping of support and sales of it is a pretty dumb move. Someone mentioned that it was a decade old next year, to which I riposte “so what”? The only thing pushing people to get new OSes, is the unfortunate tendency of the hardware market to only be supported by those new OSes (and software, to a point, but that’s less of an issue).

                • Avilan says:

                  I agree with this, my 7 is far faster, and more stable, than XP ever was.

                • Anyone remember SP 2?

                  Christ.

                  Anyways, I think 7 is solid, and XP had its blemishes, but XP is certainly better.

            • SKD says:

              XP is not provably superior. XP is not more popular.

              XP was and is still a great OS but to say it is provably better in performance with no qualifications implies that no matter the hardware and software XP will always outperform Vista or 7 and that is not the case. Yes XP has a 64bit iteration but how many people use it?

              Popularity: Vista was poorly received because MS fumbled the ball when they radically updated the OS and tried to give people what they have been clamoring for, security. 7 took the new kernel, cleaned it up, tweaked the hell out of it and generally improved it all ’round. now they are having to fight the 5 years of install base momentum that XP has, and 7 is doing a very well considering that upgrade and full install shrink-wrap software sales are taking place in greater numbers than ever before. Think about that, non-geeks are buying OSes now where traditionally the only way the average public got a new OS was by buying a new computer with it preinstalled.
              http://marketshare.hitslink.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=10
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems
              Consider, Windows 7 has been out for ~1year and has already picked up almost 20% market share

              Yes XP has a 64-bit version but my understanding (I haven’t used it myself unfortunately) is that it was probably the least supported OS MS has produced as far as hardware support and software that would run on it.

              Finally, as to why it was due a major overhaul, in order to take full advantage of newer hardware, to dump legacy code (how many people still use 16-bit apps)which allows for removing certain areas of vulnerability and finally take a look at the competition and lets see how many of them have sat on with out updating their OS offering.

              • krellen says:

                Who still uses 16-bit applications? Intel.

                Your own cites show that XP continues to hold the lion’s share of computers (and Microsoft itself only cites 15%, not 20 – in a link you provided).

                As for benchmarks, here’s a few showing XP still outperforming either Vista or 7 in most categories (the one section, networking, where 7 wins is an unfair comparison; they’re running a 64-bit OS against a 32-bit one – of course it’s going to be faster there).

            • Mari says:

              I dunno. I’m seriously contemplating upgrading to 7 from my current XP 64 bit. I’m just tired of the weird crap that I keep getting. For instance, I have to reboot my entire computer every time I want to watch a Netflix streaming computer because somehow the crappy Silverlight player hates my OS more than it hates other OSes (I know it’s a flaky POS anyway, but it seems flakier on mine). No reboot = random crashes every few minutes. My keyboard manufacturer doesn’t make drivers for XP 64 so I have to make due with non-optimized drivers which results in my keyboard randomly refusing to accept input for a few minutes several times a day until it can resolve some kind of internal conflict. It’s just “nuisance” junk but you put enough nuisances together and it gets frustrating very quickly.

              Not to mention the vast numbers of older games that for reasons I don’t comprehend, will run on Windows Vista/7 64-bit but won’t run on XP 64. My kids, who are running Vista and 7, now use my library of old games which makes me sad.

              I’ve put off upgrading for quite a while because frankly I love, love, love XP and really kind of hate Vista. But using the kid’s Windows 7 computer and then switching back to the instability of my box has finally convinced me that it’s time to stop bucking M$ and upgrade.

              • Volatar says:

                I upgraded my main gaming rig from XP x64 to 7 x64 and I have been extremely happy. I highly recommend it.

                • Miral says:

                  Likewise. Driver support is significantly better for Vista/7 64-bit than XP 64-bit. (XP 64-bit isn’t even XP — it’s a hacked version of Windows Server 2003.)

                  Avoid Vista like the plague — it is an insanely horrible memory/perf hog and completely unsuitable for gaming. But Win7 performs quite decently. (And it recovers better from flaky graphics drivers than XP.)

                • Mari says:

                  You’re joking, right? I wouldn’t put Vista on my machine for all the money in the world. Yeah, upgrading wasn’t even an option until 7 for that reason. And even then, there were rumours that put me off of 7 until I actually saw it in action myself.

        • Soylent Dave says:

          Microsoft has made a non-profit-driven decision to stop selling and supporting it, despite its overwhelming popularity

          Or, because of it.

          It’s definitely a profit-related decision – if they sit back on their XP laurels, then they don’t make as much money (because people aren’t being ‘encouraged’ to upgrade to a new operating system – and selling new operating systems is one of the ways MS makes money.

          If they never release a new OS, eventually every customer already owns XP and they lose a significant revenue stream.

          And for the record, I always though XP was by far the most stable and efficient iteration of windows I’d ever used – until I got a system with Windows 7 (64) on, which (in my anecdotal experience) actually runs a lot better. So far.

          • krellen says:

            7 doesn’t run on a lot of machines that run XP, so most sales of 7 are going to be OEM sales with a new computer. These could just as easily be OEM sales of XP, without the development costs of Vista and 7 to recoup.

      • Jarenth says:

        But if, as you say, Microsoft isn’t interested in Direct Download, why make Games for Windows Live at all?

        Are they actually just trolling us?

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          Yes.

        • Irridium says:

          I asked Microsoft this. And they replied “u mad son?” with the trollface picture.*

          Ok, not really. I just got the standard automated “we value your input” crap.

          It felt like they said “u mad?” with the picture of the trollface.

        • Neil Polenske says:

          “But if, as you say, Microsoft isn’t interested in Direct Download, why make Games for Windows Live at all?”

          For the brand. I just finished explaining that. I even summarized it!

          • vukodlak says:

            Isn’t it more or less accepted wisdom that Microsoft purposefully destroyed gaming on the PC in order to get more people to switch to their ridiculous, overpriced, subsidised console?

            • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

              “Destroyed” implies it has been done, which I don’t agree with. Otherwise it would explain things. If it is true, GfWL behaving so problematically would be part of it by trying to attach negative experiences to all online game services.

              But I don’t know. The only reason I have a Windows on my machine is to play games. If all of them would be playable in Linux, I wouldn’t bother with it at all. So if MS’s operating systems stop getting any games I’d be interested I’d just switch to using Linux-based OSs instead.

              I know I’m a minority in home users, and that most money they’re getting is from companies, but it still doesn’t sound like a good plan. I mean, if people start shifting to another system at home, they’ll be more likely to want that same system at work. And slowly they’d all have changed from Windows to something else.

              And it sounds a little bit too much like a conspiracy theory. It just makes more sense to assume incompetence and stupidity than malice.

              • Abnaxis says:

                I actually intalled Linux for the same reason. Thing is, none of my games seem to work on Windows 7 out of the box, so I figure if I have to jump through eighty hoops every time I want something to work, might as well switch to a system where–with enough knowledge–I can make it work eventually, instead of Windows where I have to give up on any game more than three years old =\

          • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

            But why not make money while forming a brand? Right now they’re attaching a negative image to Games for Windows Live, while spending money at it. Money they could be getting back right now by making the software work. And they’d be getting a positive image to the brand as well.

            Microsoft isn’t behaving, and rarely has for the last ten years, like a company trying to make a profit. They’re acting like a behemot, that believes it has a monopoly. They really are just moving slowly.

            Edit: Removed repetition. I deleted redundancy. I took out parts that I had already written in this very comment before.

            • Neil Polenske says:

              “But why not make money while forming a brand?”

              Because they’re looking farther ahead. If they looked to right now, they’d be fighting Steam for domination of a market that makes up a very small percentage of their consumer base. The smallest percentage I believe. They COULD spend money to make a product consumers want, but in the long run, it probably is cheaper to ‘buy’ AAA titles over, requiring the platform be included in order to play. Which is what they’re doing, proving the brand is more important than the product.

              “Right now they’re attaching a negative image to Games for Windows Live, while spending money at it.”

              How do you know they’re spending money at it? More importantly, how do you know they’re spending money ON it? It obviously doesn’t work.

              I don’t need to be a programmer to understand getting software to work takes time and effort and that both those thing require a lot of money to pay the right people to do it and more importantly, it requires a lot of organization and coordination for the software to be properly designed for ease of use with the average joe while retaining functionality (which, incidentally, ALSO requires a lot of money). This amounts to an asston of money regardless of whether you want to keep your customers happy, and that’s long since stopped being Microsoft’s focus.

              “Microsoft isn’t behaving, and rarely has for the last ten years, like a company trying to make a profit. They’re acting like a behemot, that believes it has a monopoly. They really are just moving slowly.”

              I can see why you’d think they’re not trying to make a profit, but again, you have to understand that YOU – the PC consumer – are not their main source of profit anymore. Haven’t been for a while. Like I said before: We do NOT matter. Yes, it’s frustrating when a company makes inferior products because they’re catering to a lower common denominator that’s ignorant and doesn’t care, but that’s business. You have every right to be frustrated by it, but you really shouldn’t be surprised.

              God this going to be longer than a Shamus rant, but I’ll do it anyway:

              *HERE’S WHAT I THINK THEY’RE DOING*

              As I said, the PC gaming community is a shell of it’s former self. Argue all you want about whether it’s ‘dying’ or not, but the fact is, it’s less than it once was…by a large margin.

              Microsoft has shifted it’s focus and I think it’s preparing for the so-called ‘casual’ demographic. Right now that particular demographic doesn’t give a shit about digital downloads. But it seems to me that Microsoft is anticipating it will, or at least hoping it. Either way, getting the brand out there (i.e. forcing it upon us through AAA titles) ensures that when/if this consumer force reaches the land of DD, they’ll recognize GFWL over all others.

              The fact that little effort right now is being made to make the thing functional shows they’re not entirely certain that will happen. But if it DOES, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a big turnaround like they did for XBL so long ago.

              • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

                They don’t need to fight Steam at domination, they just need to throw some titles over there and make it work. You can ask for a higher price per game etc. Not have any sales or whatnot, but you need to give a neutral to positive experience to users or brand building will be hampered.

                And of course they’re spending money on it. Not only was there an update sometime ago, but the fact that there was a sale offer means that there are marketing people working on it. And it doesn’t matter if these same people work marketing on say, the Xbox Live, it’s still spending money on it because it takes time away from working on the XBL. And they have to run servers or at least spare cycles from other servers to run GfWL too.

                You even mentioned about buying games over. Why are you, right in the next paragraph too, doubting if they’re spending money on it?

                And if they’re “catering to the lowest common denominator”, they’re doing it wrong. The lowest common denominator is about 10% of potential clients. Who the hell in their right mind targets such a small group? The “casual crowd” is not part of the LCD, no matter what the “hardcore gamers” claim. The LCD is a small part of both the “casuals” and “hardcore”.

                In fact, PopCap and other successful “casual game” makers keep saying that the casual crowd is, in a way, more demanding. If your stuff doesn’t work, the casual won’t look at FAQs and forums for help. They’ll leave. And if they remember you, they won’t do business with you anytime soon.

                Which normally doesn’t matter, because no-one seems to remember what company did what anyway, but MS is trying to build a brand. That means they’re trying to be not only remembered, but identified. So the majority will see their problems, make a negative mental association, and then MS will have to work 10 times as hard to get them back.

                If MS is ultimately aiming for the casual demographic, brand building through the gamer demographic is counter-intuitive. Because what they’d be doing is building a “hardcore” image, which isn’t beneficial for gathering the casuals.

                It’s much more likely, if they’re not completely inept, that they’re in reality testing the platform on the “hardcore crowd” through high profile titles (or “triple-A”, if you want to use sales pitch lingo), who will tolerate all kinds of shit for no return. When they get things working, they’ll start the actual brand building and start packing (and backing) casual games.

                And could you leave the “PC games are dying” thing? It’s only accurate if you put arbitrary limits (casual games don’t count, there’re less PC-only titles than when the PS1 came out etc.), and it’s derailing the conversation to boot. Which is why I only commented on it in my reply to vukodlak.

          • Jarenth says:

            You did, and I’m sorry if I implied otherwise. I just find it terribly baffling that this is happening.

            It’s an old marketing cliché that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I don’t buy that in this case. I don’t think I’ve ever read a positive report on Games for Windows Live. It’s one thing to build brand awareness, but if that brand awareness manifests itself in the words ‘Man, this brand sucks ass!, I’m not entirely sure you’re doing it right.

            As it were.

            • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

              I think it’s more accurate to call the “there’s no such thing as a bad publicity” as a marketing meme. That is repeated constantly by people who have no understanding of marketing. The only cases where it’s been used correctly, is when people mistake neutral with bad publicity.

              For example the Wii. The name’s not good in my opinion, but it doesn’t have negative connotations. It has amusing or humorous (pee), but that’s not detrimental. In fact, in can be positive since people associate the feeling of amusement (in the “it’s fun/funny”) with the brand. Giving a generally speaking friendly feel.

              Compare with the temporary name of “Revolution”, which is long and has the feel of trying to be desperately edgy. And would’ve caught mocking of its own. “Revolution, as it revolves instead of moving.” etc. Giving it the “amusing” feel, but in the “it’s a bad joke”-way. And edgy doesn’t really sell itself for anyone but to the “hardcore” or male 10-20.

  6. Nyaz says:

    I don’t understand what Microsoft is up to. Their Xbox division is clearly doing good work and the Xbox platform works really well. But all their PC gaming efforts are just so crappy I’m starting to think they are outsourcing the GFWL stuff to underpaid high schoolers. Gah!

    EDIT: Oh, I just remembered. Installation limits. Don’t all GFWL games have like 15 installation limits or something like that?

  7. Amnestic says:

    I didn’t have that much trouble buying the game (no French for instance, and the TOS thing worked first time) and I haven’t started trying to download it yet since I’ve still got a huge pile of games to play first, but wow, I’m actually a little apprehensive of trying it now.

    It seems like it’d be so easy to fix the problems with GFWL, but they just don’t want to.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Basically,the same thing that happened with ie all those years back.Though people are saying it got better,I still have no desire to test for myself.

    • Mersadeon says:

      Do you mean Internet Explorer? Yeah, I remember that. Since then, I don’t use IE again. Chrome doesn’t work any longer (and I really don’t like all that recording of my stuff all the time), so I switched to Opera, and it’s satisfying – because there is nothing wrong with it. Something neither IE, nor Microsoft can say about themselves.

      • Simon Buchan says:

        IE 7-8 are significantly better for a web developer, (eg, don’t cause gnashing of the teeth), they seem about equivalent to Firefox for speed and compatibility. Chrome and Safari seem to have the best HTML feature support for released browsers, and Chrome for windows is lightyears ahead on speed (in general). I’ve not experimented with Opera for a good long time, since I’m not a fan of their (old?) UI and they seem(ed?) to have fairly bad compat (for obvious reasons of having the smallest share).

        IE9 beta is fairly crashy and has somewhat serious compat problems ATM (mostly due to sites assuming “IE” means “serve broken HTML”, which has been mostly untrue since 7), but looks to be on track to better nearly every other browser on the market in nearly every area, although I don’t think the plugin community will latch on like for Firefox or even Chrome, and I think their UI will be… polarizing?

  9. Irridium says:

    I remember trying to get the Fallout 3 DLC’s from them. Man was that a pain.

    The moment I got the final DLC, I moved them all to my Fallout 3/data folder, downloaded the mod that removed GFWL from Fallout 3, unistalled GFWL, and lived (relatively) happily ever after.

    Then this deal came, figured I’d get it thinking they fixed things.

    Boy was I wrong. Its bought, but it has issues downloading. At that point I said “screw it”, and uninstalled everything again.

    Screw you GFWL. I have better things to do then trying to get you to work properly. Things like reading, making cookies, sky diving, re-playing Sly Cooper, and generally just not dealing with you.

  10. DougO says:

    MS internal culture strikes again. The people setting the priorities probably are getting little feedback from the users [their time, after all, is far too important to attend _that_ meeting when triple-booked]. Likely, half the dev team is contractors with no history in the code and no direct stake in its success, and the PMs are too busy writing a forest worth of (internal) documentation that is obsolete by the time the printer is done with it.

    Just another day in Corporate Dysfunction Land.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  11. Brandon says:

    On a bit of a tangent to what Shamus was saying, it always boggles my mind whenever people really slag on Steam. Sure it’s not a perfect service, I’ve had a share of troubles with it over the years, but nothing even comes close to the amount of hoops you have to jump through to use any of the other digital distribution platforms.

    I recently bought Neverwinter Nights 2 off of the Atari store, with both of the expansions, and they gave me a download link for the installers. These games are not tied to any account, so I can’t log into my Atari account and download them, because it doesn’t think I own them. If I had closed the page with the download links before grabbing all of the installers, I think I wouldn’t have been able to get a copy of the game at all anymore. As it turns out they don’t even handle their own store, so if you submit a support ticket, they best they will do is tell you that you need to go talk to the company that handles it, Digital River.

    So let me get this straight (If I can) .. Atari pays Digital River for the service of running an online store. I paid Atari for the games. The games aren’t linked to my Atari account, and I don’t have a Digital River account (And I don’t even think such a thing exists). So although I have an emailed receipt for the game purchases, there is no way to re-access the game installer downloads. This means that I only had one shot to download the game clients.

    Luckily the game’s cd keys were emailed to me separately, so I suppose if worst comes to worst I could pirate the game clients and then use my legit cd keys. I guess they got that much right, at least.

    So I guess when I look at Steam, and I click like three buttons to buy a game and start it installing, have one click to launch it, and I can uninstall and reinstall it as much as I like, I just realize how nice a system it actually is.

    • John Magnum says:

      Once they’ve got Offline Mode working 100% of the time, it’ll be golden.

      • Nick Bell says:

        I wonderful what causes offline Steam to go badly. I have literally never had a problem with it ever, on a multiple computers and platforms. But the number of people who do have problems is definitely high enough it is not a few isolated compatibility issues, yet no solution has come down from Valve. Really weird.

      • Irridium says:

        That, and add some type of download scheduler.

        I’d like to set Steam to download updates at night rather then whenever it wants. As it stands now, to have it not download things I have to set each game to either “download immediately” or “never download ever”.

        I could pause the download, but that makes the game unplayable.

        Example: I was just relaxing one day, family was using the internet. Then all of a sudden, it grinds to a halt. After everyone yelling at each other to get off the internet, I check Steam, and find out its downloading about 3gb. The file in question is the recent Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 DLC.

        It would have been great for me to schedule it to not update during a set amount of time, and to download during another set. All it would have to do is have a small mark next to the game in my library that indicates a new update is available.

        It would just make life easier.

        So yeah, some type of download scheduler would just be fantastic.

        • Rosseloh says:

          I’m lucky to have decent internet and a decent computer, so I’m fine with it downloading whenever it likes. What I don’t like? WHY does it PAUSE the damn download when I start a game? Yes, I know there’s a risk of file corruption, but it’s never happened before and if it does, oh well, I’ll live. I’d like the option.

          • Irridium says:

            That annoys me as well. I can understand it doing it if I play a game that has multiplayer(like TF2). But if I’m playing, say The Witcher or some other single-player only game I’d like it if it would stay downloading.

            Or perhaps they could add that as an option. “Continue to download after launching another game? Y/N?”

        • Athan says:

          Indeed a scheduling feature would be nice… as would a plain bandwidth limit.

          So with that in mind I would recommend NetLimiter Pro to rein in programs that want to use Too Damned Much Bandwidth. No, I’m not a shill, I’m a genuine happy customer :).

          Gone are the days of the Blizzard downloader caning my upload so badly that it can barely download. On the other hand I did accidentally activate my default 5KB/s download limit on wow.exe the other day and wondered why I kept on being disconnected….

          I can’t recall right now (and I’m booted into Linux) if NL Pro has a scheduling feature… but you could at least limit Steam.exe to about half your available bandwidth and click the limit off before you go to bed.

    • Sekundaari says:

      I have a couple of games from GamersGate, and I’m fairly sure it has fewer ‘hoops’ than Steam, as you don’t have to be logged into a client when playing. So, “any of the other digital distribution platforms” is a bit too big of a generalization.

      • Brandon says:

        I (And I think a lot of other people, although I could be horribly mistaken about that) actually really like the Steam client. It’s a really nice, neat package that keeps everything organized, rather than having to try and organize all of your game folders on your hard drive yourself, it just handles it. It also has the store, community, games list, server finders for games, and all that such rolled into one. I really don’t see any drawback to having the client running at the same time, especially since Windows even launches the client for you on startup by default.

        Personally, I dislike distributors like Good Old Games, and this GamersGate, because I find that I only ever seem to want one or two things off of them, I make an account, buy them, download them, and then next time I want to use the service I have NO idea what my account was… so I’ve effectively lost my games, unless I can guess what my user/pass was. Since I’m not one of those people who uses the same user/pass for everything, that has mixed results. Maybe I’m the only one that has that problem.

        • Samkathran says:

          I’m one of those people who hates the Steam client. I would absolutely 100% LOVE Steam if I didn’t need this damn client running all the time. It really doesn’t offer anything I want.

          Friends list/community? Nope, I don’t play multiplayer games.

          Games list? I have a desktop for a reason :P

          Forced updates? Nope, I don’t like being shut out from my games simply because I have the audacity to choose to download a large file at later time.

          I like the Steam Store and its awesome sales, but it’s the client that keeps me hoping everyday that Impulse or another distributor becomes really popular and overtakes it – because they don’t have obnoxious clients that they force you to have running to play your games. People are quick to mention offline mode, but that simply doesn’t cut it when I can play my games from other sites with no client at all. I don’t think this will change anytime soon though, because it’s not a problem for most people, and even if it were, people are very quick to forgive these flaws when you can buy game bundles for $5.

          I can still dream, though…

          • Miral says:

            Note that you can mark a game as “don’t update”. So if you want to be sure you can just play the darn things whenever you want, you can set all games like that, and manually trigger an update whenever you feel like it. (Some multiplayer games may not like this, but most work fine.)

            Contrast this with GFWL, which refuses to let you stay signed in if you have the temerity to play a slightly out of date game. (And combine this with an in-game updater which I have never seen actually work.)

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          And nicely organizes all games to the same drive, so I have to keep that one drive free of any other stuff, unless I want to start cleaning it up before installing more games through Steam.

          You know you could write the user/password down. The biggest risk in online stuff is people hacking it, not that they have access to your home. And you could use one e-mail and one username, so when you forget the password you can just request a new one.

          • Mari says:

            This leads to a tangent. You have been warned.

            I was pondering that just the other day. I’m old enough to have come of age in the “don’t write your password down” era where there was serious paranoia about people wandering in and finding your passwords. As a result, I’ve always avoided doing so. But times have changed and I realized recently that I’m going to have to change with them. I have like a bazillion accounts. The only possible ways to keep track of them all is to either use the same user name and password for all of them or write them down. And due to conflicting rules on what constitutes an acceptable user name or password, it’s become virtually impossible for me to use a universal login. Not to mention the very real threat of password entropy. And the fact that my bank requires a password change every 6 weeks and doesn’t allow you to reuse the same password in a 1 year cycle, which forces me to constantly invent new passwords.

            So after being locked out of an important account for the umpteenth time I finally sucked it up and started the list. Until I started writing them down I had no idea how many accounts I had.

            • krellen says:

              This is why security is something you actually need training in (which I have), and not just something anyone should take a stab at. We’ve taken a need for security to such a point that it’s become grossly inconvenient to people, and thus they’ve started having to become increasingly insecure to become secure, and have ruined the whole thing.

              Not writing down your password is still the best course, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to follow.

              • Mari says:

                I know, it’s insane! I was much more secure before the interwebz became “secure.” There’s never been a time that I didn’t use alpha-numeric combination passwords that have no discernible connection to me personally. And until last week I’ve never written a password down. I had begun the path to moderate entropy (I used a “universal” password for low-importance stuff like forum logins but a unique password for each higher security account including each of my utility companies, each bank, etc.)

                I don’t have formal security training but there was a time when most security was just common sense from a user standpoint and presumably from a designer point as well. Lordy, back in “the day” when I was young and stupid I had a field day for a while because my ISP (which ran a G-Com BBS) was run by total idiots. I social engineered control of the system and ran the whole shebang myself for a six days before the big boss managed to regain control of his servers. I was very much of the opinion that anybody who used their license plate number as a password and their full name as a user name for complete admin-level access to the servers deserved what they got. The biggest kick was that after booting me out he reset the password to his DOG’S NAME and I got right back in. Apparently he is why we’re in the mess we’re in now.

              • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

                I have a friend who writes the passwords down encrypted. And he can use the paper as is, without decrypting with a software or whatever. I don’t know more than that.

            • Alan De Smet says:

              I recommend using a password safe, a piece of software that remembers your passwords and protects them with encryption. Then you only need to remember one password (the one for the safe). For low risk passwords (forums, some shopping sites, webmail), I recommend just using the password safe built into your web browser. Just remember to set up a “Master Password.”

              For Windows, I hear good things about Password Safe. STRIP for PalmOS served me well for years; I haven’t tried the iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) version, but I would trust it. I’ve moved to Android, and I really like OI Safe.

          • Brandon says:

            I could write my usernames and passwords down, you’re right. I could even have all of them in one giant master password binder that I haul around with me everywhere. Since I don’t want to do that, what happens when the password is at home, and I’m in another country with my laptop, and I want to download a game? Nevermind the fact that I am not nearly organized enough or meticulous enough to accurately make note of every username and password for every thing I ever sign up for. So many accounts I have at places are complete one-offs, I use them for a single quick thing and then I never anticipate needing them again.

            For instance, this Games for Windows Live deal. If I had known about it, I might have been tempted to sign up to get a sweet price on AOE3. Probably would have played it for a while, eventually gotten bored, never used it again until 2 years or whenever from now when they do another sweet deal on another game I’m marginally interested in. Then the question simply changes from “What was my username/password again” to “Where did I put that paper I wrote my user/pass on for this thing?”

            • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

              Hey, look at that, Alan De Smet has an answer!

              Seriously, how many logins do you have for stuff you might need while traveling? Anticipating such things isn’t exactly rock science. And how about writing it down right after registering? I mean, I’m lazy, but jebus.

              I wouldn’t be such a dick otherwise, but it’s people like you, with your non-competetive attitudes why capitalism is increasingly malfunctioning. And all just for a minor convenience.

              Also, I thought that Steam didn’t like it when people travelled across countries? What with the region limits set by publishers and so on. I mean that’s the image I got when someone compained (I think it was here) about no being able to participate in a Steam Sale, because he was in a country where it didn’t apply (despite having his card and other information clearly marking him as a citizen of a country where it was).

        • Trevor says:

          Well, a bonus with Good Old Games is that when you download your game files, you download a complete DRM-free copy of the game, so if you’ve lost your username and password, as long as you kept your files from the install, you can reinstall the game again. If your hard drive hasn’t the space for all of that (mine certainly doesn’t), then you can burn backup media in case you ever want the game again.

          If Steam ever goes under, you’re kinda SOL.

    • Cineris says:

      Complaints about Steam are generally speaking, complaints about Steam. It’s the best on the block when it comes to digital distribution, but that really doesn’t mean it’s “good.”

      I mean, I GFWL is an obvious blunder that dissuaded me from buying BioShock 2. I own Galactic Civilizations 2 and one day I decided I’d update my client — Stardock wanted me to install this program Impulse to get the updates. I did this and Impulse did not work on my computer for some unknown reason. I spent hours installing everything, then reading the forums and trying to figure out the cause. Eventually I uninstalled it and scoured the web for a traditional patch.exe and ran that, and was playing in minutes.

      So lets grant that Steam is by far the best Digital Distribution/DRM scheme out there. But it’s still by no means good. When I buy a game, can I install it with Steam? Nope, repeatedly I’ve been told “Steam is too busy to allow you to install/play the game you own.” This is an unimaginable failure.

      I experience at least one Steam outage a day. That might be fine if I lived in South Africa, but considering I live in the continental US that’s quite pathetic. The temporary outages or random failures to authenticate are very real, and it’s ruined plenty of games. (Note: I rarely receive failures to authenticate, but when a problem happens 1% of the time and you’ve got 10 people playing your chances of at least one person having a problem are naturally much higher.)

      Add on that you can’t gift games to friends… And I find myself asking why I’d bother purchasing a game on Steam. Sure, they have good deals sometimes. But buying any game on Steam, vs. a similar price at retail — Retail wins every time. So my Steam collection pretty much consists of: Valve games that require Steam, and Indie games that I can get at great discounts on Steam and don’t have any non-digital distribution.

      • Brandon says:

        See, I understand that some people have all kinds of troubles with Steam, but I have experience very little of the troubles others have. I’ve never had it tell me that it can’t install a game for me, I’ve never had it randomly go out, or fail.

        And you can, in fact, gift games to friends on Steam. That’s been a feature since the Orange Box came out at the very least, if not before. I’m not sure why you said that.

        Anyways… I don’t claim it’s perfect, but I will insist that it is a *good* platform. I know that there are quite a number of people who have problems similar to yours, but unfortunately that can be expected for any service. Even walking into a retail store with games on the shelves isn’t necessarily a hassle free scenario.

        • Rosseloh says:

          Same here. Have had nothing but good times with steam (except the small fiasco I’ll be mentioning in a post further down the page).

          That’s not to say they have never had problems, but I’ve “never” seen them, and as with most companies and products, that makes me like their stuff.

          And, to be completely fair, I’m a slightly different demographic. I play multiplayer games, I like the chat features, I use the games list to categorize things, and my internet is good enough that I don’t have issues with offline mode.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          You can only gift some games. I have a friend who has double rights for some, but can’t gift them.

          And voice chat kept cutting off when I tried it with a friend. Seriously. In-game chat doesn’t work, Steam. We’re trying to get as much out of a software that we’re forced to run in the background. So how about not abruptly ending our calls before we’ve decided so ourselves?

    • Pickly says:

      I prefer impulse to steam, both because it has no “can’t play offline” issues that may not have been sorted out yet by steam, and mainly because I can move the folders around afterwards rather than have them all in one big folder.

      Of course, compared to the issues described in your post, I can definitely see where your post is coming from. (Although any program will have its issues to fix, steam or anything else included.)

  12. Zukhramm says:

    Meanwhile, I bought ten games from Steam.

  13. Riesz says:

    I buy most of my digital games from GamersGate. They don’t have any launcher or anything, just an exe you can grab, which then downloads and installs the entire game.

    … that’s it. No need to sign in except on the website, once, to download the game. Most games I bought don’t even come with a CD key or anything. It’s the perfect example of a digital store that works as it should.

    NB: I mostly, though not exclusively, buy Paradox games (the insanely GRAND strategy games) from GamersGate. As I understand it, Paradox owns GamersGate, but they have recently started selling more and more third party games. These could in theory require, say, a Ubisoft connection or GFWL launcher to play. If a game has DRM it’s clearly labelled on the sales page, however, and of the two dozen games I own I have never encountered anything more onerous than that installer exe.

    • ulrichomega says:

      They don’t own Gamersgate anymore, but it’s still a really good platform. You get a .exe that downloads the files to install, and you can choose to keep the install files if you think they’ll ever go out of business and you want to be able to install again. There’s no intrinsic DRM to speak of, and the sight is rather easy to use (though I don’t like that I can use the bluecoins they give to partially reduce price on games).

  14. Samkathran says:

    Yikes, I knew GFWL live was less than optimal, but I didn’t know it was that bad. You know your product/service is doing terribly when you get people to think, “thank goodness I missed that really good sale”.

    I can only imagine how convoluted their internal organization must be to cause the ToS for GFWL to end up at the Xbox Live site. They really need to either make them completely separate entities, or create one single, complete Microsoft Online Games service. None of this “Go to Service A to sign up for Service B” nonsense.

    I’ve only had one experience with GFWL myself, and it actually wasn’t that bad, fortunately. I bought Fallout 3 from a store, and years later I wanted to play Broken Steel. It was simple enough to buy and download the DLC, although I didn’t like having to buy their Microsoft Point currency to buy it. After that, the Fallout Mod Manager was kind enough to take the DLC and put it in the Fallout 3 folder with everything else, so that alleviated a lot of issues all by itself.

    I’ll probably never buy anything from there again until they shape up though. Sounds like too much of a hassle.

  15. PurePareidolia says:

    At least you got past the starting gate – I tried on no less than 3 separate occasions, using multiple browsers (firefox and chrome) to buy the game but every time I tried to log in it logged me out. I don’t even know how that works but typing in my details and pressing “log in” CAUSED ME TO LOG OUT.
    But it gets better – once or twice I managed to log in, then NAVIGATING ANYWHERE caused me to log out again. Nothing I tried on either browser would allow me to buy this game. Eventually I just gave up because apparantly they don’t want my money and are willing to actively force me not to part with it.

    On the other hand, downloading the client and getting Fallout 3 achievements has not resulted in anything’s death yet. Because if one thing is going to work of course it’s achievements. (Initial trouble with GFWL accounts linking to xbox and all that nonsense notwithstanding.)

  16. Mari says:

    I’m shocked that nobody’s said it yet. “And on top of all of this, it’s a buggy mess that crashes more often than a drunken Stevie Wonder playing Grand Theft Auto with a Wii Remote.” has been nominated for the Funniest Thing I’ve Read All Week Award due to excessive monitor spew upon reading said sentence.

    Oh, as for the actual article…yeah, sorry dude but you get what you deserve when you try to use GFWL. I tried it twice. My experiences were so horrible that I’m still trying to repress them. But I would still totally marry Bill Gates because he has more money than God, even if Microsoft has become a greedy, soul-sucking corporate pit of despair for workers and customers alike.

  17. Mersadeon says:

    I also had nice odysseys with GFWL. My favourite one is my “Double Platform, all the way across the sky!” journey.
    I bought Dawn of War II. In a store. A physical copy, because I like having physical copies of games. I am old-fashioned that way, even though I’m 18. DLC can come digital, but if I spend a whole lot of my money on a game, it better be on an actual disc.
    I came home, excited. I put the disc into my computer. So, done? No, for my journey of rage and hate had only begun. Remember those happy times when all you had to do in order to play a game was “1: Put disc into PC. 2: Let it install. 3: Enjoy game.” ? Yeah, that time is over. First, Dawn of War wanted Steam. Alright, I have a Steam account. And a password. Somewhere… found it. Update. Ok. Done? Ok, so off you go, Steam, I don’t want you to sit in my background eating up space. Offline. Whoops, seems DoWII needs Steam to be online. Back online. DoW starts. Yay! I made it!
    After a few hours of Singleplayer skirmishes and campaign mode, I wanted to try out Multiplayer.
    Wait… Games for Windows live? Gamertag? I thought this was Steam… what is happening? Ok, I’ve got a Xbox, let me think again what my password was… done. So, can I play NOW? No? Why not? Oh. I need a gold account to play online.
    WAIT. What?! This is a PC. I’m not sitting in front of a Xbox. I never play Xbox online exactly because I would have to pay money for it. This is a COMPUTER. Why do I need a damn XBOX-Gold-Account?

    Yeah, I remember that like it was yesterday. Good times, indeed. Steam, Games for Windows Live, Xbox Live, Windows Live, Gold account, passwords… If this trend gets worse, I am finally out of my favourite hobby, because I am not going to pay to play a game I already payed for. (Except MMOs. That’s different.)
    And for what? Just because you somehow want to beat Steam? By selling games that require Steam AND your shitty GFWL? And then, let it not work because the costumer, who PAID for the game didn’t know he would have to pay more? I mean, I saw the GFWL tag on the game, but I didn’t knew I would need a XBox-Gold-Account. Is it to stop pirates? Because that’s not working. I am considering to pirate your games, Windows. Because it’s way easier to follow the instructions of a sane person, telling you which data you have to change so that the game won’t call your server than trying to follow YOUR instructions. And even if I don’t start pirating your stuff out of pure hate, I won’t buy anything from you. I would rather be game-abstinent than throwing my money down that throat.

    Man, I miss the old times. I remember it. My first games were so easy to install that even Lego was more complicated than the installation. And now I have to work through hours of pointless bureaucracy just to find out I only bought half the game.

  18. Aldowyn says:

    My biggest example with Windows Live is Halo 2… Other than needing Vista (literally the only reason I have vista… Gotten used to it, though) I managed to get the account and actually play it, I think, (I know I played it but I forget if it needed the account), but to this day I haven’t managed to play the multiplayer.

    Oh, and is there a way to like connect your achievements in PC games to your Gamerscore? It would actually be kind of cool if my PC games and my 360 games both had achievements that added to the same score. My gamerscore sucks.. just over 2k.

    • Irridium says:

      Your games for windows live ID and Xbox Live ID should be the same.

      Its the same for me, and it shows Halo 2 PC achievements an my Fallout 3 PC achievements.

      Of course they don’t now since I don’t have Halo 2 on the PC anymore. Well I do, I just don’t have the key, so I can’t play the game I payed for, but thats a different story. And I removed Games For Windows Live from Fallout 3, so yeah.

    • Amnestic says:

      Halo 2 had always been an awful, awful PC port. I feel sorry for you that you bought it.

      As for mixing your 360+PC achievements, I thought that was done automatically. I have Dawn of War 2 for the PC and its achievements (once I logged in with my 360 account on the GFWL malarky) are merged up with all the 360 achievements. That is, unless you get a separate GFWL ID to your 360 ID, in which case…you dun’ goofed.

      • Aldowyn says:

        so any game using GFWL mixes them automatically? Check. I think they’re the same… but I haven’t been logged on, so chances are I’ll have to redo all of them.

        … Would I get bonuses, too? Like the profile pics for Mass Effect for completing it on (Stupid Halo difficulties, get out of my head) hardcore or Insanity?

  19. Rosseloh says:

    My biggest problem with this story (and I’ve experienced several parts of it myself)?

    How the effing hell do you RUN OUT of CD KEYS for a DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION? This speaks to me of both a lack of planning ahead, and that they don’t have a proper system in place for taking care of their customers. I may be wrong, but wouldn’t it be as simple as having a random generator create a few thousand combinations, and then having a database to link each of those with a “distribution”? Sure, it wouldn’t be instant, but making you wait more than an hour or two for something like that? I dunno what to think, really.

    And I have had this happen with Steam, this summer when Mass Effect was $5. But it’s the only problem I’ve had with them.

  20. Friend of Dragons says:

    New ticker on Dawn of War 2: “A recent update to Games for Windows LIVE has broken in-game voice chat. Using in-game voice chat can crash your game. Please disable your microphone to avoid this crash.”

    • scowdich says:

      In Steam news, the Heavy class has been removed from the BLU team in Team Fortress 2 for balance reasons. The “orange portal” ability has been found to crash certain games running the Source engine, but this does not affect 90 percent of gameplay.
      From the Blizzard front, all Zerg land units have been removed from Starcraft II and WoW paladins can no longer heal themselves or others.

  21. Vekni says:

    I chuckled at these stories, thinking “thank goodness I have never ever had a problem with Steam, and my one terribly painful GFWL experience tells me that I will never ever complain about Steam” to myself as I try to use steam to purchase the Dawn of War 2 Gold Edition and…what do you mean ALL of my financial options are being denied as “insufficient funds”, the checking account already had nearly $900 in it when today’s paycheck hit, you PoS! Eventually the roundabout method of Paypal worked, but…oivey.

    • Fnord says:

      Steam gives the “insufficient funds” error for just about any rejected payment.

      I’ve gotten that error multiple times when my bank flagged the transactions as suspicious (and so refused to pay) or when I accidentally enter the wrong information.

  22. Erik says:

    Ouf, my installation procedure wasnt THAT bad, although when i tried to log in the website it went to the hotmail logout page instead of login me in at games for windows live. My sollution was to download the frigging program and login in there, which worked fine.

  23. Athan says:

    My own recent experience with GFWL wasn’t quite as fraught … but then it was for Batman: Arkham Asylum which I got from Steam, so didn’t have any GFWL download shenanigans to fight with.

    On the other hand I could not get the damned thing to use an online GFWL profile so it would record achievements. I did follow advice on the support forums to remove GFWL and its runtime (as installed by the game), download the latest from the GFWL site and install that and then try again. Still no dice.

    So I completed the whole game, twice to be sure of finding all the Riddler things, with an offline profile.

  24. modus0 says:

    “But they don’t seem to be making any effort to really improve it.”

    That’s because Microsoft isn’t making any money off subscriptions to the GFWL client. No revenue stream = no interest in making it worthwhile.

    I’ve experienced my fair share of problems with GFWL myself, one of which seems to be fixed at the moment (actually getting a game to download!).

    Way back in January, I “bought” a free game, Tinker, to check out, but got the same unchanging “Downloading: 0%” bit as Shamus, even though the client hadn’t crashed for me, it just would not download. Same problem with the Game Room released a few months later. Though for some bizarre reason, I was able to download the add-on packs. O_o

    • But that’s silly, because it’s a product distribution network, the kind Valve is making money hand over fist with. It’s like saying that since your website doesn’t directly generate revenue, you should make it on a Geocities page.

  25. Ingvar M says:

    You know what I find somewhat annoying? As someone who would happily buy PC games, tehre are two things that stop me. On-line EVEYTHING and DRM.

    My games box does not have direct internet connections (it’s a Windows box, it’s BOUND to have nasty shit on it eventually). Instead, it’s restricted to access things via protocol proxies. This, unfortunately, means that any game that relies on a protocol without open specification (like, say, Steam or GFWL, or…) won’t work. Add (conflicting!) DRM solutions in the same box and, well, the research required before buying a game is just to the point that it’s not worth it no more.

    And I say that as someone with about .7 metres of jewel cases from bought games on the shelf (that’s, what, 60-70 store-bought games?).

  26. winter says:

    I tried GFWL once. Once.

    They do not get a second chance, ever.

    It was beyond unacceptable–it was a vile waste of time, and never actually worked… even after like ten hours of effort.

  27. Axle says:

    I wrote about my adventures with GFWL before, when trying to buy MS points for FO3 DLCs, just to find out, after a couple of hours of lookng for the right palace, that my “region is not supported”.

    I will not waste my time again with this service, especially after reading all the “internet rage” about it.

    Is aoe3 really worth all this trouble?

  28. Decius says:

    I like Steam, even though it has bugs and issues and made me download New Vegas twice. I like it because it works virtually all of the time and has great titles released by Valve.

    I like Impulse more, because I’ve found fewer bugs with it, and because Stardock has the entire no-DRM-at-all thing going on with Galciv2 and Sins of a Solar Empire.

    So I saw Dragon Age on Impulse, and figured EA’s DRM couldn’t be that bad.

    EA Download Manager refuses to run. Despite finding a thread where somebody apparently resolved a very similar problem, I can’t find a solution posted in that thread or in EA’s support section. So I add another login and password to EA’s fora, and post my own issue. I am not confident that I will get a positive resolution from EA. But I am sure that somewhere there is a ‘patch’ that will ‘solve’ my problem of not being able to load the software I purchased because of DRM.

    Now that I see that GFWL is likely to behave the same way, I know to avoid it even more. (The copy of FO3 that I got never required me to log in; was it only the DLC that required a GFWL account, or did I do something right/wrong?)

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      Maybe you need it for the DLC, but you don’t get achievements (the horror!) if you don’t login.

      Fun fact: if you live in Europe, you can’t buy EA’s stuff off Impulse at all, because Impulse doesn’t support regional pricing. I’m certain some would blame Impulse, but considering that they don’t equalize the prising even when the game has been out for over a year, I’m going to blame the publishers.

  29. ninepepper says:

    Made my day:

    it’s a buggy mess that crashes more often than a drunken Stevie Wonder playing Grand Theft Auto with a Wii Remote.

  30. Dave says:

    Is this the same Steam that when if came out you wouldn’t trust enough to buy a game of Pong on?

  31. Goliathvv says:

    Microsoft should just give up GFWL and try a partnership with Valve. Just imagine how both would win if Steam came with Windows and a single free game(I believe Valve does this with Alienware).

    The problem with microsoft is that it tries to get into every market out there. Hey, google is making a lot of money with a search engine? Create Bing! Hey, apple is making rivers of money with the Ipod? Create Zune! Hey, Steam is filthy rich with Steam? Create GFWL! And so on…

    Instead of focusing on something and doing it well, they try to do everything and fail at most.

    Oh well, they have the cash to do that… Then go on microsoft, keep the copycrap!

    • LadyTL says:

      I actually like Zune better than Ipod because the software lets me burn my CDs into mp3s rather than locked mp4s as well as I can transfer the music where and to as many computers as I would like. Last time I tried that with Itunes I found out that none of the music would work since it wasn’t the same computer.

      • Goliathvv says:

        This is a relevant subject, and maybe the same could be said about the Xbox, but this is somewhat a matter of personal taste.

        Maybe for some people the “iTunes way” is pretty good, it might be because they don’t want to burn their cds(some may consider it “such a hassle…”, I know, I know…), or maybe it’s practical to buy the music, etc.

        The point here is: once a market starts to stand out a little, microsoft rushes there and make something. Sometimes it’s good(for instance, the xbox), sometimes it’s not(for instance, the xbox, after it rrod’d).

        The problem with this policy is that you can’t manage everything efficiently, so those last things on the priority list don’t get that much attention.

    • Tizzy says:

      Microsoft should just give up GFWL and try a partnership with Valve.

      The point is that Valve would have nothing to gain of this. MS has a long history of breaking anything they get involved with, probably deliberately though maybe it’s simple carelessness.

      Can’t be bothered with standards? Aggressively trying to impose its own? Who knows and who cares, the point is that many are leery, and rightly so, of any association with those guys. Typical example: Mac users have been enjoying support of postscript and pdf in all their applications for years precisely because Apple does not present this kind of threat.

  32. (LK) says:

    This sort of thing is just cylical. Microsoft upended the market by being more agile and someone will upend Microsoft.

    Rising corporations are often rising because they’re staffed by executive staff who have experience performing the jobs that their business is built upon. As corporations grow, their decisions start being made by people whose only qualification is an MBA and who would be completely incapable of performing any of the jobs in the company with technical or field-specific skills… and so the decisions made by them fall completely out of touch with the product they subsist on.

    The lesson for corporations is not to hire people who haven’t worked on the ground level in your industry. The lesson for customers is to recognize which companies are chiefly run by these insular people whose only skill is generic management.

    Once you’re exposed to a company long enough you can start to tell whether it’s run by a John Carmack or a “Dave from human resources”.

    I have actually done business with companies long enough to watch the full breadth of this curve. A good example might be Second Life (run by Linden Labs). The company started out in the hands of a CEO who was the original creator of the technology and rose to prominence under his leadership and with the work of some very skilled people. They had problems but their trajectory was positive, overall. At some point the company reached its’ apogee and the old guard is replaced by people whose primary job skill is filling out executive resumes. These people rammed years of work into the ground in half the time it took to reach its’ peak, then fired 2/3 of the company’s staff and started looking for corporations to sell the business to so they can cut and run and move onto their next executive job.

    Meanwhile, other businesses were learning from the mistakes made by these leaders who were unfamiliar with their company’s field, and alternatives have started cropping up which are already addressing the major complaints of customers that went unheeded or unsolved under supbar management. The status quo is largely unchallenged and so the company begins to sink under pressure from competitors who are capable of pointed and timely innovation.

    • silver says:

      “This sort of thing is just cylical. Microsoft upended the market by being more agile and someone will upend Microsoft.”

      True – but don’t let people get their hopes up. MS will be around for a long, long, long time. IBM is still around even though MS “upended” them. MS will be around long after it’s irrelevant. During the .com crash, there was a fake advertisement I saw for investing in IBM which said, in paraphrase: “we lost X billion dollars last year, and we’re still around. how many small companies do you know that can do that?”

      Of course, MS being as irrelevant as IBM will still be a sweet thing when it happens :)

  33. Mazinja says:

    ah, GFWL… how I hate you.

    I had no problem downloading AoE3, actually. That’s a shocker. It might be because I had XBL points in my account. Points that I wanted to use to buy Dead Rising 2: Case Zero. Points that I was later informed I COULDN’T use to get said DLC because I don’t live in the USA! You want to know something even MORE infuriating than crappy software? Region Lock.

    However, my previous experience with GFWL was with Fallout 3 and its DLC. There came a point where that game COULDN’T connect to GFWL, thus not letting me USE the DLC I had bought, until I went out of my way to find an arcane way to disable GFWL and mod FO3 to read the DLC off another place. This in turn didn’t let me get achievements (which the completitionist in me hated), and I simply chose to not buy the other DLC since it meant having to deal with GFWL again.

  34. X2-Eliah says:

    You know what’s worse than this?

    Episodes from Liberty City bought off of Steam.

    Here’s how it goes – you buy them on Steam.
    You DL them.
    GfWL is installed for them.
    Social Club is semi-installed for them.
    You make accounts for all those.
    You click the launch button on Steam’s library.
    A ‘connect’ prompt jumps up to log you into Social Club. The “send login details” button doesn’t actually have a script attached, you can bash it how many times you like. Ok, start in offline mode for that.
    The splash screen will load (probably), letting you choose the biker or the tony missions. Then, a crash 9 times out of ten.
    Now, it gets better. Start up your Steam copy of the base GTAIV, same deal (but with working social club). However, GfWL thinks that you do not have the DLC bought – so if you try to launch them from the core game, a GfWL popup will prompt you to coff up the MSP for them.

    Fun, eh?
    And Steam isn’t doing any refunds. Seeing as my Steam copies are crashing/ failing to launch literally 9 times out of 10 (okay, on one day it was 17/20 and on other day it was 19/20 times), there’s some money gone to waste.

  35. Nick says:

    I’m always amazed at how hard some companies make it for people TO GIVE THEM MONEY, yet people still buy from them.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: vote with your money, it’s the only thing massive companies understand.

    How many of you would buy from a brick and mortar store if you had to navigate a 10 minute maze every time you wanted to buy something?

  36. Aufero says:

    I tried for a couple of days to come up with something reasonable to say about GFWL after using it a couple of times, (I assume “It sucks” isn’t reasonable) only to realize that I have been incapable of formulating an unbiased comment about any Microsoft product since being hired to write a statistical analysis suite in Applesoft Basic in 1978.

    I still harbor hope that whoever was responsible for implementing the floating point routines in that language was later staked out on an anthill.

  37. Arquinsiel says:

    That was a fun day. They were griefing people, but only the people who work for Xbox customer support.

    They neglected to mention that we had to support GFWL until we were flooded with calls over this shit.

  38. Kelle says:

    Which means request for apple iPad development has improved.
    It is used to surf the net, send and receive
    email, and view multimedia. This comprehensive app offers stories,photos, videos, and
    more.

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