Dear Microsoft: So You Want to Support PC Gaming Again?

By Shamus
on Jun 23, 2015
Filed under:
Column

This week is some passive-aggressive advice (that’s more aggressive than passive, to be honest) for the folks at Microsoft. They’re claiming to be interested in making the PC a great place to game. I wish it was true, and so I gave them some suggestions as to how they might accomplish that.

Games For Windows LIVE is a gift that just keeps on giving. The same day I wrote the column, my daughter Esther installed my disk copy of Fallout 3. She’d never played itShe’s 15 now, so she was much too young when the game was new., but she fell in love with Fallout 4 during the E3 show and so she wanted to give the original a go.

It kept crashing and losing her autosaves, so she went looking for a patch. But the patch broke her install. It gave a classic Microsoft-style gibberish error message to the effect of, “Can’t find ordinal 12345 in xlive.dll.” This is, of course, related to GFWL. She needed to install it. And then she’d need to create her own Microsfot account, or maybe I’d have to give her the password to mine. There’s also a user-made patch that disables GFWL, but you still have to install GFWL first to get the game to run.

Her eyes glazed over. This way way more effort and hassle than she was willing to put into this. Worse, I was worried that overcoming these annoyances GFWL would have some new way to devour time and enthusiasm. That’s been it’s M.O. since the beginning, and so I suspected it would fail stupidly during account creation, or malfunction when managing save games and destroy hours of progress. Or maybe it would keep making her log in, then force an update, reboot the computer, and clear the login so she had to type it all in again. I’ve gone through all of those in the past, and I’ve only played four games that used it. I doubt I’ve seen everything it has to offer.

So she got Fallout New Vegas for $5 in the Steam sale and played that instead. Maybe that’s for the best.

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Footnotes:

[1] She’s 15 now, so she was much too young when the game was new.



A Hundred!2016There are 136 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. MrGuy says:

    Esther installed my disk copy of Fallout 3. She’d never played it, but she fell in love with Fallout 4 during the E3 show and so she wanted to give the original a go.

    Did….did Shamus just refer to Fallout 3 as the “original” Fallout?

    Why are you, and what have you done with Shamus?

    Not that I care too much – I’m just curious.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Well, the original Fallout to feature the Bethesda style gameplay she saw in the demo.

      (Sorry, you probably knew that, and I didn’t get that you were joking about not getting that.)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Oh god.That sentence,it hurts,it bites,it freezes!

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      “Why are you …?”

      If only we asked that question of more dubious internet celebrities…

      Shamus being one of the non-dubious ones, of course.

    • Shamus says:

      The first two and the second two Fallouts are so ludicrously variant in gameplay, lore, tone, and art style that it’s hard to see them at part of the same franchise.

      I mean, they ARE the same franchise, but there are far more people who played FO3 than FO1, and in most conversations when people say “Fallout” they mean” 3D Fallout”.

      And nobody remembers tactics.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        I remember Tactics! I mean, the story wasn’t so great, but the engine was better than the first two games. Honestly, if they kept updating the 2D engine, or made a 3D engine with an overhead view*, and turn-based combat, I’d play the heck out of it! :)

        * Either isometric, or perspective projection. :)

        • ehlijen says:

          I remember tactics. I’ve even replayed it a couple times. Dunno if I’m that desperate for turn based tactics games or just hate myself…

        • krellen says:

          Fallout Tactics is an excellent game. Just forget it’s part of the Fallout franchise and go with it.

          • Decius says:

            Agreed. It’s a great use of the SPECIAL system in a tactial game, and we have a lack of good tactical games.

          • Grudgeal says:

            Well as long as we’re forgetting the Bethesda installments in the same way. Oddly-shaped power armour and real-world weapons aside, Tactics was more true to the tone and setting of the original games than the first 3D game was.

            And it was a pretty good game too.

        • Chris Davies says:

          Looking back on Fallout Tactics, for a third party spin off at least they had some of their own ideas. As dumb as the plot was, the whole killer robots unleashed to cleanse the wasteland was certainly a story of their own. Compared to Fallout 3’s collage of warmed over ideas ripped from Fallouts 1 and 2, right down to shamelessly recycling Fallout 2’s plot, you have to have some respect for that.

          Also, Tactics somehow managed to have more consequential choice in it than Bethesda’s alleged RPG. Not sure how that happened.

      • Decius says:

        “Art style”?! They use most of the same art assets. Right down to the twisted bit of metal that you tie a rope to in the Glow having the same description when it appears in an inaccessible area in the tanker.

        • krellen says:

          He means Fallouts 1 and 2 are completely different from Fallouts 3 and New Vegas.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Yeah, New Vegas totally recycled all those marquees, poker tables, slots, roullette tables, the Vegas buildings, the brain jars, the ranger armor, the grenade gun, the NCR and Legion outfits, the rockets, the cliffs and canyons, the Securitrons, from Fallout 3.

          Hope you get my point. Yes Obsidian recycled art assets where it made sense. It would have been monumentally stupid for them to ignore a vast asset pool ready made for the engine they were building their game on especially since it the game was being made for the same console generation. But wherever it was called for, they came up with their own art assets. Besides, Bethesda recycled an entire setting from the people who would go on to make up the New Vegas team.

          I’m just tired of people making that complaint like it even matters. So the rubble and random generic dilapidated buildings are recycled. I say thats a good thing. Gives Obsidian more time to focus on what they’re best at. Its not like they recycled anything memorable like DC landmarks.

          For the record, for all the bashing of Bethesda we do. I’ve seen enough to convince me that it was a good thing that Bethesda got the rights to the franchise instead of Interplay. I give them credit for this engine and gameplay style which I personally prefer. The original Fallouts might be technically better gameplay but I like the ease and intuitiveness of the Bethesda style. And I give them a ton of credit for pulling in Obsidian to make New Vegas. I hope they do that again after Fallout 4. Wasteland 2 is good but its not quite the same. I love Obsidian playing in the unique Fallout space.

      • Deadpool says:

        This is logical, reasonable and the clear “right” course of action.

        I still feel sad inside. Had Fallout 4 sparked an urge on a young kid to try the original Fallout I would find one good in the Bethesda acquisition…

        • Most people, if they tried the original Fallout, would hate it. And I say this as someone who grew up playing the original Wasteland and Fallout 1.

          For all the love given to Fallout 1, it overlooks a shedload of flaws. There were bugs. There were exploits. The interface is clunky. Pixel-hunting is irritating. Turn-based combat isn’t everyone’s bag. Etc., etc.

          That said, it’s a great game. For the time, it’s a phenomenal undertaking to bring tabletop RPGs to computers. I don’t see why both this and modern games can’t co-exist, but the whole isometric vs. 3d FPS debate reminds me of something: The kerfuffle that went up when RPGs started getting halfway decent graphics.

          “Graphics?! HERESY! There’s no better graphics engine than your imagination!” screamed the lovers of text adventures, especially ones from Infocom (Zork, Wishbringer, Suspended, and so forth). Comparisons were made to TV shows vs. radio dramas, how games would all become worthless now that there were these fancy-schmancy pictures distracting people from the story and so forth.

          If the next objection is “but the writing is so much better!” I’d say I can poke almost as many holes in Fallout 1’s plot as I can in Fallout 3’s. One of the biggest is how you can defeat the big bad. You can convince the Master his plan is doomed because his Super Mutants are sterile and can’t breed, so this ‘next step in evolution’ to replace humanity will die off. After hearing this, he kills himself. This is without considering using humans as breeding stock, making them a ‘pupal stage’ for Super Mutants. Also, the Master doesn’t have the capability to alter the Super Mutant’s genetic code at all? He can’t even try to reverse the sterility issue with some tinkering with the FEV? Bah. Sure, you give a reason that the Master accepts, but it’s a flawed one, making it little better than the Henry Eden conversation in F3.

          I’ll wail on F3 all day long about the things it has that annoy me, but the praise heaped on Fallout 1 as if it was this perfect jewel seems to be happening mostly by comparison dipped in nostalgia. You can enjoy one, both, or neither, but direct comparisons are making less and less sense the more I look at them, apart from aspects of the lore, but it’s not like that wasn’t unraveling in Fallout 2.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Fallout 1 as if it was this perfect jewel seems to be happening mostly by comparison dipped in nostalgia.

            No,its not.I had no nostalgia when I first got into fallout 1(it was old even back then).In fact,I hated the interface,the over reliance on rng,the clunky combat,the weird info text positioning,…But the second time I got into it,and managed to get into it a bit further than shady sands,it got me.The fact that it is so good despite its huge flaws is what makes fallout 1 such an incredible game.

            And that thing about the master you mentioned,he had years to try all of that.Its not uncommon for someone to keep hammering into a wall of the unsolvable problem until someone else with enough conviction in their voice points out the obvious before they finally break down and accept it.

            • Except he didn’t see the problem at all, if the dialog is to be believed, which is another problem. How does he not see that? He’s had Super Mutants this long and he didn’t notice they hadn’t reproduced?

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Noticing something is not the same as accepting it as real.

                • Then if the answer is “the villain is a crazy person,” why should speech work at all? Their delusions would cover everything, like trying to convince a flat-earther that the world is really round.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Um,you dont have to be crazy to not be willing to see the truth.Einstein,for example,did not want to accept quantum theory,despite seeing perfectly well how well it fits.

                    • But that analogy makes no sense. If the Master were like Einstein in that setup, he’d acknowledge that it looks like the Super Mutants can’t breed, but surely that can’t be the case and maybe they just haven’t found the right sexy outfits or movies to get them in the mood, now you die for your arrogance.

                      Alternately, an adventurer with a PhD would walk in and tell Einstein, “Nope, quantum physics are totally a thing” and Einstein would throw himself atop the nearest atomic bomb in despair.

  2. snimat says:

    I wasn’t able to install and run Fallout 3 on Steam on my Window 7 machine back in the day. Wrote them countless mails. No refund policy then.

    I bought the game for €10 used on my Xbox. Thanks to the power of a home console, I was able to play it without any problems.

    • Jan says:

      Ah, but in 5 years, how will you be able to get an Xbox 360?

      • Eruanno says:

        Well, in 5 years the Xbox One will (presumably) have working backwards compatibility.

        Not that 360’s are a rare occurrance, you can still find them in boatloads at Electronics Retailer Of Your Choice.

        • Gabriel Mobius says:

          Unlikely. The 360 has been out for how long? And it’s still not backwards compatible with all original XBox games because Microsoft abandoned that plan. And it’s the same plan they’re adapting with the XBone: The games will be made backwards compatible on a case by case basis, over time. It’s not a sweeping thing. Expect them to give up on this too.

          *puts his cynic hat back down*

      • You’ll do what people do when they want to play their old PS1, NES, PS2, etc. games. You’ll download an emulator and the relevant images to go with it.

        If MS is smart (and if nothing else, I’m sure the rights to games in the last 10+ years have been fully locked up by the major publishers), they’ll have the emulator themselves and sell you the whole library.

        You can buy “nostalgia systems” of various kinds in drug stores now. They have Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Sega Genesis, all with built-in game libraries. I’d opt for the Genesis if I were buying, as that one has a slot to play old Genesis carts.

  3. MrGuy says:

    Game for Windows Live has always felt like the company chasing WooWoo to me.

    It’s a company that has no idea what it’s doing, or why, or even how it works, but they’ve heard this “digital distribution platform” thing is what all the kids are into these days, so by god they’re going to have one. And they’re going to keep beating their head against that rock even after the market has passed them by, because they have no real sense of why they should be doing this other than “someone else did this, and they made money, so if we bang our heads hard enough we’ll make money too.”

    It’s telling that the announcement from Microsoft has no statement about what the future WOULD be. Nothing about how awesome it’s going to be, how it breaks new ground. OK, fine – you don’t necessarily reveal your game changing innovations far in advance of them going live.

    But the thing I’d like to see along with a statement of “we get it now!” is some demonstration of what they “get.” What have you realized about how the audience wants to work with distribution platforms? What’s the core of your value proposition? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? What’s the revolutionary prospect that’s going to out-Steam Steam?

    I still remember when Apple created iTunes, before they had all the technology ready to roll out, that Steve Jobs stated a simple proposition – most music listeners are tired of being treated like criminals by the music industry. Whatever may have happened later, that powerful insight and message made them one of the dominant players in music.

    Other than “OK, we did some misguided things before,” what’s Microsoft’s message?

    • Steve C says:

      Other than “OK, we did some misguided things before,” what’s Microsoft’s message?

      “We are going to try some brand new misguided things!”

    • Mistwraithe says:

      Well said. I’m skeptical that it is possible for Microsoft to come out with a platform which is even close to being on par with Steam, let alone better.

      • MrGuy says:

        But that’s the thing. So what if they did?

        Steam has tons of users, tons of titles, a great relationship with developers, and a lot of user trust established. It has an absolutely huge community.

        Even if MS came out with something technically perfectly on par, they’d fail. Showing up second and shouting “me, too!” doesn’t get you half the users. You need to give them some reason to switch. This is the lesson Microsoft failed to learn with Zune (which, to be fair, never got to a technical par with the iPod, but would have likely failed even if it had).

        It’s why GoG Galaxy has a chance to succeed – their “totally DRM free” approach is interesting and might be compelling (I know I’d use it in preference to Steam for games supported on both). Microsoft needs something more interesting than a “competitive” feature set.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Well they could do the industry standard and make Windows mess up the performance of any game running on a Windows PC but not through their platform…

          For XBone though… yeah, that could be more of a challenge.

      • Whatever they come up with will have a longer shelf life than one would think as it has the XBone audience held captive, pretty much. I’m fairly certain that’s what kept GFWL going for so long, as it wasn’t my PC-using pals that were singing its praises or actually using it to buy games.

  4. Infinitron says:

    Does Steam really download VC++ redistributables from Microsoft? I assumed they download with the games but are installed separately before your first launch.

  5. psivamp says:

    Paraphrasing from StackOverflow:
    Basically, Windows only ships with bare-bones C/C++ standard library stuff and anything built with Visual Studio uses a more fully-featured set — which is different for each version of VS and is left as dynamically-linked by default so that games and whatever else are able to benefit from future updates that Microsoft writes later for performance or security.

    Microsoft could fix it by shipping these libraries by default and updating them whenever Windows gets updated — and if a gamer can’t play Shoot Mans 35 because he hasn’t updated this year to support the Microsoft C/C++ library that the publisher used, the fix for that person would be to run Windows Update ( until that version of Windows is end-of-lifed and Microsoft refuses to support you ).

    Publishers could statically-link their games at the expense of larger executable files and not getting those theoretical updates — or they could ship them in the same directory as their game at the expense of bundling in the download of those dlls to every game that needs them and not getting those theoretical updates.

    Technically, publishers could also use a different compiler and standard library.

    • MrGuy says:

      Publishers could statically-link their games at the expense of larger executable files and not getting those theoretical updates — or they could ship them in the same directory as their game at the expense of bundling in the download of those dlls to every game that needs them and not getting those theoretical updates.

      As I understand it, game publishers (like most other publishers of software) DO statically link their games to a specific version of the library. Updates are actually the problem – updates can change API calls, behavior, return values in ways that would be problematic to any static piece of software (i.e. the rest of the app). That’s why every app is so fussy that it get the EXACT RIGHT version of the redistributable. It’s NOT looking for the most up-to-date version – it’s looking for the version it was built against.

      The advantage of unbundling the redistributable from the actual game files is that it’s possible the “right” version of the redistributable is already installed on the target machine, in which case we don’t need to install it again.

      It’s also why, if you look, you likely have 10 different versions of the redistributable installed on your machine right now.

      • Veylon says:

        While not necessarily being a complaint, it should be noted that unbundling everything turns things into the connect-the-dots that Linux does whenever you install something. You want to install ShooterMans 7? Well, that uses DirectX 9.7, zlib 1.2.5, RenderWare 1.7, ad nauseum. And each of those dependencies has it’s dependencies.

        It’s tolerable when everything’s all sitting on Github and a handful of other sites, but can you imagine the corporate version of this? If you were foolish enough to want to play the original ShooterMans, you’d be unable to install the thing because it would use some proprietary library from a company that’s been out of business for six years and and thus now completely unavailable because the defunct corporation no longer maintains a site.

        • Felblood says:

          This is pretty much what happened to System Shock 2.

          For a period of several years, playing the cutscenes required a (unstable) fanmade codec, which rendered every frame upside-down, to avoid copyright issues.

          Those were dark times, and I’d just as soon not go back.

      • Phill says:

        That’s not static linking. That’s dynamic linking, requiring a specific version of the dll being linked against.

        Static linking is when you have the library code included as part of you program .exe. This avoids all the dll fun, at the expense of larger executables. The downside (if everything used static linking) is that you end up with hundreds of copies of the same code scattered around your machine. Which is inefficient, but an inefficiency that has little impact these days. And it does prevent bug fixes for issues in the dll code, although as you note, that doesn’t really help in practice because any fixes are often packaged along with new incompatibilities.

        AFAIK there is no reason why you can’t bundle the necessary version of the visual C runtime to be installed as part of the application installer. I know visual studio-created installers can do it. The only downside is increasing the download size (for digital distribution) for stuff the user may already have on their computer, but I imagine that’s pretty trivial. I suspect most games probably do this – it just takes a while for windows to do the necessary checks and install the redistributables.

  6. Wide And Nerdy says:

    When you mentioned it can be disabled, i did a quick search and found an even better trick. If you grab the shortcut you use to launch the game > right click > properties > compatibility tab > and tick the “Disable Desktop Composition” and “Disable visual themes”. Not only will this flip you to basic automatically when the application launches, it will flip back to your normal theme when you close it. At least my one test shows that result.

  7. Rayen says:

    Well you could try and scratch the part of the disk that the “requires GFWL part is on”. Worked for me With the Sims 2 and EA download manager/Origin, I have a totally DRM free disk version of Sims 2 because the scratch corrupted the Download manager part. The Disk still installs and runs the game, it just can’t figure out how to download the DRM stuff.

    Then again it was entirely luck on my part and I’m not actually sure the giant scratch on the disk is whats causing it.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So you keep saying how gfwl is a bad thing,yet that story about it making your daughter play new vegas instead of fallout 3 definitely proves that it does good.

  9. Broadly speaking, it seems like just playing New Vegas is a better move. But I can’t help but think that the evening conversation at the Young’s is rendered nigh incomprehensible if you haven’t played Fallout 3, as Shamus bangs on the dinner table every night… And the Enclave? I mean, jeez, how stupid are these guys? Pass the beans please… I mean, if they want clean water why don’t they just…

    • Shamus says:

      Actually, one of the odd things is that I don’t “bring my work home with me”, so my family knows less about this stuff than most of the people that read my blog. Esther is curious about it, so sometimes she hangs out with me, watches me play, and talks about the game with me. Sometimes I pause and do the “here is the history of this franchise and why this change was so dumb / brilliant / unexpected” conversation.

      We had QUITE a conversation about Arkham Knight last night as I endured hours of the the new Bat-themed tank piloting / car racing / shooting game.

      • Oh, yes, I’m sure. My blog and online presence is explicitly maintained for those things I can’t talk about at home because nobody wants to, too. It was just an irresistible mental image.

        Isn’t the Internet grand? I’d be much more isolated 30 years ago.

        As long as I’m commenting, the current Spoiler Warning is forcing me to finish up my playthrough of Arkham Asylum. It is interesting to contrast the first entry in that series with the latest. The first couple entries had a lot of good in them, but bit by bit they’ve been carefully excising it.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        I recommend she read the blog too. Verrra insightful.. ;)

      • I think Issac is the only family member who DOESN’T read your blog (in case you wondered, Shamus).

      • Neil D says:

        The phrase that keeps running through my mind as I play Arkham Knight is “I Have no Blog and I Must Rant”. I’ve been empathizing with all your tweets about it. There’s a BATtlezone pun to be made somewhere, but I’m just too annoyed to bother (or maybe ComBAT if you’re old-school Atari 2600).

        The game is just so damned proud of the Batmobile and keeps shoving it in your face at every turn. I’m grapple-gliding around as much as I can, trying to get my Batman on, but the game keeps insisting I get in the damned car and either play shoot-em-up bang-bang with the Drone Tank Army (because Batman doesn’t kill!), or start careering around the streets leaving a wake of destroyed property behind me because the damned thing handles like a pair of roller skates on a greased tile floor.

        Also, the sequence where you get the winch is one of the most ludicrous things I’ve seen in a game in a while – they actually managed to make a Batmobile platforming game. But as Jeff Goldblum once said, they didn’t stop to think about if they should.

        Argh. I Have no Blog…

      • Darren says:

        I just got Arkham: Knight, and my opinions are mixed. But the batmobile is certainly high up on the “misguided idea” list. Riddler’s racing? OK, that was kind of fun and cool, and not a replacement for the Riddler challenges. Entire sections that are just about getting the car into place, though?

        I look forward to the inevitable write-up.

    • This made me giggle for very silly reasons- the idea of Shamus a. sitting at the kitchen table (kitchen table is for creating food stuffs, not eating at) b. eating a meal as a family (we do that…maybe 3 times a year tops?) c. on a regular basis d. asking anyone to pass the beans, ever (does NOT eat beans). We do have this sort of conversation, but they aren’t work related but rather just things that come up in conversation, and even more often, during gameplay. Anyway, the imagery was funny. (Hi Shamus. Love you. See you tomorrow! Feel free to delete any or at all.)

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    In defense of microsoft,one could argue that the section of the company responsible for visual studio is not the same section responsible for windows,nor are the two linked in any way with the rogue cell that is responsible for gfwl.

  11. LadyTL says:

    My husband and I found that the mod Tale of Two Wastelands lets you play Fallout 3 without all that GFWL nonesense. There is a bit of gameplay tweaks but all the story stuff is there. You just have to have both games installed on the computer legally.

  12. Tch. Kids these days, not understanding how to play games on a PC.

    Missing dynamic linked libraries?

    They have no idea how easy they have it.

    Why, back in my day, if you wanted to play a game you had to first figure out if you needed to be in DOS or 95. If it was the former you had to navigate via terminal commands to the file and then figure out which of the seventeen different batch or executable files started the game through trial and error. Then you find out that it isn’t playing sound and looks like a crayola box committed ritual suicide. SO THEN you had to configure the damned thing to play sound by selecting each option in the list (because who really knows which version of Sound Blaster they have). After that you had to look through an instruction manual and find a secret code word, run that through a decoder ring that you got in a cereal box, and tell the game the meaning of life that was hidden inside you all along.

    And all of that’s if the game worked perfectly out of box.

    If there was actually a bug? You kind of had to hope the README file had the information to fix it.

    Good luck getting help on-line!

    • Orillion says:

      Did you? I recall my own Win 95 installation being perfectly able to run DOS games without needing to boot into DOS.

      • It could try, but it was kind of iffy whether it would work or not, and if it did it was probably going to be a little buggy about some things. I remember having tons of trouble with Bullfrog titles. Magic Carpet, for instance, didn’t want to run properly in Windows.

        Then Windows 98 came along, and made it worse.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        I’ve definitely been forced to boot into DOS instead of Windows 95. Not sure what piece of software was at fault – 95, the game, or whatever.

      • Nentuaby says:

        Many games worked fine in ’95, but some relief on Extended Memory or certain kinds of direct hardware control that it didn’t support. Ultima 7 is one I remember off the top of my head.

        • Humanoid says:

          Origin games in general relied a lot on a bunch of memory management voodoo, and so generally required you to boot in pure DOS mode. Games written with DOS/4GW, whatever the hell that was, generally played nice with Win9x, but this technique I think was invented pretty late into the DOS era.

          • John says:

            That sounds about right. Wing Commander needed a boot disk, as I recall, but Tie Fighter was fine.

            Of course, as annoying as it was trying to get DOS games to run under Windows (and sometimes under DOS), it was still easier than gaming on Linux is for me today.

    • dp says:

      And then it didn’t work anyway and you had to reboot DOS using a different flavour of memory management. And then your alternate DOS boot didn’t set the BLASTER variable so you had to reboot again, make a boot disc, copy your original autoexec.bat and config.sys, modify the memory management part and then reboot again. And then your stupid floppy was corrupted so …

      • AileTheAlien says:

        …you ask dad for help, and find out that you’ve already learned more than he knows about all this crap. So you get permission to go onto a message board / early wild-west internet…

        • Humanoid says:

          For my legacy gaming needs I just ran an old 486 (probably a DX2/66 or somesuch) running MS-DOS 6.22, up to the early 00s or thereabouts. Even then I had to run Mo’Slo to slow down the CPU enough to run some games properly. Can’t remember when exactly DOSbox became a viable option.

    • I smell a fake old-timey-timer, and I question your credentials, sir.

      As evidence, I point out that you did not once mention the word “soundblaster” nor the phrase “interrupt request.” You are play-acting, and I shall have none of it!

      • Groboclown says:

        Nor did he mention anything about tweaking the jumpers on the hardware cards.

        To be fair, though, the poster could have been dealing with a Gravis Ultrasound card, which had an extra layer of fun. Now you deal with an extra TSR that handles the soundblaster compatibility, getting its IRQ, port, and DMA settings right, and juggling the high/low memory area loading of this extra code that’s conflicting with your mouse driver.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      And to even get a game we had to walk 30 miles to the store! Uphill both ways! In the snow!

      (Don’t get me wrong, I lived and played in those times and what you said does not deviate from the truth, still, couldn’t resist… and it’s still accurate.)

    • SAJ14SAJ says:

      Ah, you missed the days of memory tuning with EMM386…. or if you could afford it, the superior QEMM :-)

      In a quantum world, can I really know if I am a spammer or not?

  13. The Schwarz says:

    You’re saying all this like Microsoft doesn’t say this pretty much *every single year*. Seriously, go back and check. They’ve been saying the exact same “we’ve been neglecting PC gaming but we’ll really start making it better any day now honest” bullshit for about a decade.

    • Will Riker says:

      And the last time Microsoft actually backed up their “we’re going to support PC games better now” comments their solution was…GFWL. Honestly PC gaming is better off without Microsoft’s “help.”

  14. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I’d love it if it not only understood “full screen games” but also had sane ways of dealing with/using second monitors for all the attention-getting stuff, move any windows that are going to pop up over there, put them in front of everything else but DON’T steal focus until the user clicks, etc.

    • Phill says:

      The real problem for windows is that there is no such thing as a ‘full screen game’. The game is just another window, for just another process. It just happens to cover the entire screen (and may or may not be at the native resolution of the desktop behind it).

      Now when we are playing a full screen game, we generally want the PC to act as if the game is the only thing running (except where we don’t :) ) and to have priority over pretty much all other popups and other things that may be going on. But the windows OS can’t really let programs do stuff like that because of security and usability concerns.

      Raymond Chen’s blog is full of terrifying requests from developers to do unsavoury things in windows (is there an API to access the add/remove programs tab so we can uninstall our competitors software, how can I make my window the topmost and guarantee it is always on top of all other ‘topmost’ windows, can I remove my competitor’s software from the start menu, can I force file extension .xyz to always be associated with my program). Basically a whole shopping list of stuff that amounts to “I want my program to have a uniquely privileged place on this computer” – which basically places it somewhere on the spectrum from ‘terminally annoying’ to ‘deliberately malicious’.

      As a user, we *want* the game to have a uniquely privileged position (similar to DOS era, or consoles) – but the OS can’t allow that kind of thing without opening a can of worms for everything that isn’t a full screen game. Unscrupulous or selfish idiots will abuse such stuff endlessly.

      (Tangent: when I worked in games, our boss once asked if it was possible to send a message to everyone on steam to notify them when our game came out, and when updates were released etc. It didn’t occur to him that if this was possible, every steam user would be getting bombarded with hundreds of emails every hour, and that there might be downsides to this. Then he wanted to be able to send messages to people who had downloaded the game but not played yet, or not played recently, to remind them about the game. I don’t think that’s possible on steam either, but we managed to dissuade him from trying when the first four or five people he asked all said that if a game started hassling them to play it, they’d just uninstall, rather than go and play it).

      • Arstan says:

        And then we get smartphone games that do just it – if you don’t play them, they hassle you with notifications!

      • AileTheAlien says:

        Really, we need more transparent, understandable, and user-controlled OS-level permissions. Like, all the special stuff for “full-screen” above, could be a single button that the OS pops up when a game launches, listed, with the title, “This program wants to run full screen.” Alternately, this could be handled at install time, similarly to how phone/tablet apps do it, but less broken. That stuff is not granular enough, and waaaay too vague for a user to actually reasonably decide upon most permissions that are needed. The combination of those two alone has made it so you need to give like, 15 permissions, for things you don’t think the program would need. Polite devs actually put a description in their app describing why they need the confusing permissions, but it’s still a broken situation.

        Worst, it’s not actually controllable. The user either gets to accept everything including things they disagree with, or else just not install the program whatsoever. Would be very useful if the program had two lists of permissions that it would request from the user, using the installer/OS popup box: required, and really-nice-to-have. Required stuff is what you can’t feasibly make optional for your program to function, but pisses off the user. Really-nice-to-have, is stuff that you’re allowing the user to allow/disallow, but which creates more hassle for you as the programmer.

      • Richard says:

        Actually, the problem is that there is such a thing as a fullscreen game, and many (most?) game developers are idiots.

        If the game developer wants the game to fill the screen, they have two choices:

        1) Ask Windows for complete and total control over the framebuffer for one or more monitors.
        They can then change the monitor resolution, nothing else can draw on it etc.

        However, most games then immediately change the monitor resolution to whatever their own default is, regardless of the current resolution or even whether the hardware is even physically capable of doing it.

        – Thus everything is thrown onto other screen(s), icons are moved around and in some cases you get a blank screen and have to edit a config file to get it to work at all.

        If they just used the current resolution, this wouldn’t be a problem.

        2) Ask Windows for complete control over a borderless window, then size and position it to fill the desired monitor.
        (Maximised, borderless)

        Optionally, set the “Always On Top” flag, which stops everything – except the Taskbar (why!!!?) – from drawing on top.

  15. Spectralist says:

    In case you or your daughter want to go back to FO3 you can get the GFWL disabler to work with out running FO3 first you just have to copy and rename a couple ini files from the install directory to:

    [user directory]/documents/my games/fallout3

    You need FalloutDefault.ini renamed to just Fallout.ini
    and one of low|medium|high|veryhigh.ini renamed to FalloutPrefs.ini
    You might also have to create a ‘Saves’ folder but I don’t think so.

    I don’t know why this doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere the disabler is found but it worked for me last time I wanted to play FO3.

  16. Bropocalypse says:

    “I’m guessing if I wasn’t running a genuine licensed copy of Windows, the Windows servers would refuse to give the files? “

    Yes, that’s precisely what happens. I know this because one day my copy of Windows 7 stopped believing it was genuine.

    • Eruanno says:

      Really? Before, I’ve had a… not entirely genunie copy of Windows (don’t worry! I have a genuine copy now, two even!) and it had absolutely no problem getting Windows Updates, VC libraries or anything like that.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        The bootleggers are generally better at defeating the DRM, than the DRM-makers are at making it bug-free.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Yeah. Most of the time these DRM features will be catching and annoying legal customers while the pirates have allready broken them and never see them.

          They might even be there not to disable or scare pirates but to scare paying customers and convince them that pirating is a hassle that most likely won’t work.

  17. Dt3r says:

    I prefer to think that “Microsfot account” was intentional. That’s actually a pretty good name…

  18. Shame she can’t play Fallout 3. There’s always a chance she’d enjoy it more than New Vegas, like I and others I know did.

    • Ranneko says:

      Agreed, the actual map exploration and wandering experience was just much more satisfying and interesting to me than New Vegas. No invisible walls boxing me into canyons.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        There were a lot more pseudo-walls in FO3 than NV, however. Specifically, the you-can’t-jump-or-walk-on-this hills that were all over the place. Also, the tonnes of buildings, overpasses, and piles of rubble, that were impassable, but looked just like the ones you could actually walk on. :S

        • Bropocalypse says:

          So how come it was easier to wander in any given direction in FO3 than NV?

        • modus0 says:

          FO3 had invisible walls where it was at least plausible to have them, while New Vegas has walls in places that don’t need invisible walls.

          For example: FO3 has walls on top of the “impassible” piles of rubble in ruined DC, the ones you were supposed to be able to get on top of, or pass over.

          New Vegas has walls near the top of empty hills out in the wasteland, ones that you would expect to be able to walk over and have nothing on any side that you weren’t supposed to be able to get to.

          • If you’re talking about the ones near the Quarry Junction, you know very well why those were there: You can’t get to Melissa without getting past the Deathclaws, you dirty cheating cheater, you.

            • modus0 says:

              Not those (at least not for that reason).

              Go to Cannibal Johnson’s Cave, then follow the ridge south to it’s end. Then try to go up the slope of the ridge and get to the top. There are some rocks part way up, but they don’t look like enough to stop you (and you can get onto a little ledge there, so they can’t be stopping). Unfortunately, you can’t actually reach the top of the hill because of an invisible wall.

              What purpose does that wall have to be there? Or the wall on the north side of the passage leading to Nellis AFB (which goes towards empty terrain…). Or to reach Hoover Dam the first time, you have to go by road, because they put a wall on rather flat terrain.

              Now, it’s been a while since I played Fallout 3 (@ 2011), but I don’t recall many instances of walls outside the capitol’s rubble walls (which really should have been taller and steeper), let alone as many as New Vegas has.

          • And as for FO3 having plausible walls, you can’t say that with a straight face unless you’ve never tried getting to Oasis.

            • modus0 says:

              Isn’t the terrain all around the Oasis rather steep rocky cliffs? The kind most people wouldn’t think about trying to scale in a game that doesn’t have climbing?

  19. Smejki says:

    She will be surprised how different Obsidian Fallout is from the Bethesda ones. Unpleasantly maybe.

  20. RTBones says:

    Making windows 10 recognize full screen games…call me cynical and skeptical, but somehow I doubt it. If I recall rightly, aren’t ‘full screen’ games are technically still in a ‘window’ from the point of view of the OS? Anyway, to take it a step further, it would be great if the ‘full screen’ game had control of one monitor, and anything that popped up (alerts, other windows, UAC, Windows firewall, email, Skype calls, whatever) came up in the second monitor automatically WITHOUT stealing my mouse. Allow the new alerts to pop up on top in the second monitor, but please let me keep playing my game until I actually CLICK OVER to the second monitor. Flash something on the second monitor to get my attention if you have to, but let me *play my game*. Automatic uncommanded focus shifts to the second monitor to address a pop-up would drive me batty, even more so than a window popping up and taking mouse/keyboard during a game on my primary monitor. Sadly, though, I think that is what you would end up with.

    EDIT: Like-minded thinking here in the cheap seats of Twenty Sided is very cool. Just read Phill and Peter’s exchange above, naturally, after I posted.

  21. Sciencegar says:

    I still don’t get why Fallout 3 on Steam asked you for GfWL .dlls. I bought the game on Steam and never had to deal with any DRM but Steam, and played through it perfectly fine before I ever tried modding it. The only time I’ve ever been told to get GfWL was for Iron Brigade, which I just ended up uninstalling.

    The only things I can think would be different is that I’m using Game Of The Year Edition, and that I’m european, but the implication that there are different DRM policies for different regions on Steam is actually kinda terrifying.

    • JAB says:

      She was trying to use a disk copy of Fallout 3, not a Steam version.

      • Sciencegar says:

        No, I’m talking about when Shamus re-bought the game on Steam a few weeks ago, found it wouldn’t run without GfWL, and used it to test the refund policy. I couldn’t believe what he was writing in his twitter box, it made no sense to me, because I’ve played through the game without ever having Microsoft disgrace my laptop.

      • Shamus says:

        Actually, you’re both right. Sciencegar is probably referring to an adventure I talked about on Twitter. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to Fallout 3. I remembered my disk copy having GFWL, so I got the steam version. Steam version requires GFWL to run, but doesn’t install it, so it gives a dumb error if you don’t have it on your machine.

        • Sciencegar says:

          Exactly. But its still bewildering to me how that happened, unless it really is a matter of the Game Of The Year edition bypassing all of this.

        • You used to be able to just download the relevant DLL, but NexusMods now has a disabler that takes care of it.

          Now I know what you’re about to say, going on a rage about why we need to do that, etc., etc. However, we must keep in mind that Steam doesn’t own the rights to the game code, Bethesda does. I’m no lawyer, but I don’t even know if Bethesda can change the code at this point, as I don’t know what their contract with MS is. It’s possible even MS doesn’t know, frankly. But that’s neither here nor there, as Fallout 3 often requires many more tweaks to run on modern machines.

          In a way, it’s making it more like Fallout 1, which needs loads of patches/mods to play nice with higher resolutions, faster processors, etc. If one has a Steam copy of Fallout 3 GOTY and it won’t run on your PC, this will cover most of the problems you’ll have, and I’m sure these won’t be limited to Bethsoft games for long. Games weren’t made to recognize multi-cored processors, or if they were, they can’t handle more than 2, 4, or whatever the state of the art was back then. The same goes for graphics cards, which need tweaks to keep games from freaking out when they are suddenly hit with technology from their far-flung futures.

          Maybe someone at the Nexus (or even NMA) might someday make an all-purpose “FO3 GOTY fix-it” package, but for now, it’s a patchwork, and (though it might pain some to hear it), it’s not all Bethesda’s fault.

  22. Pandabearparade says:

    I don’t know if someone has pointed this out yet, but there is a mod on the Fallout 3 Nexus to strip out GFWL, and the crash-to-desktop bug is fixed by the latest version of the unofficial patch. Try those and tell me if they work?

  23. PhoenixUltima says:

    GFWL should be renamed to GFYL, for “Go Fuck Yourself Live”.

    The thing is obviously hostile to the user, might as well make that clear up front.

  24. kdansky says:

    You really should get around enabling Steam sharing, instead of buying everything seven times.

  25. Kyte says:

    Just so you know, the VC Redist thing is universal to almost every Windows app, due to the way DLLs were designed over a decade ago. The grand majority of apps run it as part of the traditional install process.
    But the thing is Steam doesn’t have any installers, so it does a patch job on the first run. This is a design failure on Steam’s part, not Windows. The model just worked for apps with real installers, and MS couldn’t’ve foreseen the rise of an app market for traditional desktop software yet didn’t use traditional installers. (And changing it now is a non-starter.)

    And no it doesn’t need to download anything. If you check almost any steamapp folder (or a regular game, for that matter) you’ll usually see a redist folder with installers for the relevant DX/VC stuff. So it’s already doing what you asked for.
    It just takes a long time because searching if your Windows already has hotfix X/service pack Y/DLL Z takes a ton of time. The actual install process is rather quick.
    Incidentally you can see progress bars if you launch the installers independently. Except Steam runs the installers with the -silent option, which means no UI.

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