Experienced Points: Microsoft’s UWP is Games for Windows Live 2.0

By Shamus
on Mar 21, 2016
Filed under:
Column

My column this week is about the Windows 10 Store. Sort of. I guess it’s really about trust of a company that’s has done – and continues to do – a lot of harm to PC gaming.

This comment at the Escapist is worth reading. It puts an asterisk on several of the points I made in my column. I’m not really inclined to take anything Microsoft says at face value, but the points are there for the curious.

I remember a lot of teeth-grinding frustrations with GFWL that never made it into blog posts or columns. At the time I thought, “Bah, nobody wants to read more GFWL ranting. I should pace myself.” Now I genuinely wish I’d posted them for purely historical purposes. I always link to the same two anecdotes, and I don’t want people to walk away with the impression that I just had two bad experiences with GFWL. These are the tip of the iceberg, not the full story.

And it’s not like GFWL went away:

It looks like Quantum Break is the first game to be leveraged as a Win 10 store exclusive on the PC. That’s ominous. Someday they might do this to a game I care about.

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  1. Dreadjaws says:

    I had an argument on another website’s comment section with someone who claimed that we should give Microsoft a chance, as they had probably PC gamers’ best interests at hand this time.

    I honestly had no idea if the guy was trolling or what, because he wasn’t using any sarcastic language or whatever, he just kept insisting that people should be given second chances and whatnot. My point was that, of course, Microsoft had already been given a second chance. And a third one. And a fourth one. And so on and they blew through each and every one of them, and it’s obvious that they never learned their lesson.

    I just don’t understand it. How after all this time of failing they just don’t even try. It’s not just a problem of being greedy, is a problem of them being absolutely and utterly incompetent at bringing a valuable competitor to the PC digital release market. If EA can handle it (after quite a rough patch but still, after the first try), how come they can’t? As you say, all they have to do is sugar coat it, and they seem incapable of it.

    • Knul says:

      People might deserve second chances. But Microsoft (and other megacorps) are not people. I don’t get why people feel any sympathy or loyalty to what are essentially profit machines without feeling or *any* regard to your wellbeing or interests.

      As for UWP, this might be the push to go to Linux for gaming. I haven’t tried Wine yet, but it looks like it supports a lot of games.

      • John says:

        WINE is great when it works, but in my experience you cannot rely on it to work, even for games for which it should allegedly work well. According to the WineHQ AppDB, for example, Majesty should work just fine. Except that it doesn’t. Not on my machine, anyway. It crashes during the developer splash screens every single time. It’s also not all that great at running Windows-only Steam games. Civilization IV starts up okay but always glitches out after a ten or fifteen minutes.

        So, while I like WINE, I don’t really trust it. On the other hand, I feel that Linux gaming is a viable proposition these days. I may not get to play everything I’d like, but there are enough Linux-native games these days that I’ll always have something interesting to play.

        • Echo Tango says:

          Use PlayOnLinux! It’s a wrapper over top of Wine, that takes care of the hassles of:
          – keeping different versions of Wine for specific games
          – keeping games sandboxed form each other and your OS
          – knowing what magic options to set for Wine for each game

          • John says:

            I do! Sometimes! It’s the way to get the Steam Windows client working on Linux without @#%@#% re-compiling WINE from source! But PlayOnLinux isn’t a cure-all. As I noted above, it doesn’t help me run Windows-native Steam games like Civlization IV. And it doesn’t help me play either of the KotOR games because Linux refuses to read the third (and only the third) disc for either game. And sometimes the PlayOnLinux installer for the game you’re interested in doesn’t support the version of the game you have. When last I looked, PlayOnLinux only supported the GOG version of Alpha Centauri, for example, whereas I have the disc version. (For the record, Alpha Centauri works pretty well with regular old WINE, so I’m not bitter about that. It’s just an example.)

            PlayOnLinux also seems to re-download WINE for each game, which I don’t like. I can see the necessity in cases like the Windows client for Steam, since that requires a non-standard version of WINE. But I still don’t like it.

            • Echo Tango says:

              Yeah, it plays most of the games I want, but there’s defintely been a few I had to pass up. As for the separate Wine copies, that’s the price you pay for having Wine sandboxed, with per-game settings. According to the Wine FAQ, Wine takes up about 20MB by itself, so I’d consider that a non-issue for most games, since even a small game will use more than double that. e.g. Steam says Spelunky is 273 MB, Pythagoria is 78MB, and The Consuming Shadow is 50 MB.

            • tmtvl says:

              I don’t know what Linux you’re running, but standard Wine from the Emulators OBS on OpenSUSE Leap installs Steam without problems.

        • Tom says:

          Yeah, we’ve definitely hit the turning point. WINE compatibility is pretty damn good, GOG and Humble Bundle are providing drm-free linux-native executables, or at the very least decent WINE wrappers, with most new releases, steam has moved to Linux, even a couple of AAA games have started getting in on the act. And Linux itself is easier to install and compatible with more hardware than ever.

          It’s just a shame almost nobody makes the kind of games I like to play any more – NOOOOOOO!

      • Echo Tango says:

        Use PlayOnLinux!

    • In a way MicroSoft has the PC gamers best interests in mind, provided they align with the company.

      Any company/corporation aims to make profit. Now if championing for PC gamers brings more profit than not doing so then they’ll obviously focus on PC gamers.

      The issue with MicroSoft is the “too many cooks” problem. Or in this case Executives.
      Everyone are trying to put their mark on something so that they can later say “Remember that thing? That was me!”

      The less short term profit MicroSoft focuses on and the more long term profit it focuses on, the better it is for consumers.
      The fact that well written (and sometimes badly written) software from a decade or two ago still works is unheard of on most OS (like Mac, or Linux).
      If there is one thing MicroSoft understand then it’s “the long tail”, except in the situations where they don’t (rolls eyes).

      A company the size of MicroSoft tends to get schizophrenic at times.

      • ehlijen says:

        This isn’t a new fad for microsoft. Using existing market presence to enforce a practical monopoly goes as far back as the 90s and the IE vs Netscape conflict.

        This is not a matter of unclear direction, too many cooks or short sightedness. They’ve seen Apple’s pie and they want it. They’ve seen Steam’s pie and they want it.

        All of this is part of their strategy: achieve market dominance and thus total information control by any means necessary, including leveraging existing presence and the threat of compatibility loss.

    • Mephane says:

      just don’t understand it. How after all this time of failing they just don’t even try. It’s not just a problem of being greedy, is a problem of them being absolutely and utterly incompetent at bringing a valuable competitor to the PC digital release market. If EA can handle it (after quite a rough patch but still, after the first try), how come they can’t? As you say, all they have to do is sugar coat it, and they seem incapable of it.

      This may very well be a generational thing. It still baffles me from time to time, but someone who is born in the year 2000 is now 15 or 16 and thus already clearly part of the gaming target demographic. They were 0-1 years old when Windows XP launched. 2-3 years old when Steam launched. 6-7 years when GFWL launched. They basically have never even experienced a world before online marketplaces as digital distribution platforms. The first Windows OS they ever experienced was probably Windows 7. Videos like this may seem silly to older (30+ in 2016) folks, but I can imagine I would have reacted similarly at that age (I started with Windows 95) if someone had made me try to use the first DOS.

    • Tom says:

      Because that’s not how Microsoft solve their problems. I’m pretty sure no Microsoft product has ever succeeded based on technical merit alone; every single one of their major milestones in ascending to market dominance has primarily been the result of, shall we say, “astute” business practices. The original, extremely lucrative IBM licensing deal for MSDOS that catapulted them to success, which they make no secret of. Selling consoles at a loss to achieve customer lock-in, & the whole “exclusives” racket. The so-called “Microsoft tax” that ensures they get paid for a copy of windows even if you opt not to get a copy with your machine from most suppliers. “Embrace-Extend-Extinguish.”

      The idea of maintaining market dominance just by making a higher quality product is simply alien to them.

    • Decius says:

      It seems to me that people are more likely to advocate that others get a second chance than that they get a first chance. That scares me.

  2. Peter H. Coffin says:

    “The card invades your privacy, makes shopping a hassle, and makes products inferior.”

    So, CostCo or Sams Club without the cheap prices, basically.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I’m curious: Do these cards give anyone meaningful price reductions in the US?
      In Germany at least, they’re mostly cosmetic. You get “points” worth less than a percent of what you bought to get them, and the psychological urge to buy more stuff to make it “worth it” is larger for many than the actual savings. To make it even more superficial, there are now a few networks where you can collect points across completely different kinds of stores.
      The motivation for the operator is obvious but the pretense of being “loyalty cards” for the customer is watered down even more as you can use them in competing stores… In the UK “Nectar points” are everywhere. At least these days a polite “no” will stop people asking, rather than trying to convince me I should have one of their stupid cards…

      • Joshua says:

        Are you referring to the Costco/Sam’s cards or regular store loyalty cards? I’m assuming the former.

        They are worthwhile, but you have to buy the right things. Typically, everything is cheaper than at a regular store, but some things are marginally so.

        A 365 ct of the Costco version of Zertec is currently running $12.99.

        Compared to a 180 ct. “twin-pack” of the Wal-Mart version of the same product is currently going for $23.10. Just buying a couple of bottles of the first product a year saves us $20 for that one product.

        We mostly get a lot of the bulk sundries there. Unfortunately, a lot of the food items has the limitation of either coming in too large of a size for the two of us, having only a limited selection of flavors/varieties, or both.

        I think the membership at both of these places run at about $40-50/year. So, you buy the right kind of things, and/or you have a large family that can utilize bulk shopping pretty well, it’s very easy to save money.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Over here, there’s two types of cards: The supermarket version where you just collect points (rather than having to collect vouchers for stuff), and you can spend them on either regular stuff or sometimes some special things … the attraction is mostly psychological, and the real savings close to zero because many of the reduced special offers are just marked down by however much they had been marked up before (unbeknownst to most customers…).
          On the whole, I think you could live cheaper by comparing prices more often and buying when it’s cheap, where it’s cheap, without bleeding personal data.

          And then you have cafés and such where you get a card from real paper, do not leave you data but just get a few stamps or holes punched in and after ten coffees or such, the next one is free — that’s not really saving anything, either but it’s a motivation to pick your favourite place and stick with it. And of course to order the tenth coffee earlier than you would have otherwise… I don’t mind, at least they’re not trying to steal my data.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        It does, but that’s the distinction between a membership store (which could be looked at as a very large cooperative corporation, and may even involve a dividend or tier percentage paid back) and a simple loyalty card. A typical loyalty card for a grocery supermarket CAN save significant amount. When I was using such regularly, I’d typically end up “stocking up” on things when they happened to have a loyalty discount and regularly pull 10-15% discount on the TOTAL grocery bill for having my purchases tracked and associated. The membership stores even more so, but involve more work and a great deal of compromise on product brands. Much of the discounting from membership stores comes from the store approaching manufacturers and contracting for their products to be produced under the store’s own branding. So General Mills may be selling Cheerios to regular grocery stores for $3 a box, but “Kirkland Oat-ios” for only $2 a box and they’re merely happy because that means they’re not competing with Kellogg’s or Post at CostCo.

        • MadHiro says:

          This same basic concept, minus the membership cost, is what drives Trader Joes. Most of the products on the shelf under the Trader Joes label are just name brand products that have been relabeled. From time to time, there’s a supply chain hiccup and we open a box that had the wrong label applied at the manufacturer and we have to ship the thing back (despite it being an identical product).

      • Rosseloh says:

        The card I have at one of the local grocery stores is a bit different. Instead of getting discounts on the groceries, you get a few cents off of a gallon of gas at a specific gas station chain in town. Thing is, it’s only on certain items. Basically instead of being straight up rewards, it’s more of a “get them into our store instead of the other guy’s” sort of deal.

        On the one hand, you can accumulate cents off up to a point that I’ve never reached, making your next gas fill up really cheap. On the other, the groceries at this particular store are more expensive in general than the local Wal-mart, somewhat negating those savings. (That said, I still go there if I need fresh vegetables, since they’re higher quality.)

        Now, your bog-standard “rewards” card like from the office supply store I used to work at? That was useless. You basically got coupons in your email, and occasionally would have built up enough purchases to cover the cost of a ream of paper or something. But for most people, it was just the coupons. It was pretty much worthless, and signing people up was a metric you were judged on, too.

      • Abnaxis says:

        The one loyalty card I used works different than what I’ve seen anyone else describe here. At Krogers, they basically jack the price up on everything and then put it on “sale” for anyone who has a card, in order to create the illusion of saving money for the coupon-cutting crowd.

        It’s pretty manipulative, and I wouldn’t even bother with them if there was another grocery store less than a 20-minute drive away. However, it’s the place I need to go when I’m in the “oh crap I forgot to buy X and the recipe I need it for is the only thing thawed for tonight” situation. That means I need a membership card if I don’t want to be up-charged 10-30%

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Grocery store in New York worked exactly this way. The “Saver card” was the real price, refusing to get the free (except for the costs Shamus described) card made them jack up the prices on you in retaliation.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        We’ve earned enough through our Costco membership (here in Canada) in the past two years to take a big percentage out of the membership renewal fee, but that’s mostly on the back of a few big purchases. There isn’t currently a Costco conveniently close to either home or work for either my girlfriend or myself, so we don’t go very regularly. On the other hand, we’re expecting twins so we’ll probably make a lot more use of Costco soon. (If you’re not buying in bulk, I generally find Costco’s prices no better than, and often worse than, Walmart, and the more local grocery chain is a bit more expensive, but has much better quality and variety of food.)

        The main drugstore chain has an okay points-collection loyalty program that eventually turns into cash amounts–if you’re using the drugstore anyway, it’s not too bad.

        My main credit card has a points-collection program that turns into vacation/air miles, basically. Since a) there are things I’m going to buy regardless, and b) I’m only paying for things with credit when I have the cash and never carrying a balance, I might as well collect the points and earn that vacation.

        I otherwise have little use for these loyalty programs. The type of marketing pitched at me seems to have gotten worse in the past few years, if anything.

      • Decius says:

        Since the costs are largely psychological, the benefits are mostly psychological. Plus programs that don’t give real discounts are easier to administer.

      • We got a costco membership because even with the cost of the membership, 4 new tires was about 50 bucks less than anywhere else. It’s also a good place to get prescriptions that your insurance doesn’t cover (we used it to get heart meds for our dog).

        Their liquor store prices are also quite good.

    • ehlijen says:

      Do those also insist you keep using the card on pain of any money being saved not being compatible with your bank account anymore?

  3. Chuk says:

    Are they going to put this on Minecraft??

    • Mhoff says:

      I think they already have with the windows 10 exclusive version thing. Doesn’t stop you from playing with the normal version, but the new hotness is more restricted. Something along those lines at least.

  4. 4. No overlay software. You can’t launch it through Steam, which means no Steam controller support.

    I’d say the onus here is on Valve. Out of the box the controller acts as any other USB gamepad Xinput based controller right?
    For special support a device driver is needed. Now Valve has the ability to make a driver and pay the cost of getting the driver on Windows Update.

    And then download a configuration tool from Valve, so that any game that support Xinput and keyboard can use it with custom bindings.

    Also all a developer would need to do to support the controller is use a steamcontroller.dll that they could ship with their games to access special features.

    Requiring steam overlay to use the steam controller is a mistake in my opinion.

    I have a Steelseries mouse, and they provide a software that handles macros and re-bindings. The mouse itself is a standard one with no special drivers.

    I also have/had a A4tech X7 mouse, it allowed you to run a configuration program and store macros in the mouse. Once set you could uninstall the configuration program. The macro would also work if you used the mouse on another PC.

    If the Steam Controller has no macro/re-binding storage then that is a feature that it really should have. Performance wise it’s should also be better than some (running in the) background re-binding software.

    • Retsam says:

      Yeah, this is probably my biggest beef with the Steam Controller right now; it’s too tied to Steam. I shouldn’t need to use the (occasionally glitchy) Steam overlay to use a controller.

      • Supah Ewok says:

        Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I really wanted the Steam controller to use for emulators for old consoles I don’t have the space to possess. Really disappointed that Valve, who complained about MS wanting all games to go through their store, are doing the same thing with their own products. I get that they wanted this special thing where users could share control scheme profiles, which requires some sort of centralization for sharing, but I don’t see why there isn’t also an option to use it away from Steam.

  5. boz says:

    Worst of all, it’s not simply about UWP. Whole thing is a package deal, DirectX 12, Windows 10 and Windows Store. You can’t pick and choose, you have to accept all of them if you want to play “Quantum Break”. It’s the same stupid strategy they tried to pull a decade ago back in the days of DirectX 10 and Halo 2 and Windows Vista and GFWL.

  6. Dev Null says:

    “It’s like the Apple App store, but for the PC, and way worse.”

    I don’t want to start a holy war, but I do love how the things that outrage us in the PC world are considered “features” that no one much seemed to care about at all in Apple-land. I think it’s part of why Microsoft keeps hoping to get away with copying Apple in these respects; what they don’t seem to realize is that the two user groups are fundamentally very different.

    • Izicata says:

      You don’t get many complaints about the Mac App store because most Mac users don’t actually use the Mac App store aside from installing OS updates.

    • ehlijen says:

      Yup, the kind of person who would complain about apple probably switched to windows instead. Now windows is trying to be apple and there’s no layman’s alternative anymore. Complaining and Linux are the only paths left, and not everyone wants linux either.

    • Mephane says:

      This. Instead of embracing how they are not Apple, and how some people prefer one, others prefer the other, MS try to be the same.

  7. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Hey Shamus, I too was struck with the urge to play FUEL lately, and with a bit of googling I found a crack that removed GFWL from the game. It probably violates the EULA, but since it’s the only way to play the game on PC, I think you’re safe.

  8. Hector says:

    UWP in and of itself isn’t the problem. It’s literally every single thing related to it which sucks, and is why this is almost certainly going to crash and burn. The idea of a universal “windows” program is fine. The fact that Microsoft wants to basically control EVERYTHING is not. This brand of thinking is why I utterly loathe WIndows 10, and am considering jumping to linux finally. It’s no longer my computer. Microsoft decides my ability to control, alter, and change my experience too “extreme” for modern consumers and has decided to kindly allow me to control a few things when and if they deem it prudent.

    Some companies act like they don’t have a clue (and they probably don’t). Others behavior with a barely-restrained malice. Microsoft, on the other hand, is a one-of-a-kind beast that mixes the two. Having never understood why people like their software and services, they keep driving more customers away with stupidly evil schemes. They act like some kind of cartoon villain, but one who genuinely doesn’t *understand* that villainy is bad. They don’t seem to understand that telling customers, “No, really, you WANT us to nail down your experience in aggravating, painful ways and to pay us for the privilege.”

    Remember, this is the company which screwed up the X Box One, a machine which by all rights should have dominated this console cycle, with a mix of painfully poor branding, mixed and always fundamentally negative consumer messaging, and completely failing to take advantage of easy wins. And it wasn’t necessary; they flubbed it by apparently failing to even consider what the customer might want.

    Edit: Also, consider that the an online store is something Microsoft could do today, right now, if it wanted, or could have done any time in the last decade. That they think they have to shove this down people’s throats is telling. Even the defenders of this kind of thing (who are few and far between) have to resort to “maybe it won’t actually be quite as bad as people say.” But Microsoft hasn’t articulated any benefits to the consumer because there really aren’t any.

    • Majikkani_Hand says:

      I actually have just started the switch to Linux, for exactly crap like this. Windows 10 is just too unsettling. I’m keeping the ability to dual-boot to Windows for gaming (I have a desktop so I can afford to give it its own drive and just…yank it out if everything goes to hell) but the only thing left that I really cared about on it was the games, and that’s just not enough to use it as a primary OS anymore. Hopefully gaming on Linux will get better and I can stop installing Windows at all on future machines.

      It’s annoying having everything be in a weird location, and not intuitively knowing how to do things anymore, but that’s what Google is for and I get quite a large sense of relief knowing I have an OS that’s not actively evil (or at least less so) installed.

      • Echo Tango says:

        If you don’t need to play the best-graphics AAA games, you can already switch to Linux for gaming.

        A lot of games come with Linux support straight out of Steam. As for the rest, I can play small games no-questions-asked with PlayOnLinux*. Games that need more CPU or GPU tend to still be playable with lower graphics settings. The latest-greatest are ones I can’t play, but there’s tonnes of other things I can play, and I’m due for a laptop upgrade soon anyways. :)

        * Wrapper over top of Wine, for hassle-free gaming. :)

        • Majikkani_Hand says:

          I’m looking forward to experimenting with what runs on Linux, actually! I do tend to play at least some of the AAA type-stuff or otherwise games I wouldn’t even try to run (Diablo III, for instance, seems to occasionally actually punish Linux users by shutting their accounts, if forum posts are anything to go by, which doesn’t exactly scream “experiment with me”–way to go, Blizzard), but not all of the time, and it’ll be fun to see what I can get to work.

        • Kelerak says:

          I switched over to Linux for a brief period of time when my Windows 8 OS just flat out stopped working. No ability to go to the start screen, no logging in, nothing.

          It was a nice change of pace, I liked it for what it was, but it broke way too easily for me to keep using it as a gaming thing, so I switched to Windows 7.

          Whenever my computer breaks down like this, I shout, “I just want to play TF2! Is this really so difficult?!”

          • Echo Tango says:

            Mind stating what kinds of problems and what distro? I’m using Xubuntu, since I’m on a 3-year old laptop, and it runs everything pretty well. The only kinds of glitches I’ve had are pretty minor stuff, like the audio-autoplay thing Shamus noted on the main page this month, and every couple updates something will break in a weird way where my computer keeps acting like the 5 key on my keyboard is being held down/repeated. Everything else runs without complaint. Printer drivers used to be broken, but I hardly print anything, they finally fixed that anyways in the last year. Also, TF2 runs natively on Linux. :)

          • Kalil says:

            I lost a hard drive while on a boat have the globe away from my windows install stick, and solved my withdrawal by throwing KDE on my machine. It was usable, but had a lot of headaches. There were an awful lot of design decisions that felt really awkward to me, and I had a persistant issue where the taskbar would stop functioning. I eventually went back to Windows.

            I did not, however, feel particularly short on games. If MS ever does go too far with forcing Win10 down our throats, I think I’ll be able to switch with fairly little pain.

  9. IronCore says:

    It is possible to play FUEL even today. There is a workaround to GFWL. Details here. I reinstalled the game and tested it myself before posting here. The first download link provided gave me a dangerous site return so you might want to avoid that one. The filedroper link worked just fine and my anti-virus cleared it.
    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=268031297

  10. Zak McKracken says:

    The thing I’m really concerned about is: What if this works?

    The only thing that needs to happen is that enough people who wandered over to Windows 10 just start using the damn thing. Sort of like so many just used IE because it was the default, back in the day… Right now Windows is the last of the big commercial systems for which where you can still buy your software wherever you like. Having the only approved store under control of the OS maker has worked out marvellously for Apple and Google (in both cases at least partly to the detriment of customers), and they’ve made tons of money. Of course MS wants in! The problem is: Where do I go if and when that happens?

    My belief that a significant portion of customers will not wander into a particular trap has been shattered so often that I can’t really hold it anymore. Alright, so I’ve got Linux running since forever, and I have a Google-free Android phone (or so I think..?). But I don’t actually _want_ to be locked out of most AAA games, and I don’t _want_ to be forced to spend time and energy working around those traps. What I do want it the ability to choose what I buy and where I buy it. I’d absolutely hate if we were headed into a world where you either depend on a quasi-monopoly or you have to do it all yourself, but MS seems finally to be trying to get on exactly that bandwagon…

    • ehlijen says:

      No finally about it, this is what MS has wanted for decades. They’ve always tried to use compatibility-network-effects and consumer inertia to increase their grip on the market.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Oh yes, they’ve been trying hard to achieve lock-in, and have managed to do this in a number of ways (people locked to the operating system, to MS office software…) but this thing is a number bigger: They’re trying to lock users into their store. Until now, the MS operating systems were the standard PC thing. You can buy whatever hardware you like wherever you like it, you buy whatever software you like, wherever you like to, and it’s all (mostly…) interoperable. Apple and Google have a much tighter control over these aspects, and so will MS if their plan works.

        Here’s hoping that the likes of GOG and co (even Steam, although it is a lock-in ecosystem, too) are able to withstand.

    • Fizban says:

      Indeed. Shamus, Jim Sterling, and probably tons of other personalities are saying this will fail but. . . it probably won’t. Megacorps without restriction (and there isn’t any in the US, just a veneer of appeasement) are basically like entropy: inevitable.

      They shove windows 10 down people’s throats, and weather they wanted to or not a huge percentage will have already made the “up”grade for various reasons. That percentage will not be going down, “normal” people don’t reinstall or buy a new copy or change OS unless they replace their computer. The only question is if they can get the companies making the games to bend and start making things exclusive, and as a megacorp the answer is always yes in the end.

      Even if this one is fought and fades it will only continue happening until it succeeds or laws are passed and enforced forbidding such monopolizing practices, which won’t happen until megacorps lose power over the government, which at best won’t happen until the current government has died of old age. And by that point they’ll probably be replaced by people who’ve spent so long in the current environment they don’t even need to be bribed.

      Still, the inevitable heat death of the universe is no reason to throw yourself off a bridge. Let us hope that enough mainstream publishers will fight back to deter this round and win another cycle of quasi-freedom. Or maybe Steam or someone brings a new OS with enough backing to take over the spot Microsoft wants to abandon.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        Microsoft’s not going anywhere so long as they dominate the enterprise market. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon as long as retraining millions of knowledge workers who are not IT pros nor “power users” is required with any change in OS. If that change comes, it’s coming from Apple or Google, companies with their own control issues.

        Maybe Microsoft will eventually lose the AAA/high-end PC gaming markets, but if those markets are just a fraction of enterprise sales, they won’t even care.

    • Eskel says:

      That’s not entirely accurate, you can easily download and install programs from other sources on Mac OS X. Lots of commercial software for Mac is not sold through App Store.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Yes, you’re of course right. I was more referring to the iOS and the Android ecosystems. What’s not on the iStore is hard to get onto iPhones, and what’s not in the playstore … well you can work around that (I must know, I do!), and there actually quite a few other stores and repositories, but I don’t think the average user will ever use them, even if it’s just because Android on a new phone gives you no hint that you can use it without the Play store (without a Google account, actually).

        For Apple, there have been a few instances of Apple yanking completely legitimate things from the iStore for … shall we say “strategic” … reasons. That’s the death penalty for most projects

  11. modus0 says:

    Don’t blame Microsoft for Fuel no longer being playable due to GFWL, blame Codemasters (or Asobo Studio).

    Rocksteady/WB patched both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City to remove the GFWL function after MS announced the abandoning of GFWL, even going so far as to add Steam Achievements to the first.

    Codemasters, OTOH, doesn’t seem to care that it’s game may not be playable anymore, and has made no visible effort to patch the game, for any reason. Almost like they’ve abandoned it as well.

    • ehlijen says:

      Why is it on them to remove a broken requirement that Microsoft insisted on being included?

      MS decided the game needed GFWL.
      MS decided to shut down GFWL.
      MS didn’t make a fix to remove the GFWL requirement from games they put it in.

      Blame the FUEL makers for not fixing it, if you have to, but don’t let Microsoft off the hook for what is their stuff-up.

      • modus0 says:

        Because PC games released during the lifetime of GFWL did NOT need to have it included. It wasn’t some sort of “If you release a game for the Windows OS, it MUST have GFWL built in”, but something devs chose to include.

        There are fewer that 70 PC games that used GFWL. And I’m fairly certain (though I could be wrong) that it wasn’t Microsoft that decided which games got GFWL, but the devs/publishers.

        While Microsoft isn’t entirely blameless, it kind of looks more like GFWL dies because not enough developers were bothering to use it.

        As for the functionality of GFWL, I can’t say that I had nearly as many problems with it as Shamus had; but that’s the fun part of developing for a computer, all the different component variables make for some interesting (and sometimes unreliable) interactions between hardware and software.

        • ehlijen says:

          Would any developer or publisher have made that choice without microsoft pushing them to and incentivising them?

          • Muspel says:

            Possibly.

            One of the reasons why I suspect GFWL had what little traction it did was because of executives who didn’t know much about development, and figured “Microsoft makes the operating system that PC games run on, so their platform is what we should use”.

            Also, GFWL was connected to Xbox Live, which meant that your achievements were shared across platforms, and (I think?) you could also chat and send messages, which isn’t a bad feature. (It may have also been easier when porting, if it shared similar code as the Xbox 360’s multiplayer/network stuff, although that’s pure speculation on my part.)

            I’m not saying that Microsoft wasn’t trying to strong-arm companies into using it… but I also think it’s possible that companies may have decided to use it on their own because they didn’t know any better.

  12. I was surprised to read the “can’t record” comment since Windows 10 just rolled out their own game-recording overlay thingy. Doing that and then making games you can’t record seems rather obtuse. So, yeah, seems like the commentor was right about at least some things.

    • Echo Tango says:

      So, wouldn’t other recording software being broken, plus built-in recorder from Microsoft be…kind of like the IE debacle from years gone past? That’s pretty monopolistic…

  13. Alecw says:

    Why’d you link that post Shamus? Nothing he said changed the truth of your assertions. It in fact just made them more aggravating by reminding me that MS and their ilk get away with this nonsense chiefly on the back of this soft corporate apologism by the community.

    “Mods can be custom coded into each app!”. …
    THAT IS NOT HOW MODDING WORKS. MOD IS SHORT FOR MODIFICATION.
    If you have made it so the dev has specific control over custom user changes you are not supporting mods. Supporting mods means not designing your code from the ground up to be antagonistic to modders.
    I’m not sure you understand this Shamus, since you thought Good Robot is not very mod friendly outside of text ini files. But I’m sure if someone wants to alter AI or map generation you haven’t built in systems and traps that prevent someone with a will to reverse engineer a binary patch to change these things. That’s all Doom did and no one thought that was mod unfriendly. Dehacked wasn’t a simple tool to build but it was fine. That’s all modders expect.

    And the streaming thing made me actively angry. Great I can use a built in Windows tool, or this specific program no one uses. I also use Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer because they are so perfect for my needs!

    This stuff is not a relevant counter argument or disclaimer. Your points stand unaltered.

    • Geebs says:

      The first point that commenter made about “bridges” sounded highly suspicious to me, too. Write-once-run-everywhere code that runs on most/all platforms? Usually turns out clunky, but technically possible. Write-once-run-everywhere game code that runs adequately on most/all platforms? Not outside of the Infocom interpreter, IMO.

  14. Mephane says:

    Most of the problems with UWP and the Win10Store are of a very fundamental nature. It’s not about the details, but how the details reveal what is underneath.

    For example, the problem is not just that VSync doesn’t work, or that SLI doesn’t work. The more bigger problem is that whatever the store or UWP does, prevents functionality that already is a thing, from functioning. And this is functionality within the game, not within the store. So it is not about the store itself lacking features, but that the games delivered by the store are delibately crippled versions.

    And in response to that Escapist comment Shamus linked to: yes, no access to .exe or .dll files is also a crippling move. Take the recent example from Shamus himself, Fuel. I haven’t searched for it or tried, but I am fairly sure there exist (pirate) jailbreak versions of its executable which would still work today.

    Likewise, there are more and more initiatives to revive old games that otherwise wouldn’t work natively with today’s hardware and/or software – have fun trying that in 20 years with game that only exist as locked-down encrypted binary blobs with no access to the actual dlls and exes. That is unless the entire thing gets hacked open eventually, and the stuff will land on the pirate sites anyway (which is likely, but not a guarantee).

    Speaking of piracy, Microsoft has shown that it has not only not learnt the lessons from the failed fight against piracy, but that instead it follows the old, failed methods, just even harder. Instead of trying to provide the better product, they have gone the extra mile to ensure that the product is definitely worse than all other alternatives.

    Heck, they have managed to make UPlay look rather decent.

    Now let’s take a step back and think about what side effects this has on games that continue to be released on other, better, more open platforms. There’s this long debate about the “consolification” of PC games, where often basically you get a badly done port from console to PC, locked to 30fps, badly optimized with horrible performance, with terrible controls (especially for menus), checkpoint-only saves, controls limited to the number of buttons on a gamepad (with lots of magic double-duty buttons, like the infuriating spacebar in Mass Effect that both selects a line and skips portion of a dialog), only voice and no text chat in multiplayer etc.

    I imagine a rather bleak future where most games are either console ports or ports from UWP. Sure, there are some console ports that are done well, and there will also be some ports from UWP done well, but even in those cases one can often see how certain features were designed around the limitations of those platforms.

    Also, it is right now also an issue with console platform exclusives: fantastic new game announced – oh it’s a (permanent) exclusive. If you don’t own the platform (and few people have the money and time to spend on owning and using all the platforms), the game could just as well not exist at all. Now Microsoft are basically adding yet another platform to segment the video games market even further.

    And remember when Microsoft announced Win10 would be free if you switch from 7 or 8 during the first year, and everyone wondered what’s the catch? Because clearly they were not doing this for altruistic reasons. And then the privacy issues showed up and everyone was “yepp, they want to watch you and collect all the data”. I think that was just a minor issue and never Microsofts true goal. The true goal has always the UWP and the Win10Store. To have a locked-down platform where customers and developers are forever at Microsofts whim. It’s no surprise that DX12 will be Win10 exclusive*; this was clearly a strategic decision, not a technological one.

    (*I have a small hope that alternatives to DirectX might benefit from this.)

    Now let’s get back to my point at the beginning: these are all symptoms, details in the bigger picture. And the big picture is that Microsoft controls, enables, and withholds basic features and functionality for UWP apps. Even if they addressed all current concerns and opened up on the lacking features, they obviously and naturally intend the store and UWP to be there to stay. No one can predict what new tech, new features, functionality, input devices, user interfaces, hardware, middleware etc. there will be in the future. And for all these future inventions, it would be Microsoft that decides whether we can use them and whether software developers can utilize them in their products.

    Is that what we want?

    Addendum: We may go one step further in this line of thinking. Microsoft will not only control what technology – hardware and software, what features etc. you can use or developers can implement. It will ultimately enable them to control the very content in the store. They really want to be another Apple, and may very well end up with the same patronizing attitude towards certain types of content (e.g. forbidding all adult material).

  15. Zekiel says:

    Shamus, just for future reference – I don’t think I’ll ever got bored of reading your rants about GFWL or similar poorly-designed systems :-)

  16. Lanelor says:

    For the many problems Windows (can) have, it is the OS where (almost) all thing work. My web camera – just plug and Skype. GPU fan ramps up for no reason? Not under Win drivers. And ALL games support it.
    I can see myself switching to Linux if I was using it only for web/media/office stuff, but with gaming as a major factor … may be in another decade?

    • ehlijen says:

      Funny you should say that. My win10 webcam doesn’t work (most of the time; sometimes after a reboot it will work for a few minutes and then go back to producing nothing but the ‘looking for input’ symbol).

      But yes, Windows has always thrived on offering a mixture of freedom to use your system your way and ease of use, and that’s not an easy balance to achieve. Which is why it’s all the more disappointing they’re moving towards an apple style locked down arrangement now :(

  17. WarlockOfOz says:

    I consider it totally unfair to consider UWP to be GFWL v2.
    After all, UWP hasn’t been through even a single apology and relaunch cycle yet.

  18. Jeff says:

    I for one welcome all your rants, Shamus. They often articulate what I can’t put into words, and your rants are actually really helpful when I struggle to describe something if you’ve happen to gone over that specific thing.

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