Games for Windows Live

  By Shamus   May 17, 2010   126 comments

We’re going to be doing the Fallout 3 DLC Operation: Anchorage sometime in the next few weeks. I should probably just buy it and give it a try so I’ll have something worthwhile to say when the time comes. So let’s go shopping!

1) Hm. How do I get the DLC? Five minutes of Googling around takes me to lots and lots of previews and reviews and movies and… geeze. How the heck do I BUY this thing? Oh! I see. Er. No, that’s just ordering a disk. Is it still “DLC” if you don’t “DL” it?

Ohhh. Here we are. A forum thread where someone asks this same question and someone else explains that the DLC is only available via Games for Windows Live. Hm. I go to the GFWL site and sure enough, they have the DLC. Except, I can’t even see how much it costs. It won’t tell me anything about price here on the website. Apparently I have to install the client just to see the pricetag? If I install GFWL and then find out this (reportedly) three-hour DLC is $20, I’m going to be mighty pissed.

Well, I was just ranting the other day about how I’m worried about the Steam market share. I’ve tried Impulse and Gamer’s Gate. Might as well try GFWL and see how it measures up.

2) I download the GFWL client. Well, I download the launcher that will install the client. And now I can-

What? The installer says I need a Windows XP hotfix? As in: I need to alter my operating system in order to install a DLC store so I can consider buying a game? Fine. Jerks.

3) Reboot what? Close all my programs? I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING HERE, ASSHOLE.

Suddenly we hit level four of a nested problem and I begin to become unreasonably irate.

4) Fine, computer rebooted. GFWL installed. Get my windows all open again so I can resume the stuff I was doing. Now where was I? Oh right…

Browse the store. Okay. $10. Not a great price for three hours of content. If fact, that’s pretty damn abysmal. But I’ll pay it. Let’s get some Microsoft points. I enter my credit card, confirm all the details, and fiddle around as you do with these sorts of transactions. After which…

gfwl_fail.jpg

Oh wow. “Transaction cannot be performed at this time”. A completely generic and uninformative failure message. How… Microsoft of you.

5) Let’s follow the link to see what the problem might be…

http://support.xbox.com/support

What? A popup? You want to know if I’m using a black or a white Xbox? And what interface I’m using? I don’t… I don’t see how this is relevant to the problem at hand. What if I didn’t own an Xbox? But fine, you nosy idiots. I’ll randomly make some choices so we can move on.

And… nothing. There is absolutely nothing anywhere on this page that gives me the slightest clue as to why my transaction couldn’t be processed at this time. This page is – as the URL suggests – 100% about Xbox issues and doesn’t even mention GFWL.

Wrong credit card number? Servers down? I don’t even know if the problem is on my end, or theirs. It just mysteriously doesn’t work and nobody can do anything about it.

6) Okay. Google tells me nothing. I jump back to GFWL and just try the operation again in blind desperation. But it seems I’ve been logged out. Like, GFWL times out after a while? Like a webpage? Well, if we were doing this through the web, that would be fine. But then why did I have to download this client and patch my operating system so I could use what is basically a web browser?

Fine. Name. Password. Re-submit.

And it works! Whew.

7) Okay. I come back to this window, type the above 3 paragraphs, Alt-Tab back to GFWL and hit “download”.

But it has logged me out. Again.

There is no way to simply stay logged in. No way to have it remember my password. And it logs me out after five minutes every time. Is this really how it works? You have to keep typing in your password all the time?

8) Okay. Download done. Now what? I mean, how do I play it or activate it or install it or whatever? There’s nothing for me to click. It just says “downloaded”.

For laughs, I fire up the game, but the content isn’t there. So, I need to do something. GFWL has no directions whatsoever. Nothing. I hunt around and find “Download Management”, which offers a link to where all of my downloaded content is stored locally.

The specified directory is empty.

Well, I downloaded 336Mb of something. It must be somewhere on my computer, although it’s pretty hard to search for it when you have no idea where it might be or what it might be called.

I scan my hard drive for everything beginning with “anchorage” and eventually it finds the goods in:

C:\Documents and Settings\Name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\XLive\DLC\xxxxxxxx\xxxxxxxx\xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx\Content

(I replaced some huge numbers with X’s because I have no idea if they encode anything sensitive or not.)

Not exactly intuitive. There are three files in there. Because I’ve spent hours messing about with community mods, I recognize them and I know to put these files into Fallout 3/Data and then start the mod manager, enable the mod, and then launch the game. I do not think this is a reasonable thing to expect all users to know how to do.

9) At last, I can play my content.

Six years after Steam claimed the entire New World of digital distribution, Microsoft is still fumbling around trying to figure out how to use the internet. If this was a game of Civilization, then Gabe Newell is working on stage three of his spaceship to Alpha Centauri, and Bill Gates has just showed up to attack him with a catapult and a spearman.

(A small silver lining: The DLC didn’t come with any DRM that I can see. It’s just loose files and I’m pretty sure I could back them up and use them on a later computer without having to authenticate anything.)

A Hundred!206There are 126 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


  1. BaCoN says:

    Yeah, the files are loose, which makes it really nice to give as a gift. I bought them, threw them on a USB drive, and gave it to my friend for his birthday. Then I bought Fallout 3 myself and was a total jerk, being all “Awww hells yes, check out this DLC, sooooooon.”

    I was the coolest kid on the block, I tell you what.

    I kinda hate that GFWL wants you to log in to play your game, and you have, if I recall, little to no choice about it.

    So, I prefer Steam.

    For everything.

    Forever.

    I wish Steam did pizza delivery.

    • lowlymarine says:

      Actually, there is a way to log in to GFWL games with a local account without even being connected to the internet. The option is buried as a link in a wall of text several links away from the main log-in screen, IIRC. Not exactly intuitive, but at least you can play GFWL games offline consistently (albeit without being able to earn achievements), which is better than can be said for Ubisoft games or for any of my experiences with Steam’s joke of an “Offline mode.”

      • PurePareidolia says:

        Buried in a wall of text?
        I’ve had fallout 3 on Steam since shortly after release and I’ve not once even been prompted to connect to GFWL. In fact I tried doing so once or twice but it always failed and I eventually concluded the service was either bugged or being superseded by Steam.

        So a very different experience, the only common thread being how much GFWL sucks.

      • eri says:

        There are a few games that won’t let you save your game if you don’t log in, if I recall correctly, and I’m fairly certain that you have to be connected at least once to make an account.

    • swimon says:

      yeah GFWL sucks.

      Also steam delivering pizza gave me an idea, what would it be like if GFWL was a pizza delivery service? I can see it now: you order a pizza wait a few minutes and then he arrives. A tall man with a blank empty stare
      -“what do you want?”
      -“A Hawaii, how much is that?” I answer
      -“800 microsoft points”. Confused I look at him like he just said he was 8 Tesla tall.
      -“Ok… Can I buy those? If so how much for 800 Microsoft points.”
      -“20$ for 1000 Microsoft points.”
      -“I only want 800 though.”
      -“20$ for 1000 Microsoft points.”
      -“…Whatever here.” At this point I’m severely creeped out and just want him gone so I give him the money.
      -“Ok you have bought the pizza.”
      -“I gathered that… So… are you going to bring me it?” Several minutes passes as he stares at me, or rather through me at the wall behind me.
      -“Ok you have the Pizza.” I look around just in case I missed something but find no Pizza.
      -“I do not, I think it’s still in your car.” He says nothing, after a while I realise there is no way around this and goes out to the car and get the pizza myself as I return he actually answers.
      -“See you have the pizza.”

      Confused angry and tired I close the door in his face, but before I can shut it he slams it open grabs me by the arm and pulls a gun. At this time I’m inches away from pissing my pants.
      -“We are updating our services, do you agree? Note that if you do not you will not be able to use the ordered pizza.”
      -“Sure” I peep, convinced that these are my last minutes of this world. He stares at me for a short while and then he leaves without a word.

      Half a pizza later I have almost successfully repressed this memory when I suddenly hear his voice again.
      -“You have eaten half the pizza.” Before I can call 911 he has already left without another word.

      Ok so that got somewhat long-winded. Bottom line: I HATE GFWL it’s worse than most DRM, it’s worse than some malware and it’s just plain rude.

      • BaCoN says:

        Epic. Now do Steam!

        As for you guys mentioning Ubisoft, I think it’s not a really fair comparison between the two distribution platforms. Ubisoft’s is… well…. New. And terrible. It’s probably not really worth mentioning in a Steam vs GFWL discussion, honestly.

        • Winter says:

          Steam shows up to your door when you start feeling a little hungry and asks “Would you like to buy a pizza? Now 50% off!”

          You buy the pizza and then Steam says “Okay, but you can’t eat it unless you wear this hat and tie.”

          But the hat and tie are kind of nice and it’s sure as hell better than GFWL or whatever other serial rapists delivering pizza you would get, so everyone just wears the hat and tie.

          • Blackbird71 says:

            Except that while making you wear the hat and tie (the appearance of which is very much a matter of opinion; some think they look great, and others think they’re ridiculous), they also give you a list of phone numbers of other people who like to eat pizza, and encourage you to have them join you. Which is fine if you’re looking to have a pizza party; but if all you want is a quiet evening eating pizza by yourself, then the list pretty much useless and you’re still stuck wearing a ridiculous looking hat and tie.

            And if you take off the hat and tie, you have to stop eating the pizza!

      • SnowballinHell says:

        Ok…you actually had me laughing….out loud….by myself
        Well done on the vignette

        seriously….out loud…:D

  2. Zeta Kai says:

    Wow, what a frustrating experience. And the sad thing is, somebody got $10 out of you, so there’s no financial incentive on their end to make it work any better.

    I will say that I enjoy reading your frustrations, as they so often reflect my own computing woes. Why do things have to be so complex & arcane? Why can’t things on computers just work like you’d imagine that they should? Why does Microsoft seem so oblivious & backward, thereby giving the entire PC platform a bad name? And why do I have a precognitive vision of some Mac user typing up a snarky response to my previous three rhetorical questions?

    • BaCoN says:

      WRONG. My name is BaCoN, and Windows 7 was MY idea.

      1) Computers aren’t hard to understand, because the internet is easily accessible to every illiterate jackhole who can leave a youtube comment. If my Grandma can tell me that I shouldn’t post videos of me singing and dancing in a speeding because I “look like a f**”, then computers are apparently easier than driving, because she can’t do THAT very well.

      2) Computers go wrong because everything goes wrong. Like when your mom points out that your grandparents “didn’t raise her to dance at a nightclub on saturdays,” and yet, here she is, things just happen becaue that’s the way they were meant to happen. If Word crashed and didn’t save any of my painstaking theorum, it was clearly because I was MEANT to work at McDonald’s until I turn forty.

      3) I think that whenever there’s a new, forward thinking group of people, there has to be some archaic dinosaur roaring in the background, stumbling around and knocking over trees and carefully piled stacks of Happiness, Joy and Success. This was the case with the RIAA and their terror spree of suing everyone who even considered downloading a song, and Jack Thompson’s ideas that children were some sort of multiplicative mirror of violence they played in games. Eventually the dinosaurs die out when the meteor of Reality strikes them full in the face, and the Ice Age’s glacial progress begins and we learn new things without having to listen to the business equivalent of Grandpa telling you how great it was to have to chop wood every day so he could cook dinner for his five brothers and sisters.

      Also, that was FOUR rhetorical questions. And none of my answers made sense.

    • eri says:

      The reason it doesn’t work is because Games for Windows LIVE is not designed to be good. It is a throwaway pittance for the PC gaming community that was launched in order to show fans that Microsoft was pretending to care. Microsoft is well aware of the fact that it is a piece of shit, and they don’t care. Know why not?

      Games for Windows LIVE is only around in order to encourage people to buy Xbox 360s. It’s the sole reason that it exists. Ever notice how when you’re navigating the overlay, they have all these cool features, live avatars, and parties, and group chat rooms, and cool webcam stuff? Then have you actually tried to use them, and found that all that happens is you get a message that says “sorry, you need an Xbox 360 to use this feature”?

      The fact is: the PC does not make Microsoft that much money when it comes to gaming, since they apparently decided that Ensemble, Bungie and Epic had no place on the platform. They can’t charge monthly fees because PC users would complain too much about it, and they apparently can’t rationalise using some of their riches to take a loss in the short term to launch their platform. Microsoft also gets royalties from Xbox 360 games, and profits directly from console sales, so there is every reason to push PC players towards the Xbox. They want a “unified gaming environment” where you pay them money no matter what, and the success of the Xbox 360 means that is their model for it.

      What’s even sadder is that, with the increasing number of PC games showing up on consoles (Crysis 2 for example), Microsoft is very, very likely to force developers to adopt Games for Windows LIVE in order to get the license to release the game on their console. This bullying effectively means that PC players get an inferior product and service, but there is little that the developers can do, since development costs are so high and not releasing a big-budget game on a console can spell a death sentence.

      • Winter says:

        “The fact is: the PC does not make Microsoft that much money when it comes to gaming”

        I’m not so sure about that. If it weren’t for gaming i, and everyone i know, would use either Macs or Linux. The only reason i even have a Windows partition is for games. Looking at it that way, gaming on the PC is basically responsible for Microsoft not getting tosses asap.

        • Freykin says:

          Ah, but how many Windows installs are legal? I’ll be honest, this is the first time in my life (I’m 27) that I’ve used a legal install of windows, and that’s because I was able to get Windows 7 for $30 as a student discount. No one else I know, besides my dad who uses it for business purposes, has paid for Windows.

          • Winter says:

            Well, there is probably some of that.

            On the other hand: most of their money comes from Office, and so that’s still relevant.

          • Chaz says:

            Yerse… This probably says more about the stage you are at in life. Certainly there is an element of truth in what you say, but once you hit your mid-twenties, you will find that your friends have more disposable income and are a lot less inclined to spend hours finding/downloading/cracking dodgy copies of Windows. Easier to buy it, and you when your time is tighter (i.e., you have jobs, kids etc) it is OK to spend money NOT to have to do this stuff.

            • Ross Bearman says:

              Of course the normal counter argument to this would be that genereally cracked software is often easier to set up and install, without having to go through fifty loopholes to get it working, having signed your soul away on multiple counts.

              • Mari says:

                Normally that’s the case but the past few releases of Windows have been a royal PITA to install cracked. Enough of a pain, in fact, that I’m now actually shelling out for five (count ‘em) copies of each Windows OS to keep our household network going. That hurts me on principle but it’s easier than dealing with a cracked OS that can’t get updates without a lot of effort.

                • Hugo Sanchez says:

                  Really? I don’t want to alert any authorities here, but the only thing I’ve had to do since installing my less than legitimate copy(Windows 7) was use a small program which removed the whole activation process. I get updates just fine, no annoying watermark either.

                  It’s also not hard to simply fake a manufacturer certification, as far as i recall. XP was even simpler.

          • Ozzie says:

            You pay for Windows if you buy a PC with Windows on it. OEM copies bring Microsoft much, much bigger revenue than retail ones.

    • Eggbert says:

      Because I was planning on it. Heh.
      Also, I haven’t seen anything worth doing that isn’t complex and arcane.

  3. ehlijen says:

    For now let me just say, thank you so much for enduring that in order to make entertaining videos (amongst other things?).

    I don’t think many people would torture themselves that badly for the entertainment of others!

  4. Randy Johnson says:

    All that, and steam still has the only functional server browser in existence. I am fine with our Gabe Newell overlord, atleast his empire works.

    • BaCoN says:

      And in game web browser!

    • ps238principal says:

      I, too, like Steam and prefer it over Games for Windows Live. However, the recent Mac Steam release has at least one person in a bit of a tizzy.

      And no, I’m not saying the whole Mac userbase is like this. It does, however, speak to “reviewing” things without researching them, and a desire to become the next Cory Doctrow overriding any feelings that might make one hesitate before hitting “upload.”

      And lots of naughty words in the comments, naturally, as this has hit just about every gaming forum by now.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        I was conscientiously reading Shamus’s rant in that Mac Guy’s voice, because it made me giggle.

        • Ateius says:

          You do Shamus a disservice, sir. That Mac user faked all his problems using the iPanic and BusyBee programs, along with some well-placed editing – except for Portal failing to run. That’s because, as Steam explicitly warned him several times (he even read it out to the camera) his Mac is a pile of junk and doesn’t meet the requirements to run the game.

          He’s just trolling for responses.

    • Heron says:

      I just wish the DLC were available via Steam without buying the GoTY edition… I don’t feel like buying the game twice…

      • MadTinkerer says:

        And I thought I was the only one. I bought FO3 before the GOTY version was available, and now I want the expansions. Codemasters let me have the Overlord expansion on Steam separately from buying it again(though they made me wait for almost a year before the Steam release). So SOMEONE can manage to do it right.

        As far as I can tell, the only useful thing that GFWL has ever done for me is updating the few GFWL-dependent games I have smoothly and quickly. Other than that, it’s just a cluster of annoyances that mercifully don’t even matter unless I choose to sign on because I want to make sure I have the latest versions.

  5. yd says:

    You left out the bit about how, having enabled GFWL on your Fallout games, you “lost” all of your saved games. Of course you can recover them and move them to the GFWL saves folder, but it’s another hassle in the whole process.

  6. Drexer says:

    Yeah, I hate GFWL as well. I never had to download/buy anyting through it thankfully, but still… just installing it to be permitted to save on Batman:AA enraged me to no end. Specially the forced reboot… >_>

    By the way Shamus, just to add some more wood to the Fallout 3 fire, have you seen the number two on this list? Not that I usually give much value to this kind of lists, but that is just so insulting…

    • KremlinLaptop says:

      I’ve come to hate pub lists. Honestly, that’s all these are; lists created so you can later have a big argument about it with someone. Probably down at the pub.

      It’s probably why I look suspiciously at any top ten list of anything, more than likely it’s there to make a big argument happen.

    • eri says:

      Wait, you mean that top X lists aren’t just stupid popularity contests written by and for idiots, designed to spawn huge amounts of traffic that can be milked for advertising dollars and to boost a site’s Alexa rating? Oh no! No! My entire worldview, shattered!

    • Moridin says:

      Oblivion but no Morrowind. Fallout 3 but neither of the real Fallouts. It’s not about what games are good, but about what games are popular. Baldur’s Gate must be there by mistake.

    • Winter says:

      Oh my god, i got ahold of Batman: AA and i was like… “Sweet, i hear this is a really good game!”

      And then GFWL popped in and was like “RAAAAAAAAAAGH BLAAAAAAARGH RHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH”

      But i was all “no, go away, that is obnoxious”.

      So i opened up the game and started playing and stuff and it was pretty sweet, but then i couldn’t save. So i was like “okay GFWL, let’s get this over with”.

      Four hours later i was no better off than when i started (worse, actually–remnants of GFWL still infect my system and occasionally pop up to try touching me inappropriately) and so i decided no game is worth that. So i deleted Batman and have still never played it.

      Which is a shame, because i hear it’s a good game.

      Maybe i’ll pirate it…

  7. Rosseloh says:

    Argh.
    “Six years after Steam claimed the entire New World of digital distribution, Microsoft is still fumbling around trying to figure out how to use the internet.” – hits it on the head, sir.

    Of course, my primary beef with GfWL? Why in the name of Newell can’t you use DOLLARS. What is the deal with everyone except Valve using an arbitrary point system?

    • SireCh says:

      I don’t get it either. Do they think that we are so stupid that if they put this point stuff we will forget that it is actual money?

      • Drexer says:

        Basically yes.

        It’s basically what they all learn from the beginning to the end of their management courses.

      • Jarenth says:

        Not to mention that with points, you always have spare points. Spare points just sitting there on your account, unable to be used for anything. Spare points taunting you, mocking you, daring you to add even more points so you can finally spend them.

        And if you finally do add more points and buy something, you’ll end up with spare points again.

        It’s a beautiful cycle, really.

        • Rosseloh says:

          As much as I hate the point system, I will say that Bioware of all companies was smart with the DLC for Dragon Age…I never had spare points, anything I wanted was set right at the price divisions.

          Now of course, considering the relative worth of said DLC versus the price, they’re a ripoff. But at least they’re, um, ‘even’ about it?

        • John says:

          It’s actually better than that, but you have to be willing to tolerate some accounting speak to read the rest of this post.

          brief background:
          Billings – money they get from you
          Revenue – money they got from you they get to put on financial reports

          They are likely trying to structure this such that by selling you points, they immediate recognize the revenue from your payment (billing). If you were buying a service (the online game) they could have to spread out recognition of that money over the anticipated lifespan of you using the game. A fraction of it in this quarter’s financial report, another fraction next quarter, etc. If they can claim they sold you a whole product (the points) all in this quarter, they can count all that money now.

          Now I expect this will eventually get shot down by FASB (google it), as the same thing was done with airline bonus “points”. The core idea behind this is that you can’t recognize the revenue if you still have an obligation to the customer, and if you’re still using their service then they should still being considered to be obliged and thus hold off on recognition.

          So when FASB does shoot this down, then Microsoft and others will have to restate their financials to the market, which will look bad. But they’ll then have that opportunity to hide other bad things that happened that quarter and blame it on FASB changing the accounting rules.

      • eri says:

        Yes, that is the sole purpose of these fake point-based currencies. They always make them slightly more valuable than cents, in this case about 20% more, which means that not only are they able to detach their fake currency from real currency, but it also means that their prices look cheaper than they really are. Ever noticed how it says “800 MS Points”, and you almost think “oh, that’s eight dollars” before slapping yourself upside the head? This is exactly the response Microsoft wants. When it comes to something even more expensive, say, 1600 MS Points/$20 USD (it costs almost $5 more in Canada despite our near-parity with the US dollar), which of those sounds better – 1600 or $19.99?

        But yes, marketing departments and those in them are almost always pure evil. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I saw an ad from British Petroleum that targeted children under five years old.

      • Winter says:

        Yes. That is exactly what they think.

      • Justin says:

        The trick is thus: Once you buy the Microsoft points, they already have your money. In addition, since Zune and XBLA and so on all run on MSPoints, you’ll end up with odd numbers and always feel the need to buy more points. As if you could ever actually achieve a 0 balance again. It’s hotdogs-in-10-packs and buns-in-8-packs.

        • Rik Sharp says:

          actually, its slightly more sinister. you buy with cash and you have your consumer right to refund, you buy with points and you dont. as the product you actually “bought” is the fictional currency.

  8. eri says:

    Oh god, Games for Windows LIVE can be such an incredible jerk to you when it feels like it. For the most part, the platform works… decently… until it decides at random it just won’t work because their techs were out for coffee, and all of a sudden you’re left with something that simply does not work, with no explanation as to why not.

    Frankly, it’s appalling. Microsoft constantly pampers their Xbox customers. Whenever Xbox LIVE has even a remote chance of going down, for any reason, for any length of time, they have people there keeping the users informed. On the PC side? It’s hard to even get in contact with someone at Microsoft who knows what GfWL is!

    Of course, it’s not entirely Bethesda’s fault. Microsoft waved a huge chunk of money in their faces, and they evidently decided it was worth investing in what probably sounded like a great way to distribute their DLC, after how much piracy Oblivion’s saw (due to no DRM etc.). Too bad GfWL can be easily disabled (there’s even a quick program that does it for you), and you can easily copy the files over and run it like a mod if you know what to do. Given the amount of protesting there was over it on their forums, I’d say that Bethesda are very seriously contemplating alternatives for their next game.

    For the record, Shamus, the way you’re “supposed” to install is either by using the external client, then telling it to “install”. Yes, I know the interface sucks. Once you install and log in, the content is supposed to automatically show up in there (you should get a brief “loading DLC” popup on starting). However, if you don’t care for any features GfWL offers, then, there is absolutely no downside to running the add-ons as mods, and skipping it entirely. It might even be more stable.

    I hear at least it’s easier for newer games. Grand Theft Auto IV apparently lets you download it from the in-game menu.

    • ReluctantDM says:

      It is *supposed* to install automatically but unfortunately if you bought the game through steam and have partitioned drives it will not automagically appear in game. This was my problem. After spending forever trying to find the DLC, downloading GFWL, getting an account, buying the DLC, recovering my lost savegames the quests did not trigger in game. All the support on GFWL said it should “automatically trigger after a few minutes” so I’d fiddle a bit, fire up the game, wander for a few minutes and then close the game down and fiddle with something else. Finally I tried the steam forums and found the answer. I had to do what Shamus did. I found the files in the obscure GFWL folder and moved them into the right folder. Bingo. I think I’ll pass on the next DLC from GFWL. Hopefully New Vegas doesn’t use the same system.

      • eri says:

        Oh, yeah, that’s right – GfWL uses hard-coded directories rather than the registry to figure out where your game is installed. That means if you have a Steam version, or simply changed where the game is installed on your hard drive, the entire thing just breaks down. Nice!

        I hate trumpeting Steam, but have you ever used it for DLC? It’s night and day compared to GfWL.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          Remind me again, what’s the point of HAVING a Registry for anyway?

          • Roll-a-die says:

            Provided that wasn’t rhetorical. So you have an area where the programs can interact without really “interacting.” Also a semi-secure place where programs can store base settings and vital data by default. It also aids in the removal of programs, because the registry generally knows where a program is located. Storing settings and vital data in the registry has fallen largely out of favor, because the registry is cached at system start up and is thus VERY easily hacked. I can crack a windows password in 5 seconds if need be.

  9. Tizzy says:

    Wow…. I’m speechless. How can any of this work? You went way above and beyond anything I would have done to secure this kind of content. Who has time for such nonsense, for a measly 3 hours of gameplay?

    I’m not surprised that GFWL is unusable. I never bothered to find out what it was in details, but it always sounded half-baked when I started reading about it, precisely because no article seemed to be able to explain what the intent was (clueless blundering? shadowy secret goals? from Microsoft? how could that be?)

    But I am more surprised that information about this is hard to come by even from outside sources. I would have thought that people would be clamoring for help and fixes. Then again, I had similar issues with trying to by on Steam, and indeed no help was forthcoming and I simply gave up the deal. There’s only so much time I have to devote to gaming to begin with, I’d rather not spend it in fruitless troubleshooting.

  10. Someone says:

    The funny thing is, Anchorage isnt actually worth 10 bucks and all that hassle. I was hoping you guys wouldnt do it, its just a bland and boring linear shootfest, kinda like one 3 hour “dungeon” in vanilla game. I cant imagine how you could make it remotely interesting or funny but I guess we will have to wait and see.

    Also the final rewards will break the game.

  11. Sheer_Falacy says:

    I’ve dealt with GFWL in two games. Batman Arkham Asylum, and Bioshock 2. In Bioshock 2, surprisingly, it wasn’t an issue at all. I don’t know if you can save or not if you don’t sign in (I doubt it), but it didn’t matter because signing in worked.

    In Batman, on the other hand… I’d tell it to start a new game and the graphics would stutter ludicrously. If I made a game while not logged in to GFWL, then it would work perfectly but of course I couldn’t save. Luckily, there’s a compromise option of “offline login” that lets you save while not actually connecting to GFWL. I’m not sure why they bother when they could just let you save without logging in. Probably evil.

    • eri says:

      Probably anti-piracy. The idea by giving you a universal account is that you have to authenticate with Microsoft to play, and of course also so that you can have separate user profiles for games and whatever other “value-added features” you can think of. The problem is that GfWL is an absolutely abysmal anti-piracy system. Not only can you totally disable it by loading a blank Xlive.dll (not sure if it works with all games), but you can actually use GfWL keys with other GfWL games – up to five, in fact, since the keys are universal, with the only limit being that you can’t be logged in at multiple locations. Not sure whose idea that was!

    • DosFreak says:

      Thing with BioShock 2 is that it does some crazy shiat with your Saved Games so even if you have the saved games backed up if you did not backup the GFWL folder in your profile (or if it becomes corrupted) then you cannot use your BioShock 2 saved (EVEN IF YOU BACKED UP THOSE SAVES).

      I was halfway through BioShock 2 when I had to redo my system. I backed everything up including my profile but somehow the GFWL data became corrupted……so all those BioShock 2 saves just sat there looking at me.

      I always use an Offline Profile.

      I changed my method for Offline Profiles due to this now. Now for any GFWL game when I create an Offline Profile I just create a new one with the Game Name instead of having a single offline profile for all games, then I backup the GFWL folder and back that up with the Saved Games.

      Thnkfully the amount of GFWL games I have I can count on 5 fingers….hopefully that doesn’t grow.

  12. Yeah, I know the pain you feel – so much software is “designed” (or undesigned really) in this horribly obtuse manner. You wonder if they just threw out a prototype dev version of the software.

    To be perfectly honest, its pretty obvious you don’t have the “programmer telepathy” perk. It requires level 36 and a Perception score of 11. From what I understand the system caps out at 10 so you may have to hex-edit your mind to get that working (or tap your forehead to show console and type “spawn bobbleHeadPerception at [gps coordinates here]” twice and hold out your hands.

    • eri says:

      The thing that utterly baffles me about interface design is how absolutely poor it is. It seems so easy in my mind to create a software interface, and while a multi-function piece of software like Games for Windows LIVE must be complicated, there are extremely basic things that you can do to vastly improve the thing. The only explanation for this that I can think of, frankly, is Executive Meddling.

      When it comes to software design, it seems like there’s three approaches that lead to bad results. There’s engineer-designed software, which results in an ugly, obtuse and nuanced interface with a thousand functions, whose purpose is never made apparent. There’s artist-designed software, which tends to have a great-looking interface, but whose actual functionality tends to be obfuscated bey a layer of non-standard user interface, and often features end up being cut for the sake of simplicity.

      Then, there’s the management-designed software, which I’m pretty sure GfWL is. Marketing and management will identify an issue, come up with a laundry list of vague goals for the software to accomplish, and then throw it at a development team and hope for the best. Interface and functionality be damned, the higher ups have already decided exactly what it needs to do. If the program’s purpose is sufficiently obscure, then congraturation!, your development team likely has no idea what to do and so just puts it all together and hopes for the best. Games for Windows LIVE is exactly one of these lumbering Frakenstein monsters, and it’s a shame that PC gamers have to put up with such fucking incompetence.

  13. Conlaen says:

    Urk. IU had something similar with Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising. And with trying to get DLC for it. I installed the game, which at first then would not run because my GFWL wasn’t working properly anymore since I had to recently reinstall my OS. So I had to reinstall GFWL and here we go, play! No, first the GFWL needs to update. Okay done. Nooo now we need another update for GFWL. Fine, can I play after that? Nooo just one more update. Okay, GFWL is now up to date, now we will search for updates to your game.

    After all this installing and updating, I was well over an hour further. So now the game would run, and I could play. Now I wanted to get some DLC that I got a key for in the box. First I had to register my game, because even though I GFWL through the game, it wasn’t quite sure if I actually owned the game. Fine. And then I had to type in the DLC code. WHich didn’t stick the first time, for whatever reason. And then finally I could get to the DLC download page!

    “Transaction cannot be performed at this time”.

    I ripped the thing to shreds. All that trouble to in the end not be able to add a few ‘unique items’. GFWL is not a service, it’s a nuisance.

  14. Stern says:

    It’s silly things like dealing with GFWL that make me wonder if game companies are really just pushing more people into piracy. It’s actually one of the reasons I tend to pass on games with a GFWL tag.

    • PurePareidolia says:

      If I had Fallout 3 (and I do) and was confronted with this (and I was) then I’m sure I would be driven to piracy. I’m not saying I was because doing so in writing would be stupid in principle but I’m heavily implying it. Very heavily.

  15. Mari says:

    Pretty much just a mirror to other responses. Except I want to thank you for the Civ analogy. It made me spew coffee just a little and brought me back to times when that exact scenario actually happened in-game. OK, not quite that badly but dragoons attacked my city once and forced me to roll out the tanks to destroy them.

    • acronix says:

      You sure the catapult and the spearman didn´t have a decent chance to destroy the high-tech tanks…? Because I know I lost tanks against garrisoned phalanxes.

      • Chargone says:

        garrisoned phalanxes with Molotov cocktails, probably. *grins*

        the DS version of Civilization Revolution lets this happen again (though the exact units in question are a bit different), but it gets more fun when you realise that nothing short of a tank Can take a city 90% of the time if anything at all is defending it, and funnier when both sides have galleons providing off shore artillery support :D

      • Mari says:

        Oh yeah, that happened more often than it should have. But that’s mostly a matter of defending units having a heavy numbers advantage over attacking units in Civ 3 (the last version I played heavily because Civ 4 confuses me and gives me a headache).

      • Hugo Sanchez says:

        That happened far to many times in Civ 3 for me. balance was a bit borked there.

  16. Danath says:

    I had to stop playing batman Arkham Asylum cause GFWL kept giving me an error every time I tried to update it. Without the update it wouldn’t let me login. Without being able to login I COULDN’T SAVE or play my games.

    Fuck GFWL.

  17. Sekundaari says:

    Oh wow, Application Data. A hidden folder.
    This is why I love this site. I was thinking of buying Broken Steel through GFWL, and now I know better. Maybe the retail package then.

    About that last analogy, don’t count Bill out yet, those spearmen are Badass.

  18. John says:

    “If this was a game of Civilization, then Gabe Newell is working on stage three of his spaceship to Alpha Centauri, and Bill Gates has just showed up to attack him with a catapult and a spearman.”

    LOL! So true.

  19. Netlich says:

    Here’s another tidbit I enjoyed form trying to play Dawn of War II via GFWL….

    Cryptically hinted on the Box and even more cryptically hinted on the related websites is the little fact that Games for Windows Live is NOT supported in all countries…

    So essentially I ended up buying a game which I could only play single player because I live in a less fortunate country that is not yet supported!

    What I am not sure is fixed yet is that you have to go through hoops to even force the game to play in single player mode as you HAVE to log in to GFWL even though your country is NOT supported!

    Thanks Microsoft…

  20. Factoid says:

    The good news is that when you play it on the xbox, you just click download and launch the game when it’s done. The only really annoying part is that most game DLCs have a “play now” option when they finish downloading, but actually hitting that button gives you a message that you need to launch the game rather than the DLC.

    But once you get it loaded up, you just start the game and it checks for DLC packs at launch. My biggest complaint with Fallout though is that save/load operations seem to take longer once you have DLC installed for some stupid reason.

    • Irridium says:

      From my experience its due to the saved games getting bigger due to all the DLC’s.

      Its like that on PC’s, and I doubt its much different for consoles.

  21. Galad says:

    Apart from the GFWL problems, to call them mildly, that you described, installing mods is usually just as unintuitive as you’ve described it. After installing many dozens of NWN mods on my pc, some of which worked, some of which not, I can tell that, most of them don’t have a self-extracting exe or something like that..

    • Jabor says:

      Let’s take a look at Baldur’s Gate II.

      Unlike Aurora, Source, or any of these other fancy-schmancy “moddable” engines, Infinity was not designed for modding.

      And yet, through the efforts of the community, the mod install process is basically “Download the mod, run WeiDU in the mod directory” and it just works. It is seriously that easy.

      After that experience, it always puzzles me that other mod communities don’t have equally-easy-to-use tools.

      • Roll-a-die says:

        OBMM, FOMM, Wrye Bash/Mash for TES And FO3, The dark loader, NWN is easy once you know where everything goes. Mods go in the mod folder, Tlks go in the TLK folder, and so on.

        • Galad says:

          And then you get told “missing custom talk table”, have to install an old version of the CEP, and mess up another module of yours. OK, it’s never been quite as bad to be fair, but I’ve had the occasional module that takes a lot of searching, downloading and extracting to get running.

  22. Axle says:

    Imagine that after going through all of this, you discover that you cannot purchase microsoft points from your country?

    That was a fun time!

  23. Irridium says:

    Thank god for the modding community, thats all I can say.

    Hell, one very nice person had to walk me through how to get the DLC from GFWL and find it. Its just stupid how bad it is.

    After I got the last DLC, Mothership Zeta, I donwloaded the mod that disables GFWL from Fallout 3. And after doing that the game started up faster, ran smoother, and crashed less.

    Never again will I freaking deal with the piece of crap and failure known as Games for Windows Live.

  24. Oleyo says:

    “A small silver lining: The DLC didn’t come with any DRM that I can see. It’s just loose files and I’m pretty sure I could back them up and use them on a later computer without having to authenticate anything.”

    This is the saddest statement I have read in a long time. Shamus is actually glad (though likely ironically) that some loose mod files could be saved and didn’t require activation. What sort of twilight zone world are we living in?!

  25. neolith says:

    I’m sorry to say this Shamus but you really should’ve known better. It’s not like you are the first person being troubled by this POS that Microsoft keeps calling a ‘service’.

  26. Corran says:

    GFWL is horrible in so many ways.

    To add another: it’s impossible to change the language of it.

    The download contains all supported languages and looks at your Windows settings to see which language to use.

    I just want English but nooooo, GFWL decides for me that because my international settings (on my *English* Windows) are set to Dutch it should display everything in Dutch.

    Also: Shamus, you would probably get a better deal if you just bought the Game of the Year edition which has all the DLC. Could always make a nice gift.

    • acronix says:

      Bwahahahahaha…fallout dlc…a nice gift! So funny.

      Sorry, couldn´t resist.

      • Corran says:

        It was the main game he could gift, not the DLC. :)

        But the DLC is nice too for a few reasons: Chinese Stealth Armor, heightened level cap / new perks (I also liked the Point Lookout DLC); certainly not enough to warrant the price of admission though. That’s why I suggested the Game of the Year addition.

        That said: you get an unbelievable number of hours with just the base game, more than almost any singleplayer game out there. If you divide the 100+ hours of game time by the price of the game you get a really nice number.

        Now do the same for the DLC and you feel robbed. Four hours (Operation Anchorage, if you take your time) for ten bucks just sucks. But add all the time for the base game and the DLCs together and divide that by the complete playing time and things don’t seem quite so bad.

        Unfortunately this is a direction I can see the games industry going; you get to buy a ‘game engine’ cheaply and get a little content (say five hours, less if it’s a straight FPS) and then have to pay for additional content. This will solve most of the second-hand sales problems for publishers.

        They’ll also claim they’ll be better able to custom craft their content for ‘us’. But they’ll just pander to the majority (which is really the vocal minority on the forums). So get ready for lots of games directed at 14 year olds (or at least those that act like them).

        Also see: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/context-sensitive/7550-How-Much-is-Alan-Wake-Worth

    • Jarenth says:

      Same problem for me. Goddamned Dutch. I get enough of that stuff in my day-to-day life. And don’t get me started on the worthless translation jobs.

      • Corran says:

        I didn’t mention the terrible translation cause it’s par for the course. It seems software translations have to be horrible and/or incorrect.

        Computer game manuals are much, much worse though…

        On actual example: in the original Baldur’s Gate manual they translated ‘Turn Undead’ into ‘Become Undead’. I wish I was kidding.

        I’m soooooo glad they (almost) never translate full computer games here.

  27. Friend of Dragons says:

    I hate the xbox.com site. For me, at least, its buggy as hell to the point of unusability.
    I have an Xbox live account.
    I go to the xbox.com site and click the “login” button.
    The site routes me to the create an account page.
    “huh,” I say. “Maybe I clicked the wrong button.”
    I hit the back button and try again, making very sure I click the “login” button. Same result.
    For the hell of it, I then click the “register” button and get routed to the exact same page.
    Trying to be reasonable, I tell myself they must be updating the site or something, and that I’ll try again later.
    I return to the site in a few days and am immediately routed to the “create an account” page, from which there is NO WAY to escape back to the rest of the site without creating a new account.
    So I’ve been there ever since.

  28. Neil Polenske says:

    Something I discovered regarding their shit service: That lil logging out issue…it occurs while your in the middle of the game.

    It occurs while your in the middle of the multiplayer of GTAIV, WHICH REQUIRES GFWL IN ORDER TO RUN!

    God, if it weren’t for the deal offered on Steam, I would’ve just gotten a cracked version…

  29. Polecat says:

    I didn’t dig through all the comments ahead of me, but I ran into these same problems you did when I first got the DLC for FO3. The answer is absurdly simple (and not requiring you move the files around, tho it _IS_ the preferrable solution).

    The answer was this: You have to be logged into GFWL while playing FO3 in order to access the content.

    That’s it, literally. It’s also the only way you can earn the achievements in the game, you HAVE to be logged on with GFWL the entire time your playing or it won’t recognize your achievements or any DLCs you haven’t manually moved.

  30. The “point” about those points (lousey pun I know) is that when you buy points, they sit in a “virtual” account.
    THe money (or points) are still yours, it’s just that they earn interest on them. (as they put it in a bank account).

    Now imagine houndreds, or thousand or even millions doing this.
    Most probably only spent half their points, the rest just sits there in that account. (which is virtual as all those money is in a bank account somewhere where all those money are stored).

    Add to that fact that the bank lends that money out to others heh…

    Imagine what would happen if everybody withdrew their money at the same time. The entire global financial system would crash down as the banks would NOT have enough money to cover your withdrawal. :)

    I’d be interested in a points system like this…IF… i accumulated some interest while they sat there, wouldn’t have to be the full thing,
    just 50% of the interest they earn with my money would be ok.
    But as all these point systems currently work they grab all the interest on “your” money.

    Oh and amusing read Shamus, this makes that Mac Steam Youtube guy’s issues seem like a walk in the park compared to your issues.
    Whatever happen to just logging in on a site, paying, and clicking a download link, then have the thing popup a install window?
    That system has worked fine for what.. over a decade now?

    Things are being made way more complicated than they actually need to be.

    Einstein said: It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

    In popular media this is simplified to what most of us might have heard: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

    It seems that software developers need to be reminded of that more often these days if GFWL and Steam issues are to be taken at face value.

    • Zeta Kai says:

      But you can do the same thing with money. Real money. The money that you put on your account won’t collect interest if they call it $$$ as opposed to Happy Fun Sunshine Points. While you bring up a valid point with the accrued-interest angle (sneaky bastards), the same applies to Steam with their lack of a points system.

      The objective of a points-based system is to create a mental disconnect between the money that you’re spending & the value of what you’re buying with said points. It obfuscates the real cost of a purchase, thereby encouraging the consumer to spend more. It’s as simple as that.

      It’s kinda like a casino: the house wants you to spend more, so they facilitate that but any means necessary. They make the spending fun & flashy, & they make the cashing out a boring hassle. There are no windows or clocks in a casino, so you can never tell what time it is. And if you spend enough, you get bonuses, like free meals or a complimentary hotel suite (which are cheap compared to a $1,000 blackjack bill). All of this encourages the consumer to spend more, more often, & more irresponsibly. I’m sure that you can draw the parallels between these practices & what some gaming companies do.

  31. McNutcase says:

    I’m sure it’s no coincidence that as I read the comments, my hindbrain began to silently replace “GFWL” with “GODAWFUL”.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some looms to introduce to a sledgehammer.

  32. krellen says:

    To be fair to Bill Gates: a large part of why GFWL sucks (and much of the rest of newer Microsoft stuff sucks) is because he’s not calling the shots any more and the folks replacing him are far less competent of marketers and trendspotters than he is (which isn’t surprising, as Bill Gates was one of the best ever).

    I try to keep my criticisms of Microsoft Bill-free lately, because I have too much respect for the man to saddle him with the blame for Microsoft’s modern failings. As the disciple of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates is doing great things for the world (he may very well send malaria the way of small pox before he dies) and deserves to be recognised for that and not the failings of the company he founded but no longer runs.

  33. Mazinja says:

    GFWL is a Piece Of Crap

    you know what’s not fun at all? When GFWL -refuses- to connect from the game, thus denying you the DLC content you paid for. Restarting the computer does nothing, and the forums were remarkably unhelpful in this matter. Finally, I managed to get my DLC without having to log into GFWL first… just with no achievements. Sigh. I do like achievements :(

    So yeah. GFWL sucks. Big time.

  34. Nick says:

    You are far more tolerant of stupidity than me, I would have stopped trying after step one.

    My opinion is that if I am trying to give a company money, they better make it extremely easy or I will give it to some other company that does make it easy. How else are they going to learn?

    We have to vote with our money, that is the only thing these idiots understand.

  35. Coyote says:

    Heh – pretty similar to my own experience, except I gave up before buying. Sorry, Bethsoft, G4WL lost you several sales. Well, at least for now…

  36. Miral says:

    In my experience, GWFL+Steam is a pile of crap; Steam-only works well, and GWFL-only mostly works.

    My first exposure to GWFL was with FO3 bought via Steam; in that, it would quite often refuse to sign in because I “wasn’t using the latest version”, and fail to install the update with some obscure HRESULT (for which there was naturally no useful help at the link they provided).

    I later bought FO3 again on disc (GOTY edition) and GFWL behaved itself quite well (and it was really really easy to set up an offline profile, so I don’t know why people keep saying they can’t find the option).

    Other games since then have been a bit of a mix between the two. But invariably a Steam game that also includes GFWL behaves very brokenly.

  37. […] may also want to check out: Games for Windows Live – Twenty SidedTwenty Questions (and Answers – The Windows BlogWhy the Tories are doing so well in the polls, pt 1: […]

  38. Spritle says:

    Welcome to Transaction Hell. I’m TRYING to remember the last time I was annoyed that much by a digital install or purchase, but the closest thing I can think of is “doing taxes.”

  39. Delta-Cain says:

    I bought Batman: Arkham Asylum through Steam on sale a little over a month ago. For some odd (and completely retarded) reason, the version I bought on Steam requires me to install Games for Windows Live in order to download and play the game?! I had trouble installing just signing up for Games for Windows Live (and it never bothers actually telling me why it won’t install), so I haven’t gotten to play the game yet.

  40. […] any idea how to make a social netowrk games for windows life wouldn’t be such a fucking mess! Veteran PC gamers can’t get your crap to work, there’s not chance the casual crowd will even fart in your general direction. And for […]

  41. […] in fallout they built several small towns. Some are well run if a bit sinister (steam) and some are raider filled trash dumps (games for windows […]

  42. iLike.But unfortunately, like you stated, Online conevctinity isn’t possible unfortunately (at this time), should you be device could possibly be applying Wi-Fi to get connected to the Web.. considering the fact that it truly is also working with Wi-Fi to connect as an alternative.And if which is so, maybe they should’ve provided
    a Bluetooth choice as a substitute, in order
    for your mobile gadget to be connected w/Wi-Fi then use file transfers from this moveable really hard drive.
    Incidentally, iDevices are not identified for Bluetooth transfers
    w/their iDevices if I am not mistaken.. Wi-Fi will be the favored solution instead.

    Nonetheless, how about in case your mobile or iDevice
    has 4G, 3G, 2G, and so forth. (as a substitute of Wi-Fi) so as to get connected
    to the Web, does it still apply that you just can not do file transfers through Wi-Fi w/Seagates’ GoFlex Satellite Wireless Transportable Difficult Drive? Hmm..: /

  43. torrent says:

    Thanks for finally talking about >Games for Windows
    Live – Twenty Sided <Liked it!

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] may also want to check out: Games for Windows Live – Twenty SidedTwenty Questions (and Answers – The Windows BlogWhy the Tories are doing so well in the polls, pt 1: […]

  2. […] any idea how to make a social netowrk games for windows life wouldn’t be such a fucking mess! Veteran PC gamers can’t get your crap to work, there’s not chance the casual crowd will even fart in your general direction. And for […]

  3. By A Few Mini rants « rayensrants on April 7, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    […] in fallout they built several small towns. Some are well run if a bit sinister (steam) and some are raider filled trash dumps (games for windows […]

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