It’s that time again. Every couple of years I put on a crash helmet and dive into the menu-based labyrinth at the heart of Microsoft’s latest games service / griefing engine. This week I tried the new “Xbox Game Pass for PC Games”, which like saying “Coca-Cola’s cola pass for Pepsi”. The name is so oxymoronic that it could only come from the minds at Microsoft.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but it doesn’t really work all that well. The Escapist article is really just the highlights. You should read the article first for context, but if you want the full list of gripes and mysteries, then below are a bunch of additional things that I cut for time / pacing:
Like I said in the article, I had to double-log in. I logged in on the webpage, and then the webpage launched the Windows store (which just showed the webpage again) where I had to log in a second time. The punchline is that when I finally got Forza Horizon 4 running, it greeted me with this:
So we’re logging in YET AGAIN? I’ve never been this logged in before.
In the article I talk about how you start with a web interface but then it shoves you into the Windows 10 Store to interact with the same webpages, but without the convenience features of your favorite browser. What I didn’t explain is how it actually switches back and forth between the two. When I wanted to “add a device” to my account, it bounced me from the Windows 10 Store back to the web, and then back to the store.
Then we have this mess:
Notice that my gaming clients each have their own little directories. GoG Galaxy, Steam, and Epic Games asked me where I wanted to install them, and this is what I told them to do. I put them on my hard drive because my SSD could never hold all those games. I told the Windows 10 to install to this same drive, but it didn’t have the basic decency to ask for a folder. Instead it just vomited three new folders into the root. I navigate here often, and I don’t want this space to get cluttered up.
Worse, I apparently don’t have permission to access the WindowsApps. I’m not even allowed to view it. I’ve fussed around in file permissions, and I can’t even find a way to give myself permission to look in it, even with administrator privileges. Now, you can argue that the Windows 10 store needs to make this data fortress and not let those dirty users into it because they might break things. I disagree on the basis that I own this computer and Microsoft doesn’t, but whatever. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that everything about their gaming services is always so prone to malfunction that odds are really good that I’ll need access to this at some point to un-fuck something.
More importantly, if this directory is supposed to be a super-private no-touchy zone for the user, then why is it sitting in the root directory?! If the user isn’t allowed to see inside it, then why put it right there where they’ll see it? Make a top level directory called /BrokenGarbageSoftware and stuff these three folders into that. What’s the point of making it visible like this? Are we trying to save the Windows 10 store from having to type long folder names?
And then there’s this nonsense:
I got this about 24 hours after joining their corporate dystopian data-harvesting gaming service.
I did not, in fact, “sign up” for promotional bullshit. Either they took my subscription as an excuse to spam me, or I fell for a dark pattern.
Just to make gaming on Windows as lousy as possible, the Windows 10 store has UWP apps, which do not play well with other apps. Specifically, my capture software. I use Bandicam, because that lets me set global capture hotkeys. I don’t have to memorize the screenshot / video capture key for each and every single game I own. The same keys will work no matter what game I’m playing. Moreover, Bandicam helps me out by organizing captured material into directories based on the game title, so I can find what I need under /MyDirectory/ArkhamAsylum or /MyDirectory/HotlineMiami or whatever.
This is part of my workflow. It’s a basic tool for doing my job on a daily basis, and Microsoft has designed a system to thwart it because they want us to use their shitty broken knockoffs.
You can’t normally use Fraps / Bandicam on UWP gamesThere seems to be a bit of back-and-forth on this. Bandicam comes out with a feature to make it work, then a Windows update (or whatever) breaks it. Bandicam just released another update last week, and for now it’s working again, I think? We’ll see if Microsoft breaks it again., which means you have to use the sodding Windows Game Bar. I realize that I have an atypical use case, but in this age of ubiquitous streaming it’s not that unusual.
I’m sure you’ll be flabbergasted to discover that the Game Bar sucks.
- The interface provides no way to tell it where to store the ginormous video files you’ll be capturing. Of course it defaults to saving everything to the Windows drive, which is usually an SSD and therefore a terrible place to put this stuff.
- It won’t let me mirror Bandicam’s hotkeys. I don’t know why. It just says “That key combination isn’t allowed” over and over. It’s no exaggeration to say that the list of forbidden keys is larger than the list of permitted keys.
- Obviously it doesn’t sort your material into folders for you.
- The Game Bar is a grasping needy attention whore. It’s always popping up notifications to tell you it’s doing its job. Two hours after I took a video it popped up a system notification telling me about it. For absolutely no reason. I was concentrating writing when all of a sudden I was interrupted by “BLA-DOOP! File saved in /Long/Folder/Path/useless_garbage_non_descriptive_filename.mp4”.
Whenever I make one of these posts, there’s always THAT GUY that feels the need to defend Microsoft.
“There must be something wrong with your computer.”
“You must have done something wrong.”
“You’re just being nitpicky!”
“It worked fine for me!”
Dear THAT GUY,
Maybe. But did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s just you? Maybe you’re the outlier? Maybe your particular setup / behavior magically got through Microsoft’s net of anti-usability, while the rest of us had to fight the system to do simple things? Maybe your pain threshold for needless hassle is higher than the average person’s, enabling you to shrug at having your time wasted instead of getting angry?
Like I said in the article, it’s not like this is an aberration. This is just how Microsoft gaming software has worked for the last 13 years. This is exactly what it felt like to use Games for Windows Live.
I can’t believe these clowns want to run a cloud gaming service. I wouldn’t trust them with the codebase for Notepad.
 There seems to be a bit of back-and-forth on this. Bandicam comes out with a feature to make it work, then a Windows update (or whatever) breaks it. Bandicam just released another update last week, and for now it’s working again, I think? We’ll see if Microsoft breaks it again.
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