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An Overview of the Games For Windows Initiative

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the pleasure-to-have-in-class-but dept.

PC Games (Games) 60

Writing for the Escapist, author Sean Sands takes a hard look at Microsoft's Games for Windows project. The PC version of Xbox live, as well as the coherent branding they've handed out to publishers, doesn't appear to be having the kind of effect they were hoping for. Most especially, Sands points out, when players have the recently released Steam Community as an alternative: "Valve's latest community features, while they don't connect PC to console, have offered virtually every other meaningful feature in a free and functional package. Steam isn't only beating Microsoft at its own game, it's taking Microsoft's lunch money and leaving it tied to the tether-ball pole."

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I for one (4, Funny)

Paden (828815) | about 7 years ago | (#20822005)

Welcome our new Steam powered overlords.

Re:I for one (1)

Zencyde (850968) | about 7 years ago | (#20826071)

In Soviet Russia, steampunk joke writes you! I think I just died a little. : /

Big Surprise (2, Interesting)

Egonis (155154) | about 7 years ago | (#20822029)

I don't know if the Games for Windows / Xbox Live both cost money, or they are one in the same.

For the sake of this reply, I will assume that they are one in the same.

After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service? Yes, I have an account for my 360, but at the end of the day, the only major differences I see are that you can manage friend lists much like MSN, and chat via headset, which is also not a new technology. WoW users use that freeware voice chat server/client setup.

So at the end of the day, of course competitors are going to provide the same services for free, because afterall, it's about the games, not the services.

Re:Big Surprise (2, Interesting)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#20822335)

"After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service?"

Short answer? Because they can.

Long answer is that the Xbox360 is a closed system and is subject to their policies. The PC is an open system and is open to anyone who can put code on that hardware. PC gamers won't want to pay for game finding when other services can ofter comparable alternatives or the individual in-game browsers themselves.

However on the Xbox360, you have to pay for multiplayer, or you don't get to play online. There are advantages to the closed console system, this is just an example of a disadvantage. Whether or not you feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages as a whole determines which platform you're on, but clearly since both platforms have a player base there are those who feel they receive benefits from both.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

aichpvee (631243) | about 7 years ago | (#20822741)

What's the advantage of paying for client-hosted online games? On xbox you're just paying for the privilege to play on Johnny Teabag's cable line that's paid for by his mom. The people who pay for this are paying for it because microsoft said to and no other reason.

People from microsoft have even come straight out and said that they were charging for xbox live just to get people used to the idea of paying for every little thing. Please, this shit should be free and only a moron would pay for it.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 7 years ago | (#20823065)

"After so many years of Quake having a freely usable game finder, why is it that Microsoft decided to charge for their service?"

Long answer is that the Xbox360 is a closed system and is subject to their policies. The PC is an open system and is open to anyone who can put code on that hardware. PC gamers won't want to pay for game finding when other services can ofter comparable alternatives or the individual in-game browsers themselves.

However on the Xbox360, you have to pay for multiplayer, or you don't get to play online. There are advantages to the closed console system, this is just an example of a disadvantage.
You know, I read that a couple of times. Then I thought - why isn't the Mac also a game platform? It's closed, hardware wise, the current versions certainly outpower any console out there. It could easily come with Blue Tooth for wireless controllers a la Wii. And it can triple as a DVD player platform (HD-DVD/Blu-Ray would be nice in the near future). The Mac Mini is already the appropriate size and within the price point. The MacBook (Pro) already have all the necessary pieces.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#20824381)

Consoles get their visuals with a highly specialized application, PCs can potentially blow them out of the water, but the bang-to-buck ratio isn't quite as good.

Macs needed gaming hardware which was mostly developed for the larger PC customer base. Now that they have a similar architecture this isn't much of a problem, but developers are using DirectX rather than OpenGL so it still doesn't crossover easily to the Mac. Network effects are important for this market, and MS's deep pockets and heavy spending were needed to make the Xbox a profitable contender, and it's still struggling to post a profit at this point.

I can definitely see Apple being able of producing a good console, but they may not want to. I'm dubious as to whether or not it'd be worth their time making macs into a gaming platform. It'd definitely require an adjustment in their marketing concept, and they may not want to risk ruining a good thing, since their marketing has been pretty darned important to their success thus far.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 7 years ago | (#20827103)

I don't know if one of us has been asleep, but the last thing I recall is an ATI R200 in one brand of console and nVidia based chipset in the other. Both chips are far beneath the current moderately good GPUs on offer for PCs. I can't argue with the $ amount, however. Consoles are less expensive, but the games cost more.

As for Macs, I think the future is going to be quite interesting. You can now play up to DirectX 8.1 games in Parallels, which should indicate that the APIs, at least, have been made to work. As the hardware is a subset of PC video hardware, hopefully they can convert that to something that will only be a simple recompile instead of a full-blown port. OpenGL would of course be preferred, and apparently Vista is now adding support to OpenAL due to the DRM cluster that is DirectX Audio.

Last time I checked, MS was losing roughly $1-2B/year on XBox consoles, and has been since the introduction of the original XBox. And since it just got spanked by the Wii on sales, I'd say it's not even a successful contender, much less profitable. Good thing Halo 3 added $170M to the coffers to at least offset the bleeding a little bit before the end of the year.

Re:Big Surprise (2, Interesting)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | about 7 years ago | (#20822463)

its because some people actually want the matchmaking/leaderboard/trueskill rank services. I personally bought a copy of Shadowrun and payed for an xbox live subscription so that I could play online games with my brother who doesn't have a decent computer but has a 360. Unfortunately, I got boned by it because Shadowrun wasn't successful, and it doesn't look like there are any other games coming out with the cross-platform play. Lucky for me a year subscription is fairly cheap and I still use my live account for split screen capable 360 games. Tangents aside, I do enjoy not having to go through some of the BS of searching for games and copy pasting IPs to friends that is so common in the PC world. On top of that its nice to have the voip chatting with random other people without having to switch vent/teamspeak servers every time you change games.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

Rjak (1098857) | about 7 years ago | (#20823497)

Don't know if you're into RTS games, but Universe at War is coming out for PC at the end of the month and the 360 just after the new year and it will support cross-platform. The reality is that the PC players will probably stomp the 360 players because RTS games are just WAY faster with a mouse/keyboard than a controller.

Re:Big Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20823591)

Sounds like you haven't played online since 1995. Many (most?) modern games have built in voice chat and other communication tools. Steam allows you to see where your friends are playing and join them at any time (assuming room on the server).

Re:Big Surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20823875)

Feeding trolls sucks but anyway, counterstrike and battlefield aren't most.

Re:Big Surprise (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about 7 years ago | (#20832317)

I'd just like to point out that, unlike as even I previously thought, there are differences between the implementation of Live on Xbox 360 and Windows. I'll use Halo 2 as an example here.

Halo 2 on the Xbox 360 requires an Xbox Live Gold subscription for any and all online (internet) play. Period. On the PC, however, Halo 2 requires only a Silver membership (which is free). The Gold subscription is required if you want to use the Matchmaking/Ranking system, but the Silver will suffice if all you want is a games browser (like Gamespy or Steam). With the Silver, you also get Friends Lists, Voice Chat, Text Chat, and all that stuff.

I honestly don't know why it's not advertised anywhere other than as a footnote on the Halo 2 for PC multiplayer page (http://www.microsoft.com/games/halo2 - damn Flash based sites).

Hurdles (2, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | about 7 years ago | (#20822097)

It's about time Microsoft has started a "Games for Windows" push, but they have a lot to overcome.

Software stores have almost completely given up on PC games. Gamestop is a good example of this. What used to be a PC store has turned into 2 wire racks of PC games.

While Microsoft has pushed video cards into DirectX, audio fell apart. Games need both.

Microsoft hurt itself with the Xbox. It should have been simple to port games between Windows and Xbox. Microsoft should have encouraged Windows/Xbox releases, but they didn't do much.

Microsoft had a decent home brand, and abandoned it, several times. Bring back Microsoft home with a vengeance.

If they can overcome these hurdles, you'll see a comeback in PC games.

Re:Hurdles (1)

Etrias (1121031) | about 7 years ago | (#20822371)

There was a time, way back when, I thought that for all of the problems I had with MS's OS, I thought that their other divisions dealing with apps were pretty solid, especially when it came to games.

Take Age of Empires. Great game, decent single player, fun multi-player modes...best of all is that they didn't seem to have to patch it that much. One major patch, if I remember correctly (as well as some minor ones, but overall not that many). Flight simulator was the creme de la creme when it came to flight sims and set the bar awfully high.

Now it's all centered around the consoles and I just can't bring myself to get one. It baffles me that simultaneous releases don't happen, especially with MS property. And I saw the other day that Shadowrun is a Vista-only game, immediately ruling out that I will get it. Who can get all that excited about DX10 when all of their other software is filled with bloat?

On a side note, IANAP(I am not a programmer) so I don't know the ins and outs of what goes into making a game nor why people choose different APIs, but I'm wary about EVE online going to DX10 and the excitement they seem to have about it. I wish they would use something less proprietary so I wouldn't have to rely on the community to port their product to other platforms. Just seems like they shoot themselves in the foot by doing this.

Re:Hurdles (1)

ifrag (984323) | about 7 years ago | (#20826793)

[blockquote]I'm wary about EVE online going to DX10[/blockquote] Hmm, guess you haven't been reading much about what CCP is up to. Not only are they going to continue to support their DX9 graphics engine but they are working on releasing a Mac OS-X port AND a Linux port. Proprietary is a complete non-issue if they make good on those statements.

Re:Hurdles (1)

cthellis (733202) | about 7 years ago | (#20822561)

Software stores have almost completely given up on PC games. Gamestop is a good example of this. What used to be a PC store has turned into 2 wire racks of PC games.

Not really. Compare the "PC games" section to any other individual console, excluding the used games (since you can't have that for PC), and you'll actually notice it of respectable size--especially since the games are packed in tighter. PC gamers tend to know what they want and don't need flashy "wall advertising," and don't have a used section they want to draw your eyes to, so they can sit in a compact area. They also don't have peripheral sections, which makes the console sections mentally larger, but doesn't actually mean anything for game sales. This doesn't mean they've "given up on PC games" any more than you can say they've "given up" on XXX-individual-console-of-equivalent-size.

Heck, if you want to compare area and concentration, you can say they "don't care as much about selling new games" (completely untrue) because they've devoted a lot of space to used game trading (being the only real store brokers), DVD and other media sales, and assorted merchandising. They just figured out more ways to organize the store to take the biggest advantage of the space they have, and draw your eyes to what they want you to see.


Regardless, the "Games for Windows" push is as pointless as nVidia's or ATi's "way it's meant to be/played best" marketing silliness; pointless labels that mean effectively nothing. MS could push Live if they wanted to offer a good service and real 360 connectivity, but they really don't (same reason they don't want kb/m usage on the 360 even now); they just hope to catch a few people unawares and trickle in a bit more revenue. Live for Windows isn't a "service..." it's a completely mismanaged joke.

PC Gamers will always be PC gamers, and they've--in fact--gotten a lot larger over the years. (You can't have umpteen million people playing WoW without market expansion.) MMO's pull in sizable revenue that doesn't get tracked, either, so it's not an "abandonment" of the platform, but an evolutionary change of the market. Microsoft, however, doesn't need to do anything to maintain or foster it... they are simply the default. 97% of people use Windows PC's, so when you game on your PC's... you're basically using Windows, DirectX lock-ins or not.

They don't need to try. Hence their not trying.

Re:Hurdles (1)

Etrias (1121031) | about 7 years ago | (#20823139)

Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree with you on a couple of points here.

Have you seen the offerings in the single rack of PC games they have? Most of it is not so good. Not a lot of PC titles coming out. I realize that there are different challenges for writing games for PC as the architecture of the hardware can be so varied where as the console you have set hardware requirements and no worries for compatibility. Maybe it's a problem of the industry concentrated to make games to take advantage of the technical capabilities of the platform rather than making them fun...I won't speculate (although I have ideas about that very theory). Still, stores like Gamespot are console centric.

And even though WoW has eight million subscribers and climbing, unless the broader PC game buying numbers go up, it's a localized phenomenon. I know a lot of people who play WoW and only WoW, never branching out to other games, nor even to other MMOs. Still, that isn't so bad as long as you have engaging games that provide new content as PC gaming trends further and further towards MMO play.

I digress. Bleah. I'll get off the soapbox now.

Re:Hurdles (1)

Joe U (443617) | about 7 years ago | (#20823247)

Not really. Compare the "PC games" section to any other individual console, excluding the used games (since you can't have that for PC), and you'll actually notice it of respectable size--especially since the games are packed in tighter.

Its apparently gotten so tight that the games have gone invisible. I went to two new Gamestops recently, one had no PC games, the other had 1 rack (3 shelves) with a poor choice of games.

Re:Hurdles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20833241)

As an employee of a Gamestop, there is a pretty straightforward reason we don't enjoy a large PC section: we don't accept returns.

Unlike any other console, the return policy on PC games is simply that there is none. PC Games are considered too easily copied, and it seems likely that someone will buy a game, take the CD key, copy the CDs, and simply return it.

Gamestop makes a good deal of money from used games and trade-ins. PC games can be offered in a lot of places, and what makes Gamestop unique cannot be applied to PC games. Thus no real section.

Re:Hurdles (1)

Joe U (443617) | about 7 years ago | (#20837213)

"If our software don't amaze, bring it back in 30 days, in-store trial with no dispute, at Software etc, we're Easy To Compute"

Rename to GameStop, destroy service.

Actually, I know why they changed the name to GameStop, mostly because they stopped carrying quality games.

Seriously, the return policy might be why you don't have a large PC section, but please explain why you have a PC section with no quality.

Microsoft intentionally killed PC gaming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20833933)

The Xbox was built around cannibalizing PC games by offering near-PC architecture combined with a much larger potential market for game sales.

All of the subtle and complex genres which used to be typical of PC games have gone nearly extinct in the Xbox's lifetime and a significant percentage of commercial PC games are just ports of garbage designed for its 9-button controller.

"Games for Windows" is just MS rounding up the stragglers so as to more effectively capitalize. Ultimately their goal will be to merge PC and Xbox gaming fully. Wouldn't surprise me to see an Xbox card for PC in the next generation.

RIP PC gaming.

Sounds nice but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20822131)

Valve's community features sound nice and it is a definite bonus they are free, but I still fail to see the overall benefit. If every publisher required you to have a separate account just to access the community features for their games, the annoyance of multiple accounts would quickly get out of hand. My point being $50 a year isn't much for getting a single login for all xbox live games, and there are a plethora of other features that are accessible.

Re:Sounds nice but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20822209)

What are you talking about? Each game using the steam community will use your SINGLE login for steam. No need at all for one login per game. And it's FREE. (since Valve sells games on the platform, and occasionally sends its commercial offers to you)

Re:Sounds nice but... (1)

revlayle (964221) | about 7 years ago | (#20822267)

Yeah, that is exactly right.... and I rarely play a lot of online games, and *I* even knew this! :) (note: I do use Steam to purchase games in general, however)

Re:Sounds nice but... (1, Interesting)

ThirdPrize (938147) | about 7 years ago | (#20822373)

Remember when Steam was released? Everyone complained that you had to download so much software just to browse and buy a game. Over a dial up line.

games for windows (4, Insightful)

musikit (716987) | about 7 years ago | (#20822175)

i dont know how true it is but i see "games for windows" and i just assume its vista only and move onto the next game.

Re:games for windows (2, Insightful)

orkysoft (93727) | about 7 years ago | (#20822487)

To me it's a warning label that it won't work with wine/Cedega...

Re:games for windows (2, Informative)

PolyDwarf (156355) | about 7 years ago | (#20822545)

I thought exactly this with the PC version of Bioshock. A friend of mine asked me if I was playing it yet, and I said that I hadn't bothered picking it up because it was Vista only.. I then proceeded to nag at him for getting Vista.

He told me it ran on XP just fine, only without a couple of fancy DX10 options.

My guess is that Microsoft wants everyone to think exactly that, to get them to "upgrade" to Vista. They realize Vista's been a failure on its own merits, so they are trying to get everyone to "upgrade" by enticing them with ancillary stuff.

Re:games for windows (1)

cthellis (733202) | about 7 years ago | (#20822655)

I don't know why the "Games for Windows" label would make anyone associate it with "Vista-only." It's simply the label EVERY new PC game carriers (excepting the few cross-platform card- and puzzle-type games, I suppose). The only "Vista or bust!" games were Microsoft-published ones that they were using to encourage a few more people to make the switch now. (Just Halo 2 and Shadowrun, I believe. Yay-rah.)

DX10 is the more compelling reason to switch, but I'm hoping to see some of the devs make good on their "bringing DX10 features to people with DX10 hardware even on XP," as some promised. I'd like to get the extra features/performance out of my video card without taking the almost-universal performance hit that still seems to be the case for moving to Vista now.

Re:games for windows (1)

PolyDwarf (156355) | about 7 years ago | (#20822799)

I think, for me, the first time I saw that label was actually on Shadowrun.

Since then, the label and Vista Only go hand-in-hand in my head.

Re:games for windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20822941)

I saw an article recently that showed that, for games, there is very little difference in the performance between Vista and XP these days. As the drivers have been updated for Vista, the difference seems to have diminished. Of course, mileage may vary for 'desktop' performance with older machines etc.

Re:games for windows (1)

Meorah (308102) | about 7 years ago | (#20823041)

That's a pretty inept thought to have. Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base? It would be like releasing bioshock to linux and not XP.

Games for WINDOWS, not games for VISTA.

Reading comprehension deteriorates as people refuse to RTFA, and we end up with people thinking that MS is conspiring to get them on their new OS with a label on a game. Do your part to stop stupid thoughts and increase critical thinking ability. Always RTFA.

Re:games for windows (1)

Toonol (1057698) | about 7 years ago | (#20824403)

That's a pretty inept thought to have. Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base? It would be like releasing bioshock to linux and not XP.

Microsoft has released Vista only games, "catering to a minor installed base and ignoring a huge installed base." Shadowrun and Halo 2 are examples.

Knowing that, it's perfectly reasonable to have a little doubt about whether any particular new release will work on Windows. Having a "games for Windows" stamp, evidently meaning the Microsoft seal of approval, naturally exacerbates that fear.

Re:games for windows (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about 7 years ago | (#20831765)

Those games were developed in-house and primarily for a console. Since console sales, especially for Halo, dominate PC sales by, what, 8 to 1, MS can afford to lock out WinXP users for those games.

However, I don't see any other publishers drinking the MS coolaide on this one.

Re:games for windows (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | about 7 years ago | (#20824665)

Why would a blockbuster game release only to a minor installed base and ignore a huge installed base?
I don't know. [wikipedia.org]

Re:games for windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20822777)

i dont know how true it is but i see "games for windows" and i just assume its vista only and move onto the next game.
You're wrong. The requirements [microsoft.com] are still pretty informal but they specify XP and XP Media Centre support, amongst other things (widescreen support, 64-bit OS compatibility, easy install, X360 controller support, etc.).

Re:games for windows (1)

kalirion (728907) | about 7 years ago | (#20824159)

"Games for Windows" means "Vista-ready" not "Vista-required".

Microsoft charges to reduce griefing (4, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 7 years ago | (#20822197)

If there is no cost to creating a new Xbox Live account, Microsoft would have a lot more trouble getting rid of griefers and cheaters from the system. As is, if you're booted from Xbox Live, you're out $50. That's basically the reason for the charge.

Besides, the number of free downloads you get during the course of a year of Xbox Live service is worth the charge, IMO. I think I have 6 free Xbox Live Arcade games on my console, and I've owned it less than a year. If you assume each Xbox Live Arcade game is worth $10, I've come out ahead already.

Re:Microsoft charges to reduce griefing (1)

Floritard (1058660) | about 7 years ago | (#20826779)

Each XBox has a unique name. If MS wants to ban you for griefing, they just put the name of your XBox on the blacklist. What does having $50 more every year from each customer have to do with that? If what you say is true, they'd only charge you to take you off the blacklist, not force an annual subscription charge upon every gamer. I had Live for the original XBox, I now play on Steam. 50 bucks isn't really a lot, but Live is just not worth it. In fact looking at what you get when you give money to Valve as opposed to what you get when you give money to Microsoft, hardware costs aside, I'm surprised Valve can even turn a profit for all the value they give me.

Re:Microsoft charges to reduce griefing (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 7 years ago | (#20838815)

From my understanding (I very briefly worked at Microsoft Games), while MS has the capability of banning Xboxes they only use this capability for Xboxes they know have been modded. Otherwise, they only ban the specific user-- otherwise you might buy a used Xbox from Gamestop that's banned from Xbox Live without you knowing it (or having any way to find it out), and that's basically class action-fuel.

Feel free to prove me wrong if you have better information. This is just stuff I've gleaned.

Re:Microsoft charges to reduce griefing (1)

Floritard (1058660) | about 7 years ago | (#20850221)

Good point, but if you're going to sign up for XBox Live on a used XBox, you still have to provide Microsoft with some personal information which they could then check against the info for the guy who got banned. I'm not really against having an account with CC information even if only for verification purposes, but I still think charging $50 a year is stupid. They can make plenty of money on microtransactions, the subscription fee is unnecessary. Saying it's for the grief police sounds more like racketeering to me. Not to mention, when I last had Live there was no shortage of griefers.

GfW != GfW Live (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20822223)

The article is confused. There are two separate things here:
  • "Games for Windows" [wikipedia.org] is a certification to encourage games to play well with modern hardware, e.g. support widescreen and run on 64-bit operating systems. This is a good thing.
  • "Games For Windows LIVE" [wikipedia.org] is the pay-for XBox Live equivalent. This is a take-it-or-leave-it thing.
In any case I don't think the article says anything insightful or new.

Re:GfW != GfW Live (1)

JochenBedersdorfer (945289) | about 7 years ago | (#20823831)

"Games for Windows" is a certification to encourage games to play well with modern hardware, e.g. support widescreen and run on 64-bit operating systems. This is a good thing.
Dual monitor mode in World in Conflict only works with DirectX 10. How is that a good thing?

And how come I can't help myself wondering that M$ is behind this dubious decision. Multi-monitoring-support in DirectX 9 is no problem whatsoever! Looks to me like "Games for Windows" is designed to push players into using Vista...which you would really piss off if you run it on 64-bit...

Re:GfW != GfW Live (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20824103)

Dual monitor mode in World in Conflict only works with DirectX 10. How is that a good thing?
That's the developer's choice. GfW [microsoft.com] doesn't mention multi-monitor support, or even DirectX 10. Supreme Commander does mulit-monitor support and is DirectX 9.

Looks to me like "Games for Windows" is designed to push players into using Vista...which you would really piss off if you run it on 64-bit...
I don't understand your point. GfW requires games work on both 32-bit and 64-bit Vista as well as XP and XP Media Centre.

Re:GfW != GfW Live (1)

JochenBedersdorfer (945289) | about 7 years ago | (#20824173)

My paranoia tells me it is not so much a developer's choice ;) Other games in the GfW-Initiative: Shadowrun (Vista only), Lost Planet (works best on Vista), BUT VISTA; BUY VISTA Blehh. If there are real technical reasons to upgrade, fine, but I don't see them.

So... (3, Interesting)

njfuzzy (734116) | about 7 years ago | (#20822227)

Am I right that they called it "Steam" just so journalists would have to keep using the phrases "Steam-powered" and "powered by steam" and "valve releases steam"? Think of the confusing sentences if they released a Castle Falkenstein game, and journos had to summarize that.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20825883)

They could call the anti-cheating software for it Steampunkbuster.

Predicated on false demand (2, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 7 years ago | (#20822311)

When I buy a game, I typically check reviews and with other gamers to make sure that it's going to scratch whatever itch I've got. Proper installation, playing nice with Windows and other applications... those are things that I tend to assume are going to happen, if the game is going to survive the aggregate review process. I don't really need MS telling me that a game will work on the platform it's intended for. Go figure. Auto-detection and reconfiguration based on whether you've got a controller plugged in or not is a cute touch, but ultimately gimmicky.

I hate to trot the 'console vs. pc players' thing out, but it's there. Yes, most modern consoles can handle a keyboard and mouse, and yes, computers can handle console controllers with a modicum of issue. At the same time, using a mouse on a couch is pretty damned awkward, and keyboards tend to violate the whole compact, elegant and self-contained idea that consoles operate around too. There's merit in convergence, sure, but KB/mouse works much better on a desktop than the same combination does on a couch.

I see the Games for Windows decal and shrug. I suspect that most gamers do the same thing, assuming they haven't moved entirely to consoles. In the end, it's a pretty empty gesture... if not an outright rude one.

Re:Predicated on false demand (1)

spocksbrain (1097145) | about 7 years ago | (#20826677)

I agree. I have gotten so used to doing all of the fine tuning that's been required whenever I buy a new PC game that I would still triple check every little related componant and setting for the game that I have installed before I fire up the .exe for the first time. Games for Windows is only good news for the young kids and the console neanderthals who cannot be bothered with tuning settings and hardware.

Re:Predicated on false demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20834743)

Proper installation, playing nice with Windows and other applications... those are things that I tend to assume are going to happen

Yeah, right! As long as the game is not like most PC games, which write their save files into the Program Files folder (because everyone should be an administrator!), install "copy protection" schemes that only work on certain hardware, and don't have half the features implemented let alone bugs fixed until you download the final version some months later. The problem with "games for windows" is it is about 10 years too late...

When Games for Windows Magazine hates GFW Live.... (1)

LMN8R (979699) | about 7 years ago | (#20822789)

Yeah, not this news article specifically, but a few months ago Jeff Green from Games for Windows Magazine (formerly Computer Gaming World) wrote a great article basically bitching about all this same stuff. Games for Windows labels - which developers can freely put on their boxes after meeting a few reasonable criteria (vista support, widescreen support, 360 controller support, etc.) - are great. But Games for Windows Live is an absolute failure in every sense of the word.

Did MS think of the players? (4, Insightful)

RichPowers (998637) | about 7 years ago | (#20822865)

No. GFW's failure is a classic example of Redmond's hubris.

It reminds me of how Sony initially used the PS3 to push Blu-Ray adoption instead of videogames. Likewise, MS used GFW to promote Vista and DX10 instead PC games.

If GFW was about providing gamers with an enjoyable experience, there'd be a bigger focus on XP and no Live fees. Making several "flagship" GFW titles Vista-only was incredibly stupid as well.

GFW's greatest achievement is an obnoxious, totally redundant banner on new PC games. Thanks, MS, I had no clue I was purchasing a Windows game.

These other issues notwithstanding, MS also did a poor job of marketing GFW and explaining how it benefits PC gaming.

Without the baggage of promoting a new OS or some other crap, Valve can focus on what gamers care about: games!

Re:Did MS think of the players? (3, Interesting)

nutshell42 (557890) | about 7 years ago | (#20824211)

I absolutely agree with you.

It reminds me of how Sony initially used the PS3 to push Blu-Ray adoption instead of videogames. Likewise, MS used GFW to promote Vista and DX10 instead PC games.

It's even worse because GfW lacks any coherent strategy to address the PC's biggest problems for gaming which are on-board graphics and requirements stickers half the size of the box.

You don't need a $4000 PC to play games. My current PC cost about 1000 three years ago and it can still play just about all games (even though I have to dial the settings way down on e.g. Bioshock ). When you buy a new PC every few years you have to pay a premium of about $300 to get a PC that's good at playing games instead of just office stuff, but not enough people are ready to pay that price.

I think one of the biggest problems here is that all too many have simply no idea what they'd have to buy to be able to play games, whether that game they're looking at will play on their PC and what's wrong if it doesn't.

The Vista performance rating would have been the ideal way to address this problem but unfortunately a marginally bigger and faster hard drive will have a bigger impact on your score than a switch from a 6600 to a 8800.

The other problem is that MS and the graphics card corps are incapable of solving the driver mess. I installed the Bioshock demo. Then I needed new beta drivers for my nvidia card. Then I had to find a fix for the old 60Hz problem that's still around (iirc at some point nvidia allowed games to set their own refresh rate. All too many don't and you're stuck at 60Hz. That's fine if you got a LCD but sucks dick if you don't, meaning you need a 3rd party tool -nvtweak- to activate the hidden entry in nvidia's control panel to force refresh rate overrides. Now try explaining that to some non-geek). Even better ten years ago you could install games on a different partition without problems, nowadays suddenly there are quite a few games that will break if you don't install them on C:.

I mean wtf, this is 2007, nvidia makes boatloads of money by selling gaming hardware, games cost tens of millions to produce and MS needs the early adopters because we're the guys who buy overpriced retail editions of Windows. You should think they'd be able to fix all that small stuff. But nooooo...

If GFW was about providing gamers with an enjoyable experience, there'd be a bigger focus on XP and no Live fees. Making several "flagship" GFW titles Vista-only was incredibly stupid as well.

When GfW was announced originally there were some tin-foil hat theories that it was MS' new plan to kill off PC gaming. As the Xbox provides the most PC-like games generally, the idea was that by killing PC gaming MS could gain Xbox customers.

I dismissed it originally but now I'm not so sure.

Games for Windows. So which Games for Windows did MS release to launch its bold new initative? A crappy port of a two year old game with subpar graphics, crappy performance and loads of bugs. And a worse port of a overpriced game with crippled controls, crappy performance, and metric fucktons of bugs. IGN reported it wouldn't even run on half their PCs. Wow. WTF? This is the bold new world of MS enforced console-style QA for the PC? But hey, it supported the 360 gamepad.

You'd have thought MS would have been able to produce one game that wasn't a port and wasn't a B- title, or at least give us Mass Effect at the same time as the 360.

And then of course there's GfWL. If you pay them you get half the features other corps offer for free. Great.

Long story short:

Without the baggage of promoting a new OS or some other crap, Valve can focus on what gamers care about: games!

Even more important, Valve (and others, e.g. Stardock, who are catering to a more niche audience but offer less drm crap) care about gamers.

MS has lost about $*7* *billion* on the Xbox ($4bn being the accepted figure for the original Xbox, plus the losses of their games division since the launch of the 360 -less a safety margin-, plus the $1bn to fix their POS), if they have to piss off 10 PC people to gain 1 new 360 customer who cares?

Re:Did MS think of the players? (1)

AlexMax2742 (602517) | about 7 years ago | (#20826235)

Games for Windows. So which Games for Windows did MS release to launch its bold new initative? A crappy port of a two year old game with subpar graphics, crappy performance and loads of bugs. And a worse port of a overpriced game with crippled controls, crappy performance, and metric fucktons of bugs. IGN reported it wouldn't even run on half their PCs. Wow. WTF? This is the bold new world of MS enforced console-style QA for the PC? But hey, it supported the 360 gamepad.


This is what really burned me. I was really looking forward to finally playing Halo 2 for my PC after my Xbox and Halo 2 wound up in parts unknown. Unfortuniatly, requiring vista to play when it wasn't even required (see: Halo 2 XP patches) and games for windows live for matchmaking (Matchmaking was the best part of Halo 2, and making it subscriber only with a free option is just about the best way of ensuring nobody plays it on PC) was a dealbreaker for me. And now everyone is playing Halo 3, which I really want to play, but I have no intention of investing almost 500 dollars in a console that dies after six months for a handfull of games that I happen to want to play.

It's a shame. Microsofts handling of the Halo series on PC has just been tragic, with two years-late, unoptimized, unsupported ports. Hopefully Gears of War will end up being a higher quality conversion.

It's not just games.. (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | about 7 years ago | (#20834949)

> nowadays suddenly there are quite a few games that will break if you don't install them on C:

That's been typical of Microsoft in recent years.

They've even got a whole bunch of applications and OS-updates that will break your OS if you remove the installer file. Oh, and they often keep copies of the installer files.

MS Office 2003 is a great example - it makes a hidden folder called 'msocache' which sucks 400mb of hdd space. They make this on a random drive (i.e. often not C:) and if you remove it then Office'll often break.

Things with .Net are worse, if you remove the 'uninstall' directories WU makes under C:\Windows you'll find yourself unable to apply later updates.

If it wasn't for gaming and Office I'd switch to Linux tomorrow. Even the broken mess that is Kubuntu (ever tried changing screen res?) it's preferable to what MS is now doing.

Re:Did MS think of the players? (2, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 7 years ago | (#20824261)

What they should focus on, IMO, is getting rid of all the bullcrap that PC games try to pull. Games for Windows games should be prohibited from:

1) Requiring Admin access to run. No I do not want to give permissions to an internet-capable app with dubious coding that goes online.
2) Requiring that games either run directly from CD, or at the very least don't install crappy fake CD drivers to impose their anti-copy code. (And in the process, either break or disable perfectly legitimate software, like virtual CD software.)
3) Requiring at least the same level of QA that goes into console games. It's acceptable for PC games to crash your computer; this should not be acceptable.

Re:Did MS think of the players? (1)

Mountaineer1024 (1024367) | about 7 years ago | (#20825349)

PC games get more QA than console games, but as you say more bugs creep through.
The reason for that is simple. A console is a fixed target to code for and PC's are a mishmash of various technology implementations.
Will it be the nVidia or the ATI video card today? The 128Meg budget model or the 1024M behemoth?
Sure Microsoft's DirectX API's are supposed to abstract those difficulties away from the developers, but at the end of the day, it's the game manufacturers that get the blame when everything goes pear shaped.
I had an enormous amount of difficulty with Day of Defeat Source on my last laptop which sported an nVidia 7800go with 256Meg of ram. Random crashes and lockups all over the place. I went through 4 different driver versions before I found one that was reasonably stable, and all but one of them were hacked versions I got from laptops2go due to Dell/nVidia's lackluster support in this regard.

I'm a developer and believe me, we don't find this sort of thing any more acceptable than end users.

Missing option (2, Interesting)

theskipper (461997) | about 7 years ago | (#20823321)

Odd, while reading TFA I kept expecting to see some mention about MS simply buying Valve at some point. Valve is privately held but for a princely sum it could get done, probably even easier than if they were public. And isn't Mr. Newell ex-MS?

Outlandish?

Flagship game a flop (2, Insightful)

Yuioup (452151) | about 7 years ago | (#20823601)

Well... there was supposed to be this amazing game that touted Windows and XBox compatibility under the Windows Live brand. Unfortunately it didn't get good ratings.

To make things worse the project lead of the game went on air to complain about how low a review score his game got.

That game of course was Shadowrun.

What a way to launch an on-line service. Make the customers pay too much for something that should be for free ... and then bitch and moan when customers are too smart to fall for it.

Y

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