Experienced Points

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

Shamus Young | 23 Jun 2015 15:00
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2. Stop the VC Redistributable Madness!

So I'm installing a game through GoG or Steam. I've got a progress bar. I can see how much bandwidth I'm using, how long the download will take, and how large the game is overall. I can pause the download if it's interfering with someone else's streaming. I can throttle or cap my net usage and I can plan to do other things while the game is downloading.

I come back at the appointed time. The download is done. I pick up the controller and hit "Play".

Installing VC Redistributable Packages (1 of 7)....

Damn it, Microsoft.

How big is this download? How long will this take? How much bandwidth is it using? Why can't I pause it? Why is there no progress bar? It hasn't done anything in a while - is it crashed?

The problem here is that when someone makes a game for Windows using Visual Studio, you don't allow the developer to pack in all the Microsoft libraries the end user will need. They can't just stick the required VC and DirectX libs in with the game or put it on the disk. You insist the end user connect to Microsoft's crappy servers and dribble all these packages to us at install time.

I've never read a good explanation for this, although I've always suspected this is some kind of softball DRM. I'm guessing if I wasn't running a genuine licensed copy of Windows, the Windows servers would refuse to give the files? But I have no idea.

Like all DRM (assuming this is DRM) this seems to punish the people who pay for software far more than those who don't. In any case, these shenanigans will make it that much harder for legacy titles to survive. This is like the old Windows DLL Hell for the modern era. I think the first step in proving you want the PC to be a great gaming platform is to stop making things such a needless pain in the ass.

It's far too late for you to fix this horrendous mess, but you can stop making things worse. Give developers the freedom to distribute everything that the consumer will need to run the game, and future games will be smoother to distribute and install.


3. De-fang Games for Windows LIVE.

GFWL exists, and there's nothing anyone can do about it now. But does it really need to continue to torment PC gamers? That hurts both your bottom line, your reputation, and the viability of the PC as a place to play games. You can't remove GFWL from released games (the developers have to do that themselves by putting out a patch) but you can stop it from causing quite so many headaches.

Just make one last version of GFWL that doesn't prompt the user to log in. If the user wants to hit the HOME button and log in, they can, but by default GFWL will stay hidden instead of jumping up when people are trying to play, stream, record game footage, or just enjoy the opening cutscene. It can default to putting save files somewhere sensible under the /Documents folder of the current Windows login. This will fix a vast majority of the problems with using GFWL, and will give you a "safe" way to pull the plug once you get sick of paying for all those GFWL servers.

That can't fix the problems with multiplayer, but it will prevent GFWL problems from killing those old single player games.

4. The best support you can give is to stay out of the way.

Note how almost everything on this list involves removing stuff you've done in the past. I know you're a company of engineers, and I know you'll be able to appreciate the significance of that. As a gamer, it's actually kind of ominous to hear you're taking an interest in the platform again. I'm just hoping your help does less damage this time around.

- Shamus Young

Shamus Young is a programmer, critic, comic, and crank. Have a question for the column? Ask him! [email protected].

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