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

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

Dear Microsoft,

One of the big events at E3 last week was the PC Gaming Show, and I was thrilled to see you guys turn up and talk about your plans....

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I suspect the only reason Microsoft has taken an "interest" in PC again is the same reason I suspect they dumped GFWL on us the first time: to drive players to the console versions of games.

All good ideas. Especially Microsoft being less involved. We could use less "help" from them in the future.

Atmos Duality:
I suspect the only reason Microsoft has taken an "interest" in PC again is the same reason I suspect they dumped GFWL on us the first time: to drive players to the console versions of games.

I figured it was the usual "Someone's making money here. We want some" deal.

The interesting part is that games are a major force propping up the Windows monopoly. Lot's of games need Windows to run, so gamers kinda need it, so dev teams don't bother supporting other OS's. A lot of other things you might want a PC for are not like that, things like browsers and office suites are available for all serious OSs, so it's easy to switch to Linux if you aren't using your PC for games.

I was quite surprised when Microsoft announced the original Xbox for this reason. If Xbox was really successful, PC gaming might disappear and Windows would fall to Linux over the simple issue of cost. Retrospectively, it may have been a trojan horse to introduce as many of the downsides of PC gaming to consoles as possible, while pioneering additional downsides like paying for multiplayer. But then they came up with GFWL make PC gaming even worse.

They won't listen. They are already making DX 12 and a game windows 10 exclusive, despite me barely seeing any game use DX 11 in the years on windows 7.

They call operating systems "visions". They are lost.

To be honest I think the best thing Microsoft can do for PC gaming is bugger off and focus on Xbox.

For distribution Steam, GoG and Origin already exist, so they're just a minor competitor at best.
For DRM Steamworks and Origin are considerably more reliable (and less painful) than anything Microsoft is likely to produce.

If Microsoft must 'support' PC gaming they would serve everyone best by ignoring DRM and 'social platforms' entirely and just releasing titles on all the other distribution platforms. We and they already know that even if they get GFWL back into every major PC release for a decade those games will be primarily bought on Steam and not the Microsoft storefront.

This apology-promise sounds like when EA promise to stop abusing their investments and IP, whether disingenuous or clueless it's equally unlikely to be true.

Well said Shamus.

I agree with Bad Jim that PC gaming is a large part of what maintains Windows' dominance. The main reason I don't use Linux or OSX is that most of the games I want to play don't work there and dual boot rather defeats the purpose in switching.

It's a common misconception that games either on the xbox or PC makes microsoft real money. The sale of gaming hardware in 2014 was $9,628 million as compared to the $42,027 million they made selling software to businesses. In fact total sales of gaming hardware is less than their sales and marketing budget by just over $6,000 million.

Microsoft will spend their time and money on maximising their profits and that means gaming comes second place.

Well, y'know, a few billion here, a few billion there, and sooner or later it adds up to real money.

Good article overall, but I'm pretty sure you're wrong about the vc redistributables. I don't mean that devs should be able to include the full set of redistributable files with the game itself. That's very true. Rather, devs can as long as they buy the right license of visual studio from microsoft. Also, I don't know about GoG, but steam includes the redistributable installer with the game's download. I know because I'm usually not online the first time I run a game. In some cases, I've even tried to repair the install manually by finding the installer in the game folder. If I had to guess, I'd say the reason is the rare instances when devs want to maintain games with automatic updates but are too lazy to update the redistributable files themselves, which makes about as much sense as anything else microsoft does.

Having said that, I recently tried to make a c extension in python 2.7 meant to run on windows (because a certain vn engine uses 2.7). DLL hell never went away.

That "Windows Button while Fullscreen" issue would be simple enough to fix by simply not going to windows unless you double-tap it. Sometimes you really do want windows to pop up and minimize the game. Maybe it froze up or something. If you do, your first instinct upon receiving no response is to hit it a whole bunch of times. It's not terribly likely that someone is going to hit it twice in a row quickly by accident. It'd be a simple enough fix.

The best thing Microsoft could do for PC gaming is pretend it doesn't exist. I don't want them, their DRM, their xbone tie-ins and whatever else they want to spew on their Windows platform. They don't want to do anything to help PC gaming, they don't think PC gamers are cool, they want to leverage their near monopoly in desktop operating systems to propagate lock in, DRM, and whatever else they can.

So please Microsoft, if you really care, leave us alone.

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)....

I know on steam, all of these packages are provided by Steam, and they're in the redistro folder for that particular game.

Other services, I assume do the same thing.

I get it though, it is kind of annoying to go through that install.

fix-the-spade:
To be honest I think the best thing Microsoft can do for PC gaming is bugger off and focus on Xbox.

For distribution Steam, GoG and Origin already exist, so they're just a minor competitor at best.
For DRM Steamworks and Origin are considerably more reliable (and less painful) than anything Microsoft is likely to produce.

If Microsoft must 'support' PC gaming they would serve everyone best by ignoring DRM and 'social platforms' entirely and just releasing titles on all the other distribution platforms. We and they already know that even if they get GFWL back into every major PC release for a decade those games will be primarily bought on Steam and not the Microsoft storefront.

This apology-promise sounds like when EA promise to stop abusing their investments and IP, whether disingenuous or clueless it's equally unlikely to be true.

The problem here is that Microsoft is involved regardless because core parts of the Windows OS are nessesary to support gaming.

The way that graphics drivers have to be written is microsoft's influence. DirectX is Microsoft. Every stupid API call, driver structure, core feature in the OS... All of it microsoft can mess with in ways that influence how well PC gaming actually functions.
Sure OpenGL exists, but on Windows that's usually implemented as a DirectX wrapper.

The existence of DirectX in the first place was critical to making windows a viable gaming platform. Before DirectX was something that worked properly, the majority of games were made for DOS.
Why? Because DOS is so minimalist, you can barely even call it an OS...
It does almost nothing for you, so a creating a DOS game is pretty close to writing a program that interacts directly with the hardware, with nothing inbetween.

That's a lot of work.
It's also completely impractical in a modern multi-tasking OS, because there's no way you can get away with any program having that degree of direct hardware access without running the risk that it could screw up everything on the system if it wanted to.
(that was in fact a risk with dos programs, but since DOS can't multi-task, there's only so much damage you can do short of messing with files that aren't part of the game itself.)

In short, without Microsoft's support, PC gaming as we know it would die pretty quickly.
It's anyone's guess if something like SteamOS or the like could pick up enough of the pieces for it to recover, but... The way things are now, Microsoft's continued support is vital to PC gaming...

Nurb:
They won't listen. They are already making DX 12 and a game windows 10 exclusive, despite me barely seeing any game use DX 11 in the years on windows 7.

They call operating systems "visions". They are lost.

Pretty much this. and no there really is no good reason that DX is tied to OS versions in the same way there was no reason for IE versions to be tied to OS versions. It's how they're written and they're written that way because that's how MS wants them to be written..

Truth is most devs ignore DirectX versions and just go for 9 or 10 and save the fancy stuf for OGL. Even the hardward manufacturers are giving OGL love now. The reason MS is trying to reach out to PC Gamers because honestly they have no one else to. Developers are more and more recognizing the existence of other platforms like linux.

I suspect that GFWL is going to be replaced by the Xbox Live app that'll be required to play the Xbone ports they are doing to "support PC gaming".

I'll just repeat the same thing I say every year when MS does their traditional "We want to support PC gaming!" bullshit:

Are we getting the Halo games (past Halo 2)? Gears of War past the first one? Fable 2? No? Then you don't want to support PC gaming, do you? Is the new Gears game coming out on the PC? How about the next Halo? No? Not even as a delayed release a few months after the console release? No? Oh, then why are we having this discussion?

Don't get me wrong, I don't really care about the games themselves, it's the principle of the thing. I can't take a company's claims of wanting to support a platform seriously when they hoard their exclusives like that. Yes, I understand that they need those exclusives to draw people to the XBOne, and that's fine. But then it's bullshit by default to claim they want to support any other platform, at least in the way they claim...

Fallout 3 works just fine GFWL hasn't made a peep. I'm playing through it now and when I installed it, I was expecting a hassle to disable it, which didn't materialise, Yay!

I'd argue with you that GFWL is/was worse than Uplay, after trying to play PoP: Forgotten sands Up[lay seems to thing I have more than one account and the game is attached to said other (non-existant) account. I don't want a Uplay account let alone more than one.

Veylon:
That "Windows Button while Fullscreen" issue would be simple enough to fix by simply not going to windows unless you double-tap it. Sometimes you really do want windows to pop up and minimize the game. Maybe it froze up or something. If you do, your first instinct upon receiving no response is to hit it a whole bunch of times. It's not terribly likely that someone is going to hit it twice in a row quickly by accident. It'd be a simple enough fix.

Unnecessary replacement. It's already just the same thing as ctrl-esc, after all. Removing it altogether doesn't lose any functionality, and saves a lot of headaches. If you want to get out you can press ctrl-esc, or alt-tab, or ctrl-shift-esc, or ctrl-alt-del...

Best MS can do is make all of their XBONER 'exclusive' games available for Windows 10.
Maybe even after 3 months or so, make it a (vomit) 'timed exclusive!!!1!111!!!' for those nefarious marketing purposes....

Good points, Shamus. I suspect that it will fall on deaf ears.

A true case: I was working on verifying that products worked on the upcoming W* release. W98, was going to be a big leap forward and my company didn't want our products to get hammered when it was released. So, we are at a conference for that very purpose. Lots of companies, lots of devices and several actual MSFT devs. My favorite conversation related to the system saving energy. As in, if the user wasn't actually interacting with the system it would spin down the drive and blank or power off the monitor. Really trippy way back then. Sure laptops did that but few desktops. I tell the MSFT guy, "Thanks, that explains the bug I reported. I cannot download files from MSFT without the beta shutting down the HDD. Of course, I wasn't interacting with it! I was waiting for MSFT servers. Then the download failed because the drive was offline."

The look on his face was priceless. Two builds later it was fixed.

They still don't understand how a user actually wants to use W*. Their data is only on how the user can make W* do something close to what they want.

Nurb:
They won't listen. They are already making DX 12 and a game windows 10 exclusive, despite me barely seeing any game use DX 11 in the years on windows 7.

They call operating systems "visions". They are lost.

I'll still hold out hope, but I can't dig up much to counter your point sadly.

The statement that windows 10 will be the last windows release, moving on to an apple style system of updates, puzzles me.

Conceptually, having everyone on the same release would streamline the process for software development somewhat.
Granted, there are is still the variety available in hardware to make it all complicated, but at least they wont have to deal with ensuring compatibility with 7,vista,8 and ten, not to mention throwbacks still clutching on to windows xp after being so badly burned by a dalliance with vista.

However, I'm not sure I trust microsoft enough to have all us users sequestered in one place, as it were.
Once everyone is using 10, how long until it shifts onto a yearly subscription pattern of revenue?
Perhaps I'm being overly untrusting and their motives are pure.

Pyrian:

Veylon:
That "Windows Button while Fullscreen" issue would be simple enough to fix by simply not going to windows unless you double-tap it. Sometimes you really do want windows to pop up and minimize the game. Maybe it froze up or something. If you do, your first instinct upon receiving no response is to hit it a whole bunch of times. It's not terribly likely that someone is going to hit it twice in a row quickly by accident. It'd be a simple enough fix.

Unnecessary replacement. It's already just the same thing as ctrl-esc, after all. Removing it altogether doesn't lose any functionality, and saves a lot of headaches. If you want to get out you can press ctrl-esc, or alt-tab, or ctrl-shift-esc, or ctrl-alt-del...

And then there's Windows-M and Windows-D and Windows-T and Windows-Tab too.

But most people using Windows aren't all that savvy about it. They know that the Windows button brings up the Windows menu and that's about it. If it doesn't do that, they're going to be stymied and mystified. Is my keyboard broke? Is the machine froze up? You can't very well pop up a window to tell them the Windows button isn't working when the whole point of this scenario is for Windows to keep a low profile while the full-screen app is running.

And yes I suppose you can say that everyone who uses a computer ought to know the ins and outs of it the way anyone using a car ought to know about proper alignment and how to refill the battery and change the oil.

I kind of wish that Windows would come with it's own tutorial to explain all this stuff a little at a time the way many games do so that the user gradually becomes familiar with useful features and shortcuts so that we wouldn't be having these kinds of conversations. Maybe it could put little hints and tips down at the bottom of the sign-in screen or something. How else would the casual user learn that Windows-Home minimizes all unfocused windows or that Windows-Shift-Arrow moves windows between screens? It's not exactly intuitive.

Wow, just wow. That link to your story from 2010 about GFWL is the best thing I've read in a while.

A bit off topic, but what game is in that screenshot from page two?

Agreed, the best thing MS can do for PC gamers, is make the OS smarter about Drivers, VC re-distributables, and full screen gaming, then STAY OUT OF THE WAY.

Veylon:

I kind of wish that Windows would come with it's own tutorial to explain all this stuff a little at a time the way many games do so that the user gradually becomes familiar with useful features and shortcuts so that we wouldn't be having these kinds of conversations.

Man, I how I get an achievement for pressing the Windows button.

Tooltips or something would be great, in seriousness. I recently made a joke about how it's been years that we've been able to bring up the task manager from the taskbar, and I still go what I find to be the long way of CTRL ALT DEL and then selecting it because I forget that it's an option, and a bunch of my friends were like "you can DO that?" and then a discussion broke out over other functions we might not know.

And these weren't even like beginners. Some of these folks are pretty savvy. But they know one way to navigate, or access X or do Y.

I lost the ability to access an email account and became unable to play online in Dark Souls or save my progress. I have trouble believing that the same company who begat GFWL into the world is capable of doing anything gamers would want other than easing the fuck back and sitting on their hands.

I lost the ability to access an email account and became unable to play online in Dark Souls or save my progress. I have trouble believing that the same company who begat GFWL into the world is capable of doing anything gamers would want other than easing the fuck back and sitting on their hands.

I SEE EVERYTHING TWICE

 

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