On The Rocks: Games For Windows Live

By John Walker on March 9th, 2011 at 12:14 am.

It still sends a shiver into me.

Microsoft has today announced that they plan to improve Games For Windows Live. In fact, speaking to CVG, senior-producer-of-Microsoft’s-interactive-entertainment-business, Kevin Unangst admitted that “we had a rocky start.” This apparent act of humility is being widely reported as Microsoft’s admitting GFWL’s faults, and planning to address them. But is it? I’ve had a look at the rest of the quotes, plus those that came before them. I’ve also spent a bit of time with Games For Windows Live Marketplace to see if it’s living up to its promises at launch.

I want to begin by saying I had no intention of launching into some GFWL bashing. I think it’s a bit too easy, with people often failing to state exactly what the issues are, and how they’re not issues with other services. But then I used GFWL. In my opinion it does do some things better than its rivals, but other things worse. Sadly they’re the sort of worse that really get in your face.

That “rocky start” quote needs to be put in context. In full he says,

“The service started with the right intent, which was to bring Achievements, friends, multiplayer gaming and matchmaking in a really great way to PC. I think because it was designed originally as a partner to the console service more than the PC service, we had a rocky start.”

But how? What was rocky? He does not say. But he continues,

“We also didn’t back it up with the most important thing, which is doing fantastic games to take advantage of the service. A network by itself isn’t valuable – there needs to be great games to take advantage.”

(Which is perhaps not the ideal remark for all those who have previously clamped the software onto their products.)

The implication seems to be that the faults were that it was too similar to the 360 version (would that it were) and that it didn’t have enough good games using it. Which doesn’t really address the key issues.

What GFWL needs to do is talk to the disgruntled, and read the forums. It needs to know that requiring signing in to an account to be able to save single-player games is an utterly terrible idea. And encrypting saves is beyond the boundaries of all sanity. It needs to recognise that launching itself after you’ve started a game is so astonishingly irritating that it makes people want to hate it, even when it’s doing a good job. If it would only launch outside of the game, letting you sign in without having to task-switch out to a browser as you inevitably try to reset your password because it’s so long since you used it, people would think much more kindly on it. Because what they really seem to have misunderstood is that people’s acceptance, even fondness, for 360’s Live is that it is the software that launches the games.

As a rival to Steam it faces two huge issues. People have mostly accepted Steam’s existence, even when its intrusions to your gaming are much more egregious than GFWL’s. (For instance, if you get banned from Steam for one of their odd reasons (like Paypal screwing up) then you lose all your games, forever. Potentially thousands of pounds worth, taken from you, and there’s little you can do. A GFWL ban will still give you access to games in their offline modes. Which is a pretty big deal, really.) And second, it doesn’t offer the same user-friendly home base. It’s stuck inside the games, like a weird growth, and seems to offer little benefit between playing. If the game has a patch released, Steam will have already installed it when I wasn’t looking. GFWL will want me to remember my bloody password or something, and then force the game I’m playing to go back to the opening menu because I changed a setting. Oh lordy.

The Games For Windows Live Marketplace website, with its Steamish colouring, is clearly an attempt to appeal to PC gamers more. The website design is a hefty coincidence:

GFWLM:

STEAM:

But it’s still pretty woeful months since it started. Choose the “New Releases” tab on the GFWLM’s GAME CATALOG and you’re presented with Lego Universe (October 2010) and Champ Man 2010 (September 2009 – and rather more seriously, it’s accompanied by the words, “Two years in the making, Championship Manager 2010 is the latest edition of the most established name in football management.” Champ Man 2011 came out in October last year.).

Use the Games For Windows Live Marketplace application instead of the website and it doesn’t let you sort through its paltry catalogue in any useful way – not even by genre. Astonishingly there’s no search option. Which makes it a bit of a shame that their press release a month before it came out in 2010 boasted, “Gamers can search by titles or genres to quickly find the games they want; they can even find new games from their favorite publishers with dedicated publisher pages.” And indeed, “Gamers can check out screaming deals on select games every time they visit the Marketplace, as well as the Deal of The Week and other recurring and seasonal offers,” which leads me to…

In my attempt to buy Deus Ex: GOTY Edition – because I can never buy that game too many times – I then discover that it’s £2.99 on the website, but £5.99 from inside the application. Huh. Then when I try to buy it from the website, as I submit my credit card, it says, “The price of one or more items in your cart has changed since it was added.” Huh. So I go back to the game’s main page, and no – still £2.99. Try again, and the same. Which is fairly spectacularly against the law. Huh.

Instead I test it with something free. Tinker. Which still – brilliantly – forces me to enter my credit card information to “buy” from the site. Once downloaded, it has a very clean in-application install – albeit a painfully long one for a game of just a few megabytes. I run it, from within GFWL Marketplace, and – guess what! It wants me to sign in to Games For Windows Live, with the usual ugly, intrusive, drop-down menu. I watch the disc spinning for about a minute, and then it finally tells me:

“An update is available for this game from LIVE. If you decline this update, you will be signed out of LIVE.

Do you want to apply the update now?”

Which really doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve just downloaded the game from Windows Live Marketplace, and launched it from inside Windows Live Marketplace, and it’s telling me that now the game is running I have to update it, and if I don’t I’m signed out of the damned thing that’s purchased and launched the game. I am left with a thousand whys. I can still play the game, but I’m officially offline. Relaunching and allowing the update, a progress bar appears without even a percentage on it, and certainly no indication of how much time remains before I’ll be allowed to play the game. I’m currently stuck staring at a blue bar, unable to play, while it updates from within. And then it then terrifies me by saying,

“Your computer may restart when the update is complete.”

Argh! It better hadn’t! This certainly is “rocky”. The update, that took an age to download for such a tiny game, doesn’t install seemlessly. It throws up a standard Windows installer window for me to click through. Then it closes the game down completely, and restarts it without asking (thankfully leaving my computer alone), once again giving me the joy of watching the signing in wheel spin. And now – only now – may I finally play the puzzle game.

The issue with Unangst’s latest statements, suggesting that it’s been “rocky” until now and that with developer involvement it will “continue to get better over time,” is the context. Because here’s some previous statements given by Unangst about GFWL, which don’t seem to suggest he was previously conscious of any rockiness.

10th July 2007 – Back in 2007, nearly four years ago, Unangst himself was boasting of a “consistent experience and simplicity of use” from the new GFWL service.

“Games for Windows – LIVE is the Windows counterpart to our Xbox LIVE online gaming and entertainment network for Windows XP and Windows Vista. PC gamers can now easily find, connect and communicate with other gamers on Windows or Xbox 360, have great multiplayer experiences, and enjoy a consistent experience and simplicity of use that Xbox gamers also enjoy – and since LIVE is a unified service, gamers can use the same gamertag, profile and friends list across both our gaming platforms.” – Kevin Unangst

22nd October 2010 – And most awkwardly, just four and a half months ago Unangst said the precise opposite of today’s quote:

“With Games for Windows Marketplace, we set out to create a digital store built for PC gamers end-to-end,” said Kevin Unangst, senior global director, PC and Mobile Gaming, at Microsoft. “And by integrating with our existing Xbox LIVE and Windows Live services, we’ve made it easier than ever for millions of gamers to see for themselves how easy buying PC games can be.”

I really want to see GFWL improving, because it seems developers will persist in using it. And to be fair to it, it did little harm with Bulletstorm other than providing a proper annoyance every time I started the game by insisting on signing me in, then ditching me back at the first menu if I’d dared click on anything before it had. I want to see a rival to Steam. Mostly because I want someone to challenge Steam on their slightly draconian banning ways, by providing a service that doesn’t. But at the moment Microsoft are putting up a poor fight. (I recognise that there are many rivals to Steam in terms of digital distribution, but not in terms of a platform in which to store and from which to launch games.)

Perhaps Unangst means it this time. Perhaps they’ll really go back to basics and rethink their system, not approaching it as DRM with a GUI, but as a service to gamers who have, after all, already bought their very expensive operating system. That’s the goal, Microsoft: provide a service that gamers are asking for, that’s designed to make playing games easier, with less fussing.

, , , .

248 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. MattM says:

    Remember that Microsoft thinks its own games are too good for GFWL. That tells you all you need to know.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nathan says:

      Which games are you referring to? MSGS has hardly been the most prolific PC developer in recent years, but all their games since 2007 except FSX and AOE3 expansions (whose originals redated GfWL) have incorporated it.

    • omicron1 says:

      That’s the thing. MS hasn’t published any games on PC since 2007, aside from “Game room.”

      And their 2007 releases are patchy: in addition to FSX and The Asian Dynasties, they don’t offer Halo 2 anywhere on their marketplace. That makes a full HALF their games from 2007 that aren’t fully supported.

      And to boot, their planned “revival” in 2011? Age of Empires Online (casual-focused reboot of a hardcore series), Microsoft Flight (casual-focused reboot of a hardcore series), and Fable 3 (6 months late port of a casual-focused series with goodness knows how many missing/flawed features, with the prequel never having made it to PC, selling for $50 when the 360 version has dropped down to $30).

      I’m really feeling the love here, MS. Keep it up!

    • Bhazor says:

      Valve also haven’t released a first party game since 2007.

    • omicron1 says:

      You know, apart from Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, and Alien Swarm…
      Valve is a single publisher/developer, working alone. They have released approx. 1 game per year during that time, with The Orange Box counting as one for 2007.
      In the same time, Microsoft, with their vast store of first-party developers, publishing division, and huge monetary reserves, has released 35 games on Xbox 360, 11 in 2007… but only 7 total on PC, one of which is an arcade-like “game room,” and the other six of which were all released in 2007.

    • subedii says:

      MattM ascribes a little too much malice to MS’s intentions, but he’s fundamentally right.

      There’s a clear conflict of interest between Microsoft’s GFWL and XBox divisions. It’s what leads to all those exclusivity deals that the 360 gets, time limited or otherwise. Heck, just a few days ago, the developers behind Alan Wake said that they wanted to put it out on the PC (as they had been saying they would for years, and it was even made a DX10 poster boy at one point in its life), but that decision was taken out of their hands. At the last minute, after years of saying it would eventually come out, the game was dumped with no explanation.

      http://www.computerandvideogames.com/292029/news/remedy-alan-wake-pc-cancellation-wasnt-our-call/

      And the reason is because it’s the 360 that’s the priority, and if there’s a possibility for exclusivity, they’ll push for it. Ideally this SHOULD mean that GFWL gets it as well, since these are two groups within the same company, the reality is that one is always going to get sacrificed for the sake of the other.

      You see this time and again. 6 month lead on Mass Effect. Numerous time limited deals on DLC. They want to push the 360, and GFWL is the secondary concern. Even with properties that MS owns directly, like Halo. There was never a chance of a simultaneous PC release of Halo 3 for example. And it’s not because it wasn’t possible, but because if they did a simultaneous release in a country like Germany, the PC version would sell more, and that would be detrimental because they were trying to push the 360 (this is something that was actually confirmed during an interview an MS rep did years ago with a German games site. Wish I could find it now). Even otherwise, a simultaneous release on certain killer apps means sacrificing a portion of 360 market share development (which MS are always desperate to develop) for the PC market.

      It’s understandable in a way. In terms of gaming, it’s the 360 that’s making them the money, not GFWL. Once their plans for a subscription system were implemented (and failed utterly), they were stuck with how exactly to monetise it. Which is also why almost all attempts to try and improve GFWL are non-existent, and when they come, are typically only designed to try and push marketplace some more.

    • Bhazor says:

      No they published Left for Dead and Alien Swarm. They only co developed those games.

    • subedii says:

      @ Bhazor:

      Valve staff were used in the development of both of those titles. They were Valve games. Left 4 Dead 1 was originally in development by associate company Turtle Rock Studios, but when Valve bought them, they became part of Valve and it was a Valve product, which made use of Valve staff far beyond just the original TR team.

      I mean are we going to say the same about Team Fortress 2? Portal?

      The upcoming DOTA 2?

      Hiring the guys that do good stuff is just what Valve does.

    • omicron1 says:

      Not to mention first-party publishing is pretty much exactly what MS has not been doing on PC for the past three years, even while going overboard on 360.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Nathan says:

    In the quote of 7 January 2008, aren’t you conflating Games for Windows and GFWL? In the source article, Games for Windows Live isn’t mentioned once, and it seems to be entirely about the GfW branding itself.

    Whilst it’s debatable that it drove a resurgence in PC gaming, I find it hard to argue that Games for Windows hasn’t been a good thing. If nothing else, having a standardised controller is fantastic.

    • John Walker says:

      Thank you – I switched one quote in for another at the last moment, and clearly picked the wrong one. I’ll try to put in the correct quote tomorrow morning.

    • bill says:

      I have many pc controllers that worked on PCs for years. But often don’t work on GFW games.
      I don’t have a 360, so i don’t have a 360 controller.
      I don’t really see how it’s fantastic to go back to 286 level options

    • Starky says:

      I too have had many gamepads/joysticks/controllers for my PC-box that worked in other games – and they were almost all a pain in the arse.

      With fiddly settings or compatibility issues – spending half an hour trying to configure them for any game you decided to play, having to do a utterly custom key config for whatever game you played, and 90% of the time the games having no ability to detect that (so tutorials and such all used the default values) – and having either too many or too few buttons and having to use the keyboard anyway. Or drivers just been a bit crap and many buttons/functions not working as they should – especially for sticks, or controllers with macro/custom inputs.
      Also a lot of games just refused to use a mouse along with a controller – or just didn’t allow me to bind it properly.

      Where the 360 controller works, and works flawlessly on default settings on every game I’ve ever played designed for it. No fiddling, no setup, no hassle, just plug and play.

      Frankly having a “standard” controller for the PC was something I wish we had years and years ago – with companies having the ability to customize them within that framework (like that Razor Onza controller is doing).

    • Premium User Badge

      shoptroll says:

      I disagree on the controller thing. I have a Logitech controller because it was the layout I was familiar with (PS2/SNES style). Most games seem to support it fairly well, but I’ve been seeing a lot more games flat out not supporting it as they use XNA. It utterly baffles me how MS could implement an API for the PC which only supports a single controller despite DirectInput being a part of DirectX since forever.

      Oh wait, they make fistfuls of money on the 360 controller because it helps offset the massive subsidiary they did with the 360 at launch. What do you mean it’s not a monopoly?

  3. Premium User Badge

    FriendlyFire says:

    And to be honest, you’ve been lucky. You’re describing the service when it works.
    My GfWL is so fucked up I can’t readily launch any GfWL-enabled game. If I do so, the games crash without even an error message. I have to *manually* launch and sign into the external application first, then I can play.
    The annoyance, it is suffocating!

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Yeah, imagine it you had to launch Steam before you could play Steamworks games!

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      @drewski

      You don’t have to launch Steam separately. It unobtrusively launches itself in the background when you start a game. A comparison to what the original poster experienced would be to have to remember to launch the Steam binary first, then launch the game.

    • jalf says:

      Ah, the joys of GFWL. I chronicled my experience with it a few months ago too:

      http://jalf.dk/blog/2010/11/gfwl-malice-or-incompetence/

      it’s got pictures and everything! Yay!

  4. esbates7 says:

    oh man, i have Dawn of War and I loathe the Windows Live process. absolutely right: logging into windows live AFTER the game loads, then being unable to load up my single player mission before i log in. horrendous. inviting into a game also takes 5 clicks too many.

    now that i’ve ranted and GFWL has loaded, i’m off to off some orks

    • chwynn says:

      Yeah, what is with the invite process? If you click the “invite to game” button it takes you to the “send an invite” screen where you have to type in the gamerID of the friend you want to invite! Type in! What?! (I usually ignore the in-game invite button and press home > friends > select a friend > invite to game > confirm.)

  5. Astalano says:

    “Microsoft has today announced that they plan to improve Games For Windows Live”

    Again? I still can’t use GFWL as I’m not in one of the supported territories. A good place to start would ACTUALLY LETTING ME PLAY YOUR DAMN GAMES.

    • sneetch says:

      Agreed, their decision that if you’re not in their chosen few countries you can’t play with their ball is frankly ridiculous.

      That said I’m in Ireland, one of the supported territories, and I can’t even use the website to buy games.

      I just wish they’d actually work on providing and promoting PC gaming rather than trying to flog this dead horse.

    • realityflaw says:

      I honestly wish they’d stop pretending their attention isn’t 99% on the 360, and let GFWL die already.

  6. anonymousity says:

    I just don’t buy game with gfwl, there are enough games out there that I want to play that I don’t feel I’m missing much if I skip the odd game or two.

  7. zbillyboob says:

    “I really want to see GFWL improving, because it seems developers will persist in using it.”

    I have a feeling this is the real issue here. What incentives are there for developers to use GFWL in its current state? Are there large sums of money swapping hands here to keep developers using it? Honestly I have no idea.

    • ZIGS says:

      “Are there large sums of money swapping hands here to keep developers using it?”

      Short answer: [I don’t know, because I have provided no evidence]

    • Jumwa says:

      As the other person indicated, [I have provided no evidence that there are] some definite financial incentives from Microsoft to use GFWL.

      I remember an article a while ago where the developers of the Dawn of War games were saying how much they disliked working with it, but that their publisher preferred it due to Microsoft’s business incentives.

    • Trayder says:

      I thought the reason it was used for DoW2 was due to the game being rushed out. By using GFWL they didn’t have to worry about the multiplayer setup themselves so got more time to work on the game. GFWL providing the accounts, matchmaking etc.

      I’m pretty sure alot of xbox exclusives have to commit to using GFWL for their PC version aswell, as part of the deal. That’s your case where money is changing hands.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nathan says:

      Why would an xbox exclusive (of which there are very few) have restrictions imposed on its PC release? It’s usually not in a publisher’s interest to release an exclusive game, and it usually involves MSFT having to persuade the developer that it’s something they want to do. Restricting any possible PC port isn’t something that will help them do this.

      Of the non-MSFT 360 exclusives that spring to mind (Mass Effect, SC: Conviction, Metro 2033, Tropico 3), not one is GfWL.

    • Premium User Badge

      frymaster says:

      i don’t know about insisting on gfwl, but if you’re already developing for the xbox, it makes a certain sense to use gfwl, because you’ll get your achievements and multiplayer matchmaking “for free” as it were, since you’d have to use the xbox equivalent for the xbox version anyway

    • President Weasel says:

      In my own experience, developers used to working for consoles like to have a set of TRCs or TCRs to work with. Games for Windows provides this, so it may be why some developers use it. A surprising number may not realise how many users are somewhere between disliking and despising it.

    • timmyvos says:

      Tropico 3 isn’t a Xbox exclusive, it was first released on the PC and then and after about half a year it was finally released on the Xbox.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Caleb says:

    “Kevin Unangst admitted that “we had a rocky start.” This apparent act of hubris..”

    I don’t think hubris is the right word.

    • august says:

      Beat me to it. The admission is kinda the opposite of hubris.

    • TariqOne says:

      I read him as implying that calling it merely “rocky [in its] start,” as opposed to “disastrous,” “colossally horrific,” or “pants,” was an understatement of such a degree that it counted as hubris.

    • John Walker says:

      Curses. I’m very tired. Thanks for the spot – fixed now.

    • Axyl says:

      @TariqOne: Yeah, that’s how i read it too.

  9. Axyl says:

    Personally, i don’t care about GFWL anymore.
    They have permanently shot their bolt with me and I will forever more avoid it like the plague.

    However, if, by some unlikely miracle, they manage to pull their finger out, make GFWL worthwhile..hell i’d settle for just “not utter crap”…
    and then..then they do something awesome.

    Actual currency conversion.

    Steam’s 1:1 policy is disgusting. I’m a UK PC Gamer. I get the short end of every…single….stick when it comes to gaming.

    I’m in Europe, so i get all my games a few days after the States (this sucks beyond belief. Not a single american gamer TRULY understands what a “Spoiler” is compared to us. I have to avoid Facebook in those few days between US and UK releases as all my global friends are cooing about the game i’m waitng to play.

    And..Steam charges me almost double what the game should be sold for.

    $29.99 DOES NOT EQUAL £29.99.

    Yet, compared the to useless brick and mortar stores on offer regarding PC games, i’m left with no other choice pretty much. No one else quite rivals Steam as an all encompassing place to be.

    I’ll say it right now, i LOVE Steam, and truly believe it’s the best thing EVER to happen to PC Gaming.
    But is GFWL sort themselves out and get up to par, and they DON’T use 1:1…
    Then we, my dear friends, have ourselves a fight worth watching.
    Bring it on. Either way it’s gonna be good for the gamers. GFWL Dies or Steam has to compete. Hard. :D

    *Edit – To echo Nathan.. “If nothing else, having a standardised controller is fantastic.”
    I cannot agree with this enough. So i guess there’s always hope, no matter how much crap they’ve inflicted on us. lol

    • Xocrates says:

      To be fair, the 1:1 seems mostly imposed on them by publishers than them actually being asses. Valve themselves actually seem to use (nearly-)fair pricing (Portal 2 full price is currently marked a 38€ as opposed to the customary 50€, although that doesn’t seem to apply to all of Europe)

    • John Walker says:

      Valve have stated many times that they don’t choose the prices for non-Valve games. That issue should be taken up with the publishers, who are picking those (often ridiculous) prices.

    • Delixe says:

      Sorry John that only works when the publisher isn’t also the store owner. Here in Ireland Portal 2 is €44.99 and thats on sale. Stardock do the same when it comes to their own products on Impulse with Elemental LE coming in at an eye watering €74.99 at launch.

    • Navagon says:

      Valve might give the publisher the final say in the matter. But they do recommend prices and these prices are of the £ = $ variety. That’s according to CD Projekt who admittedly are competition. But not usually prone to bullshit.

    • Archonsod says:

      Steam suggest a price, how much leeway you get depends on who you are. If you’re a small time indie I suspect not much, if you’re EA you can probably tell Valve where to shove it.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @Delixe: Portal 2 is 38€ here, which is a fair conversion. For Valve, the 1-1 conversion only applies to certain countries (detailed on Steamunpowered: http://steamunpowered.eu/european-tiers/), which are basically the wealthier ones.

    • Delixe says:

      @pkt-zer0 Yeah i’m aware of the different Euro regions which makes the decision to gouge the so-called richer countries all the more disgusting. I can drive over to a nearby town and buy a game retail for €34.99 or I can order it from the UK for about €30 or I can buy from Steam at €49.99. Clearly there is price gouging going on there as like you say the fair Euro price would be about €35-38 as that is close to the retail price. Thankfully I have sites like GamersGate, Direct2Drive and GetGames where I can buy using £. Civilization 5 for £24 from GetGames or €49.99 from Steam… tough choice.

    • HiredGun187 says:

      “I’m in Europe, so i get all my games a few days after the States (this sucks beyond belief. Not a single american gamer TRULY understands what a “Spoiler” is compared to us”
      Axyl.
      I feel ya man…..that has to suck.

      I agree though. Steam is a good platform.
      I love XCOM UFO Defense.(Old DOS game emulated all the way down to the original release bug of all difficulty levels playing at Superhuman level)
      Steam has the whole series(so do I)
      My Clans/Groups are sorted for me for my MMORPG I have bought thru them…in game video(recoreded and livesteam) is the shizzle too.

      If MSFT ever gets GFWL working like that…I might consider actually using it for gaming instead of trying to hack my way around having to install it at all(lol)
      But I must admit I have one game that after I got it setup right…it has not had too many problems with and that is GTA IV
      A Few dropped games…but not enough to complain about.
      So there might be hope for GFWL if they actually put a gamer in charge of developing it instead of a businessman.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Please tell us more of the “XCOM” game. Do we defend ufos? Or are we the “UFO DEFENCE?” It is an old dos game, emulated all the way down to the original release bug of all difficulty levels playing at Superhuman level?

      Interesting. How have we not heard of this before? Its probably too obscure for us people, too retro.

      ><

    • SLeigher says:

      Holy Fuck you British guys are getting screwed on steam prices, Portal 2 is $45 here in Australia and our prices are usually pretty shithouse as even though the Aussie Dollar is now roughly equal to the US dollar we still pay almost double, for instance, Call of Duty BLOPs is still $90 here

    • jalf says:

      That issue should be taken up with the publishers, who are picking those (often ridiculous) prices.

      It hardly matters what Valve says, when they themselves use the same ridiculuos pricing schemes for their own games. They can’t blame that on the publishers.

      (And by the way, publishers have stated once or twice too that they can’t freely set prices on Steam either, so it would seem some of the blame ends back with Valve.)

    • Harkkum says:

      Does anyone happen to know how VAT is calculated on Steam games? If it is per country basis then it would be quite likely that the difference in price ranges within the euro zone has fairly little to do with the wealthyness of the country and moreso with the VAT on games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Colthor says:

      Um, Portal 2 is £27 on Steam in the UK. And £25 from various online retailers.

      We get a pretty good deal on PC games over here, really. Online retailers are usually a lot cheaper than DD sites, but when you compare their prices to USD prices, and remember that USD prices are excluding taxes but ours are including 20% VAT, we’re generally OK.

      And compared to Eurozone and Aussie prices, well…

    • Premium User Badge

      skalpadda says:

      From where I’m sitting, British game prices seem fairly low compared to the rest of western Europe and the fuzz seems to be that you *sometimes* pay more than Americans. On both Steam and other DD services I’ve used, new games are usually 50-60€ (£43-51) here in Sweden and from what I’ve seen that’s the price level for the rest of western Europe as well. It gets even funnier since we don’t use the Euro in my country, meaning I have to use a currency calculator to see what the game actually costs.
      Looking at the front page of the UK version of Steam, new games seem to be £29.99, on the US version they’re $50-60, EU version 50-60€.
      So I guess my question is, what the hell are you on about?

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      @John. Valve use price discrimination for their own games. The portal 2 price is an example. And I’ve seen for example Left 4 Dead 2 in “promotion”. We Europeans paid twice what you UK’ers had to pay.

      Valve should start by setting correct prices for their own games, just like gog.com does. The only difference in price that would be justified is a small one due to changes in VAT.

    • Starky says:

      As a note on the X-com difficulty, you had it the wrong way – after 1 ground mission the difficulty would reset to beginner, not super human – scary I know that that game was that hard on beginner.

      see: http://www.ufopaedia.org/index.php?title=Known_Bugs#Difficulty_Bug

    • jalf says:

      Does anyone happen to know how VAT is calculated on Steam games? If it is per country basis then it would be quite likely that the difference in price ranges within the euro zone has fairly little to do with the wealthyness of the country and moreso with the VAT on games.
      You don’t think that was the first thing people checked when Valve started their localized pricing nonsense? ;)

      First, most of Europe (except the UK) nearly always gets the same price, even though VAT varies quite a bit.

      Second, Norway has *zero* VAT on digital-only purchases. They pay the same prices as us in Denmark, where the VAT is 25%.

  10. ZIGS says:

    Cancer for Windows Live

  11. Nick says:

    The last time Live updated itself caused Batman:AA to crash on my PC unless its (new?) sign in helper was running in the background. This was never an issue until it demanded I update it and run some background app that I then had to go into services and tell to fuck off until I wanted it. Not impressed.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Yeah, imagine if Steam ran in the background whilst you played a singleplayer game like Torchlight!

    • Paul says:

      Who are you, some MS shill?
      Steam actually works, unlike Gonorrhea for Windows Live.
      And offers awesome functions like screenshots, friends, web, multiplayer..everything easy from withing the game.

    • Nick says:

      Steam never crashed a game for me with a vague error.. an error that was eerily similar to the other times the game has crashed, in fact upon further investigation every time it has crashed, even before this update, has been related to GFWL not the game itself. The fact that it forced me to update it to play the game then added this new background “helper” that DID NOTHING AT ALL other than enable me to play the game I could before hand without crashing makes it fuck all like steam. Good try though!

    • realityflaw says:

      Torchlight is a bad example, it doesn’t require Steam unless you bought it on Steam, in which case you knew what you were getting into.

  12. Navagon says:

    Having save games encrypted so you cannot back them up without doing some very laboriously pointless fiddling is such an utterly irredeemable act in and of itself that I don’t see how any other point is worth consideration simply because due to that alone it’s already far beyond redemption. It’s a lousy DRM created by lousy people with lousy ideas.

    It’s not my only complaint, mind you. There are little things too. Like the fact that it forced through a patch while I was in the middle of the account creation process – ultimately rendering the account unusable. I just don’t see how it could be designed… no, that’s it. I don’t see how it was designed at all.

    Add that to the fact that it manages to be even more regionally restricted than Impulse, only due to the fact that it’s required in all GFWL games means those games are unplayable in many countries they’re actually sold in…

    Good article. But I think you would have to expand it into a thesis before all the problems are adequately addressed.

    • Mman says:

      “Having save games encrypted so you cannot back them up without doing some very laboriously pointless fiddling is such an utterly irredeemable act in and of itself that I don’t see how any other point is worth consideration simply because due to that alone it’s already far beyond redemption.”

      This. I don’t really mind anything else about GFWL (at worst, I can deal with it) but encrypted save games are so unfathomably moronic it’s enough to make me despise it in itself. It’s bad enough for six-hour linear shooters, let alone massive games like Fallout 3 that make transferring saves to a reformatted or new PC a not-uncommon act (if you could that is).

    • Navagon says:

      Exactly. There is no warning. Then you’re told by technical support that your saves have been deliberately destroyed for no logical reason and the only option left open to you (that doesn’t involve a lengthy jail sentence) is to start over.

    • Eightball says:

      I hadn’t heard of this before. I think it’s clear that GFWL is coded by Satan.

    • appropriate touching says:

      Yes, GFWL has a lot of annoyances but the save game thing is the only one that has prompted actual rage.
      Microsoft are aware of all our criticisms by the way, there’s a recent neogaf thread where one of their associates canvassed the community for problems and got a very thorough treatment. It seems like this statement is the result, and it’s extremely disappointing.
      http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=404721

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Having to sit through the first 30 mins of Batman:AA THREE FUCKING TIMES because GFWL ate my saves pretty much put me off it forever.
      There is just no reason to fuck with my save games, if it was uploading them to ‘the cloud’ so I would have them on other machines, or even have a backup in case my harddrive died, then I might see a reason. But as it stands the save system in GFWL is deliberately broken.

  13. kikito says:

    Microsoft Growth for Windows. That made my day.

  14. noobnob says:

    To be fair, their catalog in the Marketplace did get better and now has more up-to-date releases, but still severely lacking when compared to other digital vendors.

  15. Xocrates says:

    “I really want to see GFWL improving, (…) I want to see a rival to Steam. ”

    You know, after the kick in the balls that was having steam removing access to Retribution for three days because someone somewhere screwed the release dates, I started to wonder what alternatives to Steam there are and which could be.

    While services like Impulse or GoG are fairly neat, they simply do not have the clout or means to have either the catalogue or sales Steam has. Of the big players currently trying to do anything Steam does the only real one is Microsoft and GFWL.

    Thinking about what other major players could get into the Digital Distribution game, the obvious alternative would be for Activision-Blizzard to take Battle.net and expand the catalogue to include Activision and other third party games. As a service having as exclusives all Blizz games (namely WoW), and likely future Call of Duty games, it could grow really big really fast to the point of being serious competition to Steam.

    Of course, this means a future where either this doesn’t happen and Steam essentially becomes a monopoly, or one where it does and the alternatives to Steam are GFWL and Activision.

    Mommy? I’m scared!

    • Navagon says:

      “While services like Impulse or GoG are fairly neat…”

      Impulse is fairly neat? From that bit of info alone I now know you hail from North America.

    • Xocrates says:

      Read the rest of the sentence.
      The catalogue for Impulse utterly sucks if you’re outside North America, which is why I rarely use it. It doesn’t change the fact that I rather like Impulse.

    • Navagon says:

      Because its client makes updating your Stardock games a lot easier?

    • Xocrates says:

      Yes…

      And because it has much of the functionality I like on Steam and less of the intrusiveness.

      Which isn’t the same as saying that I have a reason to use it WHICH WAS MY POINT.

    • Navagon says:

      Yeah, actually being able to buy games through it would considerably increase its sense of purpose, it must be said.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      If the leaked Blizzard plans are accurate, Battle.net should be opened up to 3rd parties in 2012 Q1. Should be more interesting than the slow-motion trainwreck that is GfWL.

    • Archonsod says:

      To be honest, I think Gamersgate have a better catalogue than Steam. They both get the big releases, but I find Steam severely lacking in the “We locked six Russians in a shed and fed them LSD for six days” releases.

    • omicron1 says:

      Gamer’s Gate are what GFWL can only dream of being – an in-browser marketplace with a huge library of titles you often can’t find anywhere else, relatively unobtrusive DRM system, and enough deals to put it alongside Steam for us money-grubbing types.

      Heck, right now they’ve got 90 titles on sale at half-or-so off, as part of a 5-year anniversary deal. 90!

      And yes, they have some marvelously esoteric releases – including more stuff from Paradox (Great guys!) than I’ve ever seen anyone else bother to put up.

      And, in a literal count, Gamer’s Gate has 2545 items in its store – including guides, games, and DLC. (Admittedly, the way Gamer’s Gate works, mac games may be counted separately – but there are only 288 mac games on sale)
      In contrast, Steam has 1541 items on sale – that’s not counting demos, trailers, mods, and “packs.”

      So, to be literal about it, Gamer’s Gate is the bigger store.

    • President Weasel says:

      I like the Six Russians in a Shed genre. Or Poles.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      You’re equating having to wait 3 more days for a game to be made availableto you with being kicked in the balls?

      Fuck me gamers need to swap their sense of entitlement for some perspective.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Malibu Stacey: Jesus, didn’t anyone heard?

      I’m not complaining about having to wait three days, I’m complaining about having the access REMOVED. They launched the game when they said they would, and a day later decided the game wasn’t supposed to be out yet and so removed access to it with no prior warning.

      Of course, since this didn’t happen in either the US or UK no-one noticed or cared.

      EDIT: And to further clarify, part of the reason I call it a kick in the balls is because it made perfectly clear that Steam could and WOULD use their powers to lock me out of my games on a whim.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Having read about it it appears that your issue is with Relic not VALVe.

      Relic told VALVe “release to all these people on 1st March”. VALVe did so.
      Relic then went “Err WTF we said 4th March for those people not 1st March WTF are you doing?”
      VALVe went “OK we’ll switch all them off for 3 days & take all the abuse & bullshit for your miscommunication”.

      Think I’m making this up? See http://community.dawnofwar2.com/forums/topic/48396

      Facts. Getting them straight always helps even on the internet.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Malibu Stacey: How does that contradict anything I said?

      I’m very well aware of all you said (and by the way, it would be more likely for it to be THQ’s fault as opposed to Relic), but regardless of whose idea it was to remove access it was Steam that did it. I’m not saying that they wanted to, or even that they weren’t “coerced” into doing it, it doesn’t change the fact that they did.

      Heck I even understand why they did it, but a kick in the balls with the best of intentions is still a kick in the balls.

    • Theory says:

      Unless you really want tea and sympathy for Valve obeying the law and their client’s wishes, you are complaining simply about the fact that that can happen. It can happen on GFWL too.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Theory: Indeed I am. I am complaining that it can happen, because ten years ago it couldn’t, because it can’t happen in any other medium, and because it achieves nothing.

      I accepted that they had that power because I assumed they would only use it if I did something illegal. Using it when I didn’t, just feels like a breach of trust.

    • timmyvos says:

      I never had any problems with Dawn of War: Retribution, even though it was supposed to be released on the 4th of March here in the Netherlands, I could play the game after it was released on the 1st and I could continue to do so over the next few days.

  16. Inigo says:

    Perhaps Unangst means it this time. Perhaps they’ll really go back to basics and rethink their system, not approaching it as DRM with a GUI, but as a service to gamers who have, after all, already bought their very expensive operating system.

    Oh, wait. You’re serious.
    Let me laugh even harder.

  17. Wulf says:

    I wonder if Ballmer will now want to kill Valve? (He already lusts after the death of Google, after all.) I also wonder if he has a set of steam valves setup in a nice little row as targets upon his high-velocity chair firing range?

  18. salejemaster says:

    I feel sorry for Micro :(

    • Axyl says:

      i guess someone had to

    • Archonsod says:

      They’ve not been the same since Gates handed over the reigns. It’s not just GfWL either, it seems like they’ve forgotten what these computer devices are these days.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Ballmer is just creepy/slimey. Bill Gates at least had some level of “nerd charisma”.

      I would’ve settled for a “business man” sort of guy, that you get with Nintendo (or maybe Apple after Jobs has gone), before anything like what Microsoft has as their “spokeperson(s)” currently.

  19. Outsider says:

    Tick the “automatically sign me in” box on the Games for Windows Live and you won’t have to manually sign in once you launch a game that is impregnated with GWL, This at least makes it a background occurrence which is quite easily forgettable.

    That said, when I installed Batman: Arkham Asylum, my GWL experience was as laborious and frustrating as what John described above.

    • vagabond says:

      That would be fantastic if that feature actually worked (for me).

      I guess I should be grateful for small mercies since it does at least manage to remember my password, so I don’t have to type it in every time I want to play something.

  20. harmen says:

    > if you get banned from Steam for one of their odd reasons (like Paypal screwing up) then you lose all your games, forever.

    Maybe do an article about these situations, with reactions from Steam/Valve?

    • Axyl says:

      And ask them about the 1:1 conversion rate.

      Oh, and about the piss poor state of their VoIP (why can’t i select a seperate device for the VoIP output? That’s what my headset is for)

      And why they’re so adamant about not releasing sales figures. Surely that would show the world how well PC Gaming is actually doing, cos the Retail Sales figures make it look like we’re already dead save for WoW and the Sims

      Honestly, i would LOVE to read that article.

    • qrter says:

      Yes, I’d love to see a bit of investigative journalism on Steam’s account policies too.

      Good work, mr. Walker, on picking up on that issue – I haven’t seen it mentioned in any other part of the gaming press, only by normals like myself.

      I love Steam dearly, but they do have the most obtuse banning system possible. The fact alone that they can deny you access to your account, without letting you know why this is happening, is unforgiveable. You have to contact Steam support just to ask why you’ve been locked out.

      (I’ve had this happen to me about a year ago – Clickandbuy screwed up on their side, no fault of mine, and Steam shut down my account. Luckily it could be reversed, but still. The moment you get that message that you can’t login to your account will make your blood freeze.)

    • ZIGS says:

      Protip: big companies don’t have to, and certainly won’t, answer any questions they don’t want to answer

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      VALVes biggest flaw. And its a huge one. For a company that comes so close to being great in everyway.

      Im suprised to got unbanned, I have heard that VALVe consider their system perfect, and do not take pleas to the contrary. This would mean they created a system with no false positives, the most perfect measurements ever possible. Why arent they sharing the knowledge with scientists everywhere? Better mankind so much.

      As for them answering questions, why would they?
      As for telling sales numbers, why would they? Why give away info like that? If its huge, they will just spawn more competition tring to stick their fingers in their cash pie.
      Why oh why would they?

    • qrter says:

      Well, as I understand it., Valve are completely unrelenting when you get banned because of cheating (especially if it’s a VAC violation) – even if you can positively prove that your account had been hacked before a VAC violation occurred, you’re fucked.

      Another reason to be very careful handling/choosing your Steam password etc.

      Wasn’t there that false-positive-debacle about 6 months ago, where Steam erroneously banned a lot of Codblops players, who they then unbanned and gave a free copy of L4D2?

    • Mark says:

      I find this policy Valve has truly terrifying. Taking away a person’s account with all their legitimately bought games because of a small payment screw up is just completely out of order, if not illegal.

    • Starky says:

      First if there is a payment issue/screw up valve don’t ban your account, they freeze it – it sucks, it has happened to be, but they have to do it when a case of fraudulent activity may be suspected. A few days and a few phone calls got it fixed (once they confirm you are indeed the legitimate account holder) – yes it sucks, but they gave me a free copy of HL2 for it, which was nice of them (well a gift key as I already owned it).

      Second, if they VAC ban you for cheating you are NOT banned from steam or your games library, you are banned from -multiplayer- in the VAC game/engine (for a few source games that share the same source version), single player still works, as does multiplayer for almost any other game. So getting banned in Modern Warfare 2 would not get you banned from TF2. If you got banned from TF2 you’d be banned from the EP1/Orange box engine (Counter Strike Source etc) – but NOT Left 4 dead.

  21. Lilliput King says:

    “We also didn’t back it up with the most important thing, which is doing fantastic games to take advantage of the service. A network by itself isn’t valuable – there needs to be great games to take advantage.”

    Wait, if I’m reading that right, they’re blaming the games that featured gfwl for gfwl being sucky as all hell.

    Firstly, that makes no sense.

    Secondly, how incredibly rude.

    Thirdly, how utterly, utterly wrong.

  22. kobre12 says:

    They need to shut down whole GFWL project.
    That would be best solution for PC gamers…

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      No, it would be the solution that you personally prefer. You are not “PC gamers”. You do not speak for “PC gamers”. You do not get to set the rules for PC gaming according to your personal preference.

    • Paul says:

      Yeah, because 90% of responses to GFWL on the net everywhere are positive.

      Oh wait.
      Troll harder.

    • Ovno says:

      drewski, the one person in the world that actually likes GfWL…
      Or he just works for microsoft as a forum troll….

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Shutting it down would basically screw anyone who’d bought anything from them.

      They need to completely gut it though, enough that they have a clean-slate, but not so much that existing purchases are lost.

      There may be issues with older games working with a new system though, as the code that makes a product “GFWL” compatible would probably break. But they really need to push past that, and maybe even patch old games to the newer system.

  23. dancingcrab says:

    Great article John. I personally don’t mind the service, it just doesn’t bother me that much. That’s probably because I haven’t had any major problems.

    However, I agree with all of your points, and think the way GfWL operates is bordering on archaic. MS need to catch up with the times. Ultimately, I like having the option (yes, option) of linking my game to an account and tracking achievements, etc, but it needs to be streamlined.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Saul says:

    Every time it pops up, I am newly surprised at the sheer awfulness of GFWL. It kept me from playing Bulletstorm for a good 10 minutes while it updated itself and restarted the game and generally dicked around. Which put me in a bad mood and probably made me more critical of BS than I otherwise would have been.

    Adding this cancer to your games is not good for sales, people!

    • qrter says:

      It did the same for me, when I started up Bulletstorm.

      It’s the thing I hate the most about GFWL – it updates ingame. It’s mindboggling to me. Whoever thought of that, must’ve never used a PC in his or her life. Especially when the update then fails and crashes the game. Wow.

  25. Ricc says:

    Unangst can’t just come out and say they will be improving GFWL, again.
    Do what Gearbox did. Instead of promising DNF for the thousandth time, wait until you have something real to show and do it. Nobody is taking this bullshit serious anymore. In fact, it’s starting to make me angry by reminding me about the piss-poor state of affairs.

    • Axyl says:

      Yeah, i can understand why getting repeatedly lied to over and over again drags a person’s mood down.
      I get the same reaction myself from far too much of the industry.

      That’s why i like Valve and Relic. Those are two developers who actually do right by the gamers, the games and their own staff.

  26. DrugCrazed says:

    “The price of one or more items in your cart has changed since it was added.” Huh. So I go back to the game’s main page, and no – still £2.99. Try again, and the same. Which is fairly spectacularly against the law. <– If you're making an assumption that they can't change the price and they have to charge the advertised price then you are incorrect sir. I don't have the notes to hand, but I know that the display price isn't legally binding. Otherwise you'd have people who would look at it and then being forced into buying it.

    Also, I think of GFWL like I think of my sex life. It's horrible for the moment, but it'll pick up later right?

    • Navagon says:

      Unfortunately some STDs have no cure.

    • John Walker says:

      The last time I checked, UK consumer law states that if a shop prices an item incorrectly, and has no others of the item correctly priced, then they must honour that price.

    • wu wei says:

      The same law applies in Australia.

      Unfortunately, the consumer watchdog body here, the ACCC, has declared that we’re not buying products via Valve, we’re paying for a service, so pretty much none of the consumer protections apply.

      I was told by someone at the ACCC that my belief that this is to drive up brick & mortar sales is “amazingly cynical”.

      (PS it’s be nice if editing a comment didn’t ditch line breaks between paragraphs)

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      There’s no legal evidence to suggest the ACCC interpretation is flawed. If you have a problem with it, I suggest to write to your local member of parliament or do a little research on a suitable senator to lobby.

    • Mistabashi says:

      [quote]The last time I checked, UK consumer law states that if a shop prices an item incorrectly, and has no others of the item correctly priced, then they must honour that price.[/quote]

      Actually no, if an item is displayed with an incorrect price a UK retailler has no obligation to honour it unless they actually say “ok, that’ll be £xxx please…”, at which point they are agreeing to the contract. If you walk into a shop and see a 50″ plasma TV with a price tag for £7.99 the retailler doesn’t have to honour that price, they can just say “oops, that’s a mistake”. As long as they correct the erroneous price tag within a ‘reasonable’ amount of time they haven’t done anything wrong (retaillers are run by human beings so its fair that they are allowed to make the odd mistake without being brutally punished, no?).

      As to how that applies to online trade, I guess you have to actually contact a real human employee of said company before you can make accusations of unfair advertising – websites are as prone to mistakes as the humans that coded them and I’m sure the law recognises this in the same way.

    • JimRyanor says:

      To use legalese pricing in store is an invitation to treat and not an offer of sale, you the consumer are technically viewed to be the one who says ‘I want to buy x at price y’ and the store then decides whether to accept your offer.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      It constitutes false advertising and may see you slapped with a hefty fine from Trading Standards if you are a serious & repeat offender, generally shops prefer to honour the price than risk a collection of complaints that might build up to a fine.

    • DrugCrazed says:

      I was under the impression that it was an invitation to a contract and not a ful contract. Interestingly, I learned that from Derren Brown’s book. Am I a broken man?

    • Starky says:

      Derren Brown is awesome, anyone who doesn’t like Derren Brown and buy all his books is stupid. His shows are the best and must be watched and loved by all. He is a handsome and witty man and all shall know his glory.

      I have never met, or been to a show of Derren Brown. Nor am I under the influence of Derren Brown the Great and Wise.

      Derren Brown will open your mind, and show you wonders.
      Derren Brown will not turn you into a mindless slave to his majesty, honest.

  27. Baf says:

    I had my first experience with GfWL late last year, when Steam put Arkham Asylum on sale — even if you buy it through Steam, it makes you sign into GfWL in order to save. So here I was using two different, competing systems to run the same game, and the difference between them was really striking. Steam really felt like it wanted to help me in any way it could to play my game. GfWL just felt like it wanted to throw its weight around and assert its authority. “You must download another update now! Do not ask for more information!”

    I think the pinnacle of this was the business of the CD key. Arkham Asylum’s installer requires a CD key, so when you buy it from Steam, Steam gives one to you. It automatically produces a pop-up with the CD key when you install the game, and also allows you to request the pop-up again at any time. This pop-up even has a nice simple button that lets you copy the CD key to the clipboard, so you can just paste it into the Arkham Asylum installer. And that worked, and everything was great. Then the GfWL installer also demanded the CD key, for no obvious reason considering that I had just given it to the game and the game was happy with it, and furthermore, it required it to be typed into four separate text fields, so that I couldn’t paste it in.

    • Xpheyel says:

      Indeed. I don’t know if I would’ve ever gotten out of the upgrade/restart loop if I didn’t just get is sorted through Windows Update.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I find it amusing that people will criticise GfWL for telling you to install an update (thereby giving you, however unsatisfactorily, the option not to install it) , but have no problem with Steam installing an update without your permission.

    • Acorino says:

      The case is rare where you wouldn’t an update.

    • sassy says:

      Steam doesn’t force you to update, it is completely optional. You can turn off the automatic updating for any individual games or for all games (which you then do the reverse and have automatic updates for select games).

      Steam has a lot of faults but the update system isn’t one of them.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “I find it amusing that people will criticise GfWL for telling you to install an update (thereby giving you, however unsatisfactorily, the option not to install it) , but have no problem with Steam installing an update without your permission.”
      Uh, I find Steam seamlessly installing updates in the background to be absolutely the best option. And of course, one can turn off automatic updating on a game-by-game basis.
      GWFL will only prompt you to install the update _when you run the game_. It will then sit there without giving any information on how the download is going (no download speed or percent complete). Then it give you a “may restart machine” message which sometimes is true, sometimes isn’t.
      There is no comparison.
      P.

    • Premium User Badge

      ymgve says:

      sassy, that’s completely wrong. It’s true that you can halt the update process on Steam, but the only way to avoid an update on Steam is to take it into offline mode and stay there.

      Don’t believe me? Try it out yourself. Set for example TF2 to not update. Leave it for a few weeks, until a few updates have come around. Then try to play it. You will find that Steam insists on updating the game before you’re allowed to play it.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s because it’s a multiplayer game. Trying to play TF2 without updating it just wouldn’t work considering how often new content (Hats?) is added. I usually have updates paused on all my single-player games just to avoid problems with broken patches.

  28. Frank says:

    I must have had to reload the game (after “updating”) three or four times with Arkham Asylum. Boo!

    …excellent game, though.

  29. Javier-de-Ass says:

    nice. need a article like this shitting on steam as well.

    • Axyl says:

      Maybe not shitting on Steam, but yes..what with it being such a MASSIVE factor in PC Gaming nowadays, and that, although many people love it, even they along with the haters agree on a few choice points that, in my opinion, need some journalistic light shone on them. :)

  30. WebFusion says:

    …and if you think the GFWL user experience is bad for the consumer, you should try being a server operator attempting to host a multiplayer game that is saddled with GFWL. In all my years of hosting multiplayer servers, GFWL was/is the most useless piece of garbage any publisher could ever tie their multiplayer game to. Ask the Section 8 guys how well GFWL helped their chances of success with an (otherwise) fun game. GFWL killed Section 8 on the PC, plain and simple.

    The ONLY reason that publishers are still tying their games to that piece of crap is because M$ is forking over huge incentives to do so (both in real $$$ and in marketing). What these guys fail to realize is that all that upfront cash is going to be worthless to them when their game tanks because it’s saddled with GFWL.

    Steam won. Get over it. Embrace it. PC gamers will thank you for it (and actually play your games).

    As one of the largest independent server operators in the US, I can honestly say that if a game comes attached to GFWL, it is DOA to me. I won’t even attempt to host it, and I won’t offer it to my customers – the hassle is simply not worth it.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      You don’t speak for PC gamers either. Your opinion is of no greater importance than anyone elses’.

    • Paul says:

      You are hilarious, drewski.

    • mondomau says:

      Drewski, if you don’t have anything constructive (or at least funny) to add to the conversation, would you mind shutting up? So far, your only contribution has been to make snide Dismissals of other peoples’ (entirely valid) criticisms of GFWL on the somewhat flawed logic that steam operates in a similar way – incidentally, you’re argument conveniently misses out the fact that Steam has integrated both of the features mentioned since day one, and that they work much more smoothly than the GFWL back handed attempts.
      Oh, and before you indignantly riposte with something about free speech or the comments system being for opinions, consider this: all the posters you attacked (even the misguided one about steam having no competition being a good thing) were contributing to the discussion with either experiences or opinions. You, on the other hand, have just been a rude and arrogant ass.

    • subedii says:

      Drewski, what the heck dude, are you even going to try to address his actual complaints here?

      Yes he doesn’t “speak for all PC Gamers” but then it’s pretty clear when someone’s using a freaking figure of speech.

      And also when someone’s being hopelessly pedantic in the hopes of discrediting an otherwise valid argument. He’s very right when he says that GFWL crippled Section 8’s online multiplayer because of its shoddy server support. You can happily go to the Section 8 forums and ask how things were in those early days if you don’t believe him.

      If you even WANTED to make some sort of valid counter-argument, it’s that GFWL is better now and doesn’t really have those server issues anymore.

      Hopefully.

    • WebFusion says:

      @drewski

      It’s really not worth getting in a pissing contest with an obvious troll, whose only argument seems to be “GFWL does the same thing as steam, so it’s just as good”.

      While you are correct that I certainly don’t speak for “all PC gamers”, the numbers certainly do. There is a reason that Steam owns 70%+ of the market – and it’s not because it’s the same user experience that GFWL has. It’s been proven time and time again only that when someone builds a superior service, users will flock to it (as myspace).

      In the last 3 years, I’ve had i excess of 16 million unique player connections to my game servers. It’s relatively simple for me to see what does and doesn’t work in terms of what PC players want, and what they’re willing to put up with – again, because numbers don’t lie.

      I can setup a source-based server (as well as servers for most other games that use Steam for backend support, such as the dozens of Monday Night Combat servers we’ve launched), in a matter of minutes.

      It took over TWO MONTHS to get a single Section 8 server online. Why? Because their system was so shoddy and hobbled by lousy code (not to mention a manual whitelisting system that was only administered by one person), that it took that long to even get the damn thing to work.

      Does that make me qualified to speak to the quality of the user experience of GFWL? I think so….after all, if the system prevents dedicated servers from even WORKING, than users won;t even get a chance to play online, will they?

      Steam’s not perfect – far from it, in fact – but it is far superior to any other server backend system in existence today.

  31. Pointless Puppies says:

    I think because it was designed originally as a partner to the console service more than the PC service

    And that’s the problem. Nobody wants “matchmaking” or any of the other “console services” on PC games, are you kidding? Console online services are inherently simpler (“streamlined” if you want to be nice about it) in order to keep simplicity and accessibility at its highest, but that kind of thing isn’t a concern for PC gamers.

    This is why GFWL will never come close to better digital distribution/online infrastructure services like Steam. It’s because the whole purpose of GFWL is to bring a more primitive online service to a platform that works in precisely the opposite manner. No Ferrari owner would ever want a Ford Focus engine installed in it.

  32. Lord Byte says:

    GFWL ruined a couple of games for me completely for almost TWO years, only recently it’s gotten somewhat fixed.
    Each time I launched the game it would complain that I “was not connected to the internet” (I was), and no matter what I did it wouldn’t start the game. Which meant restarting the game over and over again, sometimes 10 times in a row until it finally logged in and I could play… Not fun. I’ve had evenings that after the umpteenth time I just buggered off and played something else…
    My limit for stopping a game and never playing it again is pretty low, luckily they sort of fixed it half a year back but I’ll probably never finish Fall-Out 3…

  33. Guiscard says:

    Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, and all of the king’s men won’t be able to put him back together again. That clearly isn’t stopping them trying unfortunately, though at least they vaguely acknowledge the reason why he fell off the wall is because they didn’t build the wall properly in the first place.

    • qrter says:

      I’d say they’ve only vaguely acknowledged that Humpty might’ve wobbled a bit there, he’s far from falling, what a ridiculous idea!

      Some sort of cushion seems to be in need, perhaps, nothing wrong with the wall.. please don’t shut down your computer while the cushion downloads, also don’t quit the game, why not just stare at this obtuse progress bar slapped on top of your game’s menu for 10 minutes or so.

      Oh dear, the cushion hasn’t installed properly, quit the game and try again, QUIT AND TRY AGAIN!

  34. Bhazor says:

    “Choose the “New Releases” tab on the GFWLM’s GAME CATALOG and you’re presented with Lego Universe (October 2010) and Champ Man 2010 (September 2009)”

    It is also advertising Rift (March 2011) and Dungeons (March 2011).

  35. ZIGS says:

    I guess I’ll use this “topic” to remind everyone that the upcoming Operation Flashpoint Red River will use GFWL

  36. Buemba says:

    I used to think Microsoft was one of the better PC publishers back in the late 90’s because they always released games in my country close to their US release dates and didn’t skimp on the quality of the packaging and manual. Now I had to create a dummy US account to be able to access multiplayer through GfWL and can’t ever buy anything in their marketplace due to region restrictions.

    Let it burn, I say. And then we shall dance in its grave.

  37. Farewell says:

    1st experience – Dawn of War II:
    – GFWL defaults to always having the microphone on (or auto-activated), so not only are the other players unwillingly forced to spy on everything I do and say – I have to put up with the noise coming from them as well (including coughing, television/music in the background, talking to others in the same room, moaning/heavy breathing).
    – GFWL refuses to play the game in multiplayer with my friends (which was the reason I bought the game in the first place). No amount of fiddling will fix the cryptic NAT errors we get.
    – GFWL matchmaking is slooow, even when we are 3/3 players for a Last Stand game, it still spends about a minute “looking for other players” before anything happens.
    – If the GFWL servers are down for maintenance, I’m not allowed to play the game. Same goes for when Steam servers are down too I think. Double DRM! Yayifications!
    – Inviting a friend to play with me involves fumbling trough umpteen menus, and the function itself only sends my friend a message telling him I wish to play a game with them. They then have to fumble trough umpteen menus and click on a obscure “join session in progress” icon.

    2nd Experience – some Age of Empires game I bought for nearly nothing at the GFWL marketplace:
    – Game is impossible to install because I don’t have enough free space on my C: partition (due to Microsofts WINSXS storing 20gb of undeletable old DLL files for no good reason), while I have nearly half a terabyte free on my other partitions.

    3rd Experience – Flatout:
    – Impossible to play multiplayer with my friend for undescribably horrid reasons.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      The Age of Empires thing might be a problem with the game rather than the service, I remember some install bugs with those games back in the day.

  38. edit says:

    Requiring the user to be logged in for singleplayer save-games is ludicrous, but requiring the user to be logged in to save SETTINGS is utterly atrocious. I’ve had a whinge on here about this stuff before.. I bought some racing games so that my nephew can play them on my father’s PC with his wheel. GFWL has been no end of trouble, mostly in ways others have mentioned. The only thing I’ll add this time is that every time, for instance, Dirt 2 is played offline, the controls have to be re-mapped. Simply… awful.

    In addition, forcing a steam release of a game to also require GFWL is horrible. As someone who primarily buys on steam, GFWL has become a factor which will almost single-handedly prevent me from buying a game. If they don’t seriously re-think how the system works this will continue to hold true.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I challenge you to play a Steam game singleplayer without signing in.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @drewski: I’ve done it multiple times and have not run into a single problem, thank you very much.

    • edit says:

      drewski, I have played Valve’s single player games in offline mode, and saved my game without issue.

      Most of your defense of GFWL has been to simply point out that Steam requires an internet connection and to be run before the games can be launched. When people buy their games through Steam, they are quite aware of what it is and how it works, and have no problem loading their games through it. In fact, in my experience Steam makes this a pleasure. Rather than having games strewn about your PC, they are in one place. etc etc. I have never had an issue with Steam messing with my savegames, crashing my games, or any of the major problems people are having with GFWL.

      Things get hairy when you’re already loading your games through steam, and then discover that your latest purchase ALSO requires GFWL (which should be an alternative, not another layer of complexity slapped on top at the same time), and then discover that GFWL isn’t working the way it should and that you can’t play your game without jumping through hoops or troubleshooting.

      I like Steam and dislike GFWL not for reasons relating to ‘having to be online’ etc, but because in my experience one works and has improved my gaming experience, while one doesn’t and has degraded it.

      FYI you can prevent Steam from updating a game by deselecting ‘automatically keep this game updated’. Naturally, you will still require the latest updates to play online.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @Drewski: Said saves are neither encrypted, tied to your hardware and account, nor do they require you to be online. That was the point.

      As for your challenge: Super Meat Boy. DONE.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      @ all. I didn’t say anything about “offline” mode – I said *without signing in*. Go to Steam options – choose not to save your account credentials. Exit Steam. Try playing a single player game. All the ones I’ve ever tried don’t work, although I’ve never played Super Meat Boy so perhaps it’s the exception. Note – choosing not to save your credentials *disables Offline Mode* too. The overwhelmingly vast majority of Steam games – whether bought via Steam or retail – require you to be signed in to play *at all*. Never mind not being able to save – you can’t even start the game.

      @ edit – if you dislike GfWL for reasons other than being required to be online, may I suggest in future not starting your criticisms with “BUT I HAVE TO BE ONLINE!!!” (paraphrasing).

      I make no defense of GfWL encrypting save files, tying games to a particular machine (if it does that, I don’t know), nor of game publishers “nesting” GfWL inside a Steam game (although again, how is that Microsoft or GfWL’s fault)?

      I do make a defense when GfWL does exactly the same things Steam does in relation to requiring you to be online, at least some of the time, to fully use your games. The better criticism of GfWL is that it doesn’t do what Steam does anywhere near as fluidly – not that it’s an awful piece of software that puts unacceptable limitations on your use of your games – when those “unacceptable” limitations are the same ones Steam uses.

    • Minim says:

      I too have played Steam games offline without any issue, it’ll try to connect, say it fails, and offers to go in offline mode. No problems.

      As for GFWL, I’ve had two lousy experiences of my own. The first was when I purchased Universe at War, a somewhat neat strategy game on Steam a few years back. Except in runs on Windows Live. The usual mess of installs started, being forced to create an account which seemed to involve more hassle than just username and password as it juggled me between the game and a website. And of course the game itself had limitations put on it unless you subscribed to being a Gold member.

      The other was Fallout 3 which I’m surprised no one has mentioned. Anyone else have the joy of buying the expansions on GFWL and then having to look up instructions on how to make them work as the service itself didn’t know how? Every single time I had to manually move files around to make the expansions operate properly. It was garbage, made even worse at the time in that you had to buy a number of points like on X-Box. It might be a 12 dollar purchase but you need to spend 15 dollars. Unless you THEN went on the Zune marketplace which was tied to your Live account where you could buy points in different denominations…

    • edit says:

      *sigh*
      drewski, I hope this is very clear. My complaint about having to be online was about saving while playing a single-player game. I do not have to be online to save my game in Half-Life 2, running via Steam.

      The “without signing in” thing is getting semantic now – The point of complaints leveled at having to “sign in” are obviously to do with having to connect to the online service. I have no issue having to “sign in” to Steam when it provides a completely functional offline mode.

      edit: Minim, yes I had the same problems with Fallout 3’s DLC. It was my first and last experience purchasing anything through GFWL, and possibly even my last experience purchasing DLC.

  39. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I think a lot of the criticisms GfWL cops are ridiculous – but a lot of them are very, very valid. Certainly things like encrypting saves and the issues with multiplayer non-functionality are utterly unacceptable.

    But signing in to save games? You have to do that with Steam (although I don’t know if GfWL has a robust local offline mode as Steam does)
    Having to run it in advance? Steam.
    Having to run it in the background? Steam.

    I think people hate it because it’s OK to hate it, and because everyone hates it, and because they don’t really think about how it works. Personally, I find it marginally less of a resource hog than Steam, and whilst it obviously doesn’t have the marketplace that Steam does, it does have cheevos.

    And I’m frankly glad that it exists, that there remains another – however flawed – competitor for Steam (not just in retail), and that it gives Microsoft a foothold on the platform, even if they don’t give it anywhere near the attention it deserves. Hopefully the politics at Microsoft will allow GfWL to be fixed.

    • edit says:

      “I think people hate it because it’s OK to hate it, and because everyone hates it, and because they don’t really think about how it works.”

      Sorry, but this is utter rubbish. People hate it when and because they have trouble with it. You give your fellow humans too little credit.

    • Axyl says:

      i agree with a lot of what you said, but this line..

      “But signing in to save games? You have to do that with Steam”

      is totally incorrect. You don’t have to sign into Steam for ALL games.
      Granted, some. But i have run games directly from the Steamapps folder, without the client running more than once, and had no issues saving or loading with those titles.

    • Premium User Badge

      frymaster says:

      well if steam isn’t running, it’ll start itself when you run a steam game… er, just like GFWL. The main difference seems to be most people don’t have GFWL set to autologin and remember password, whereas they do with steam.

      I suppose the other difference is that GFWL implies optionality – you can choose not to sign in – it’s just that just about every implementation insists on you signing in, making a mockery of the process.

      The main issue, however, is that the measures taken to ensure people can’t cheat the achievements system means that single-player saves are tied to your login, meaning you can’t share them, and causing even worse issues in the small number of games that did let you not sign in.

      Add to that the fact that the multiplayer system is tied into the xbox way of doing things – ie peer-to-peer – and so requires a slew of port forwarding. Granted it can use upnp to do this on the fly, but you’re still going to have issues if more than one person in your house wants to play at the same time.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      @ edit – and I think you give them far too much. Some of what GfWL does is inexcusable. Most of it’s just clumsy.

      @ Axyl – fair enough, that’s not been my experience but I’ll take your word for it.

    • Telke says:

      Number of times I’ve had issues with Steam: twice (patches failed, resulting in a redownload/reinstall)

      Number of times I’ve had issues with GfWL: dozens. Fallout 3, Bulletstorm, Dawn of War 2, GTA4, FUEL, Batman:AA. every single one has required patches, restarts, password resets at various points. Nowadays, I flinch slightly every time I see the GfWL popup on game launch.

      The overlay is ugly, and despite me having an 2.8Ghz i7 and a 5850, stutters as it opens; Steam’s overlay pops up smoothly and in under a second. GfWL doesn’t autologin even if I tick the box; Steam will be ready the minute my desktop is. GfWL will only alert me of updates when I’m already at a game’s menu screen; Steam will be downloading them seconds after I login. GfWL’s achievement popup is massive, either in the top-center or top-right – I don’t think it scales based on resolution, cause it’s freaking huge; Steam’s achievement popup is a small black unobtrusive note in the bottom-left.

      Your experience with both may differ, but for me, GfWL is one of the most irritating pieces of software I’ve ever used. I’d be perfectly ok with it going away.

    • Oak says:

      I’m curious, drewski: what are the benefits of using GfWL in the first place? Besides achievements, which games are capable of handling on their own anyway.

    • edit says:

      frymaster, No problem with anything you’ve said but thought I’d mention that one of the more trivial problems I’ve run in to with GFWL is that, for quite some time in one of those racing games I mentioned (think it was either Dirt 2 or Grid), no matter how many times I checked the auto login and remember password boxes, it would be a blank slate next time I ran the game. At the time this was just escalating my frustration with other issues I was experiencing.

      drewski, I give people far too much credit simply for pointing out that people complain about GFWL for a reason, and not because they’re simply jumping on a bandwagon? You’ve just stated yourself that “some of what GfWL does is inexcusable” and that “Most of it’s just clumsy”. Both, even in isolation, are justification enough for dissatisfaction and complaint.

    • Arglebargle says:

      What’s not to like? Oh, say…..Issues with saves, irritations loading, clunky interface. GFWL doesn’t deliver anything I want either: I don’t care about achievements or networking w/ online pals via it’s interface.
      GFWL is a negative influence on my getting a game: As an example I recently had two games in my checkout basket, games that I wasn’t sure I would like but they were at $3 a pop, so no biggie. Then I noticed that they had that dreaded interface. Out they went.
      A telling comment was the developers talking about how they hated to work with it, but the higher ups were being bribed to use it. It is only here because it has a very rich and influential boss pushing it.

    • sassy says:

      A lot of people state how much of a resource hog steam is without looking much further into it. Right now steam is using about 100 MB of ram (which isn’t much of a concern but is quite high). However if I simply close it to tray it drops down to about 15 MB (still adjusting so it might be a little higher) which really isn’t much.

      Other than ram usage, it doesn’t take much cpu time so that isn’t a concern. I can’t remember how big the install is though but at a guess I would suggest 150 MB, nothing that should be more than an after thought on today’s hard drives.

      I can’t compare this to GFWL as I would rather not have to open that ever, at least in the softwares current state.

    • subedii says:

      No offence, but sod that.

      I don’t hate GFWL because “it’s cool to hate it”, and I really despise when people bring up that utterly tosh argument.

      I hate it because it made the last game I played that tried to use it (Dawn of War 2) far far FAR harder and worse to play than it should have been.

      The community system is fundamentally useless. And this isn’t just due to the fact that you can’t see or interact with your friends outside of the game either (although that’s a huge part of it). The VOIP system was a terrible staticy mess. When MS most recently updated it, they did so in a way that broke it. There was even an emergency message scrolling across the bottom of DoW2 saying not to use GFWL VOIP at all or else it would LITERALLY cause the entire game to crash out for all players.

      The community system doesn’t even have a chat system either, communication has to occur by freaking e-mails for crying out loud.

      But the biggest problem was MS’s patching policy which meant that any and every update HAS to go through them for certification before being allowed to be implemented. And frankly, that was absolutely terrible for the online balance. What it meant was that game breaking balance issues were out in the wild for months on end whilst certification was going through. In the meantime, Relic couldn’t even push out so much as a hotfix, any patches that did come would have to be massive, gameplay changing mega-patches. If you’re familiar at all with online gaming then you know that this is precisely something you do NOT want to do. Minor incremental updates are far better because you can see and measure the results, and adapt them over time. Mega-patches typically try to fix one problem but then end up breaking something else in the process.

      Then you come to GFWL’s TS matchmaking, which was also ridiculously bad. It’s a system that was designed with XBL and FPS’s in mind, and not really suited at all to RTS gameplay. Especially since in order to “ascertain” your skill level it would actually match you against high tier players for your first 50 odd matches (my own experience was more than that). Tell me, how many people are actually going to sit around taking that kind of punishment before they can have even a chance at playing some decent games?

      And even then, the multiplayer matchmaking would still be messed up and skewed because of all the NAT errors forcing teams into the wrong configurations.

      There is a REASON that GFWL was dropped completely from Dawn of War 2, even though it resulted in a split playerbase (something you never want to do, and that Relic have always tried extremely hard to avoid).

      I’m not going to try and be nice to GFWL here. Ever since it was dropped, I can play with my friends easily, the entire community system works better (and there’s now even a universal chat system in-game for the whole community), and the matchmaking has vastly vastly improved. In contrast to waiting two or three entire MONTHS for an update, Relic pushed out something like two or three updates within a week of the game being released.

      Dropping GFWL very literally removed a load of frustrations from the game and made it much more fun to play than it used to be. So yeah, I resent the idea that somehow GFWL gets the short end of the stick because “it’s cool to hate it”. I hate it because it made an awesome game hard and frustrating to play and was a huge detriment to the community until it was finally kicked out.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      I’m not going to try and be nice to GFWL here. Ever since it was dropped, I can play with my friends easily, the entire community system works better (and there’s now even a universal chat system in-game for the whole community), and the matchmaking has vastly vastly improved. In contrast to waiting two or three entire MONTHS for an update, Relic pushed out something like two or three updates within a week of the game being released.

      Dropping GFWL very literally removed a load of frustrations from the game and made it much more fun to play than it used to be.

      Would all those points be due to them using Steamworks instead of GFWL? Oops drewski looks like the strawman collapsed, time to build another one.

    • Baf says:

      I’ve described my first experience with GfWL above. I honestly hadn’t heard much of anything about it before that point. I arrived at my hatred completely independently and without consultation.

      Let me describe my first experience with Steam, now. I was actually disinclined to like Steam from the start: I don’t like the idea of relying on some company’s servers to be able to access the games I’ve paid for. But there was a game that I wanted to play (specifically, Puzzle Quest), and my local retailer was sold out, and rather than wait, I reluctantly decided to buy it for download. I chose Steam simply because it seemed like the online store that was least likely to go out of business any time soon. So I downloaded the Steam client, and it downloaded Puzzle Quest, and that was that.

      The key difference between this experience and my first experience with GfWL is the difference between enabling me to do what I wanted, and getting in the way. The GfWL installer imposed itself between me and a game that I had already purchased, downloaded, installed, and launched. Steam came to my rescue when I couldn’t obtain a game in (what was then) the usual way.

  40. Oak says:

    Edit: Replyfail.

  41. edit says:

    Edit: also Replyfail. My bad.

  42. Tacroy says:

    I just wanted to point out that this is in no way unique to GFWL – every Microsoft service has issues like this, especially when it first comes out, and extra especially when nobody inside Microsoft actually cares about it.

    See, for instance, this rant Bill Gates himself wrote about trying to download MovieMaker and the Digital Plus Pack. Money quote:

    I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack … so I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download place so I went there.

    It wasn’t in the top 5 so I expanded the other 45.
    ..
    I tried scoping to Media stuff. Still no moviemaker. I typed in movie. Nothing. I typed in movie maker. Nothing.

    So I gave up and sent mail to Amir saying – where is this Moviemaker download? Does it exist?

    So they told me that using the download page to download something was not something they anticipated.

    Windows Usability: not something they anticipated, since 2003.

  43. wazups2x says:

    The GFWL in-game interface is terrible. It’s completely made for controllers with the mouse and keyboard as an afterthought.

    You have to go through a bunch of submenus to get to everything, it’s just a pain. Steams interface is sooo much better. It’s made with only the mouse and keyboard in mind, no worthless submenus, just one click and you’re there.

    Microsoft will always cater the interface for controller users, it will never change. That’s why I don’t ever want to use GFWL and I hope it fails.

    Also, GFWL doesn’t even have important PC features like instant messaging.

  44. noobnob says:

    With regards to competition with Steam, Desura seems to have more potential than GFWL. Doesn’t offer matchmaking AFAIK, but it does have community features (seems to be fully integrated with the ModDB website) and seems to be a whole lot more open for developers to join in and publish games. Currently it offers a few indie games and mods (it supposedly makes downloading and installing mods easier, didn’t test this), but it launched recently. It’ll take some time for it to take off.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I’ve used Desura ever since it came out. It’s a really, really nice program and I’d love to see it take off. In my experience, it’s also fairly unobtrusive. At least as much as Steam, if less.

  45. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    Maybe Microsoft should try something like, maybe, doubling down their commitment. That’s sure to work.

  46. meshpet says:

    i didn’t read through every comment here but has any one mentioned the fact that GFWL games CANNOT BE MODDED. So games that are just screaming for a strong modding community (like gta4) where people can bring even more years of enjoyment to a game has been completely wiped out. It’s such a big thing to the PC gaming community and is one of the many important reasons why people choose to play on the PC and not the console and apparently they feel it’s not important. And I believe if a single file isn’t exactly matched when GFWL starts the game up you get banned and are unable to save your game or play online… Steam banning peoples accounts is pretty hefty but is a bit of a rarity and you can get it back but you wont be able to play on VAC servers online.

    I had bought bioshock 2 and gta4 not knowing that I’d have to deal with GFWL and if i had known i probably wouldn’t have bought them. Really if i want a totally vanilla game I’d just play it on console.

  47. Richard Eid says:

    Nobody has mentioned that you can’t post on their forums.

    I have a couple of issues I’d like to address with the GFWL team, but it seems it’s not possible to register for an account and post on the forums. I’m doing everything right as far as logging in, and I’m logged in with my Live ID and my gamertag, but it’s just not letting me post. A quick search around the Internet will show that lots of people have had this problem for a long time now. I’ve been trying to log in since December or so. I keep getting “Gamertag not found” and “Invalid user credentials”. On the top right of the page, there is a “Sign out” button. So I’m signed in, right?

    So can anyone here login and post on the GFWL forums? I know people that can, but if you haven’t already registered for the forums it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to.

    If you Google the issue, you can see the problem going back to at least 2009. Is that in any way acceptable? I feel this is a significant flaw as it makes it nearly impossible to get timely assistance should you run into an issue with the service that prevents you from playing a game. You can e-mail or call support, as is the case with Steam, but you are left without any sort of community input. Often times, people find their answers on the Steam forums more quickly than Steam Support can respond to a ticket.

  48. Eric says:

    Damn. Microsoft really screwed the pooch on GFWL. I remember the ordeal of trying to play “Battlestations: Pacific.” I spent too much time updating and re-entering passwords, and when I finally got around to playing it, the game sucked. But that’s beside the point.

    They had a good chance, here. Microsoft could’ve included features in the service that, let’s say, indicate when your hardware isn’t capable of playing the game, or something (not an issue, I’m sure, RPS readers have). Things like that would’ve helped people not so adept at the particulars of PC accoutrement get involved in playing games on this platform. And that would be good for us all, allowing more money to come into the PC Games market.

    Instead, it’s a shitty Steam, without any games. And now I cry in the shower. Damn “Battlestations: Pacific.”

  49. Paul says:

    GFWL is a scourge and I just wish MS would completely get the fuck out of trying to continue it. Instead just patch it out of all games and discontinue development!

    Oh and that Unangst sounds like an assholer.

  50. Zogtee says:

    The bottom line is that I don’t want or need another bloody account to sign in with, especially not one that serve no purpose (at best) or fucks things up (at worst). GFWL refused to let me play DoW2 online for months after it was released, due to some obscure bug they weren’t overly concerned with. When I recently tried to buy one of those stupidly cheap games they sold to plug the “new” GFWLM, putting the game in my basket suddenly caused me to be logged out from all MS-related services for no reason. After all this time and their resources, there shouldn’t still be problems like these.

    MS don’t get it and they don’t care. Every now and then, they throw someone to the media and will talk about how they’re serious about PC gaming and how they’re going to improve GFWL, but sod all happens.

    Steam works. Steam is reliable. I never had any problems with it or with Valve.