Whether the Universal Windows Platform is salvation or damnation, destroyer or redeemer, or something difficult-to-categorise and not-quite-as-much-hyperbolic-fun in the middle there, it is at least now a bit better for games. Microsoft this week issued a Windows 10 update giving UWP support for unlocked framerates and adaptive sync tech like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s Freesync, which were pretty big absences. Not many games are built on UWP yet, mostly Microsoft-published stuff like Quantum Break and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, but if we’re to see more of UWP in the future… and that’s where the doomsaying comes in. Ah, I’ll explain that in a minute.
First! The (very) basics: UWP is a software platform built into Windows 10, intended to let devs easily make stuff which works across different devices from PCs to tablets to HoloLens. We’d not normally mention software architecture because it’s a bit too techy, but UWP has become a bit controversial due to Microsoft placing soft restrictions on running UWP-based software. I’ll come back to that.
On to the framerates! As Microsoft explain in a blog post, this week’s Windows 10 update lets UWP software unlock framerates and use adaptive framerate syncing. Which means UWP games would run as quickly and as smoothly as they can, whether it’s through fancy expensive monitors or simply spitting frames at regular monitors (which can lead to tearing). Either way, this is commonly expected of PC games – especially amongst people who pay big bucks for beefy PCs.
However, this won’t come automatically. Developers will need to add support for these features, so you might need to wait for your UWP-built games to work with it.
Another hiccup: folks with laptops packing both integrated graphics and a discrete GPU (c’est moi) aren’t currently able to disable vsync. MS say they’re working on that.
Microsoft have also said before that they’re working on making UWP software support typical PC gaming features like mods, software overlays, and support for multiple GPUs. Maybe, if we wait a few years, UWP might become as useful for players as the old way is now.
Right! So! What’s that about UWP being the world of the world as we know it? Epic Games co-founder chap Sweeney declared UWP “the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce.” The issue is that, unless users change a setting, Windows won’t install UWP software unless the devs register with Microsoft and submit it for approval. Given how uncomfortable most people are with touching anything technical, this is a problem if UWP is to be the foundation of future Windows software. If devs want to use UWP’s fancy new features, practically they’ll need to go through Microsoft. That’s a lot more restrictive, clunky, and fussy than the old PC way.
Sweeny’s opinion certainly hasn’t gone unchallenged, mind. Microsoft issued a rebuttal, then Sweeney returned with a proposal for “an open UWP ecosystem”, and… I have nothing useful to add myself. Just rounding it up for y’all, okay.