Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Games for Windows/Games for Windows Live

Just wanted to throw out a quick clarification to my last angry post about Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I purchased on Steam) requiring a Games for Windows Live account in order to save my progress in the game.

There is 'Games for Windows,' a certification and branding that requires the following (from Wikipedia):

* An "Easy Install" option that installs the title on your PC in the fewest possible steps and mouse clicks
* Compatibility with the Windows Vista Games Explorer
* Installs and runs properly on x64 versions of Windows Vista and is compatible with 64-bit processors (though the game itself can be 32-bit)
* Supports normal and widescreen resolutions, such as 4:3 aspect ratio (800 x 600, 1024 x 768), 16:9 aspect ratio (1280 x 720, 1920 x 1080), and 16:10 aspect ratio (1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200)
* Supports parental controls and family settings features in Windows Vista
* Supports launching from Media Center (Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate have Media Center)

'Games for Windows' was announced around the same time Windows Vista was. I've also heard 360 controller support was one of the requirements for certification, but that's unconfirmed.

'Games for Windows - LIVE' is an online gaming service. It is to Windows PCs what XBOX LIVE is to the XBOX. It's a store/distribution platform for games, and it also provides hosting services for some online games.

To be clear:

'Games For Windows' the certification is, in my opinion a good thing. It helps people who may not be as computer-literate as myself to get to the gaming with less fuss and hassle.

'Games for Windows - LIVE' - not my preferred service, but generally okay.

Being required to sign up for 'Games For Windows - LIVE' to play online - perfectly okay. Games manufacturers can set up their servers wherever they want, and Microsoft probably handles the online infrastructure so game developers can better spend their time elsewhere.

Being required to sign up for 'Games For Windows - LIVE' to save a game on my own PC - not okay. Not okay, not cool, not even reasonable. Requiring an online account with a third party service whose online services I may never use just to be able to save my progress on my own PC is very much a hassle, and seems against the idea behind the 'Games For Windows' brand.

I suspect it's tied with something in their DRM, or it's another layer of security to find any suspicious (meaning pirate-like) behavior. I sympathize with that, because as I said in my previous post, all the traditional forms of DRM, such as SecuRom, just end up getting stripped off of pirated versions of these games, leaving the paying customers as the only people encumbered by it's limitations. That doesn't make me like it any more, though.

As for my problems with the 4-activations per month, which I said is more than enough, I think it's key that users know what game companies' support models look like for the future. If no one is playing a game online in ten years of course the multiplayer servers will be shut down, that's understandable. But what about the activation servers?

I'm certain some companies have released "final" patches that remove the need for a CD to play their older games. I want to think it was Rockstar that's done this, as they've also released the first two GTA games for free online. Really, all I want is assurance that if and when the activation servers are shut down, a patch will be released that kills the need for activation altogether. Those of us who've been on the net, over a decade, have seen plenty of DRM systems abandoned while its users' files are rendered useless.

Hopefully that clears up my objections a little more, and alleviates some confusion surrounding the similar names for different types of services.


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