achtungexplosiv: (Default)
(What is it with LJ eating half my posts, giving me a blank page when I try to restore from an alleged saved draft when I use Firefox, and Firefox conspiring against me by not retaining the post in it's clipboard after I've copied it? That's twice now. I am not amused.)

As a social networking tool centered around PC gaming and communities, Steam offers ease of integration, simple management of game purchasing, hassle-free multiplayer, forums, in-game achievements and even basic voice comms. I use it more than IMs, email, Facebook and text messaging combined for keeping in touch with friends (that have Steam at least) and not just for gaming. It makes buying games for myself or gifts for others an absolute doddle, the in-game overlay even for non-Steam games is extremely handy and there's always deals on offer so with a bit of patience I can usually source something I've had my eye on for a cheap price. Steam even handles games with activation codes automatically wherever possible, with a popup giving you your code to copy to clipboard just in case it can't.

I was initially slow on the uptake because I hated the idea of needing a Steam server connection to play even solo single player games. I viewed it as an alternative DRM that would prevent me from being able to play my games at all if something happened to my Steam account or the servers hiccuped. It does have an Offline gaming mode but as I found out at MMLAN13, most Steam-managed games still try to validate IDs on the server if you try to host a local LAN-only game, and thus it falls over if you have no reliable connection to the outside world without some fairly ludicrous fiddling around with your machine's own settings to fool the Steam client into not even bothering.

But overall I do very much like what VALVe has done with Steam. I'm on there as Zendadaist, incidentally.

Why isn't Games for Windows Live anywhere near as good as Steam when it claims to do the same sort of thing?

GFWL is the PC side of the XBox Live network that ties in gaming communities and even multiplayer gaming between those with the XBox version of a game and those running the PC version. It too has achivements, messaging and multiplayer invites and with the weight of MS behind it there's a lot of influence and money to attract games companies over. XBox Live isn't a new phenomenon either, so it's not as if MS is inexperienced with gamers.

So why is it rubbish for PC users?

It's immensely clunky to use and seems to me to be an interface developed for consoles and ported to use keyboard and mouse rather than a separate PC-optimised one. Very untidy, I found, and it won't even deal with CD keys and other authentication processes, even for GFWL games.

If you make an error during registration (such as typo your birthyear without realising) you are, not to put too fine a point on it, f*cked as you are permanently barred from running games that have ratings above whatever year you entered, as happened to me. I tried to find a way of being able to change that but I guess MS expects kids to go 'oh pants, I need to lie about my age to play this awesome new game!' and need to stop them from changing it. In the end I had to abandon that account and create a new one. When I tried to update my password some time later, it wouldn't accept the update at first. After eventually allowing me to change the password, it then didn't update internally so after a few failed login attempts it locked me out of the account I wasn't able to log in at all for quite a while.

Joining in a multiplayer game should be a case of a few clicks, as with Steam, but my experience with the Resident Evil games and Dead Rising 2 is that it's anything but. Connections fail for no reason, half the time there isn't even an error message and when there is one, it doesn't give any information about who is doing what wrong.

If at all possible I avoid using GFWL . The only time I ever log in is if I'm booting up a game that requires it to play even the single player. Honestly, I can't believe GFWL is actually this useless so I'm wondering if there's something else with it I haven't seen.

What am I missing with GFWL?


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May 2012

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