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Uncomfortable Windows 8 for PC Gaming

 

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Windows 8 has been out a while now – long enough that perhaps some of you have tried it, and long enough even that if you’ve bought a new PC recently, it almost certainly came with Windows 8 installed. You can’t buy Windows 7 any more. A friend of mine owns a licensed copy of Windows 7 and recently lost his disk, but not his code. He contacted Microsoft who linked him to their store page informing him he could enter his serial number there and re-download the OS; but the link they sent him to, for purchasing Windows 7, had a notice up that Windows 7 was no longer available to purchase and redirected him to Windows 8.

I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.

I told themto stop trying to ruin the PC as an open platform. I’d rather have Minecraft not run on Windows 8 at all than to play along. Maybe we can convince a few people not to switch to Windows 8 that way.

What you don’t see here is that, under the hood, the new tiled UI is a means for Microsoft to lock Windows applications into a walled garden, much like the one on iOS. There is this ‘small detail’ that Microsoft is not advertising anywhere, but you can find it dug deep in the developer documentation: One cannot release a tiled UI application by any other means, but only through Windows Store! I cannot even begin to stress out just how horrible this idea is! There is no side-loading, except for corporate use inside one company, and that works only on the enterprise edition of Windows 8. Do we all understand what that means? You cannot download an application from the Internet and run it on your computer. You have to get it from Microsoft’s store. Even if it is a free app!

“A large number of developers have expressed their concern with possibility that, probably in Windows 9 or something like that, the ability to get even desktop apps in any other way than through Windows app store may very well be removed. When that happens it will be too late. Certification is a broken concept and should be abolished. Now, while in current state Windows 8 do look like they support plain desktop apps seamlessly, the removal of start menu and use of ‘charms’ even on the desktop looks like a pretty blunt attempt to force users to ‘get used’ to the tiled UI. It would be fine by me if it wasn’t for the aforementioned certification issue.”

The thing about Windows 8 wasn’t just [Microsoft’s] distribution. As somebody who participates in the overall PC ecosystem, it’s totally great when faster wireless networks and standards come out, or when graphics get faster. Windows 8 was like this giant sadness. It just hurts everybody in the PC business. Rather than everybody being all excited to go buy a new PC, buying new software to run on it, we’ve had a 20+ percent decline in PC sales — it’s like “holy cow that’s not what the new generation of the operating system is supposed to do.” There’s supposed to be a 40 percent uptake, not a 20 percent decline, so that’s what really scares me. When I started using it I was like “oh my god…” I find [Windows 8] unusable.

The XNA/DirectX expertise was created to recognize community leaders who focused on XNA Game Studio and/or DirectX development. Presently the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology. Given the status within each technology, further value and engagement cannot be offered to the MVP community. As a result, effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program.

How long was it known internally at Microsoft that XNA was a dead-end? How many people would’ve passed over XNA if MS had admitted circa 2008 (or even 2010, when 4.0 was released) that there was no future for the tech?

But the simple ground truth is that we’re entering an era where Windows’ domination is openly in question, and a lot of us have the flexibility and inclination to choose between a range of platforms, whether those platforms are personal computers, game consoles, or mobile devices. Microsoft’s offer in that world is lock-in to Windows, in exchange for powerful integrated platforms like .NET which are far more capable than their competitors (eg Java, which is just pathetic). That was an excellent trade-off for many years. Looking back now, though? The Windows tech hegemony is a graveyard. XNA. Silverlight. WPF. DirectX. Managed C++. C++/CLI. Managed DirectX. Visual Basic. So when you guys come knocking and ask us to commit to Metro — sorry, the Windows 8 User Experience — and its associated tech? You’ll understand if I am not in a hurry to start coding for your newest framework.

“Microsoft have essentially turned their backs on 10,000 developers on one of the most promising gaming APIs available today,” said Dominique Louis of MonoGame, the Open Source implementation of the XNA Framework.”

This article is for those people who have used Windows 8 and thought to themselves, ‘Hey, it’s not that bad. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.’ You’re here reading this so I can reasonably assume you’re gamers. What one must realise about Windows 8 is that it’s not just what you’re seeing on the surface that counts. It’s not whether or not you like the tablet-designed interface or whether you realise you can switch that interface to a more desktop-PC-friendly design (although I’ve heard rumours that a lot of applications don’t even show up in that mode). It’s about the things you DON’T see. I’m going to tell you what you’re not seeing.

To understand why Windows 8 is so very, very bad, one has to approach it from a developer’s perspective. You may think this is not relevant to you, the casual consumer of PC games, but it is. Stay a while, and listen.

 

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It’s July, 2012. Gabe Newell, who worked for Microsoft for 13 years on the first three versions of Windows before going boldly forth to co-found Valve, has a bit of a rant about Windows 8;

‘PC/OEMs’ means Original Equipment Manufacturers. People who make products, or components, that are purchased by another company and retailed under that purchasing company’s brand name.

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It’s September, 2012. Notch, esteemed creator of Minecraft, receives an email from Microsoft asking for help to certify Minecraft for Windows 8.

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One more. It’s November, 2012. Alen Ladavac, chief tech officer at Croteam (creators of Serious Sam), speaks up. Where Notch and Gaben expressed opinions without flourishing us with the nitty gritty details, Ladavac breaks open the case and lets us peek inside.

If you’re a Mac user – solely a Mac user – you’ve already been brainwashed into being accustomed to this idea. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh – you’ve already resigned yourself to the fact that you can only buy apps from the App Store if you’ve enabled side-loading, and not at all if you’re on an iPad/iPhone unless it’s jailbroken (Apple, by the way, tried to get ‘App Store’ copyrighted, which is just another little nuance that highlights exactly what the frack is wrong with companies like Apple and Microsoft). For the rest of us in The Free World, this restriction being sneakily slid into place by Microsoft on their new Win 8 release is disturbing. Or at least, it SHOULD be. If you don’t find it worrying, you’re not listening hard enough.

All those people who make free apps for Windows and distribute them on their websites won’t be able to any more. They’ll only be able to provide them via the Windows 8 store, and to do that, they’ll have to get them ‘Windows 8 Certified’. That, of course, will cost money. Those developers are paying Microsoft for the privilege of distributing via the Windows 8 store. That, if you’ll pardon my spoonerised French, is bucking fullshit. In buying Windows 8, whether you do that directly or whether you buy a PC that comes pre-installed with Windows 8, you are supporting Microsoft’s desire to monopolise… well, everything. They want to control what applications you have access to. They want to control who they allow to place products on their market. And you’re fine with this, oh ye baffled folk who have used Windows 8 and respond with ‘It’s not so bad’? Screw that.

It’s January, 2013. The Verge have an exclusive interview with Gabe Newell, and the discussion swings around to Windows 8.

I’m trying very hard not to let this become a general anti-Microsoft rant. Let’s swing back to gaming before I go completely off track.

XNA. You’ve probably heard about it, but might not know the details. XNA is a development toolset. More than that, it is – was, sigh – a widely loved development toolset used for making games for the XBox 360, Windows, and Windows phone. In January 2013 an email was sent out to DirectX/XNA people;

The article goes on to describe the gradual and not always clearly apparent decline of Microsoft’s various frameworks over the years;

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And now, Microsoft very casually announces that DirectX is dead and XNA support will no longer be continued. This is why this is important to gaming:

Developers are wrinkling their noses at Windows 8, and rightly so. Windows 8 are trying to force the market. If you, as a consumer and gamer, buy into their tech, you’re supporting them in telling you what you can and can’t do on your own ironically titled personal computer. You’re helping them tell developers that they have to pay to continue to develop for Microsoft and that they can only develop things that match Microsoft’s specific list of approved apps and tick all the right boxes for inclusion. There’s no privilege there. There’s just honest, talented people being taken advantage of.

Gamasutra follow up with a few more interesting tidbits.

There’s a light in that Microsoft-built tunnel of darkness though. It’s called MonoGame. MonoGame is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4.x framework. They’re supporting XNA devs and making it possible for them to continue developing in XNA to create cross-platform games, and they currently support iOS, Android, Windows (both OpenGL AND DirectX), Mac OS X, Linux, Windows 8 Store, Windows Phone 8, PlayStation Mobile and the OUYA console.

Don’t you find it a little ironic that it’s an open source project that’s saving the day here, allowing developers to continue coding in the language they’ve chosen to use and allowing them to publish to the Windows 8 store and thus circumnavigate the death that Microsoft would have otherwise inflicted? To clarify, if you’re not familiar with the term ‘open source’ – Microsoft is ‘closed source’; it doesn’t share its code, makes it difficult for you to VIEW its code, and completely prohibits changing or doing anything at all with its code should you happen to find a way to be able to do this. Open Source is the complete opposite – open code, no restrictions. You can open the box and look at it, you can dive your hands in and mush your fingers around in the codey goodness, you can reassemble that code in to something else and pass it on and be well within your rights to do so. That an opensource project like MonoGame is supporting continued development of games for the very closed-source Microsoft is hilarious.

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There’s one caveat though. Despite MonoGame’s best intentions and ability to cross-platform on a very wide scale, if you make a game via MonoGame and publish it onto the Windows 8 store, Microsoft will try to get you to sign an exclusivity deal. If you agree, it goes onto Windows 8, and XBLA, and that’s it. You want to play the highly acclaimed Skulls of the Shogun? Are you on any platform but windows 8 / XBLA? They signed that deal – tough luck. People who’re supporting Windows 8? You’re (even inadvertently) contributing to a lock-down of gaming. You are contributing to the statistic of ‘number of people who run windows 8’ that Microsoft uses to justify its actions.

“But I need Windows for gaming!”

Don’t fool yourself into believing that you’re empowering your gaming needs by sticking with Windows 8. You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face, is what you’re doing. You’re buying into something that puts hard limits on gaming platforms and dictates to you, the user, what you can buy and where you can play. Is that an industry you want to be supporting?

Microsoft are bullies. They always have been. What do we do with bullies, boys and girls? Punch ‘em in the nose. Snub Windows 8. Kick up a fuss. Point out these injustices. Make a racket. With Valve porting its games to Linux and many other gaming companies joining in, there IS a viable alternative now. Contrary to popular opinion, Linux isn’t ‘that OS that you can only use if you’ve been coding for seventeen million years’. My mum switched to Linux in her 50s and she loves it. It’s more user-friendly and easier to get to grips with than Windows. There are SO MANY help guides out there for new users at ‘computer-phobic’ level that there’s no excuse, and now you’ve got native game ports too. Y’know what Microsoft fears most of all? That people will realise Linux isn’t the big bad monster Microsoft likes making it out to be. Microsoft fear that so much that they’ll outright lie about Linux. (You can check out this guide “Discover Gaming on Linux”)

So why would Microsoft want to kill PC Gaming? Because they don’t make money from it. The app store model is one that keeps making money (devs pay to put their stuff on there, users are forced to buy through the store, Microsoft get a cut) – but letting people freely put software on their operating system doesn’t. While they won’t outright stop you from ‘sideloading’ they’re going to try their damndest to hide the fact that you CAN, with obfuscated settings and gentle encouragement to use their store. Why do they want to push people away from PC Gaming and onto their own console? Because on their console, they not only manage hardware, but it’s another ‘walled garden’ – you can only buy games they approve from the XBLA store, and they get a cut. Microsoft are already making XBLA games available on Win 8 via their Microsoft Play service. Microsoft’s vision is to turn your desktop PC into an appliance. <– Read that article or watch the video linked inside. It’s important.

Yeah, the Windows 8 interface might be kind of okay if you’ve used it for long enough to ‘get used to it’. Yeah, you’ve got access to the Windows 8 store that clearly sells some games so yeah, you can see that Windows 8 is capable of running games. Hey, Hitler painted beautiful landscapes. Just sayin’.

By WelshPixie at Friday, April 05, 2013 8:53:00 AM

 

Uncomfortable Windows 8 for PC Gaming

 

Source: http://www.mweb.co.za/games/view/tabid/4210/article/6294/windows-8-if-you-use-it-youre-helping-microsoft-kill-pc-gaming.aspx

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