How Games for Windows Live ate half of my lunch hour

Jaz McDougall

It says it doesn't really know what'll happen if you click Yes.

For lunch today, I had a sandwich. Games for Windows Live had about thirty minutes of satisfaction at my expense. My mission was to quickly boot up the original Dawn of War II and get some pictures of some orks for an article. I thought it would take five minutes to get a picture of Force Commander Herfderficus carefully inserting his chainsword into a greenskin.

I was wrong.

First, it wanted a username and password. I type those in, and check the "sign me in automatically" box. After I signed in, it showed me an empty progress bar for a bit. I don't know what's supposed to go in there, but it never bothers to show up. Then it told me that I needed to update. I was told that if I didn't update, I couldn't save. So I hit yes, and it shut down the game, installed a thing, and then nothing happened.

Please stop asking me yes or no. PLEASE. PLEEEEEAAASSSE.

So I started it back up again, and it asks for my login details again. I type those in, and check the "sign me in automatically" box - and check it hard . Then the lack-of-progress bar hung around for a bit, and then it said it had to update. SIGH. I clicked that, and then it shut down, and didn't start up again. So I started up again and had to put in the password again - and I checked that check box even harder this time - and then it showed me the empty progress bar and then went away.

That's the best thing about Games for Windows Live. It goes away. It creeps up to the top of your screen and vanishes. You're allowed to feel relieved, but don't let your guard down. At any time, it could return.

Once I was allowed to actually play the game, it really did take about five minutes. During that time, I had to start the campaign again - there were no magical cloud saves or anything fancy like that. When I finished the first mission, I got an achievement. For doing the first mission. An achievement I vaguely remember getting the other week when I played with some friends, and about a year ago when I first played it.

There are games I've played to completion on PC, and then when I dust off my Xbox 360 to play something like Brütal Legend, it doesn't show me any achievements for those games. Looking at my profile, you'd think I'd never played GTA IV, or Dragon Age: Origins, or Fallout 3. I unlocked every last character in Street Fighter IV, and according to GfWL, I've barely touched it. These are all games I've played on PC. GfWL did its best to interrupt them, but made no effort to improve the experiences.

Games for Windows Live is a ridiculous embarrassment for the platform. Developers: if you're using it in your upcoming game, you're not doing it right. Put it on Steam, or Impulse, or GamersGate, or sell it yourself online, or just stick it in a box. Preferably with a cloth map.

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