Having bought a couple of games that utilize GFWL I must say that I don’t like the system very much. It seems a bit too invasive on your PC, and also prevents easy backup of save games. And most important… it did not provide me with any benefits.
The two games I own that integrate GFWL, Red Faction: Guerrilla and GTA IV have been played through, then forgotten. And every time I wanted to install them again I was reminded of GFWL and decided not to play them anyway.
Yesterday I decided anyway to give Red Faction: Guerrilla a try again. I started out with an open mind, and thought: “Well… perhaps everything works a lot better now … at least a year has passed.” This is my experience:
1. I install the game. As part of the installer GFWL is installed. Everything is all right.
2. I start the game. I run through the menus and set my settings just the way I like them. Especially I remember to set the game to full screen, since it for some reason started out in windowed mode.
3. I start a new game. But here a pop up reminds me that I need to be logged into GFWL to be able to save my games. “Well… I guess I have to then… ” I think. I don’t give a flying rats ass about achievements… but I do want to be able to save my games… so I’m forced to log into GFWL.
4. GFWL pops up, and I enter some details… I’m unable to remember which email I used for the game the last time, so I use the first one that comes into my mind.
5. GFWL now wants the serial for my game. “Hmm… I wonder if it did this the last time… I don’t remember” I think… and then start to worry, because the text clearly says that the game serial will be permanently locked to that GFWL account.
6. I spend 5 minutes looking through old documents to dig out a piece of paper where I sometimes note down account names and passwords etc. I discover that the GFWL account I used for this game was another one than the one I just entered.
7. I log out, and log in with the new one. I spend a few minutes requesting a new password. (During the process I’m redirected to log into Hotmail… even though the GFWL email I use is clearly not a Hotmail address.)
8. During the request password phase, the game has been shut down by the GFWL so I start it again.
9. I run through the menus, and set up my settings again. I set the game to full screen again, because at some point it has turned into windowed mode again.
10. I start a new game. I’m asked to log into GFWL and I do so with the right account and my new fresh password.
11. The GFWL client tells me to wait “a few minutes” while it “downloads the account data” – Apparently the “account data” is an avatar picture of a panda (size 74×74 pixels), and it takes 2-3 minutes to download.12. Now the GFWL client detects that it’s running an old version. With a rather strict message I’m told that “You will not be able to continue unless you update… bla bla bla” so of course I click the update button.
13. GFWL shuts down the game and starts updating. “Well, this is only to be expected, it is a rather old game by now.” my open mind tries to tell me in a relaxed voice.
14. A few minutes later the GFWL client tells me that I’now “have the newest version!”. Sweet, I’m sure that I’m ready to play!
15. I start the game. I set up the game to run in full screen… for the third time…, I start a new game.
16. In a flash I see the windows desktop and some window telling me that the GFWL client has crashed and that Windows is looking for a solution. But immediately I’m returned to the game and a little pop up tells med that I have successfully logged into GFWL.
17. I play the game for a couple of hours. It’s really fun and everything is great, so I save my game and quit, looking forward to continue the next day.
18. The next day I start the game again. Again I see the quick flash of something crashing and windows looking for a solution, but again the game tells me that I’ve successfully logged into GFWL.
19. BUT… NO SAVE GAMES AVAILABLE… “What the hell?“… I clearly remember that I saved!
20. Disappointed I quit the game and start looking for a reason for my missing save games.
21. I try to start the GFWL client from the start menu, but every time I do this, it simply crashes, and the “looking for a solution” pops up, only to disappear without any info.
22. I take a look at the action center to see if any problems have been detected. Nothing.
23. I take a look at the Windows event viewer to see if any problems have been logged. Nothing.
24. I search for Games for Windows live on Google and find “gamesforwindows.com” and go there to look for support.
25. A take an extra look, because everything in the browser seems to be related to Xbox. Also the URL has changed into: http://marketplace.xbox.com
26. Now.. I don’t own an Xbox so I repeat the process a few times, but then settle with the fact that apparently Windows users must use the Xbox portal.
27. After looking around a lot of Xbox related stuff I find a support forum that seems to deal with PC games.
28. One of the support stickies tells me to make sure that I have the newest version of the GFWL client. (Well.. I know I have it because I was told by the installer yesterday that I just updated to the newest version.)
29. But, anyway… I click the download link and install whatever it tells me to.
30. I discover that “Games for Windows Live” has now disappeared from the start menu, instead there is a “Microsoft Games for Windows Marketplace”.
31. I start that up, and apparently it’s the same thing. I can log in and is greeted with my little panda avatar. Browsing through the settings I see that my documents folder, and my appdata folder is now littered with a bunch of new folders. A video folder, download folder, etc. etc.
32. I start up Red Faction again. No GFWL crashes this time.
33. I look for saved games, and out of the blue I find that my save games from yesterday are there!
34. Joyfully I continue playing my game.
I wonder why it needs to be so complicated when it really should be like this:
1. Install the game.
2. Play the game and save a save game.
3. Restart the game, load save game.
4. Continue playing.
I thought I would provide this feedback to Microsoft. But their feedback form did not allow me to explain my problem in detail, but simply told me that “The answer of the question is too long.”
So let’s conclude
GFWL benefits me with:
A friend system where I don’t have any friends.
An achievement system that I never use.
A nice avatar picture with a panda on it.
GFWL costs me:
Hours of wasted time.
An insecure feeling that I might loose access to my games if I forget my GFWL account details.
An insecure feeling of loosing my save games at any moment.
A messy hard drive.
Chance of me buying another game that has GFWL integrated: Zero!