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Croteam on Windows 8 Issues

A post on the Steam Users' Forums from a couple of weeks ago offers a distressing overview of Windows 8 from Croteam (thanks Gamer's Hell), as Alen Ladavac says: "I would very much like to clear this one thing. I think that this is very important as there are 'under the hood' motions related to Windows 8 that are hidden and not well understood even by many developers (yet), and certainly not by most gamers." Saying "Gabe Newel did not overreact," he goes on to describe how "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." Here's more:

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!

If it was just about "being downloaded from Windows store", it would not be a problem. It would be nice to have a common hub to download things from. But to get an app onto that store, it has to be certified by MS. This means bringing the "console experience" onto your desktop. Each app that you will get through the Windows Store will have to adhere to certain requirements imposed by MS. So far, we know that they've banned mature games, like Skyrim, CoD, and Serious Sam.[*] They have forbidden modding. They could very well forbid Open Source if they want. But even if these terms were not there, this is still a certification system. With all of its downsides, including uncertain release dates, rare and late patches, and everything turning out to be more expensive and sucking more.

While, theoretically, desktop applications are exempt from these requirements, it looks more and more like just a foot-in-the-door technique. 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.

I would not invest into supporting the tiled UI apps (which MS now conveniently calls "Windows Store apps" - does that ring a bell?), until MS removes the requirement that they have to be shipped through Windows Store on desktop at least - and thereby remove the requirement of certifying them with MS. 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.

So, it is a vicious circle. And not an accidental one. This one was carefully designed to be that way. I say: no thank you, I'll skip on that one.

* (Our footnote, not Alen's): He seems to have missed this story).

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100. Re: Croteam on Windows 8 Issues Nov 18, 2012, 03:07 PropheT
FloodAnxiety wrote on Nov 17, 2012, 21:17:
Game devs should not feel threatened by the windows 8 app store. They can still sell their desktop games the same way as they used to. They are only worried because if users start to gravitate to the app store they may stop purchasing desktop apps from other channels. If that does happen then that will only validate the direction they are going with the app store.

The certification process is a necessary evil to ensure that end user gets a good quality experience from these apps.

Here are some PROs of Windows 8 Store apps:

- The app can utilize more resources. All apps are required to properly support suspending and the possibility that the OS can terminate the app when it is not running. This means that an app store game can be a resource hog, and other open apps that are not running will get terminated if your app requires the resources used by that app.
- Consistent ways to update all of your apps. No more Quicktime/Adobe flash updaters pop ups and the corresponding services that are constantly running in the background checking for these updates.
- Security of the walled garden builds trust in the store and their apps. This will increase the number of users willing to take a chance on your software if you aren't a well known and trusted publisher.
- Installing an app can only install that app. No more hidden installations of google toolbar and other crap that you didn't ask for.
- Simple and easy way to uninstall an app, and uninstall it cleanly. Most desktop software today will leave things behind, such as loose files and additions to the registry. Which contributes to the decline in performance and disk space of the PC after several years.
- Apps that go unresponsive (the grey ghosting of the title bar you see in desktop apps) are terminated immediately. This raises the bar on developers to write responsive UIs.

Classic desktop applications can still have a short cut tile on the start screen obviously. But the desktop app won't be able to take advantage of the above mentioned benefits of Windows Store Apps.

As for the desktop experience in Windows 8; I don't miss the start button at all. Instead of having a roughly 50x50 hot spot for the mouse to click on, there is a 4x4 hot spot right in the corner. I know where the start button is, I don't need the wasted pixels on my taskbar to show the Windows Logo. Not that I use it much anyways, since the Windows key on the keyboard has always opened the start menu and still has the same function.

tldr; Lots of improvements all around. Devs should target the app store to reap the additional benefits it provides, or they can stick to the old way of doing things.

It's important to look at what Gabe was talking about and the entire quote he gave about Win8; it wasn't just worries about Windows Store taking over marketspace for Steam, it was about tablet-based focus pushing OEM's out of the PC market either because of their ability to compete in that market with Win8-based systems or because of reduced demand for Win8 desktops as a result of tablet proliferation. There's already been desktop OEM's teetering on the brink as it is, so it's not going to take a huge push for this to come to fruition. Hell, Gabe worked for Microsoft for something like three of their early OS releases; it's not like he has a myopic picture of the entire scenario as just a video game developer who's never been part of the OS market.

It isn't and never was solely about Windows Store taking over and implementing a closed application space causing problems for or taking over for Steam (or whatever else).

As far as your points:

1) What Windows applications have historically not already been resource hogs? Windows has always worked in the past of allowing full access to available memory space to any active application, so the only real new functionality is automatically stopping running Metro apps to allow resources to be reclaimed for starting apps. On a desktop, there's 2 issues there; a) any up to date system already has a glut of memory or disk space anyway and b) this is only an issue because Win8 doesn't autoterminate the apps when you "exit" them, it just minimizes them to the side application bar for instant access later. Given that they're already accessible instantly via the original launch icons on the Start screen and the initialization times required by the certification process...there's no f'ing point to this. It's a complete non-issue, ever, on a normal desktop environment. It's a tablet feature thrust into irrelevance on a desktop.

2.) You will still get Quicktime/Flash updaters running in Windows 8, or any other software like them, because those applications are never going to be a requirement for Metro apps as they aren't and will never be integral to Windows. It's situations like Java; you can create something for the Windows Store that can use javascript, but something that requires 3rd part addons or plugins like JVM aren't going to work inside the sandbox...leaving you in the exact same place for these programs that you were in in Windows 7.

3.) I'm skipping the security one and rolling it into the next point you had, since they tie together. Installing an app can only install that app within that user space, but how much does that really mean when that constrained space is only useful for running the meaningless apps the store has? Most desktop content is still going to be launched in desktop space anyway. You might not get unwanted toolbars via the Windows Store, but the idea that you're now protected from them in any way whatsoever is really, really wrong. It's like saying you were protected from them in Windows 7 when installing sidebar gadgets; the two things are completely disconnected and neither represent the overall picture of what you're doing through normal use of the system. There is no scenario that will have any user operating a Win8 desktop independent of the normal desktop where those security concerns arise, and you aren't safer.

4.) Disk cleanup has been fixing left behind files for years, and you're still going to have leftover registry entries and customization/profile files because again...the vast majority of applications on the system aren't going to run in the sandbox. I can't think of a single productivity tool or even entertainment that I used before that has been or likely will be completely replaced by a Windows Store application; meaning this has not changed, at all. Not that is has been a problem in recent memory anyway.

5) Lastly, the hot spot, the start button, the Windows key, and the Start/Metro screen are not replacements for the Start Menu as it existed in older versions of Windows. That's the All Apps button on the right click menu on that screen, the one that shows all installed applications by category... and it's f'ing terrible, really terrible, and the only reason I can see why is to force the newer usage of the Search function for application launch. The Start/Metro screen, whatever someone wants to call it now, is not a Start Menu replacement; it's an alternate desktop with a combination of quick-launch mini-apps a la the Gadget Bar and pinned-to-Start applications just like desktop shortcuts.

Bottom line is, devs aren't going to target the app store because of the constraints that it applies. There's no point in forcing yourself into both those constraints and the certification process for an application that is targeted for desktop use; pretty much everything that's out there now and that's coming soon is designed around a tablet environment. I also personally question the use of these apps in the first place, as they're all stripped down baby versions of real programs that you can access from the desktop instead...the only reason these apps have been appealing in the past is because they were on tablets that made them appealing because of their very different usage.

There are improvements in Windows 8, but most of them are hit or miss, often clunky UI changes and an app store that is doomed to irrelevance because of the tablet-focused constraints enforced there. The new Start screen was a passing curiosity that is almost completely forgotten in everyday use of the system; pretty, but a hindrance to efficient work.

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