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Microsoft's UWP and the future of open PC gaming


HarryBizzle
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Again you're conflating a store with an application platform. Steam sells mostly Win32 applications which can be sold via any method the seller wants, for example, outside of steam. No one is suggesting content bought via the windows store should be available for install outside of the store.

 

Likewise,  people who choose to use the Source SDK are not restricted or funneled into using steam to distribute that software.

 

In short, your analogy does not apply.

 

 

 

 

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I think this is majorly over dramatic.

 

There's a general tech philosophy of "open beats closed", but it's a dogma with little attachment to reality - Linux sucks, yet Apples closed system is a great experience.

 

I don't think mods or indie development or anything we associate with PC would be under threat under a closed system. Mods are big business now, games want them to establish a community and get a loyal core of users - Steam workshop is basically this already. Third party apps can still modify games, just as apps rather than as .exes (not that I think Microsoft will actually be in a dominant position like this). Small developers can still self-publish.

 

There used to be a group of people in Something Awful who moaned endlessly out of Steam because by keeping your game updated you "lost the freedom to manually roll back your version". Which seems daft because even if it were a problem for someone, which I haven't encountered, it wouldn't exactly counter all the improvements. TF2 got the same treatment because it locked stuff down for F2P, and now when you replaced your character model with an anime girl no one else could see it.

 

My concern with Windows transitioning to a closed system would be that it's not guaranteed to be a better experience, just the same shitty one we already have, but it's not actually a problem in and of itself, it's ultimately their platform to choose what to do with - open PC platforms still exist and nothing will threaten what we already have.

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49 minutes ago, HarryBizzle said:

Again you're conflating a store with an application platform. Steam sells mostly Win32 applications which can be sold via any method the seller wants, for example, outside of steam. No one is suggesting content bought via the windows store should be available for install outside of the store.

 

Likewise,  people who choose to use the Source SDK are not restricted or funneled into using steam to distribute that software.

 

In short, your analogy does not apply.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, you've replied since I was writing mine, so I'll start over. If there is literally no parallel, so be it. It was a side point.

 

So what you're saying is, they're replacing win32 and artificially tying its replacement to distribution via the windows store. A store where, hitherto, they've not put any effort into tangible effort into curating, and at a time when PC ownership is dwindling to mobile devices.

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As an aside, Sweeney also said this:

Quote

Sweeney then compared UWP to Google's Android, which is "technically open, but practically closed" thanks to how "comically difficult" it is for general users to sideload apps. "This is not merely a technical issue: it has the market impact of Google Play Store dominating over competing stores, despite not being very good," he says.

 

What a load of crap. It's so "comically difficult" that Amazon created their own app store and support the distribution of their apps that way. And Google Play isn't very good? You what, mate? I suspect there's an element of caught with pants down on early UWP features, with respect to what you can't customize in Quantum Break, but I just can't get my head around the thinking that they'll make a complete grab for PC gaming. That SteamOS actually came to fruition shows people will create viable alternatives, if necessary.

 

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I really, really don't get his argument. As Stu has pointed out, no one is forcing him to make UWP apps over Win32. Don't like UWP? Don't develop for it. But I also think the whole fears of Microsoft locking essential OS features behind UWP is completely unfounded at best. I think Microsoft's recent track record of open sourcing a lot of stuff, including .Net, sort of goes against the whole ethos of this supposed threat that UWP poses.

 

At the end of the day Gabe thought Microsoft would do the same with Win 8, did it happen? No. Notch thought Microsoft would lock Minecraft into Microsoft platforms, did it happen? No. This is just one more irrational outburst to fit in with the current "cool" stance of bashing Microsoft.

 

I think UWP can only be a good thing, unifying development across a number of platforms makes it easier for developers. You want to target a different platform? Compile for that platform. The only difference to how it is now is it reduces the amount of targets you need to compile for!

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Well said Woo - nailed the issue and concerns there. I think people who primarily game on their PC of course appreciate Windows - it is THE OS for gaming, even though that isn't what it is primarily designed for. At the same time, they appreciate the PC architecture for the flexibility it provides and any huge change in how that content is generated, sold, distributed and allowed to be modified definitely requires caution and examination. Plus I think people are still a little sore of MS's last big push in PC gaming from their own end (GWFL) which left a lot of games in a sorry state (like Bulletstorm/Dirt 2 etc are now pretty much fucked) and people burned when they can't even redownload content they originally paid for from the GFWL store. They have to prove they're going to work with the strengths of PC and provide incentive to use their own platform rather than hopefully slowly and incrementally push people onto it. I think people who don't primarily game on PC might not quite get how important the above is because on the surface - it just looks like another distribution platform - hence all the confusion and missing the points earlier. In the short term, Bone games on the PC is an excellent move and should be applauded because it widens the scope of their first party software and services - just as long as the flexibility of PC is embraced, which early days hasn't fully shown unfortunately (with current UWP games being far more locked down to general PC options in comparison to the Steam versions etc)

 

http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/PC-Gaming-Shakeup-Ashes-Singularity-DX12-and-Microsoft-Store

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/45tqqy/quantum_break_and_why_windows_store_exclusives/t1_d0030be

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15 hours ago, TehStu said:

What was the original Win 8 direction?

 

 

 

14 hours ago, *chin* said:

At the end of the day Gabe thought Microsoft would do the same with Win 8, did it happen? No. Notch thought Microsoft would lock Minecraft into Microsoft platforms, did it happen? No. This is just one more irrational outburst to fit in with the current "cool" stance of bashing Microsoft.

 

You should listen to Sweeney talking about it in the interview he gave Polygon. He brings up Windows RT which is the forerunner of the UWP idea. As Microsoft are klutz cops, the fears Gabe Newell had, which are basically the same as what Tim Sweeney is fearing didn't happen solely because it self-failed so nobody had to really fight to kill it on Win8.

 

This time around, Microsoft are back with another go which is looking ever slightly more competent. Windows isn't the same as any other OS out there. It's a strategically important building block of the PC market which due to its utter market dominance doesn't allow Microsoft to try to copy Google or Apple and try to turn it into a walled garden which they control and profit primarily from, which is against the entire ethos of how it has operated since inception.

 

He mentions Google's approach in his open letter and isn't exactly full of praise for it:

 

Quote

This true openness requires that Microsoft not follow Google’s clever but conniving lead with the Android platform, which is technically open, but practically closed

 

He's been talking to Microsoft about this, and despite getting a sympathetic ear, he doesn't believe Microsoft can be trusted to do the right thing currently. He brings up the boiled frog anecdote, Microsoft are at 2 out of 10 on the temp scale currently, he wants to stop them from getting to a 6 or 7, by which time it would be too late to stop. He wants to convince Microsoft by using the court of public opinion to guarantee they will open up the UWP platform to the same extent as Win32 currently is, as their current actions don't convince him they are going to do that. The PC remaining a true open platform is better for consumers ultimately and all the other companies which currently operate in it.


 

Quote

 

This day has been approaching for over 18 months, and I need to give credit to Microsoft folks, especially Phil Spencer, for always being willing to listen to Epic’s concerns with UWP’s paradigm, and to proposed solutions. Because they listened very patiently, I hoped and believed that Microsoft would do the right thing, but here we are. Microsoft’s consumer launch and PR around UWP are in full swing, and this side of the story must be told.

 

Microsoft’s intentions must be judged by Microsoft’s actions, not Microsoft’s words. Their actions speak plainly enough: they are working to turn today’s open PC ecosystem into a closed, Microsoft-controlled distribution and commerce monopoly, over time, in a series of steps of which we’re seeing the very first. Unless Microsoft changes course, all of the independent companies comprising the PC ecosystem have a decision to make: to oppose this, or cede control of their existing customer relationships and commerce to Microsoft’s exclusive control.

 

 

 

I did originally write a slightly different reply but this hateful forum software decided to eat it (twice now, POS) and not save any of it. Bring back preview in the next version please.

 

https://soundcloud.com/polygon-newsworthy/4-tim-sweeney-on-microsofts-evil-plan?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PolygonNewsworthy+(Polygon+Newsworthy)

 

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2 hours ago, Boozy The Clown said:

 

That's a very poor article.

 

It doesn't document his full twitter exchange with that guy who thinks he's being clever and that Sweeney doesn't know what he's talking about. Project Centennial is about repackaging win32 programs into UWP containers and putting them on the store. It is not about having native win32 applications on the store.

 

 

Nothing there has really made anything Sweeney has said redundant. It's 18 months since this stuff launched and apparently the Build conference 2016 is the right and appropriate time for them to talk about how their platform is truly open. People are accusing him of "screaming doomsday without full technical details" rather than wondering why there are no technical details this far down the line.

 

He wrote an op-ed to call attention to something he has had concerns about for over a year and has been talking to Microsoft (including Phil Spencer) about behind the scenes, but apparently some guy on Twitter has more information on the matter than him and now that Phil has tweeted that UWP is a truly open platform, everyone's happy. Apparently Phil forgot to mention that (or anything else to allay his fears) during their discussions? 

 

It's pretty mind boggling to see people sit on NeoGAF and hate on Sweeney for daring to call out Microsoft on practices he sees as worrying without an actual smoking gun, for no other reason than it involves the multibillion dollar company that they for some reason have a personal attachment to.

 

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So MS were shady in the past, got slapped for their practises, promised to not be shady for 10 years. 10 years have passed MS are being a wee bit shady leading up to pulling a big shady move if their current plans are successful, but based on the reception Tomb Raider and Gears have received they've shot themselves in the foot with limitations and support for features expected by the community they're trying to court. 

 

I get it now. The original complaint was poorly expressed due to the what if nature it all. 

 

Of course it's good that a high profile PC guy came out to express concerns and now it's up to MS to prove their true intentions with their plans. It being MS though it may be a case of sheer stupidity on their part where they can't see the woods for the trees. It's not like they haven't been this short sighted to the obvious reaction to their ideas. Always online, pricing and Kinect bundling being the obvious examples. 

 

Of course they may just be as evil and corporate as everyone thinks and are terrible at hiding it when it comes to expressing it in a positive light.

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The thing about Project Centennial which doesn't seem to be clarified is does it then make legacy Win32 apps have the same restrictions and control from Microsoft, which Win32 apps natively currently do not.

 

If UWP had the same level playing field of access as Win32 has, Sweeney would have no problems with it, but as things stand, it doesn't and the fear is it won't. Microsoft can fix this easily enough, as Sweeney outlines in his letter, they've just so far not shown they will.

 

Phil Spencer might be willing to do what he wants, the problem is Phil Spencer isn't the only person at Microsoft with the power to choose the direction of how this plays out.

 

As Tim Sweeney says at the end of the Polygon interview, Bill Gates or Nadella could have turned off all the phone home stuff introduced in Win10 if they chose to, they didn't. That's the level of person from Microsoft who has to commit to opening up UWP to the same extent Win32 currently is, not just one of their underlings.

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UWP will never replace traditional Win32 (Windows API) programming. You will always be able to choose which you want to support. They've already opened up Win 10 so you can sideload apps in if you want. UWP is a Trojan horse, not to force consumers to purchase specific apps/programs from a specific store, but to get more people developing for Win 10. UWP allows everything to be produced quicker/easier so that you CAN release on as many platforms as possible, not that you're forced to release on one. The purchase of Xamarin enables C#/.Net to be used to push things to Android and iOS, as well as Windows, and the open-sourcing of .Net means, you don't like the way a feature is working...Change it! If anyone took half a minute to look at what UWP actually is, rather than second guess what it might become, you will see that it can only help developers, with a negligible impact on consumers.

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1 hour ago, mushashi said:

The thing about Project Centennial which doesn't seem to be clarified is does it then make legacy Win32 apps have the same restrictions and control from Microsoft, which Win32 apps natively currently do not.

 

If UWP had the same level playing field of access as Win32 has, Sweeney would have no problems with it, but as things stand, it doesn't and the fear is it won't. Microsoft can fix this easily enough, as Sweeney outlines in his letter, they've just so far not shown they will.

 

Phil Spencer might be willing to do what he wants, the problem is Phil Spencer isn't the only person at Microsoft with the power to choose the direction of how this plays out.

 

As Tim Sweeney says at the end of the Polygon interview, Bill Gates or Nadella could have turned off all the phone home stuff introduced in Win10 if they chose to, they didn't. That's the level of person from Microsoft who has to commit to opening up UWP to the same extent Win32 currently is, not just one of their underlings.

 

Microsoft is far better under Nadella. Look at the difference between Office on Android, and all their other apps on Android, and Microsoft Garage, and compare that to Steve "I'm going to fucking kill Google" Ballmer. 

 

Anyway, couple of questions for you:

 

1. Do you genuinely think they'll hobble UWP by not giving access to certain features (e.g., vsync toggle)? Is that in keeping with the way MS tend to develop their vast APIs over time?

2. How many feature requirement decisions go all the way up to the CEO of a company with 118k employees? 

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18 minutes ago, *chin* said:

UWP will never replace traditional Win32 (Windows API) programming. You will always be able to choose which you want to support. They've already opened up Win 10 so you can sideload apps in if you want. UWP is a Trojan horse, not to force consumers to purchase specific apps/programs from a specific store, but to get more people developing for Win 10. UWP allows everything to be produced quicker/easier so that you CAN release on as many platforms as possible, not that you're forced to release on one. The purchase of Xamarin enables C#/.Net to be used to push things to Android and iOS, as well as Windows, and the open-sourcing of .Net means, you don't like the way a feature is working...Change it! If anyone took half a minute to look at what UWP actually is, rather than second guess what it might become, you will see that it can only help developers, with a negligible impact on consumers.

 

Sweeny has experience of it, and your first assertion is based on what? UWP should be seen as a potentially superior replacement to Win32 as it saves devs work in terms of supporting multiple target hardware so why wouldn't it eventually supplant Win32 as the dominant API for Windows on the desktop? At which point, what would be in it for Microsoft to continue keeping Win32 at feature parity with UWP in terms of access to new Windows OS features? when UWP is better for them.


 

Quote

 

GamesBeat: He brought up sideloading, and you brought up sideloading as well.

 

Sweeney: Yes. That needs more scrutiny. Right after Windows 10 came out, I tried to build a UWP app and distribute it and install it from the web as an experiment. I found a lot of roadblocks. For example, having to create a Microsoft developer account and get Microsoft’s permission to develop for their platform. You have to submit your application to Microsoft and be digitally signed with their DRM.

 

If you did those things and you changed some operating system settings, which Kevin now says don’t need to be changed, then you could place your application on a web page as a zip file which a user could download and copy into Windows Explorer and dig into to find a script file, which they can run with Windows PowerShell, which has the effect of installing the application. It’s a very complicated process that requires permissions.

 

In my understanding – and please do seek Kevin’s technical clarification on that process and whether I am wrong – it certainly isn’t at all in the spirit of building and distributing a Win32 app, which anyone can do without Microsoft’s permission. You can have a single button in your web page that downloads it. Click on the download and installs. You’re two mouse-clicks away from any executable program on Windows or Mac, which is the existing status quo. As I’d say, I’d welcome Kevin’s corrections, but this is my experience.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, TehStu said:

 

Microsoft is far better under Nadella. Look at the difference between Office on Android, and all their other apps on Android, and Microsoft Garage, and compare that to Steve "I'm going to fucking kill Google" Ballmer. 

 

Anyway, couple of questions for you:

 

1. Do you genuinely think they'll hobble UWP by not giving access to certain features (e.g., vsync toggle)? Is that in keeping with the way MS tend to develop their vast APIs over time?

2. How many feature requirement decisions go all the way up to the CEO of a company with 118k employees? 

 

1. They won't hobble UWP, the fear is they will instead slowly but surely disadvantage the older completely open Win32 and favour the locked down UWP going forward instead. The problem being UWP is currently completely under Microsoft's control, unlike Win32 for which you don't need Microsoft's blessing or permission to build an app for. Fix that and Tim Sweeney STFU about it, That's all he wants, the same openness for UWP as is enjoyed by developers using Win32.

 

2. Excessive phoning home on Win10 is a decision which goes all the way to the top, so is general corporate strategy, of which UWP is a pretty important part of keeping Microsoft relevant into the future as mobile makes Windows less relevant to a lot of people in general. Most people I know use Android or iOS more than they do Windows these days, no wonder they had to start giving OS upgrades away.

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1 hour ago, mushashi said:

 

1. They won't hobble UWP, the fear is they will instead slowly but surely disadvantage the older completely open Win32 and favour the locked down UWP going forward instead. The problem being UWP is currently completely under Microsoft's control, unlike Win32 for which you don't need Microsoft's blessing or permission to build an app for. Fix that and Tim Sweeney STFU about it, That's all he wants, the same openness for UWP as is enjoyed by developers using Win32.

 

2. Excessive phoning home on Win10 is a decision which goes all the way to the top, so is general corporate strategy, of which UWP is a pretty important part of keeping Microsoft relevant into the future as mobile makes Windows less relevant to a lot of people in general. Most people I know use Android or iOS more than they do Windows these days, no wonder they had to start giving OS upgrades away.

 

In what way is UWP under their control? Do Microsoft need to sign all UWP apps?

 

I understand it's strategy, although your assessment is at odds with Sweeney's. This whole argument boils down to "keep windows the lolworthy thing it's always been, right up to the point where it fades into irrelevance."

 

edit - never mind, saw the reply above. Ironically, this actually protects users to some degree, like a lot of features they add of late. "Excessive" crash data, for example, because they should be able to resolve issues on absurd numbers of hardware configurations without it. I'm not cheerleading for them here, I just think people have comical expectations of them.

 

edit - had another think about this, it doesn't make sense for them to also maintain win32, nor would we expect them to as previous frameworks were made obsolete. Spencer is going to look like an idiot if you can't subsequently install UWP without sideloading (which isn't as horrendous as Sweeney tried to make it out, I had to do it to fix OneNote recently), so one assumes that'll be a future feature. I don't see the issue with vetting developers, because we all demand they make Windows more secure while allowing it to be completely open. I guess the rest comes down to how much you trust recent Microsoft, versus Ballmer's.

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44 minutes ago, rafaqat said:

"download zip file, extract, run script with a user who has permissions to modify your system"

Sounds well complicated. :)

 

You run scripts you download from the internet from untrusted sources and don't understand ?

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1 hour ago, footle said:

 

You run scripts you download from the internet from untrusted sources and don't understand ?

 

Not at all .  It was more a comment on Tim Sweeney's description of how hard it was to install a UWP app from outside the store.  

It's about as risky as running an EXE from the internet from untrusted sources.

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, HarryBizzle said:

Why PC games should never become universal 'apps' - PC Gamer

 

 

Very good piece from Durante, talking about limitations of UWP and how the affect gaming and the bigger picture of why people are so suspicious of it.

 

Well written, and I've been PC gaming since MSDOS 3 so appreciate the historic look at Microsoft. Within the context of this thread (i.e., UWP and PC gaming), it's all fair commentary, although he reiterates that you can't publish UWP outside of the Windows Store, thus rendering Steam and GOG defunct... we've been told this is not true.

 

As a counterpoint, I think this Ars article makes a reasoned argument for some of the stuff UWP brings, even if it's true that it's come about because Xbox One isn't doing as well as expected:

 

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/03/tim-sweeney-is-missing-the-point-the-pc-platform-needs-fixing/

 

The problem is, we want PCs that are open as they have been from the beginning, and then we lol at Windows for being a security swiss cheese. I would hope they find middle ground, somehow emphasizing that (truly), most people on PCs are better off hand held and sandboxed, and leave the the full control to those who need it.

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Sweeney isn't against UWP, he can see the benefits of it technically. He just wants the same level of control over his UWAs as he does his Win32 apps, which means Microsoft have to fulfill these promises Phil Spencer is only now making, as if this stuff was on the roadmap, you'd think he would have assured Sweeney ages ago during the meetings they had on the subject, which he clearly didn't at the time.

 

I'd rather stick to the unsecure Win32 than have to put up with some mobile-inspired authoritarian app future where everything exists at the beneficence of some benign dictatorship, which kind of mirrors how things are developing in the real world.

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Yeah, I was addressing the quoted article.

 

As to whether they're back peddling via Spencer, does it matter? Surely this was Sweeney's aim, to go public and force this as they weren't getting it behind the scenes.

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Practically I suppose not, but without their hand being forced in public, you can see the direction things might have played out if Microsoft management were left to make their preferred choices without interference. Why wouldn't Microsoft want to turn Windows into something closer to iOS? It's all upside for them.

 

They could technically turn off all their phone home stuff in Win10 too if they wanted, but the consumer apathy on the matter means they don't have to. It didn't exist to this level in previous versions of WinNT, it doesn't have to in this one.

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