Thursday 2 December 2010

Games For Windows - Dead

Things are busy on the gaming front with regular groups in Warhammer Online and Lord of the Rings Online, an imminent Cataclysm in the Shattered World of Warcraft, and an occasional spot of heavy metal action in the ongoing World of Tanks beta. And an occasional spot of heavy metal action in Rock Band 3. With Pirates of the Burning Sea hoving into view, free-to-play pennants fluttering tantalisingly, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any shortage of gaming options, even as particularly early snow here threatens transport chaos. I mean obviously we’re all desperately hoping that workplaces stay open and nobody is forced to stay in a lovely, cosy house, with no choice but to play lots of games, that would be terrible, but we’re prepared for the worst. (Though if the phone lines are affected, I might go slightly mental again.)

With a plentiful supply of games to hand, I almost resisted an entire Steam sale. Almost. Batman: Arkham Asylum for £5 was just too good to pass up. After getting it downloaded and installed I went to fire it up for a quick look, but the game refused to load. Slightly annoying. Some cursory Googling suggested good old Games For Windows Live might have been getting in a huff, so I thought I’d double check the GFWL client, and found that at some point since the last time I’d fired it up (probably for Episodes From Liberty City) it had morphed into Games For Windows Live Marketplace with a new client. And it refused to start up. And any other GFWL game I tried refused to start up.

Annoyinger and annoyinger. Yet more Googling suggested getting Windows Live Essentials updated. I use the Windows Live Mail client (I know, I know; I’ve tried to switch to other clients a few times, but after using Outlook Express for years it’s just been more convenient to keep going with the Microsoft offerings), and a couple of months back Windows had suggested upgrading to Windows Live Essentials 2011. So I did. And Windows Live Mail refused to load, with an unhelpful error message, so after much swearing I ripped out the 2011 stuff and managed to reinstall the previous version, miraculously retaining all the archived mail and account settings. Still, maybe something had been tweaked since then… Installed Live Essentials 2011, mail wouldn’t load. Games For Windows Live Marketplace wouldn’t load. Games wouldn’t load. Live Messenger wouldn’t load. Error messages varied from the unhelpful (“*Thing* has stopped working”) to the non-existent.

So uninstalled Live Essentials. Rebooted. Uninstalled Games For Windows Live Marketplace. Rebooted. Uninstalled any .NET frameworks I could find. Rebooted. Reinstalled .NET frameworks. Rebooted. Reinstalled Games For Windows. Rebooted. Anything look like it was in the slightest danger of working? Course not. Yanked bits out of the registry, deleted random folders, plugged everything into different USB ports, adjusted the legs on the keyboard to change the angle of it, moved both monitors three inches to the left, uninstalled and reinstalled everything a couple more times just for fun, not a chance. Got Windows Live Mail back, at least, with the previous version again, and found a previous version of the Games for Windows installer, which started looking hopeful; it remembered my GamerTag and everything, I logged in and… it automatically updated itself. And stopped working. Of course. That pretty much took up an evening during which BBFC guidelines accompanying the troubleshooting warned of “frequent repeated and extremely sustained use of very strong language”.

Day two saw a half-hearted reprise of the main install/uninstall theme with some slight variations, on the off chance that the alignment of the planets had shifted sufficiently to cause software to start working miraculously. It hadn’t. Was always a bit of a long shot, really. As a last resort I thought I might as well post in the tech support section of so hit the “Sign In” button, put in my details, went to post and… apparently I needed to set up a gamer tag. Which I’m sure I had. Clicked the link, it takes you off to the XBox Live site, logged in, checked profile, added information to all the fields in there in case that was why it was in a huff, went back… there was a login/password box. In which neither the GFWL e-mail or gamer tag worked. Genius. A log-in problem when trying to post on a forum to get help with log-in problems. Just the sort of thing that could tip a man over the edge into an insane rampage, but without easy access to a stockpile of automatic weapons I just said “bother”, and had a nice cup of tea.

There’s doubtless some weird and frinky combination of hardware, software and/or settings somewhere in the bowels of Windows causing problems with the full range of Live stuff, which will probably only be solved by a full reinstall sometime (though I might try and find an early restore point, just on the off chance). I don’t think I can be bothered for Arkham Asylum, but I was rather looking forward to the PC release of Fable III, which of course demands the hellspawned Games for arsemongering Windows. It wouldn’t be quite so galling if it wasn’t for the fact the GFWL adds slightly less than bugger all to the overall experience of any game, it’s almost enough to drive a man to a console. Almost. I hear that XBox Live service is very good…

((December 3rd Update: Managed to fix it in the end. I boot off a small SSD C: drive, with a big ol’ D: drive where most things are installed. To keep the C: drive clear, I’ve pointed as much as possible at the D: drive. Which everything was perfectly happy with for a year or so, but obviously revised MS policy is for everything to have to be in the default C: installation, otherwise it’ll throw a fit with no useful error.))

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