There’s been lots of negativity surrounding Windows 8, its new interface, the Windows Store, and how all those elements affect PC gaming. Valve’s head-honcho, Gabe Newell, has vocalized his disapproval, although it can possibly be linked with the fact that his company will soon have another competitor in the software distribution market. Likewise, Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson also voiced his displeasure with Microsoft’s new OS.
But what does any of this mean for you, the common gamer, who has no interest in software development or distribution? It means absolutely nothing and everything. Let me explain.
Windows 8 UI
Windows 8′s new panel-driven “Modern UI” interface, at one point called Metro, replaces the standard desktop when booting into a PC (you can return to the a slightly neutered desktop view by clicking the start button). A few actions that I once found simple to execute have become a bit more complex and counter-intuitive–uninstalling a game quickly comes to mind.
If you’re in Windows 8′s traditional desktop view, you’ll find that you can only delete desktop apps. Software downloaded via the Modern UI is uninstalled from within the new interface. Applications not yet supported by the tile-based UI (Steam, Origin) launch from the classic desktop by default.
This disorganized, schizophrenic split between the new and old is frustrating. Playing The Walking Dead takes me to the desktop, while Microsoft games open in the new view. It might seem like a minor complaint, but if you dig deeper you’ll find that this affects the way developers build their games.
Microsoft has had its hand in digital sales for quite some time with the very well established Xbox Live Marketplace, and plans to expand with Windows Store. There’s additional upside to this: having a certification process creates conformity and regulates requirements that all apps should meet like the ability to uninstall, sanitized and organized code, and overall app efficiency. This also means that patches have to be thoroughly tested, and any kinks within them fixed before they’re released to the public. This should hopefully prevent another Fez situation from occurring and deliver top-quality product free of disastrous bugs (Skyrim, I’m looking your way). If this works out how Microsoft intends, consumers and gamers will have easier times updating their software, and buying and playing games.
The way content is categorized makes sense. If you know what you’re looking for, the search bar is a blessing (just remember to hover your mouse over the top right corner of the screen for it to appear). Gamers, rest assured that even Mature (PEGI 18 for you British blokes) titles will be available in the store. Modders, games purchased from the store will not be moddable, but if they’re purchased elsewhere, you’ll be fine.
Playing Games in Windows 8
I was able to enjoy everything I was playing on Windows 7 before the big move to Windows 8. The Walking Dead, Borderlands 2, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Guild Wars 2, Hawken, Braid, Bastion, and Super Meat Boy.
What Windows 8 Means for Gaming
Ultimately, Windows 8 gaming can go in one of two directions. Nothing changes and gamers continue to experience the joys of PC gaming, or the more bleak but improbable case where developers refuse to support the platform. Notch has already stated that he will not.
As much as I respect Notch for his game design and indie development prowess, Minecraft is a browser-based Java game that’s made its way to numerous platforms meaning that he needn’t worry about compatibility issues. I don’t know about Notch’s future products, but would he really ignore Windows 8 in favor of Mac OS X? Or Linux? Both of those platforms are moving forward in terms of gaming, but we can safely say they aren’t close to matching Windows’ footprint. I don’t see developers going anywhere right now.
Instead, why don’t we revel in the new platform’s power? Windows 8 is PC gaming’s “next gen.” Direct X 11.1 and 12 is knocking on our doors and pushing the graphical possibilities. Xbox owners have another platform on which to attach their gamertags and stay connected with friends. Smart Glass integration improves media interaction across the Xbox and Windows 8. You’ll still be able to play your favorite games some even running better. There’s a huge reason we’re only hearing complaints from distributors, but not a peep from other PC gaming markets. Graphics card and peripheral manufacturers would certainly voice their concerns if they felt that Windows 8 has the potential to harm PC gaming in any way. In fact, ATI and Nvidia are already pushing out updated drivers.
After 40 days of using Windows 8, I’ve found the new operating system responsive and free of compatibility issues. Sure, it has a duality that may prove vexing to some, but gamers have very little to fear at this point and no reason to prematurely dub Windows 8 a flop.