Personal blog of Elijs 'X2Eliah' Dima

Can we send GFWL to an Asylum? Because it’s completely crazy.

I feel a disclaimer is in effect. Generally, I can accept DRM. I don’t like them – I hate when there’s layers of them – but I accept that currently that’s the name of the game, and to play a lot of games you just have to also use the DRM systems – steam, origin, securom, impulse, sonydrm (I have no idea what it’s industry name is), ubidrm, games for windows live.

Hoo boy, games for windows live. It’s allegedly a marketplace, just like Steam, Impulse and Origin are. It has a pitiful catalogue and terrible prices, and it’s often been a pain for many gamers. I’ve had to deal with it in four games – Fable 3, GTA4, Fallout3, and Batman: Arkham Asylum. I’ve played and finished all of those games. This morning, I decided to reinstall Batman: AA from steam, just to do a few days of neat batmanplaying. How did it go? Oh, brilliantly. It wen’t so well I’m positively speechless. forwardslashsarcasm

So, let’s start by downloading the game on steam. Simple enough, right? I mean, it’s in my library, I don’t have to do anything extensive; steam already knows I have bought and own the game. A quick download later, the game is listed as playable in my steam library. Cool.

Steam library

Turns out a previous nearly-finished playthrough was only 13 hours. That’s.. really short for a full-priced game, isn’t it?

Let’s launch it. Here’s what pops up next:

Steam notification of the digitally downloaded game's CD key

A *CD* key for a *digitally downloaded* game. The world’s gone mad.

Um. W..why? First of all, why is it a “CD key”? I bought the game on steam, I always downloaded it from steam. In stores, the game is released on DVDs. Where the heck does a Compact Disc feature in all of that? Moreover, Steam, darling, you already know that I own this game! Why should I care about what character strings you internally use to verify that fact for yourself? Keep it to yourself, please. Well, okay. Fine. I guess, since it is a “multipayer CD key”, I will get some bonus online stuff, maybe deathmatches or co-op, right? Let’s write the key down on paper (just in case), copy it to clipboard, and play the game.

Aha. So that’s why it showed me the key.

SecuROM activation

SecuROM, securom.. Hey, wasn’t that the thing that had limited up-to-five install limit once?

Well, this is idiotic. Why does it need to verify the game’s legitimacy if it is already launched from a DRM system (steam)? Why cannot steam automatically pass the cd-key to this thing on launch? Siigh. Well, okay. Let’s be reasonable, right? This game probably is not optimized for steam, it’s just a single master binary file distributed on all kinds of channels & media as-is.. So digital download users get stuck with the same DRM that the disc-version users have. Stupid, yes, but, well, I cansort of understand and accept that. I don’t like it, but, fine. CTRL+V, the key is input and submitted and accepted, and I can play. Just 10 seconds once on install – I can deal with this, sure.

Batman AA GOTY title screen

Yay! I can now play the game!

So far so good. After setting up the display options and controls in a launcher, I see this screen. Why do I have to “click to start”, though? Pretty daft, isn’t it? Well, anyway, *click*… //Disclaimer – the next screens are cropped just for the GFWL sections to save size and resolution. The full overlay only takes up about 40% of the game screen and is a really tightly-packed needless waste of screen real estate.

Games for windows live welcome screen

This is what is presented. This game, apparently, requires one more profile. Is the Steam profile not enough? .. Well, yeah, okay, I did know about this, obviously, as I have played the game, its just that I want to fully outline how idiotic this is. I already have a profile – on STEAM – that could be fully used to handle any achievements and whatever elses. Well, okay, let’s go with the “Use Existing LIVE Profile” option, shall we?

Games for windows live sing-in screen

Sorry for the black bars. I am just needlessly cautious.

At least it offers the option to save the e-mail address and password, and log me in the next time automatically. That automation makes it all kind of bearable. From experience, I know that the sign-in process is quite slow, even on autopilot, takes several tens of seconds each time, and god forbid your internet connection doesn’t work – but frankly, I’ve had issues with steam in such cases as well, so let’s give that a slide for now. Because here is what happens next:

Games for windows live CD key screen

Again, black bars. Sorry. Rest assured that I triple-checked all that I entered, and it was definitely correct.

Urgh. Again? Really? REALLY? There’s two major issues here. First off – why do I have to enter the damn cd key for the second time? SecuROM already has it. Steam also already has it. What possible use is it for me entering it again? And, I cannot even paste it here, I have to enter it manually. Why is that bad? Because I am a human, and I could potentially mistake 0 with o, or 8 with B. But, no, I do a very throgugh triple-check of the numbers I enter, to make sure they are correct. Just in case, you know? Second, this is a problem because I already played this game. I already have it registered on my LIVE account!


See? Batman: Arkham Asylum. Right there.

So Microsoft already knows I have the game. Why do I have to enter its cd-key again, for what possible reason?

But wait, it get’s better. Because, once I enter (correctly) the CD key that steam gave me and that SecuROM accepted, I get.. this:

Downloading profile

What is it “downloading”?

Games for windows live invalid cd key message

……….. the hell is this crap?

Yeah. Bam. Right there. What the bloody hell is this nonsense? No, let me put it like this: WHAT THE FU***NG HELL IS THIS PILE OF BULL EXCREMENT? No, the CD key IS goddamn valid! As I said, Steam says it is valid. SecuROM says it is valid, for godssakes. What the goddamn hell is going on here? (By the way, I actually uninstalled and reinstalled the game again at this point, to get all the screenshots – clearly I didn’t anticipate this the first time, and didn’t screencap all the processes. All events were exactly identical both times.)

Well, guess what. Fine. FINE. I don’t need a stupid LIVE profile to just play a game. I don’t care for achievements, so there’s nothing that thelive profile can offer me. I have my harddrive for screenshots and saves, and I have steam’s cloud for uploading both of those if I ever wanted to do that. So here’s what we will do. Let’s click on “try again” (which by the way does not help in any way, I tried some 3 or 4 times before giving up), and then just press the red X to close this GFWL profile nonsense and just get on with the game.

Upon closing the GFWL overlay, here’s what pops up in the game itself:

Arkham Asylum no profile


Son of a…

Seriously? I cannot save even my SINGLEPLAYER progress in a game that I BOUGHT ON STEAM, that passed SECUROM VALIDATION? Because some ass-backwards idiotic “Games for Windows LIVE” profile cannot understand that I OWN THIS GAME, even when on xbox live homepage it clearly shows this game in my profile?!

Fuck this. Seriously, fuck this bullshit. Obviously I won’t bother to play this – there’s no point, without saving/loading any game longer than 1 hour is basically unplayable.

Now, I could try and go to steam support. They will forward me to games for windows live support. There, I will spend 3, 4, maybe more weeks in total. All the while trying to somehow prove that I own the game, just so I can save my singleplayer progress in it. After those 4 weeks of dealing with tech support and non-answers and so on, am I expected to even enjoy the game anymore? How can I like it, how can I play it when at any moment some fuck-up on GFWL can mean I lose all my saved progress again and cannot authenticate my valid, purchased game?

What this calls for is “uninstall”. Or, as steam puts it, “delete local content”. I don’t need 8 worthless gigabytes of bullshit just sitting on my hard drive, after all. I once liked this game. I once nearly finished it already. Now, it seems I can never play it again past the first death / shutdown. At this point, it is a glorified, bloated demo. That I paid for.

So, bottom line? Fuck Games for Windows Live. I have dealt with many DRM systems – some better, some worse. Nothing, NOTHING has given this amount of bullshit problems that GFWL does. Not Origin, not UbiDRM, not SecuROM, not even Starforce, forgodssakes! No, I won’t bother contacting GFWL support, or trying to debug via IP packet tracing where exactly the breakdown is. I am a legit customer, I bought the game with actual money, I don’t deserve this nonsense. Can you guess what difficulties people who play pirated versions have due to this? NONE WHATSOEVER. They can happily enjoy their free entertainment, while I am some amount of $ shorter and all I have is that 13-hour counter on Steam and some vague year-old memories of the first playthrough. Because I am morally against piracy, I won’t obtain “an alternate version” or whatever they call it these days. I just won’t play this game.

And I won’t play any other game with GFWL. No Arkham City. No replays of my other 3 games on GFWL. No other upcoming or released games that are tied to GFWL. Because there are stores, marketplaces and even DRM systems that don’t screw me over. Yeah, they still assume I am a criminal, that I have to always prove my legitimacy. At least they have the courtesy of acknowledging what I own.

7 responses

  1. I often feel that I should get me a gaming PC so I can have the mods, the better graphics, the larger indie scene and stuff, but then something like this comes along 🙂 I feel bad for you…

    02/07/2012 at 10:50

  2. And Microsoft will probably never fix GFWL and all that’s wrong with it. Shame. Arkham City is a great game, but not for the PC. I would advocate getting a game console, but really you should be able to play games you legitimately own.

    02/07/2012 at 13:09

  3. I got Arkham Asylum on PC just like you. And I got thoroughly fed up with GFWL at the time, though it didn’t stop me from playing through the game twice. I have refused to go back to it, however. And since I got an XBox 360 between the launch of the first and second game, that’s the platform I got Arkham City on, because I was damned if I’d need to deal with GFWL again.

    02/07/2012 at 15:18

  4. krellen

    I’m currently embroiled in trying to get a refund for my purchase of DoW2 because GFWL is required to even play single player.

    03/07/2012 at 02:04

    • Let’s hope it makes it through, then. I guess you could have the best argument-case if the GFWL requirement was not pre-specified on singleplayer on purchase.

      03/07/2012 at 07:55

  5. Pingback: Big shoes, Small dogs « O.G.R.E. (altar)

  6. hussam

    i cant play they need the serial number PLZ hlp ???

    30/04/2015 at 23:38

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