The PC gaming industry still doesn’t understand “user-friendly”.


I love PC games, but loathe the hassle that too-often comes with trying to play one. Console games, like the ones my grandson plays, are easy to use. Pop them in and they work almost all of the time. PC games, on the other hand, are needlessly complex and frequently require extensive troubleshooting before you get to play them.

Let me give a recent example.

I saw that Mass Effect was now $9.99 at STEAM. I have a retail box copy of the game and loved it (once some early bugs were squashed), so I decided to get a download for the grandson.

The game downloaded and installed with no problems. However, Mass Effect has a piece of free downloadable content called Bring Down the Sky. It adds a new and rather lengthy side mission and I consider it part of the game.

But, it isn’t included in the STEAM download. You have to find it. Then you have to hunt the forums to figure out how to install it. Then you have to jump through a series of hoops to actually get it and install it. Let me elaborate.

I Google-searched until I found a link to the DLC on the game studio’s webpage. However, to get it required registering the Mass Effect key code. Of course, given that this was a STEAM download, there was no CD key code. So, you have to hunt through STEAM forum files to find post on how to locate a Mass Effect game config utility within the STEAM files on your hard drive. Once there, you can have it look up the key code for Mass Effect.

The you have to create a Bioware Community Account, which requires creating a username and password. Once you have done that, you can input the key code. Oh, and you can’t cut-and-paste it. You have to write it down and manually enter it, as cut-and-paste is apparently forbidden in the utility.

Then, once you enter the Mass Effect key code, you are supplied with ANOTHER key code to use for Bring Down the Sky!

My goodness this is a lot of hoops to jump through to access a silly piece of FREE CONTENT that should have been bundled with the original download! I figure at least an hour was spent to do this and it was only accomplished because I had the computer technical skills (and bullheadedness) to do it.

I also had to manually hunt for a patch for my copy of the game, which I couldn’t locate at either Bioware or Electronic Arts. I found it at a LEGAL games file download site that warehouses patches.

Hey gaming industry, why not make life simpler for your customers. We want to play games, not engage in tech support and Internet detective work.

My ideas for making things more user-friendly include:

1. Bundle any free DLC in with ALL VERSIONS of the game that are sold once the DLC is released, to include STEAM distribution. Include WORKING links to any paid add-ons you have available.

2. Alternately, make the DLC available as an optional free download that is readily accessible in all version of the game that are sold. This includes having it available via STEAM.

3. If it is free content, then stop making people have to register key codes, create user accounts, and generally be hassled to access their free content. We are NOT the pirates. We buy our games. Pirates already have both the game and all of the DLC readily available for fast download.

4. Make sure EVERY game shipped has an auto-update function. Don’t make me have to scour the Internet for patches. If your game is buggy, then please make it easy for me to get the fixes as they are released.

5. Keep downloadable copies of all patches in EASY TO FIND sections of both the original games studio’s and the publisher’s web page. It is inexcusable to make customers have to access third-party file download sites to get patches. If you want File Planet to host your patches, then make sure you supply links on the tech support web page. This also increases my piece of mind that the files will not be infected with viruses or malware.

NOTE: Kudos to STEAM for their automatic patching service. It is one of the reasons I buy games through them.

6. Stop making users of STEAM have to access the living nightmare that is Games for Windows Live (GFWL) to get DLC for games like Fallout 3. We get blatantly ripped off via their point system of purchases AND you manually have to cut-and-paste games files to other directories to get the DLC to function with STEAM. Please Bethesda Softworks, pretty please, make your Fallout 3 DLC available via STEAM so I can use one competent download service for all of my games transactions. It would save me money, time, and a whole lot of frustration.

7. If you are going to operate a games download service, then have a way for customers to contact your tech support or get refunds on screwed up transactions. I have had generally good support via STEAM, but Microsoft GFWL is a pathetic joke. You can’t even FIND a relevant online link for support if you have a problem. If they mess up a transaction (as they did for me), I guess you have to contact your credit card company and have them intervene.

In summary, it is time the gaming industry considered just how much time and energy their customers have to expend to get a game they bought to work, with all patches and DLC installed. We would much rather spend that time playing the games.

NOTE: Let me also give a big thumbs up for http://www.gog.com for making legal games downloads of classic games such a great experience. These folks seem to “get it” when it comes to customer service and they are getting more and more business from me as a result. I just bought three more copies of Divine Divinity from them as gifts for friends and family. Go gog.com!

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