I got The Boy some games for his birthday. I used to be a fairly heavy game player myself but haven’t really had the time in years. He’s playing on a machine that’s about six-years-old, which used to be old for my house. Except I started getting laptops instead of desktop machines (for various reasons) so the desktops are starting to creak a bit.
The three games were Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead. (I’ll leave you to figure out whether it’s mandatory for games to have a numeral in the title these days.) Left 4 Dead worked pretty well and he enjoyed it, though with games it’s often not as simple as “I liked it”. (Online play versus campaigns versus scenarios versus free-style versus whatever. A game can excel in one area and suck in the rest, but still be worth playing.)
Since I haven’t been able to use my work machine—I’m not allowed on the treadmill and it shows up on my tests when I cheat—I let The Boy replace his old one with mine. Fallout 3 looks great, but it locked up. GTA IV wouldn’t even start, though.
I’ll skip to the ending and say that I got it working, but here’s what had to be done:
1. Game installation. This takes about 18 whopping gigs of space. (18 gigs!)
2. Entering a massive serial code. Have you seen these? Here’s a sample: 8MEH-RB32G-UPE9U-TRLQR-BLQ9O-CEMBR-ACED. Is that a letter “O” or a zero? You may not know. That, by the way, is assuming you can find the code. It’s usually on the back of the manual, or printed on a disk sleeve, or a disk, or maybe a slip of paper included in the box—or maybe it’s nowhere at all and you bought yourself a $60 coaster.
3. But wait, there’s more! In order to play the game, you have to “activate” it. Sometimes this requires a different code like the one you ended in step 2. The software connects to the developer’s studio (Rockstar Games) and that has to work or you’re hosed. And a variety of issues can make this even more complicated.
4. You still can’t play your game, though, unless the damn DVD is in the drive. The software used to ensure the DVD is actually in the drive can cause all kinds of horrible problems with your system.
5. Almost always, you then have to download a patch and fix the game.
6. Now, when we started the game, it failed. We got a non-helpful error message that led to a bunch of elaborate suggestions on what might need to be done.
7. OK, well, I hadn’t upgraded my Windows from SP2 to SP3. SP3 has “Windows Genuine Advantage” in it. “Windows Genuine Advantage” of course provides no advantage to you, the user. It basically allows Microsoft to kill your computer from a distance if its authorization system which—and I know this may shock you—isn’t always correct about who it authorizes. I bite the bullet and do it anyway.
8. Windows Update required me to upgrade the Windows Updater. You can’t make this kind of thing up.
9. After that, the upgrade failed. The helpful advice from Microsoft? “Try again.” I did. I’m not sure where I’m more appalled that this is their advice, or that it worked.
10. Did I mention upgrading the video card driver? Yeah, did that, too. It’s always a good idea. (Mine was three years old, even though the machine is only two years old.)
11. OK, so now it’s time to try GTA again, right? Brand new error message: “The program failed to start. Check out our support web page.” No error number or details, just “It didn’t start: F**k you.” The only hint was that it was the RGSC.EXE program that failed. That doesn’t seem like GTA. That seems more like Rockstar Games Social Club. Which I don’t want. I just want to play the freakin’ game!
12. The web support page? Not surprisingly, no help for this completely worthless error message.
13. OK, I figure if it’s the freakin’ Social Club causing the problem, I’ll register with the freakin’ Social Club. I use my “ilovespam” e-mail and sign up. The form wants my phone number. Address. Unbelievable. I put in fakes or leave blank. There’s no way this should actually affect whether or not the game runs.
14. But it does. Now, RGSC doesn’t crash and the actual game starts. Yay, right!
15. WRONG! Now you need to update your Windows Live software. Windows Live is yet another freaking “social club”/vehicle for selling crap I don’t want. No choice, but at least it’s clear what’s wrong. I download and install Windows Live.
16. Now Windows Live wants me to join. Just kill me. I skip—but the program starts!! Yay! Now The Boy can boost cars and beat prostitutes!
Back in the DOS and early Windows days, there was all this crap you had to do to get games (like Doom) to run: Memory managers, specific graphics drivers, sound drivers, etc. It was all very technical. You could see why someone might flee to a Nintendo or Jaguar or whatever the kids were playing back then.
I didn’t mention it but I ignored 5 different license agreements in order to get this game to play. Crap like this is one reason I don’t play any more. It actually can be a lot worse. Like, you can get to the end of the process and discover that the game won’t play at all. It might be for a technical limitation—or it might just be that one of the half-dozen security protections failed and decided you were a scum-sucking thief.
The irony being that if you are a scum-sucking thief, you don’t have to deal with any of this.
UPDATE: I SPOKE TOO (*#&*(&q# SOON! GTA IV–after letting The Boy play all yesterday and save his games, today it insisted he have a Windows Live Login. Of course, having one, his save games from yesterday are all gone.
I HATE WINDOWS! I also hate freakin’ consoles. They think it’s cute to put on 5 minutes of copyright/warning/video/uninterruptible crap at the front, and that’s freakin’ infected PC games. Get over yourselves!