Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is your malfunction, Mister?

So the word came out. Batman:Arkhum Asylum was on sale over at Games For Windows Live. The bargain price of $12 for a game still selling at near the original published price after being released in December 2009.

Two things ran through my mind; the few interactions I've had with Games For Windows Live (GFWL) and the possibility of downloading from a source that doesn't have the best reputation on the internet.

My interactions with GFWL was limited to the interference felt in Gears of War and Dawn of War 2. The pulsing box and message reminding me that GFWL was only the press of a button away may have been put there for convenience but  what it meant to me was the gaming division of microsoft was lurking around somewhere in the cyberbackground of my game.

I had been the picture of patience with Batman: Arkham Asylum, refusing to pay full price for a game that wouldn't live beyond the first play-through. And while the offer from GFWL was very tempting, the world of direct downloads is  dark and mysterious place. Money is given and aside from a download link, there is nothing to show for your hard earned money, wisked away in an electronic transaction.

I mentally assured myself it was Microsoft for heavens sake, how terrible or risky could it be?

Working my way through the different screens, I tried to remember login's and passwords that had been typed in the rushed excitement of conquering another planet in the role of a space marine or eliminating the Locust Horde.

The interface was nice, and the whole thing moved along quite nicely. That is until the downloading started.

This impression is given without any exact facts or statistics, I don't know how big the file was that needed to be downloaded. As with most things, it was mixed in with real life and the exact details get lost in the overal flow of things. Nor did I start a timer when the download kicked off. But I came away feeling it took so much longer than any game bought on the popular digital distributor, Steam.

At least three-quarters of my games are from Steam, and while I'm an old time gamer who misses the excitement and joy of buying the box, running home and loading up a newly bought game to take my latest gaming adventure, practicality of the new age has won me over.

I can reformat my hard drive, update my computer hardware and not worry about having all the game DVD's and serial numbers at hand. One software download to install the Steam inteface on the latest incarnation of my gaming computer and viola, I have my games ready to go.

Looking back, I was fortunate real life distracted me from the slow download. After coming back from an evening of family obligations, the game was only at 93% completed, and although not mathematically possible, the last 7% surely took longer than the rest.

Once the game was finally on my hard drive, it only seemed a matter of time before wits would be matched with the Joker and wearing clothes so tight it was obvious I was confident with my sexuality. But that wasn't accounting for GFWL and the cryptic microsoft error codes. For whatever reason, the game wouldn't install. After following the support screens from GFWL and Microsoft (they quickly become intermingled) and another download later, the game wouldn't install again.

I switched off my computer in disgust.

Even as I dreaded the call to Microsoft support to find out where my $12 game was, the thought of just waiting until I buy the game in a more guaranteed manner did cross my mind. So it was with curious interest I noticed the icon for Batman; Arkham Asylum on my start menu. But having been teased by Microsoft in the past with half-installed products, there was only a hint of hope it would work when I clicked it.

The game started.

To be fair, the demo fairly represented the final game with the scenes that were included giving a familiar air to the finished product, finally playing out before me. Sure the game is 'so console' I wanted to look for the X, 0 and triangle on my keyboard, but taking the mantle of the Dark Knight in the moody halls of a Gotham landmark made up for any key punching, power-ups and incessant on-screen tips.

While this game isn't going to make it onto the replay list, playing through the Rocksteady creation will certainly be fun and something to look forward too.

The same can't be said for GFWL.

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