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Sephzilla avatar 7:30 PM on 04.11.2012  (server time)
Dark Souls – Prepare to Cry Edition

It isn't exactly unknown that gamers will cry about anything given the opportunity whether it's for a legitimate reason or a stupid one; 10 minutes of Mass Effect 3 apparently ruined 200+ hours of fun, Devil May Cry being handed to developers who are questionable with gameplay, Mega Man is apparently dead because he hasn't had a new game in a whole two years. It appears that another thing to cry about has popped up – Dark Souls: Prepare to Die for the PC uses Games for Windows Live (GFWL, for short) instead of using Steamworks. I really wouldn't write up a blog about this generally, but the fact that Dark Souls was never going to happen for PC originally until gamers asked for it and then they subsequently complain that the PC version they're getting isn't good enough, to the point where they're petitioning to change the game they petitioned to get in the first place, borderline infuriates me. First, let me pull a quote from the petition page I just linked you to;

After anxiously awaiting a PC release for this fantastic game it feels like a real slap in the face hearing Dark Souls will use Games for Windows Live.

There's a saying called “don't look a gift horse in the mouth”, and as far as I'm concerned this falls right in that category. I feel like the only real slap in the face occurring here is from the fans who can't simply be happy that Dark Souls is even getting a PC version at all. This isn't like Namco Bandai threw out a mediocre port of Dark Souls on launch day with the 360 and PS3 version just to net a few more cheap sales. The PC port of Dark Souls came as a result of a strong fan push and a rare response from a publisher. Dark Souls PC happened for the fans, and those same fans seem to be very quickly squashing that good will.

I'm not the biggest fan of Games for Windows Live, I would probably prefer Steamworks over it as well. However, I've personally never experienced issues with GFWL and know others who've likewise never had problems with the service at all, so in an odd way I feel obligated to at least defend the service before people decide to (with arguably good reason) shit on it. Along with that, I at least get a decent chance to at least try to take a different stance from others and provide a debate.

People need to step back and think about a few things when considering reasons why Games for Windows Live is being used for Dark Souls on the PC. First, Namco Bandai & FromSoftware simply don't put out many PC games what so ever, Wikipedia lists only two PC titles from Namco Bandai since 2006. Given their lack of presence in the PC market in general I'm willing to give them at least some sort of leeway regarding choosing GFWL over Steam (because hey, people make mistakes). Also, I'm going to Namco Bandai more so than FromSoftware in this blog since I find it very likely that Namco Bandai worked more on this port than FromSoftware did given that the later had been working on Armored Core V since Dark Souls was released.

Secondly, and more importantly, I would imagine that GFWL's online infrastructure isn't too dissimilar from what Xbox Live uses on the 360. Dark Souls was released on the Xbox 360, thus it's probably a safe thing to assume that the reason GFWL was chosen was because a lot of the netcode from the Xbox 360 version of the game could be used for the PC version. Given the already mentioned lack of PC game experience for either the publisher or developer, I don't see an issue with them taking a safe route by trying their best to preserve everything that's already working in their existing versions of the game. I know people will scoff at taking the easy route but as a person who does programming for a living I can totally understand the feeling of wanting to play it safe when working with something you might not be entirely familiar with.

My third point is something that I don't think many people would think of. Now, even I will admit, I'm likely giving Namco Bandai and FromSoftware too much credit by suggesting that this is a reason GFWL was selected but with both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dark Souls they were adamant about isolation and the feeling of being alone during the game. They even went to the extremes of booting you out of your current game on the Xbox 360 version if you tried to join an Xbox Live party. As anyone who uses Steam knows, by hitting Shift+Tab you can bring up the Steam overlay and contact any of your other Steam friends, even start up voice chats with them. Perhaps the developers wanted to preserve the alone feeling of Dark Souls on PC by denying them the ability to voice chat with others while playing the game, but what if it was deemed impossible (or they were denied by Valve) to disable Steam overlay or voice chat during Dark Souls? Citing the already mentioned similarities GFWL has to its Xbox 360 cousin, it's also probable to guess that perhaps there's an ability to disable any sort of similar communication abilities within GFWL. Once again, I'm not going to fault Dark Souls PC for taking a step to try and preserve as much of itself as it can. Yes, I know PC gamers could quickly hop on Skype or Ventrillo and very quickly solve this problem anyway (just like you could workaround this hurdle on the consoles).

You know what, think about this as well – Dark Souls is all about difficulty and suffering, if Games for Windows Live is as terrible as some people make it out to be, perhaps its inclusion in Dark Souls is some sort of way to provoke a kind of meta-suffering for the player. Actually, you know what, if that was their actual reason for using GFWL in Dark Souls I think I would buy every game FromSoftware makes from now until eternity because the sheer brilliance of that is beyond comprehension and must be rewarded.

I understand that people want the best possible Dark Souls for PC that they can get, and like I said I would probably prefer Steamworks as well. In fact, I'll openly admit that a couple of my defenses for the game using GFWL are weak. But come on people, getting this game for PC in the first place was a bit of a gift nobody initially expected. When FromSoftware or Namco Bandai consider porting another game to PC in the future I really don't want them to look back and remember gamers spitting in their face. Not to mention I just don't want to see people ruin one of the rare moments of good will between consumer and creator.

Overall my advice is simple and its something even I should listen to once and a while - take a step back and chill, before we deem Dark Souls dead on arrival for PC lets actually wait and see if Games for Windows Live even causes any issues in the first place.

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