Epic boss suggests how Microsoft could open up Windows 10 for game developers | PCGamesN

Epic boss suggests how Microsoft could open up Windows 10 for game developers


Update 11 March, 2016: Following Microsoft's denial that they're attempting to monopolise PC game development, Epic boss Tim Sweeney has written another blog explaining why Windows 10 isn't as open as it should be, and suggesting steps Microsoft could take to set it right.

Writing for VentureBeat, Sweeney explains how the Universal Windows Platform perhaps isn't as open as it should be. Users of this framework currently have to jump through hoops to get themselves classified as certified developers so they can side-load apps outside the Windows Store.

While Microsoft have stated that UWP will be available to every developer and every store, there's been no official explanation for how this will work. In steps Sweeney to offer some solutions. The main thrust is that he wants digital certificates to replace Microsoft when certifying UWP apps, similar to what traditional desktop Win32 programs use to establish trustworthiness now. Additionally, the term "install" should replace "side-load", along with no restrictions in place for developers to sell UWP apps outside the Windows Store.

While Sweeney has no concrete evidence of Microsoft's intentions being devious, he mentions Windows RT as a historical example of how Microsoft may seek to lock down Windows app development, so there is precedent there. To read his full essay, head to VentureBeat.

Original Story 4 March, 2016: Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney has gone on record to say the games industry needs to fight Microsoft and its Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, because it is an attempt at "monopolising game development on PC". He claims this has already begun, and will happen "over time, in a series of steps of which we’re seeing the very first."

"In my view, this is the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made," Sweeney wrote in his Guardian article. "Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem. They’re curtailing users’ freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers."

According to Sweeney, Microsoft are structuring their operating system in such a way that it puts other app stores and publishers who want to sell their games directly to customers at a disadvantage. UWP apps by default can't be downloaded from the websites of developers and publishers. It will be impossible "to install them, update them, and conduct commerce in them outside of the Windows Store," claims Sweeney.


"It's true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft's settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling side-loading," Sweeney continued. "But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10's forced-update process."

Sweeney goes on to celebrate the success seen by Steam, Adobe, Autodesk, Blizzard, Riot Games and EA, who have all seen. Conversely, he calls Microsoft's current situation "an embarrassment". 

"Seven months after the launch of Windows Store alongside Windows 10, the place remains devoid of the top third-party games and signature applications that define the PC experience," he explained. "Where's Photoshop? Grand Theft Auto V? Fifa 2016? There are some PC ports of what were great mobile games, and some weirder things, such as the Windows 10 port of the Android port of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto from 2004.

"But the good PC stuff isn't there, with the exception of Microsoft's own software products. Does Microsoft really think that independent PC developers and publishers, who cherish their freedom and their direct customer relationships, are going to sign up for this current UWP fiasco?"

He explains in the post what he thinks Microsoft should do instead, and how he thinks it should "die as a result of industry backlash" if this doesn't happen.


"Gamers, developers, publishers simply cannot trust the PC UWP 'platform' so long as Microsoft gives evasive, ambiguous and sneaky answers to questions about UWP's future, as if it's a PR issue," Sweeney said. "This isn't a PR issue, it's an existential issue for Microsoft, a first-class determinant of Microsoft's future role in the world."

Microsoft have since responded, refuting Sweeney's claims. Kevin Gallo, corporate vice president of Windows at Microsoft, issued the Guardian the following statement:

"The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store. We continue to make improvements for developers; for example, in the Windows 10 November Update, we enabled people to easily side-load apps by default, with no UX required.

"We want to make Windows the best development platform regardless of technologies used, and offer tools to help developers with existing code bases of HTML/JavaScript, .NET and Win32, C+ + and Objective-C bring their code to Windows, and integrate UWP capabilities.

"With Xamarin, UWP developers can not only reach all Windows 10 devices, but they can now use a large percentage of their C# code to deliver a fully native mobile app experiences for iOS and Android. We also posted a blog on our development tools recently."

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Shriven avatar*sigh* avatarMrAptronym avatarsubedii avatarRock1m1 avatarAnAuldWolf avatar
*sigh* Avatar
2 Years ago

So GabeN was right?

Not that Im to happy with him either these days.

If it was the xbox you might have more complaining about it.

Windows on mobile devices really is a piece of shit.

No one likes you micro$ft, thats why your store is a waste land.

I know theyre in it for the long con, but NO ones buying.

MrAptronym Avatar
2 Years ago

I'm with Sweeney on this. The manufacturers of electronic platforms have slowly pulled the power of choice and the control of the devices from the hands of the consumer and I see this as the next step. Unless these fears are addressed, I remain very wary of the platform. I don't want a sandboxed one-stop-shop platforms for games, that is what consoles and cellphones have. My control over my software and developer's control over distribution matters to me.

I already have an issue with steam's looming monopoly over PC gaming, what I really don't want is a more draconian, built-in platform.

subedii Avatar
2 Years ago

Whatever objections there may be to Valve, I am genuinely glad they've been pushing for Linux these past couple of years. I likely wouldn't be playing XCOM 2 on Linus right now if someone hadn't been making that push.

Speaking for me personally, I feel like it's reaching a stage where there's a great selection of titles Linux-side now, to the extent that I don't _mind_ missing out on titles that aren't ported yet since there's so much else to play.

I mean I was always more of an indie gamer to begin with, and most of those tend to have native Linux versions. What's been impressive is more of the major studio releases coming out as well. That kind of stuff was basically unthinkable even 5 years ago.

Shriven Avatar
2 Years ago

Time for Steam OS to save the day?!

Rock1m1 Avatar
2 Years ago

Tim is being a drama queen. No one is forcing anyone to use a certain platform for distribution. Microsoft aren't dumb to follow suit and completely alienate the devs and consumers to the point people start abandoning the OS. There is no reason why UWP can't co-exist with existing systems.

Finally, Microsoft themselves said they will entice developers to make games for the UWP platform, not force them - two very different approaches.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

I was just about to chirp in with what subedii already said, all though perhaps less elegantly.

The thing is is that Microsoft has always been doing this. You can't use Windows 7 any more because they want to lock everyone into using DirectX 12. The whole UWP thing is just a ploy to get as many people on Windows 10 as possible, to coral them and limit their choices even further.

Efforts like Mantle and now Vulkan are designed to free people from that. XP? Vista? 7? Linux? There's no reason that someone should have to move away from what they enjoy so long as hardware manufacturers are still supporting it. Except that's not how Microsoft makes money, they need to herd you to their latest iteration where they can nickel and dime you through any means possible.

And do you think it's really desirable for Microsoft to have Steam around when they could be taking that cut themselves via their store? They just have to be careful, clever, slow, and deliberate about how they take more choices away from the developers, publishers, and consumers without looking like the bad guy.

A Microsoft co-president once said 'We need to smile while we pull the trigger' and that sums them up perfectly. Theirs is a corporate entity built upon that philosophy. Not unlike most other large enough corporate entities, to be honest. Being smart doesn't make you rich, having a killer instinct does.

I'm not a hater, either. I've been using Windows off and on for a good portion of my life. And before that, MS DOS. It's just that I'm not going to delude myself about how cut-throat a company MS is. Especially when they go out of their way to be overt about it.

If we want a future for playing video games on these computers of ours, then Vulkan and Linux are the way forward. We can't stay shackled forever. It hurt us, it hurts the developers, it's a toxic relationship.

The whole point of owning a PC in the first place is that it's an open platform and you should be able to do what you want with it, including sticking with the UX and storefronts you like.

The future of Windows in Microsoft's minds eye looks like iOS. I don't want that.

subedii Avatar
2 Years ago

As far as I'm aware, that's pretty much what Tim Sweeney was saying.

There's no need for MS to remove support for anything outside of UWP. All they need to make sure going forward that new features are exclusive to UWP. Effectively, everything else just gets soft (or actually) deprecated.

I mean it's been pretty similar with DirectX. When Halo 2 PC came out it was a DX10 'required' game, which just happened to mean it could only run on newest operating system Windows Vista (well, until it was cracked to show it could easily run on XP. And why wouldn't it? The game was a freaking OXBox title). Likewise, DX12 is only available on Windows 10.

What he's talking about is I believe, a similar thing. Everything old ought to work just fine, but any new features (and in particular, security features) going forwards will be UWP exclusive.

So here's something to ponder over, why are we presuming that _this time_, future iterations of DirectX won't happen to be dependant on features of the (much better!) UWP framework? I mean that's wholly within the pattern they've established already (and MS have said that W10 is a service and likely to be the last big numbered release as such). And that's just one example.

The other point being that UWP in itself _isn't_ the problem, but tying it to the MS store may be.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

It's not surprising.

Ever since Microsoft tried for a piece of the iOS pie with Windows 8, they've lost so much support that they're at a point of desperation. Everything they've done of late reeks of it. It's not just monopolising development and trying to create a walled garden, but also forcing people into an iOS environment where it's difficult for anyone but the tech savvy to be sure that Microsoft aren't sneaking things onto and off of their computer. The forced Windows 10 updates are damning.

I recall so many reports (with proof) of people having refused the Windows 10 upgrade, and gotten rid of GWX, only to find that a 'Windows 7 update' which 'fixes instability' or whatnot had snuck the entire Windows 10 installer onto their system. And in worse scenarios, some people had that installer activate in the background without telling them.

Imagine having your computer restart unexpectedly and the next thing you see is 'Installing Windows 10.' It's created an Internet culture of paranoia surrounding Microsoft updates, and not without merit, really. I'd say rightly so. It's had people who've had automatic updates on since the launch of Windows 7 turn to carefully researching each update. It's lead to the launch of sites like Ask Woody's MS Defcon blog.

And it's just getting worse for them. There's Vulkan. It's the new take on OpenGL based on Mantle. That doesn't sound so threatening, right? Until you realise that a bunch of big names are supporting it, and helping it become the best graphics API it could be. With the desired end result being a system where a developer could develop a game to work with DirectX 12, then push a button and have it compiled/baked to work with Vulkan too. One of Vulkan's goals is essentially a compatibility layer with DirectX.

And I mentioned big names, right?


Take a close look and you'll see names like Valve there, which are to be expected, but more peculiarly even Blizzard, EA, Epic, Nintendo, Unity, Apple, IBM, MIT, Pixar, and so on. Look even closer and you'll spot Microsoft themselves hiding away there because even they know which way the wind is blowing.

These are the closing years for Windows as a franchise. I'm not sure what will come next, but it will most likely involve flavours of Linux backed by different corporate interests for varying uses. SteamOS et al. And honestly, that's better than what we have right now.

With the Xbox doing so poorly against the PS4, too? Well, Microsoft knows it's dying. And it does what any dying creature does. It gets desperate, aggressive, and stupid.

That's what we're seeing here. Nothing more. Nothing less.