My experience with GFW LIVE has been in a word: awful. I know Microsoft has been criticised a lot on this subject. Games For Windows was supposed to herald a great PC gaming revolution and dissapointed both consumers and press upon it’s release. There was the issue of paid Gold subscriptions on PC and the mostly unfulfilled promise of crossplatform play. Microsoft has responded by revamping the service, and releasing a desktop client. I myself had zero experience with the online part of the service but had already suffered through problems with the game “The Witcher” which despite GFW certifaction, was a buggy unstable mess. I soon encountered the many problems of the LIVE end of the service when I started playing Fallout 3 and GTA IV for PC.
The Fallout 3 experience wasn’t even that bad. GFW LIVE just didn’t work. Everytime I tried downloading my LIVE profile, I got the same meaningless error message. I spent some time trying to resolve this issue, turning off firewalls, checking out port settings. I eventually gave up since lack of a LIVE connection didn’t impact the game that much. Sure I’d miss out on achievements but at least I could play the game.
GTA IV however is where things completely fell apart. Take out GTA IV’s inherent issues (the unoptimized engine, the fact that you have to login to two services and authenticate your game with a third before you can even begin playing) and you still have one major problem. You see, if GFW Live isn’t enabled you can’t save your game. Let me say that again: you CAN’T SAVE YOUR GAME ! Who made this incredibly idiotic decision ? So just because LIVE doesn’t work, my gameplay experience is crippled? Bad choice Microsoft.
I was thus forced to make a new offline LIVE profile to even get the game running. Meanwhile I spent hours checking out routers settings, firewall settings, etc in order to resolve this issue. I finally stumbled on a solution at the wonderful Steam forums, which I will reproduce here.
1. Open an elevated command prompt (Start Orb > type cmd in the start search box and press ctrl+shift+enter)
2. Type ‘netsh winsock reset’
3. Reboot your PC.
4. Open an elevated command prompt
5. Type ‘netsh int ip reset resetlog.txt’
6. Reboot your PC.
7. Start the game, sign into Live.
Imagine if you’re a run of the mill gamer, who might not have any great amount of technical knowledge. You will never figure this out. You’ll end up hating the game, not because of the game itself but because of the poorly thought out services upon which the game relies. The example of GTA IV represents everything that is wrong with PC gaming today. Here we have a case where stringent DRM is combined with high system requirements and where the game’s online services are sub par.
Lucky for Rockstar and Microsoft that GTA IV is such a damn good game, even if it’s flaws are accentuated on the PC version.