Warning – Rant Ahead
I’ve written various articles on gaming and gamers here at DCT and mentioned game clients on numerous occasions, so I hope I’m not in danger of repeating myself. The fact is that the whole video game client scenario has ended up as a three man street brawl with only one clear winner, so it seems to me anyway.
Why use a game client at all?
Since Valve’s launch of Half Life 2 in 2004, using a game launcher or client has become the norm, not only from an efficiency point of view, but it also helps combat piracy and let’s face it, it’s also a great earner for the platform owner.
Valve approached several companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo and RealNetworks to build a client with these features, but were refused.
So Valve built Steam which over the years has gone on to become an industry standard, and believe me, I’m not just saying that because I like Steam. Naturally other game developers caught on and on the basis that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, we saw Uplay (Ubisoft) appear in 2009 and Origin (EA) in 2011 (originally EA Downloader in 2005).
Both Ubisoft (Uplay) and EA (Origin) pulled their newer games from Steam for seemingly sound financial reasons, forcing their customers to launch newly purchased games through either Origin or Uplay, which as game clients leave a lot to be desired, which is actually the main thrust of this tirade. There are of course numerous games from EA and Ubisoft that are still available on Steam, but we’re still left with the rather bizarre situation of having to launch Steam (the client the game was installed within), fire up the game, which in turn then fires up either Origin or Uplay. There are tips and tricks to get around this, but since they are very game specific, I can’t really list them all here, but this topic in the Steam forums will give you the general idea.
For me and many others, one of the principal advantages to using a game client is its portability, so that if you need to reinstall the OS, you can simply copy the game client folder over to the new set up without the need to reinstall or download the games all over again.
I’ve been using Steam for more than ten years now and in fact received a badge to that effect to stick in my Steam profile. It’s only a shame they didn’t see fit to award me a free game for all those years of loyalty, but that’s another matter. Of course the problem nowadays of creaming over something PC related is being called a fanboy, but do I care?
The fact is that Steam is head and shoulders above the other leading game clients by a very long way and here are some of the great things you can do with it:
- Customise the client interface
- Take the Steam folder wherever you like
- Make wishlists of games
- Join game communities
- Buy a game and gift it to a friend
- Preload games to any folder on your PC
- Launch non Steam games
This is Ubisoft’s effort of a game client which is half baked and resembles a project they felt they had to at least start, but couldn’t be bothered to finish. Quite why they’ve left a huge white space for Adtech is anyone’s guess.
For a game developer that produces such stunning games like the Far Cry series, it’s surprising that they seem content to leave a game client in such a crappy, dull and totally uninspiring state. So uninspiring in fact, that I’m lost for words to describe it any further. Suffice to say that most gamers use Uplay only if they are forced to by Ubisoft.
Another example of a game client that only excels in its utter drabness and lack of features, yet if you buy an EA game, you are forced to use it. The only reason I have Origin or Uplay installed is because of the games I bought from them. In the case of Origin, it has the nauseatingly tiresome habit of NEVER remembering my login details, in spite of the fact that it has a remember me box in the login screen, which when clicked doesn’t actually remember anything at all.
You know what it’s like with software that’s just plain irritating? You either uninstall it or ignore it right? In this case, gamers can’t exactly ignore it and worse still, the game store on both the client and the web page always defaults to local language associated with your IP address location, with no possibility to change it, so if you’re British and don’t understand Serbo Croat, that’s your tough luck. In my case, I live in Argentina, a Spanish speaking country, but for obvious reasons I choose English for all my applications. With Origin’s store, that option is NOT available. Major fail!
This issue of language has been raised with EA by thousands of gamers (who let’s face it are EA’s paying customers) since the client was launched over four years ago, but quite conveniently they’ve chosen to ignore each and every request on the issue of local language.
The whole point of software is for it to be functional yet interesting and if at all possible, enjoyable to use. Both Origin and Uplay fail miserably, particularly from the point of view of reusability as there is nothing about either game client that makes you want to actually use it.
Clearly Steam has worked damned hard on its software and has added feature after feature over the years and it’s now a pleasure to use. Surely that can’t be such a difficult task for corporations such as Electronic Arts, which had a revenue of US$3.8 billion in 2013 (source) and Ubisoft, which had annual sales of US$1 billion in 2013/4 (source), but sadly, it looks like we’ll be stuck with these two hopeless game clients for the foreseeable future.
Heck, even Desura, which doesn’t suck, is considered by many to be niche and merely a minnow as far as game clients are concerned, manages to outshine both Origin and Uplay with very little effort and I mention this with no disrespect intended towards Desura whatsoever. If we as gamers are being forced to use a game client, at least force us to use one that’s at least the slightest bit interesting, competitive and feature packed, please.