Microsoft has certainly gone all-in on their Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and have been updating it, including the name, for several years now. What originally started as WinRT apps has morphed into a much more powerful platform which can support a wide variety of apps. There’s no doubt that traditional Win32 apps made for the desktop are not going away, but with Project Centennial, Microsoft hopes to bring at least actively developed Win32 apps over to the UWP platform.

One of the main areas that Microsoft has focused on in their marketing is UWP’s support for DirectX 12 in Windows 10, and to that end they have promoted several big budget games which have come to the Windows Store as a UWP app. But the move from tablet style games to high demand PC games was not entirely smooth. The UWP platform operates in a different way than traditional Win32 games, and it lacked several features that PC gamers had become accustomed to. Some of those features were as simple as the ability to control V-Sync in a game, and exclusive fullscreen.

In today’s patch Tuesday, Microsoft has addressed some of these complaints, and the timing of the updates are important as I will get to in a bit. First, UWP now support controllable V-Sync, as well as support for adaptive framerate displays in AMD’s FreeSync or NVIDIA’s G-SYNC. That is very important if they really want to reach for the PC gamer, since these technologies come at a price premium, and there’s no point buying a game in the Windows Store if this will not work, especially when it will work if the game is available on Steam.

The games themselves will need to be updated to support this, but since most of the games that have been released so far are either published by Microsoft, or worked on closely with Microsoft, this should happen soon.

One known caveat at this time is that people with laptops which have an integrated GPU plus a discrete GPU will not yet have the option to disable V-Sync, and Microsoft states they are working on having this available “as quickly as possible” so if you have a laptop using Optimus or Dynamic Switchable Graphics, some more waiting will be needed.

Microsoft also addressed another point in today’s news announcement. Exclusive Fullscreen is another PC quirk where a game is given unrestricted access to the display, and this was done for greater performance many years ago. UWP apps cannot access this mode though, and instead run in a borderless window. There are advantages to this method, since you can more easily multitask, but there are concerns about performance. Traditionally, you’d be at the mercy of the Desktop Window Manager to do the game rendering in a window, which is likely why V-Sync was likely an issue with UWP apps until today. Microsoft is addressing the performance though by stating that any DirectX 12 game will have identical performance in borderless windowed mode or exclusive fullscreen. Since most new games coming to the store will likely support DirectX 12, this shouldn’t be an issue then.

These changes are important for a couple of reasons. First is the timing, which I alluded to earlier. The next big update for Windows 10 is codenamed Redstone, and is due to land in the July timeframe, or about a year after Windows 10 was launched. By pushing out these changes prior to that update, it sends a message that they are not planning on being bound by major releases of Windows 10 in order to fix gaming issues. Microsoft wants Windows 10 to be a good gaming platform, so this is very important.

Even with these changes though, there are still some other issues with UWP which will need to be addressed. Since the games launch in a sandbox, tools that PC gamers are used to using such as FRAPS will no longer work, and because there is no EXE file launched, per application settings in something like the NVIDIA control panel. Mouse settings, which detect the .exe and change the button mapping, as well as macros which do the same, also will not work. The Windows Store is also missing the ability to backup games, so if you ever have to reinstall a game again, you have to download the entire game from the store, rather than restoring from a backup. Since the games we are discussing can easily be 50 or more Gigabytes, this should be an option like it is on Steam.

The timing of these updates though, which are not tied to a major Windows 10 update, are encouraging, and hopefully display that Microsoft is committed to the UWP platform for PC gaming and will update it to address issues. It’s an important step, but with major competition in this market from Steam and Origin, they won’t be able to rest on their laurels.

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  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - link

    There are some positives though. Sandboxing games and win32 apps is a good thing in most cases. Games in particular are pretty good candidates for sandboxing.

    If Microsoft gives away the pc version when you buy the console version (something I've been hoping EA would do) that is a positive for me as I also own an xbox one. If microsoft chooses to release xbox exclusives on PC, that's a big win for me as I prefer pc gaming.

    All that said - if I had the choice between getting the same game on steam or on the windows store, I'd pick steam. But I also understand why publishers want to use their own stores and I don't really have a problem with that. If it was me, I'd want to use my own store as well. They're making improvements, so hopefully they'll fix some of the obvious feature deficiencies.
    Reply
  • JoeMonco - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    The only valid point you made is this benefits only Microsoft and no one else. Thanks, but no thanks. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I don't really see the need for sandboxing games. What do we gain? We already know that we lose an awful lot. Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I bet trainers won't work anymore either. I can't finish some games without cheating because I get bored too fast. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    I say F#$% ports, Microsoft for Windows 10, and any garbage company that gets overly greedy and tries to control user choice by locking them into crap. Freedom baby. It's everything. Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - link

    "The Windows Store is also missing the ability to backup games" <- Things like this make this feel more like giving Microsoft more control than giving the users more control... Reply
  • LordanSS - Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - link

    I will agree with the game sandboxing there. That should make things more complicated for cheaters, which would be great for games with online components.

    SecuROM debacle anyone?
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    I was there. DRM free or bust. Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    As long as Steam & Windows 7 work, and Win 10 is a privacy nightmare, they can announce what they please.

    I ain't moving.
    Reply
  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    There are still idiots who believe they have more "privacy" under 7?
    Not to mention gaben mining the shit of whatever you do with the client.
    Reply

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