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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  • Michael Bay - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Oh, muh mods "argument", as if target audience cares about any of it. Sure, playing Brutal Doom is nice, but you`re severely deluding yourself if you think it has any penetration outside of the ultrahardcore fans niche. Reply
  • Marlowe - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    When I went to LAN parties, admittedly some years ago, me and all the other hundreds of people where only playing modded games. Like some Unreal Tournament mod, Counter Srike mod, Half-Life mod, Battlefield mod or similar. I understand the present online pc games might be more console-like in that they are more polished, closed off and whatever. But it's certainly a valid argument. Reply
  • Michael Bay - Thursday, May 12, 2016 - link

    LAN party is an hardcore event by definition, makes sense to find hardcore people inside.
    Ask yourself, how many normies you know will even bother with graphical settings? And modding ofter requires much more than clicking inside a menu.

    I`m not saying it`s bad in any way, but let`s be realistic about the place it has.
    Reply
  • doggface - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    I hope somewhere in MS land there is a whiteboard which has a list of all the features they are going to add over the next 3 years. I also hope somewhere close there is a management team that doesn't baulk for at least 3 years and keeps going even if take up is slow.

    It will take awhile MS, but if you reach feature parity and then surpass it... I think you will have takers.

    Right now though. Its not the best value proposition.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Cool! Another options for all of us and at least MS are listening to complaints. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    Yeah, finally we can have tearing again! Missed it so much.. didn't look like a PC game without it ;) Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    never had tearing in my life, I was never able to notice the difference between V-sync and no v-sync, except for the heat produced by the GPU when on certain menus.
    I guess I was lucky?
    Reply
  • Xenonite - Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - link

    For some people tearing is actually MUCH better than being capped at 144 fps, which is (incidentally) also one of the main reasons why I keep G-Sync disabled.
    Yes you do not ever get to see more than a part of any single frame rendered, but the reduced rendering pipeline backpressure results in the minimization of input lag (as well as absolute frametime variance). For online gaming, this is mostly irrelivant, but for people like me, who are prone to motion sickness (only when gaming; not in the "real world"), it really does help to make games much more playable.

    The biggest issue I have with Windows 10 (with regards to gaming) however, is that I cannot use fullscreen exclusive mode.
    For one, the WDM is absolutely TERRIBLE at handling very high frame rates without introducing excessive frametime variance, since it is designed to be used with 60Hz refresh rates and (perhaps even more importantly) it gives ALL running processes a slice of the compositing time, if they request it (such as adverts, update notifications, badly written apps that draw to the screen even when they don't have focus, etc.).
    Also, some apps just don't work as well in borderless fullscreen mode, such as when using SVP -> Reclock -> MadVR to watch some TV.

    Yes DirectX12 is cool, but it just doesn't have enough pull for me to upgrade to a modern OS, designed for multitasking and being connected to the internet for extended periods of time.
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Friday, May 20, 2016 - link

    People crack me up. They watch as freedoms (like consumer choice) is stripped away and their only qualm is that their tv could be bigger. Reply

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