A Cold War is brewing between Microsoft and game developers

Game developers from Valve, Blizzard, and id Software don't like Windows 8 and they aren't keen on Microsoft competing with them. Should Microsoft be picking fights?

Several major game developers have expressed their discontent with Windows 8, and now they are concerned Microsoft is going to go into competition with their methods of online sales as well, which could drive a wedge between game makers and Microsoft.

When you are on the verge of launching a new operating system, you want your key developers singing hosannas to it. Instead, the game developers are lining up to deliver catcalls.

nice interview with Gabe Newell - "I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space* - not awesome for Blizzard either

— Rob Pardo (@Rob_Pardo) July 25, 2012

Gabe Newell, president of Valve Software, which produced arguably the best game of 2011 in "Portal 2," called Windows 8 "a catastrophe for everyone in the game space." Rob Pardo, executive vice president of Blizzard, maker of the immensely popular "Diablo III" and "StarCraft 2" games, said Windows 8 "was not awesome for Blizzard either.”

Then there was John Carmack, co-founder of id Software and considered one of the best gaming programmers in the world, who damned Windows 8 with faint praise at QuakeCon in Dallas during his keynote.

"Windows XP did everything we needed for quite awhile," he said. "Hardly anyone at id used Vista." Windows 7 did enough "better and faster" but "There’s nothing I’m looking forward to" in Windows 8, Carmack said.

You can't dismiss the game developers. They have to dive into the layers of a new operating system and learn all of its quirks before they can effectively develop for it, and given his track record, few could argue Carmack is not qualified to deliver an assessment of Windows 8's internals.

But now there are new issues bothering developers. There's a fear that Microsoft is creating a walled garden to sell games exclusively through its Windows Store, shutting out third-party platforms like Steam (from Valve) and Origin (from EA).

This is very important to developers. Go into a GameStop and look for PC games. There's virtually no space left. Ditto for Best Buy. Steam and Origin have taken over and become the iTunes for game developers. For smaller studios, it's their only path to market.

"If Microsoft decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very, very bad for indie games and competition in general," Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson told VentureBeat.

Xbox Live is already integrated into the Win8 OS and Microsoft has vowed to continue its support for Games For Windows Live. The current and future Xbox will be closely tied with Windows 8, as will Windows Phone 8 when it launches in November.

A second problem: the guidelines for getting your app or game listed in the Windows 8 store are significantly tilted against high-end games. If you want to be listed in the Windows Store, your app has to start in two seconds or less and must include a snapped or windowed view, and there are guidelines on how the app behaves in low-power state. And then Microsoft won't allow games of extreme violence. That's in the rules, too.

That's just bad all around for high-end games, which have long load times and demand a full screen. "Diablo III" would fall short completely. It takes several seconds to load even with an SSD. It runs in full screen and I can see it's murder on the CPU just by watching the Rainmeter CPU monitors.

This doesn't look good, and I can only hope it turns out better than it's heading.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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