Windows 8

Something as terrifying as the Eye of Sauron was released recently… duh duh duhnnn… Windows 8!

Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic. A few weeks ago I decided to make some minor upgrades to my gaming notebook. I bought a 256 GB SSD, and Windows 8. They arrived and I did the SSD swap, and then plunged ahead and installed Windows 8. I like some of the enhancements (mostly under the hood improvements to the system) especially the newer file copy dialog and task manager. However, my gaming notebook isn’t touch-screen so I lose about half of the design benefit. That’s OK because I spend 99% in desktop mode where it is pretty much like Windows 7, just with a very different Start Menu.

The first thing I installed was Google Chrome. Next was Steam, and I started the download of LoTRO. Then I installed Guild Wars 2 and started it downloading. I took an overnight of downloading to get the bare minimum games from my Steam Library installed. Other than a handful of games, that’s gonna be it except for (maybe) Virtual Box. I’m going to be crazy fascist about keeping this system “clean”, to the point of setting up a VM to contain other stuff, like Adobe Reader, Flash, java anything, compilers/debuggers and so on. This is my gaming system!

After LoTRO installed, I fired it up and it ran just fine. WHEW! I was worried about that actually. Some other games I wanted to try (after all, this blog is MMO Juggler, whereby I dabble amongst the many MMOs) didn’t fare so well.

Vindictus locked up big time, and even after I managed to terminate the process, it left a thread in the System process pounding my disk at 100%. Yes I have an SSD now, but 100% disk activity still drags the system down. Since this system has none of my usual triage tools, such as the SysInterals suite, or a debugger of any kind, I couldn’t see what was going on. Not that it would have told me much anyway, other than “yep, busted on Windows 8”. I had to restart my notebook so for now, bye bye Vindictus.

Vindictus Lock Up
Vindictus Lock Up

I also tried cranking up Everquest II. Back in the day, when the “big three” were UO, EQ, and AC, I played Asheron’s Call. I never did play EQ so when I saw that EQ2 went free-to-play I thought, hey I’ll check it out. Unfortunately, EQ2 did not start either. More specifically, it never exited the first time install “setting up DirectX” portion after launching from Steam. It just sat there, claiming to be installing DX9. I guess the detection method is confused on Windows 8. I’m not sure if this is a Steam thing or a app thing – LoTRO popped up the same “installing DX9” dialog, but it moved on. Another uninstall. Sorry but I’m a little tighter on disk space now (currently ~90 GB free) and I’m not going to have an MMO that doesn’t even run sucking up disk space.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had no problems – it installed, launched, and popped up the Login screen. I don’t have an account, so I just exited and will make one later.

Star Trek Online hasn’t completed the download yet.

Other MMOs I have also run fine: Guild Wars 2, DDO, and Fallen Earth. I logged into both and played a little bit of each. I also fired up other games I enjoy (Defense Grid: The Awakening, Skyrim, SpaceChem, a few others) just to see if they ran on Windows 8, and they also had no problems. Overall Windows 8 works for the games most important to me. I gave most games a cursory play, but I’ve played LoTRO several hours on Windows 8 at this point and it is fine. If LoTRO didn’t work, that’s a 100% deal breaker and I would have wiped the disk, dug out my Windows 7 DVD, and installed that instead.

One odd thing with GW2 – I linked my account with the mobile authenticator, an app from Google that implements two-factor authentication. I’m not asked for the authentication code when I log in, but still have it enabled according to my account profile. Not sure what is going on there, maybe I need to unlink/relink to get that working again (due to my reinstall)?

In conclusion, most my games are working fine under Windows 8. I’m sure the issues that prevent EQ2 and Vindictus from running are straightfoward, so if those are your top games, don’t worry just be patient. Besides, only crazy people jump on an OS upgrade so soon after release. 😉

EDIT (Mon Nov 12):

STO finally downloaded (I guess the servers were busy) and I went to install it. It hit the same “Installing DirectX” dialog that EQ2 appeared hung at, but I decided to let to go because I had some other minor errands I could finish up. About 10-15 minutes later (seriously, it was about that long), it finally continued on and I got the splash screen.

Now I couldn’t actually start the game, due to an issue obtaining an account. That’s just the usual “create an account vs send me password reminder” thing so I anticipate having that squared away soon.

Since EQ2 looked stuck at the same point, I thought I would give it another chance too. I gave up after about 5 minutes the previous time, maybe there is some quirk that makes it take so long. So I re-downloaded EQ2, went to run it… and boom it zipped through the dialog in seconds. I already have a SOE account, and EQ2 launched just fine.

Since letting the DirectX setup take its own sweet time for STO somehow corrected the issue for EQ2, I think the most likely explanation is that DirectX version check isn’t matching what Steam or the game expects, so it goes to download it. The download is the unusually long delay.

I ran EQ2 long enough to create two characters and do the combat training, so it seems to work under Windows 8 as well. As soon as I get my account info straightened out for STO I’ll try there as well.