Because I didn’t make it very fluid, I get an email maybe twice or three times a week about someone who had problems installing an expansion pack for GSB if they bought the base game from stardock or steam. The solution is easy, you need to browse to the place where the base game is installed during the installation. It had not occured to me, when setting things up, that this would be a big deal, but a non-trivial proportion of buyers don’t realise it, and they need me to walk them through it, which is fine.
Obviously I made a mental note to ensure that sort of problem will never arise with future games.
What really strikes me though, is how far we have come from the days of my gaming youth. Go back far enough and the boot-up ‘welcome’ screen on my first computer was this:
You were expecting icons maybe? or perhaps a graphic? or any way to actually launch programs or do anything? Unless you were lucky and had money to buy software, you would actually have to type in the code for each game (the whole program) from a magazine. The operating system was pretty much just a way to support the typing of characters on the screen. No danger of antitrust legislation for bundled apps there…
Fast forward through my days as a rock star and boatbuilder (long story) and I got an IBM 386. These were the days of playing X-wing. Now you might think it’s a pain to get the right drivers these days to run crysis, but back then, you had to literally reconfigure the structure of your RAM in order to run a game. People my age will get a cold sweat remembering autoexec.bat and config.sys, the two dreaded files that between them enabled you to balance your memory allocations just right to get that extra 16k needed to boot up SimCity.
The thing that really strikes me, is that re-configuring autoexec.bat and config.sys was so arcane, so complex, and so fiddly, and geeky, that not only was it much much harder than any problems current PC gamers have to deal with, but it was actually harder than most games. I may have got frustrated with constant deaths when storming the beaches in Medal of Honor, but that was NOTHING compared with the challenges presented by emm386.
As game developers, often geeky ones who are older than a chunk of our audience, we need to constantly remind ourselves that there is a huge swathe of people who never struggled with this crap. To them, sadly, the PC is just like a toaster or microwave. You press the button and then it does stuff. If it doesn’t. you complain to the manufacturer. Sadly, I suspect the nation of geeks and tinkerers we had in the 1980s has become a nation of passive consumers. Understandable, maybe inevitable, but maybe also slightly sad?