Sometime towards the final week of December 2016, a few users who were testing out the latest Windows 10 developer build noticed a ‘gamemode.dll’ in the operating system’s DLL list. Once the word came out, the PC gaming community was abuzz about Windows finally doing more than paying lip service to hardcore gamers.
Microsoft too officially announced that it would reveal more details of Windows 10 Game Mode’s prowess over the coming weeks in the form of previews. The first bit of information that did come straight from Microsoft was that the new Game Mode was designed to finetune your PC and therefore push the performance parameters of the games being run on your system.
Furthermore, the feature would help both legacy Windows (Win32) games as well as the modern titles so that you can play them all without having to choose one over the other. And…end of transmission. Oh and this improvement won’t be immediately visible but instead will be pushed through when future releases of the OS come out.
Sounds great, right? But then, we PC-gamers have already found turnarounds to these problems. So, is there any genuine reason to be celebrating this not-yet-released update? To answer that question, we need to take a more incisive look at Windows 10’s game-related attributes thus far.
Windows 10 Game Mode vs GeForce Experience And Radeon Software
Any gaming rig features one or more graphics card(s) from either GeForce (NVidia) or Radeon (ATI). That means you automatically get the option to download GeForce Experience or Radeon Software depending on the GPU to maximize your gaming experience.
The question then arises that if GPUs already came with their own game performance optimizers then what is it that Windows 10’s Game Mode wants to add to the existing setup?
The answer lies in the long-drawn tales of Windows 10’s incompatibility issues with the aforementioned game-tuners. In fact, one common gripe with gamers who owned NVidia cards and had upgraded to Windows 10 was that the GPU drivers kept crashing frequently, to which NVidia responded by releasing a slew of driver updates (for older cards) and how-to hacks.
To be fair, Windows too did its part with the reconciliation bit but not before throwing another curveball. The OS would clash with either GPU’s customization software. So, while you could tweak the settings in-game, you weren’t able to optimize your games from the desktop screen.
Perhaps the ‘Game Mode’ could be the solution from Windows to customize game settings beforehand, just the way most of us gamers like it. Fingers crossed.
Windows 10 and Gaming
In terms of running games, Windows 10 isn’t that much different from its predecessor, Windows 8.1 apart from the introduction of DirectX 12. As for performance, Windows 10 provides as good if not better a performance as Windows 7 did.
But the great thing about Windows 7 was that you could run really old PC games over administrator mode. Similarly, in Windows 8.1, you had the compatibility mode that you could enable by right-clicking on the game icon and choosing the said option. The same is on offer in Windows 10 too.
So what’s the difference? Nothing and that’s exactly our point. While Windows 10 promised to be this lightweight, resource-intelligent OS, and it did too but mainly for main-stream applications. That bonhomie was absent when it came to games. To make matters worse, there was a dip in frame-rates when dual-GPU (Crossfire and SLI) setups came into the picture. Talk about spending a fortune to build a beast only to be hamstrung by the OS!
Thankfully, third-party candidates like GOG, who have in the past battled hard for DRM-free game environment. They have taken the pain to ensure that all those classic titles in their library run on Windows 10 without a glitch.
From its side, Windows 10 too has went ahead and asked testers to seek out incompatibility issues with games, both new and old. A list was compiled for each game and their respective compatibility verdict. It can be found here. But that has really been the extent of Microsft’s support for games.
Quite frankly, we don’t expect much from Windows 10 or its ‘Game Mode’ in this department, because lets face it, Microsoft was never historically interested in taking that responsibility. But then it never limited game and graphics hardware developers from running their own micro-environment within the OS ecosystem, the way Windows 10 has done and that too so vigorously.
Beam Live-Streaming: Is It Worth It
Beam was this start-up streaming service that allowed viewers to engage actively instead of just viewing a broadcasted game passively. That meant viewers could choose a feature like the next weapon that the player would use.
Microsoft having purchased Beam earlier this year, is showing it off as its central streaming platform for Windows. Looks like Window Game Mode is following on the footprints of its more successful Xbox One UX. And that’s excellent news for someone who’s new to the whole PC gaming scene.
However, these features were already available from both NVidia (ShadowPlay) and ATI (Radeon ReLive). What’s even better is that they directly interface with the hardware to optimize and prioritize resources. So, from an experienced gamer’s perspective, its really nothing new that Windows 10 is trying to offer in this department.
So, there already existed this live capture feature called Game DVR on Windows 10 which by default remained on. Now if you wanted better frame rates, then you simply had to disable this feature. With the upcoming Game Mode, what we feel is that Microsoft aims to cut down on that resource loss when Game DVR is turned on.
In simple terms, this ‘feature’ isn’t exactly improving gaming performance but rather looks to stop another Windows feature from fiddling with your game-intensive resources. And it begs the question as to why Microsoft is so hell-bent on doing everything from the scratch. It could as easily team up with NVidia and AMD to make their existing ‘in-game optimizers’ compatible with its OS. We guess that’s something only Microsoft can answer!