In the past few months, Microsoft has started shipping several games through the Windows Store. These games aren’t exactly ports of the same titles from the Xbox platform, although they do use the Xbox services and one of the games is actually a multi-platform title. While this has been met with, dare I say, moderate success, these versions of the games Microsoft distributes are locked off, dumb down versions of what they could be if they were purely PC titles, and the framework in which they’re presented, the Universal Windows Application (UWA) platform, had several quirks and drawbacks by design when Microsoft started making the platform for Windows 10. The company promised to start fixing these issues when AAA releases like Gears of War Ultimate Edition and Rise of the Tomb Raider were launched, and Microsoft seems to be living up to its promise for now.
The company is first fixing the main issue plaguing these games, which is that they’re running at a locked framerate. Due to design decisions taken when Microsoft was first developing the Windows Store on Windows 10, applications designed and deployed through the UWA framework have a refresh rate capped to 60Hz, or 60 frames per second. This makes using a high refresh rate monitor less than useful for these games, and stuttering can also occur in games that drop below the refresh rate (hence, the brutal system requirements for Quantum Break), forcing you to drop details or the resolution to maintain a solid 60fps framerate.
Thanks to community feedback, Microsoft says that the framerate cap will be removed, and games will be allowed to tear on the display if they’re running at a lower framerate. That’s better, but still not ideal. Microsoft has also promised to add in options for enabling or disabling V-Sync in games, which should help with any lag induced from the option being enabled.
Another change to the UWA platform is support for variable refresh rates. Microsoft seems to recognise that they missed the boat on this one, and will support monitors that use Adaptive Sync or G-SYNC for current and future titles. While this is a welcome move, there’s a caveat to this – the games need to be updated to support this feature. Because the UWA platform does not take ownership of the desktop and use the display exclusively, features like an unlocked refresh rate and variable framerate sync need to be added in manually, leaving the rest of the platform like the Xbox overlay and game recording functional. As far as I’m aware, the game recording facility is also still locked to 30fps, so that’s another thing that will need fixing in the future.
Microsoft’s blog post on the matter signs off with a hint to SLI and Crossfire support for these applications in the future, but there’s no word on how they’ll approach game mods, or if they’ll allow users to back up games they’ve downloaded. You can’t currently do that because the files are encrypted with read-only access even if you’re an administrator, which is clearly both a piracy and anti-hacking measure. You also can’t have two Windows 10 installs with the same user profile share the same games on the drive dedicated to storage of the UWA games. Steam, Origin, GoG, Battle.net, and Uplay all allow this in their respective clients, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher to see Microsoft servicing the PC gaming market properly, but still not getting it quite right.
Microsoft promises that these updates to the Windows Store will be implemented into a build of Windows 10 coming this May, and that moving forward all games will be required to support these and other technologies. I also find it rather funny that the final question in the FAQ is about V-Sync not working when gaming on a laptop with in integrated GPU with a discrete GPU option (aka, NVIDIA Optimus), so I guess that there’s still a lot of odd stuff going on in the display chain for this to be a problem.