Left 4 Broken

I finally decided last week to try Left 4 Dead.  Pedant convinced me that it’s not too scary, especially when playing with the clan.

I’m still not sure how scary the game itself is, but the process of trying to play it is a terrifying reminder of why my desire to play PC games is waning:

Pre-purchase the game and pre-load the game content.  Steam makes this easy.  Here, Valve, is lots of my money!  Here, Steam, is lots of my bandwidth and disk space!

Some weeks after release, decide to play the game.  Double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me to update my video drivers or risk destruction.  It includes a link to nVidia’s website, which asks me which of 55 different video cards I have – a quick trip into Windows Device Manager tells me it is a pair of GeForce 8600 GTs, which I happen to know are working together via SLI – and starts feeding me the driver…

…at 14 KBps, which will take hours.  A quick trip to Google tells me that my old friends Guru3D are mirroring this download, which comes down at nearly 200KBps – as fast as possible with my current connection.  Yay!  Installing the drivers takes between 10 and 20 minutes, including the time it takes to remember that the installer turns off SLI, and getting it turned back on (via another dedicated control panel).

Ahh, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  Double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me that it is decrypting the game content.  This takes about 10-15 more minutes, and when it’s done, it just goes away.

Still, not so bad, right?  It’s still at within an hour of when I decided to try the game, and if gaming is arguably a zero-benefit activity[1], then upgrading drivers and waiting for decryption is an activity of similar value.  Of course, I also didn’t pay cash money to install drivers, but let’s not split hairs.

Instead, let’s double-click the game’s icon to play it! …except instead of a game about zombies, I get a window telling me that it’s has to download some game content.

K finishes making steaks, so I retreat from the computer room.  DAY 1 OF TRYING TO PLAY LEFT 4 DEAD COMPLETE.  RESULT: FAILURE.

It all reminds me of this, and not in a good way.  But today, I have no plans, so I’ll give it another go.  Since the game finished downloading content sometime last week, I should be good to go!

Double click the game’s icon to play it!  …except instead of a game about zombies, I get… nothing?  The game does not even try to launch, and it does not send any of its other windows to me to explain why.  The HDD LED blinks a few times, something has happened, butI have no idea what.

I find myself about to reboot the computer, check for updates, and then hit the forums for information.  I have no idea how long this will take, and I’m starting to lose the capacity to care.  I played Gemcraft for an hour today, and all I had to do was go to a website!  I could have done that on my laptop!

These days, there is very little that I want to do with Windows, and I know that this box would make an excellent Ubuntu workstation.  The main thing holding me back is the fact that I want a gaming PC more than I want an Ubuntu workstation[2], but if all a gaming PC is good for is installing drivers and eating bandwidth, I wonder why I bother.

(What to do… Beautiful Katamari on the big screen in the living room, or rebooting and trawling forums in the back room…)

  1. I would argue that it is not, but by so arguing I would admit that it is arguable, at least. []
  2. I already have a Mac Mini running Ubuntu on this desk, so the marginal benefit would be in the faster processor, larger RAM capacity, and increased 3D capability – none of which are particularly compelling to me in a Linux context right now.  Also, I am running iTunes and PlayOn on the Windows machine, and I’d have to find a way to run those – probably a problem for virtualization to handle. []

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