Microsoft isn’t returning the beloved Start Menu to Windows 8 anytime soon. But hope is not lost, thanks to these handy third-party tools!
Beyond all of the colorful tiles; the bolted-on Modern user interface; the giant, full-screen apps and panels; and the inability to boot to the desktop—to name just a few of our gripes—there’s one issue above all others that’s guaranteed to universally frustrate Windows 8 desktop users: the Start Menu.
Note: This article was originally featured in the September 2013 issue of the magazine.
Single-player RTS campaigns are great and all, but matching wits with the CPU’s cold robo-logic is only enjoyable for so long. After the story’s curtains close, we dive straight into multiplayer and never look back. But – if Demigod’s numbers are any indication – we may be in the minority. See, according to Stardock, a pithy 23% of players even tried to march their troops across the information super highway in Demigod. In other words, many never even succeeded in playing a single online match.
“Demigod continues to sell thousands of copies weekly – enough to remain at retail during the Christmas season despite it coming out last Spring – but the number of people available to play online is typically less than 2,000 at a given time. This is in stark contrast to MMORPGs and FPS’s which tend to have very large online communities,” read Stardock’s report.
This, of course, is made all the more startling by the fact that Demigod doesn’t even have a single-player storyline. Future Stardock RTSes, however, won’t make the same mistake.
“Our conclusion is that strategy games that we make and publish in the future will support multiplayer but will not sacrifice the single player experience to do so,” Stardock noted.
Granted, Demigod was notorious for hobbling out the gate with crippling online issues, so that may have sent a few players back into the CPU’s cold embrace. Still though, the game’s been out since spring, so we doubt those early missteps are completely to blame.
Maybe we’re just so awesome at Demigod that we scared everyone else away. But, uh, we can’t play a match right now. We, er… have turkey in the oven! Yup.
(Phew. Only time of year that excuse actually works!)
The recent release of Stardock's Fences tool (version 1.0) got me thinking about desktop organization. While Fences is certainly neat--the program lets you divide your desktop real estate into individual sections, surrounded by "fences," amongst other space-saving features--this freeware app isn't the only game in town by far. In fact, some of you expressed disgust at Stardock's latest release. Be it the fact that one needs to install Stardock's Impulse client just to access Fences, or your simple dislike of an application whose functionality is mirrored by other freeware apps, Fences was hardly a shot hit out of the park.
So, here we are. After the jump, I'll show you five different alternative desktop managers that will help you bring increased tidiness, prettier looks, and funer... er... more fun functionality to your typical workspace. Auto-arrange your icons one last time for nostalgia's sake, because I'm about to mix up your desktop crazy-style.
Free software is great, but the nagware that comes with it is not. Though we understand the concept behind blaring pop-up windows reminding you that you’re using freeware, the occasional nag screen can be a bit much when you’re in the middle of your workflow. ClickOff is a great way of dealing with this irritating nagware -- simply launch the lightweight program, select a window, and press Ctrl + Alt + D to add it to the ClickOff list. This will ensure that the program’s pop-up windows will be "zapped" the minute they appear on screen.
Desktop maintenance is perhaps the most frivolous form of organization, but it’s just as important as matching together pairs of socks in your clothes dresser. Fortunately, there are free applications like Fences to help aid the chronically disorganized and transform their desktops into grids of art. Previously in an beta, version 1.0 of Fences has just been released by Stardock, with improved compatibility for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. Even if you're already rocking Windows 7, we encourage you to give this utility a try.
Fences allows you to right-click and draw labeled shaded areas on your desktop in which to “fence” in your icons and files by custom categories. For example, if you have icons related specifically to your work, you can group them together and label them “work documents” for easy access. These fences effectively divide up your Desktop workspace so help you manage clutter and disorganization.
Stardock’s Brad Wardell has never shied away from impulsive outbursts, but his latest is definitely one for the record books. When asked about his thoughts on Games For Windows Live, the outspoken CEO gave Microsoft quite the tongue-lashing.
“I started out as a big Games for Windows Live advocate,” he said. “I intended for Elemental to be on Games for Windows Live, but then as we got closer, the Xbox group took it over more and more. And they have things where, oh, if you want to use Games for Windows Live to update your game, you have to go through [their] certification. And if you do it more than X number of times, you have to pay money. It's like, ‘My friends, you can't do that on the PC.’”
“On the console, I don't have to update my game because an anti-virus program got an update and is now identifying my VB scripts as viruses and I have to apply an emergency patch. That would just add insult to injury. We've had to upgrade our games plenty of times over the years, not because we found some bug, but because some third-party program, or driver, or whatever screwed it up. If Games for Windows Live maintains that strategy and they take over, I'm done. I'm not making PC games. I would be done.”
We’d really miss Wardell if he left the PC gaming biz. We might also shed a tear or two for everything we know and love about PC gaming, as GFW’s regime would almost certainly snuff that out. But we’d miss Wardell more. Definitely.
Boy, if we had a nickel for every time we couldn’t afford a game, we could afford more games. Eventually, though, our goldmine of nickels would run dry (since we’d be able to afford games, obviously – keep up) and then we’d be thankful for free demos like the one Stardock’s put out for RTS/RPG hybrid Demigod.
"The demo features online Internet multiplayer games, the Cataract map and four playable Demigods (Regulus, Rook, Sedna and Lord Erebus.) All of the gameplay modes (Conquest, Dominate, Fortress and Slaughter) in Demigod are available to play in the demo,” said Stardock of the demo’s content.
Click here to download it, so then you can click more things and eventually kill them. Good, wholesome fun. What have you got to lose?
In the beginning, Gas Powered Games created RTS/RPG hybrid Demigod, and all seemed pretty good. However, fittingly enough for something called Demigod, the game’s launch was far from perfect. Servers gasped and sputtered under the weight of literally hundreds of thousands of pirates, and legitimate customers just got a big, fat Out of Order sign for all their troubles. Thankfully, publisher Stardock promised a few goodies to those who weathered the storm, and now, the developer’s delivering.
First up, Stardock’s mailing out discount coupons that knock 50% off the price of a second copy of Demigod. You know, for friends or family. Something like that. At the very least, that’ll grant you the opportunity to tell said recipient of your miserly gift about how, back in the day, you paid full price for Demigod and walked 15 miles through unstable servers to play it. And you liked it.
There’s a catch, however: the clock’s ticking on this coupon, and it finishes “early next week.” Really though, it’s not like you’re making a tough decision or anything. Demigod, Demigod, or Demigod – which is it gonna be?
Don’t start badgering Stardock into apologizing for their apology just yet, though. Next week, the publisher’s sending out a second batch of apology coupons, this time good for 20% off any game from its Impulse download platform. Should neither coupon be enough to douse the flames of your fury, Stardock’s also promising more deals down the road for regular Demigod players.
And if you still aren’t satisfied, just look at it this way: Stardock didn’t have to do any of this.
Yeah, we know why you’re here. And frankly, we’re grateful. We’re fully aware that – if not for the fact that Stardock’s servers are currently screaming under the weight of something akin to the game’s giant stone mascot – you’d be playing Demigod right now. But you’re not. You’re here. However, being the altruists that we are, we have a solution to your problem. First though, here’s why you’re not currently using Demigod to RPG while you RTS.
“The only reason why we haven't had this happen on other games is because we've never had anything like this many users in such a short amount of time. Sins of a Solar Empire was a huge hit but its success came not from an immediate burst of users but rather sustained long term growth which allowed us to keep enhancing the infrastructure as needed with minimal issues for users,” publisher Stardock told 1UP.
But where’s the sudden swarm of players coming from? Mostly, piracy. Apparently, “100k+” warez users have been fervently competing with legitimate customers both in and outside the game.
The good news: Stardock’s working tirelessly to correct the problem, and should have things in tip-top shape within 24 hours. The bad news: that’s 24 hours of waiting. Hey, we never said it was a good solution.
In penance, Stardock is sending a few of its employees to throw down with players, should you need any advice or just a decent opponent to play against.
So, for those who’ve actually stayed atop Stardock’s coveted hill long enough to complete a full game, how is it?
Remember when Stardock outlined its plan to breed a half-DRM, half-helpful hybrid in order to violently obliterate DRM once and for all? We’re a bit foggy on it, to be honest, but we’re pretty sure the press release starred Wesley Snipes.
Well, anyway, the publisher recently unveiled the fruits of its labor, and amazingly, this slow starter just rocketed to the head of the class. Sorry, Steamworks – the second row isn’t so bad.
There is no third-party client required. This means a developer can use this as a universal solution since it is not tied to any particular digital distributor.
It paves the way to letting users validate their game on any digital distribution service that supports that game. One common concern of gamers is if the company they purchased a game from exits the market, their game library may disappear too. Games that use Goo would be able to be validated anywhere.
It opens the door to gamers being able to resell their games because users can voluntarily disable their game access and transfer their license ownership to another user.
True ownership of your game library – as opposed to paying for the right to play your games until their distributor shuts down? We really can’t find anything to complain about here. How about you?
Goo launches on April 7 with Stardock’s Impulse distribution platform’s next release.