Twitch Desktop App, Addendum

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A while back, I did a quick review of the Twitch Desktop App. For those of you not inclined to scroll through old works of genius of mine, the quick review is that it’s an acceptable delivery vehicle for the monthly set of games you get from Amazon Prime, but has a lot of growing to do if it’s hoping to compete with Steam, GOG, et al.

Well, recently, I’ve come across some issues with the app. Something like a landmine, buried beneath the surface, but ready to ruin you and everything you hold dear if you make the wrong step.

Now, I’m not usually one to go back over my own words. Sometimes (but not really) I’ll be wrong about something I wrote, and I’ll quietly edit the post to correct it, but most of the time, I’m giving my opinion piece, it comes from a moment in time, where I’m at while I’m writing, and although opinions may change over time, that merits a new post rather than a revision or an addition to the old one. But not this time. This time, the issues I’m finding are big enough that I feel it’d be an integrity issue to find out about them yet leave my old post where it lies.

The first one is a huge one to me. The Twitch Desktop App has no offline mode. Any game you get on there, if your computer is not connected to the internet, you have no way of playing it. Now, I’m not one of those guys completely outraged at DRM. As long as its reasonable. If you require me to have a Steam, Uplay, whatever account to play your game, fine, I’m up for it. There’s a lot of DRM that’s gone way, way beyond what’s reasonable, but having a marketplace account to play a game, I’m fine with.

But once I own a game, I own a game. I can play it. When I want to. That’s how this is supposed to work. That’s how I think of games. Once they’re mine, they’re part of my collection. And withholding access to the games I own runs completely counter to that. You’re holding them hostage. And sure, there’s always those who say I should be fine with it. After all, who lives without the internet these days? Well, what if my router’s out? What if I’m traveling? What if Amazon discovers their desktop app can’t compete in the games marketplace because they never gave it what it needed to match its contemporaries and pulls the plug on the whole thing? Nintendo closing the Wii Shop channel ruined a lot of the trust I had in the digital distribution marketplace, highlighting that I might well not be able to continue playing the games I bought ten years prior. No, this is infuriating to me. Your DRM should have minimal impact on the people who legitimately bought the games, and withholding access because I’m not online is unacceptable.

The other is just more of a WTF thing. Like, how does this even happen? So, on my computer at least, if you have the Twitch Desktop App open (remember, it doesn’t actually close when you click the X) and your computer goes into hibernation mode, Twitch will wake up your computer and start up the last game you played.

Why? I don’t know. But I can tell you I’ve had several days where I’ve woken up in the morning and come out to the living room to find the opening of Battle Chef Brigade blaring from my closed laptop. Again, WTF? Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’ll happen to you, too. Make a note.

So yeah, that’s that. Does it change my opinion on the Twitch Desktop App? Well, I’m certainly not going to be tempted to buy games on there anymore even if they get their marketplace figured out, at least until they get an offline mode going. As a vehicle for the games you get as a bonus with Amazon Prime, it’s still passable. Just somewhat less so.

The Twitch Desktop App, Reviewed by Someone Who Doesn’t Care About Twitch

So Twitch’s Desktop App has joined my computer as the fifth in an increasingly difficult to manage amount of games clients on my PC. Now, I don’t really care about Twitch. Nothing personal. If you enjoy it, more power to you. I’m just not much for the whole livestreaming deal. I love let’s plays. Don’t care for livestreaming. Figure that out.

So why did I pick up the app? The games, man. Apparently Twitch sells games. Been doing that for less than a year. And, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, they started giving you a monthly bundle of games. I remember hearing some noise when Amazon made the acquisition of Twitch a while back, but I think I speak on behalf of the entire video games community when I say that giving me, specifically, new games is a good way to ingratiate yourself to everybody.

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And, you know, it’s a legit set of games. I don’t know about you, but when I found out about it, I was completely expecting it to be a bunch of garbage games. I mean, the free TV you get off Amazon Prime seems to be getting weaker every year, I was expecting the games to be the same way. But no. Sure, I already owned like half the games I’ve picked up through this arrangement on other platforms, but you can take that as an indication of the selection’s quality. Your main man has some discriminating tastes. You seem to get a bit of a mix of games, from the somewhat older mainstream releases to the creative indie title to the niche and relatively unknown left field games. Some of them are still filling gaps in the collection. I’m still kicking myself that I missed out on Mr. Shifty from not realizing I could claim games through this service the first month it was available, and although High Hell is not one I had ever thought would make its way to my collection, now that it’s there I’m having a he…..ck of a good time with it.

Of course, this is a new client on offer, joining the likes of GOG Galaxy and Uplay and Origin and the juggernaut of Steam. As far as I can tell, the Twitch Desktop App has only been around since last August, less than a year going. So, what’s it actually like?

Pretty featureless, in all. Which, granted, I’m sure it’s made more for the livestreaming than necessarily the gaming, right now. Maybe that matters to you. As I mentioned before, I don’t care. It still seems to be a work in progress. In the few weeks I’ve been playing around with it, it’s been updated three times, so I’m guessing it’s still seeing a fair bit of development. But really, it will install games on your computer and let you play them. That’s about it.

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Installation works fine. Speed seems relatively comparable to the big boy clients. You don’t have the ability to pause downloads, however. That’s not a problem for me with the small games, the indie titles, or the classics from yesteryear. It’s going to limit its utility for the modern AAA releases, though. At least for me. When I’m downloading a 60 GB game to my computer, well, I live in one of those places where you can actually see the stars at night, so on the flip side, internet speed isn’t the greatest. It takes a while. And I’m not really willing to completely dedicate my internet use to one thing over the next 14 hours. I stop large downloads when I need to do something on the internet, then start them up again when I’m occupied with something else. Wouldn’t be able to do that on Twitch.

The game’s shop is about as bare bones as you can get. The selection isn’t great. Around 200 games, which sounds like a lot, but when you start looking for that one specific game you’re craving, it’s going to seem all too small. The selection is so small there’s not any way to sort through them. They just give you a list of games in roughly alphabetical order, and leave it to you to find what you’re looking for. No organizing by genre, no search function, nada. For whatever reason, they don’t even display prices on the shop screen either. You have to click through to the game’s page to find out what they’re offering it for. Or if Twitch is even selling it at all; some games only sell add-ons through Twitch, to get the full game, you have to buy from another site.

For that matter, you can’t buy games through the client itself. You click the shop button, it just opens the window in your browser. You can’t claim your Amazon Prime goodies through the client either. All browser-based.

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One thing that I think is unique about the Twitch App is that it’s got a dedicated area for managing mods. Only for a handful of games, seemingly, and only for the selection of mods that are uploaded to Twitch, but you don’t need the games to be in your Twitch library to enjoy this benefit. Twitch pretty easily picked up a couple of games I had installed through Steam, and I can seemingly integrate mods simply enough through this service. I’m not really a big mod gamer, but I still found this rather interesting.

Playing the game… you’re just playing the game. Twitch has no overlay here. Which is fine, most services don’t, I think Steam’s a little unique in that regard. I was surprised by this, I would have expected Twitch to provide some streaming features, or at least easy screenshot functionality, but hey, for all I know they do and I just haven’t found it yet.

One last minor irritation, the client doesn’t actually close with you ‘X’ out of it. It just minimizes. Granted, Uplay’s the only client kind enough to close entirely when you ‘X’ out, Origin, Galaxy, and Steam all still run in the background, but it is bizarrely frustrating to me to see Twitch hanging out on my task bar at all times unless I take the extra step of exiting entirely. It’s a feature that makes very little difference whatsoever, but it’s still hitting me on a visceral level.

So yeah, that’s the Twitch Desktop App. As a client to get those monthly games you get through Amazon Prime onto your computer and let you play them, it’s perfectly fine. Missing some convenience features, but it’s totally functional. If it wants to stand on its own as a gaming client, it’s got some work to do. The developers do seem to be working on that, a little bit at a time. But it’s going to take some time to get there. I hope it does have the longevity to last, though. The closure of the Wii Shop has found my trust in marketplaces somewhat shaken, and I’d hate to see these new games I’ve been able to add to my collection get cut off from me.