I’ve been complaining a fair bit recently about Epic Games Store and the silly amount of launchers now installed on my PC, but what is the solution instead of just complaining about it? 😉
Why is this a problem for me, what am I trying to solve:
- The amount of client updates (easily in the hundreds of MB in some cases) every time I try and launch a freakin’ game these days. On 2.5Mbps broadband, that really is annoying.
- The lack of ability (in an official feature at least) to move games around, which Steam can do brilliantly; when I bought a 256GB nvme SSD, they were much more expensive than they are today, but I have to live with that purchase!
- Only Steam can really do streaming around the house well for me right now, out of all of these launchers. I need to stream because I can’t game at the PC itself beyond 7pm, a baby is asleep in the next room. I do use Moonlight on a Fire 7 or my phone, which is an unofficial app that supports nvidia’s Game Stream tech, if it isn’t a Steam game. If I want the TV experience, I’d need to buy yet another device, from nvidia, to plug in under there. Shout out to Rainway.
- I have to open, update and launch games from the right launcher, a bit of a faff, but not that bad I guess, I’ve just had enough of this really.
Discussing my predicament with a friend from work, he sent me a link to an application called Playnite, which may be the answer to at least some of my problems. How have I missed this for so many years!?
So far, I’m only aware of a couple of applications besides Playnite doing this; the ubiquitous Discord and nvidia’s GeForce Experience. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Discord feature in particular, because I have a huge admiration for Discord, as does much of the PC gaming community these days.
If anyone can get this right, it’s this bunch. Development appears to have slowed to a crawl on this feature though, sadly.
Open source goodness
I haven’t typically been a fan of open source, although I’ve dabbled over the years. In the last few, I’ve increasingly found myself accepting it for what it usually is; free stuff, built by dedicated and passionate people. When my colleague recommended Playnite and told me it was open source, I dived right in.
Here are some of the things I like so far:
- Small download
- Quick install
- Mostly easy on the eye, this is designed very well
- Supports many emulators too, not just the usual suspects of Steam, Uplay, Origin etc. This isn’t something I’ve dabbled with much yet, but if you’re into emulation, this could be of interest.
- Consistent playtime tracking across all games, if launched through Playnite, can apparently sync from original launchers too!
- Hooks into igdb.com for metadata and various stores for images
- Really clear text when using fullscreen mode on a TV, something even consoles sometimes lack
And some of the things I’m not keen on:
- Wants you to sign in to your launchers to determine what games you own but don’t have installed. I’m very VERY wary of this.
- The icon, although lovely, is a console controller. I play with a controller on PC a fair bit, but come on haha.
- Mishmash of cover art sizes, I’d really prefer this to be consistent, like Steam etc. Jinx from Jinx’s Steam Grid View, which I have used many times to smarten up my Steam library, has been spotted on the Playnite Discord talking about integrating his artwork with Playnite. Fingers crossed!
- Press A to play the game in fullscreen, but X to see details? Argh, my brain doesn’t work like this, I keep pressing A to view the information and launching the game.
- Scrolling down the text in full screen mode using a controller doesn’t seem to work
This appears to be the work of mostly one dude, but he’s already on version 4, with 5 in the pipeline due for release very soon (end of this month, apparently).
Is the idea of a library gone?
Back in the day, I had games on a shelf, much like my CD/DVD/Blu-ray collection. I ditched physical games when I moved to Steam for Half-Life 2, although I have continued buying other media physically.
Do any of these launchers we have today really offer a digital take on a “game library” of the traditional sense? When you look at the world of physical game libraries, they’re often labours of love, extremely beautiful to look at. Shelves, lighting, collectables, pride and meticulous detail everywhere.
On the PC, through my many years of digital purchases, I’m left with several launchers that kind of just want to sell you games and launch them. They don’t really take “libraries” all that seriously. It’s a bunch of ones and zeros. I love my games, but in the move to digital, I’ve lost that sense of owning them, displaying them, and enjoying them beyond the act of playing.
I recently found MusicBee, when looking to re-rip my entire CD collection, which has been a dream so far. It’s the work of one man. I’ve also been using Plex for several years. Neither are open source, but they both show you what is possible in terms of digital media library management.
A consolidated, metadata rich launcher experience for my fragmented PC game library and all these launchers is something I crave; my CD collection is digitised nicely, same goes for the DVD and Blu-ray, so where does that leave the games!? Won’t somebody think of the games!
I will keep playing around with Playnite, but so far, so good!
How many launchers do you have installed on your PC? Are you a console gamer who finds all of this multiple launcher/store front malarkey hilarious? Are you hoarding a physical game collection you’d like to show off? Let me know in the comments!