Windows 10. Absolute Beginner’s Guide (2016)
Part IV: Having Fun
27. Having Fun and Playing Games
In This Chapter
• Enjoying Games on Your Windows 10 Device
• Playing Games That Feature Xbox Live
• Using the Xbox App
• Interacting with the Xbox One from Your Windows 10 Device
Microsoft has long recognized that the computer is more than a tool for productivity. Games like Solitaire and Minesweeper were standard features of Windows for decades, and high-end graphics and processing power brought bigger and better games to the PC.
With Windows 10, things have come full circle. Windows 10 now powers the Xbox One game console, and the high-end hardware on the Xbox lets you stream your games from the Xbox to your Windows 10 devices. The Windows Store includes a huge catalog of games; you might have noticed that Solitaire is back in Windows 10 celebrating its 25th anniversary.
This short chapter focuses on the ways you can get the most out of games on your Windows 10 computer or tablet. We will explore the Xbox app and examine some features that work when you have an Xbox One on your network. Although the Xbox One is yet to be upgraded to Windows 10, at the time of this writing, the features and capabilities described in this chapter will be available for Xbox One owners.
Gaming with Windows 10
Windows 10 has been designed to run on many devices and for many different purposes. Windows 10 users are a diverse group of individuals who range from business persons who may do some casual gaming to the hardcore gamer who wants to play everything on his gaming rig. The hardware that is on each device is an unknown factor that will influence how well some games perform, but Microsoft has included some features in Windows 10 that will improve your gaming experience on any device.
Gamers love eye candy, and some of today’s games look astonishingly realistic. Even casual gamers appreciate high resolution and smooth animation. For those familiar with DirectX, DirectX 12 is the latest version of the application programming interface (API) that enables a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) to communicate with the graphics processing unit (GPU). Technical jargon aside, just know that because this is handled much more efficiently in DirectX 12 than in past versions, Microsoft is promoting this as a big deal for gamers. The hardware on your device still plays a big factor, but you will see better graphics on a device running Windows 10 than the same device running Windows 7 or 8/8.1.
Windows 10 includes drivers for the Xbox One game controller. Just plug it in using a microUSB cable, and drivers are installed automatically. A wireless adaptor can be purchased that will allow your wireless adaptor to work with your computer without the need for a USB cable.
Microsoft Solitaire Collection is included in Windows 10. As shown in Figure 27.1, popular variations of this addictive game can be selected. Play a challenge or play a few minutes of your favorite version of solitaire when you need to get away from those spreadsheets.
FIGURE 27.1 Microsoft Solitaire celebrates 25 years of bringing serenity to the workplace.
The Xbox app is included in Windows 10. This serves as a game hub that enables you to track your activity and achievements as well as keep up with your friends. The Xbox app is covered in detail later in this chapter. First, though, you might want to know more about Xbox Live services.
Understanding Xbox Live Services
Although you can install a variety of quality games from the Windows Store or download and install gaming applications from trusted sources, you will quickly notice that some games in the Windows Store have an Xbox tag that sets them apart from other games. What is the difference?
Xbox Live is Microsoft’s online gaming and digital media service. Games that have gone through the extra steps to be certified with Microsoft Studios can feature Xbox Live. This lets you know that a game offers additional features that leverage Xbox Live services.
Here are some of the features Xbox Live offers to gamers:
• Gamertag identity—Your activity and achievements are linked to your Xbox Live username, or gamertag, which can help sync your play across multiple devices.
• Achievements—Achievements are awarded as you progress through a game. These achievements automatically show up for your friends in their Activity Feeds.
• Gamerscore—Your Gamerscore is simply an overall total from your achievement points that you build up gradually when playing any Xbox Live game. It allows you some bragging rights and a way to evaluate how serious a gamer is.
• Content sharing—Members can share screenshots and video clips.
To benefit from games that offer Xbox Live, you will need an Xbox account, which should be the same account used to sign in to your device. If you are using a local account, you will be encouraged to upgrade this to a Microsoft account. You might be able to play a game; however, you will not be signed in, and your achievements may not be saved. Refer to Chapter 24, “Using Your Microsoft Account for Purchases,” to learn more about using a Microsoft account with Xbox Live services.
To see some of the features included in a game that features Xbox Live, follow these steps:
1. Install a game from the Windows Store that features Xbox Live. (There are many free choices.)
2. Open the newly installed game app. You might be prompted to grant permission to access your Xbox Live info, as shown in Figure 27.2. Select Yes to continue.
FIGURE 27.2 Games that feature Xbox Live need permission to update your Xbox Live info.
3. After the game has loaded and signed you in to Xbox Live services, notice your gamertag. The gamertag may be located in different places; however, it usually appears in one of the upper corners of the app, as shown in Figure 27.3.
FIGURE 27.3 Your gamertag appears when you have signed in to an Xbox app successfully.
4. Games featuring Xbox Live include a special toolbar. Press Windows+G to reveal the Game bar shown in Figure 27.4. Notice that it quickly hides if the cursor is not located over a button.
FIGURE 27.4 Xbox games include a hidden Game bar.
The Game bar is a new feature with Windows 10, including
• Xbox—This button opens the Xbox app.
• Record That—You can use the game DVR to save the last 30 seconds of gameplay. Some devices might not be able to use this feature. A compatible video card is required, which will require a higher-end desktop or laptop.
• Screenshot—You can save a screenshot from the game by selecting this button or pressing Win+Alt+PrtScr. Images are saved to the Videos>Captures folder.
• Start Recording—Start a manual recording of gameplay. As with Record That, your hardware must be compatible with this feature.
• Settings—Select this button to reveal settings related to Xbox Live features for this device. As shown in Figure 27.5, some settings related to recording clips can be configured here.
FIGURE 27.5 This device is not able to record clips according to Settings opened from the Game bar.
• Move—Select Move to drag the Game bar to a different location to avoid obstructing your view during gameplay.
Currently, Microsoft has indicated that Game DVR requires videocards that match the following requirements: AMD: Radeon HD 7000 series, HD 7000M series, HD 8000 series, HD 8000M series, R9 series, and R7 series.
NVIDIA: GeForce 600 series or later, GeForce 800M series or later, and Quadro Kxxx series or later. Intel: Intel HD Graphics 4000 or later.
Using the Xbox App
Windows 10 includes the Xbox app. This app is a hub that lets you track your activity and achievements as well as that of your friends. You will know when they are online and can chat with them through the Xbox app. You also can connect to an Xbox One console on your network and enjoy many additional features, including the ability to stream games that are played using the hardware on the game console to render the game rather than the hardware on your Windows 10 device. This is a great feature if you’re using a device with inferior hardware to the Xbox One. The Xbox app, shown in Figure 27.6, is organized into a few sections.
FIGURE 27.6 The Xbox app can help you manage all your gaming activities from your Windows 10 device.
Sections of the Xbox app include the following:
• Activity Feed—Keep up with achievements and events of your friends. You can like, make comments, and share activities that show up here.
• Recently Played—Recently Played lists the Xbox Live games you have played lately.
• Featured Games—Discover new games here that may interest you.
• Friends—The Xbox app makes it easy to keep track of your friends and even find new ones. You can invite friends to play online, message them, and make them a favorite.
The hamburger menu of the Xbox app, shown in Figure 27.7, has many areas of focus. You can review aspects of your profile and activity, start games, jump to the store to look for new games, and even connect to and manage your Xbox One.
FIGURE 27.7 The hamburger menu of the Xbox app allows you to jump into games or keep up with friends, among other tasks.
The hamburger menu of the Xbox app includes
• Profile—Select your avatar in the hamburger menu to open the pane shown in Figure 27.8. You can customize your avatar, appear offline, and allow your real name to appear along with your gamertag. In addition, you can review your activity, achievements, captures, and the people you are following.
FIGURE 27.8 Customize your avatar or check out some of your own gaming activities in the Xbox app.
• Home—Home returns you to the initial view you had when opening the app (refer to Figure 27.6).
• My Games—My Games displays all the game apps on your device. Select a game to open the Game Hub. You can manually add games that were not automatically included here by selecting Add a Game from Your PC and then selecting the applications to include here. Games can be launched from this list by selecting Play without opening the Game Hub.
Game Hubs allow you to select Play to launch games, including Xbox One games that appear here. Additionally, you can look up information about the game in the Windows Store and look for players to follow for a specific game.
• Messages—Messages show your messages. Select New Message to pick a contact you want to message.
• Activity Alerts—Focuses on any activity related to your favorites.
• Achievements—Lets you view and filter your gaming achievements.
• Game DVR—Here you can look at clips and screenshots you have taken on this PC, select Shared to view clips you might have generated on other devices, or select Community to view clips that have been shared to everyone by other Xbox Live members.
• Store—Select Store to open the Windows Store.
• OneGuide—OneGuide enables you to manage your TV listings using the Xbox One. You can review listings add favorite channels and even start playing a program through the Xbox One console from the Xbox app on your device. You must be connected to an Xbox One to use this feature.
• Connect—If you are not yet connected to an Xbox One, you can select Connect to look for an Xbox One console on your network. After you are connected, this changes to Connected. When connected to an Xbox One console, you can enable a virtual controller or remote control to control the Xbox. In this way you can add an impromptu controller from a touchscreen tablet.
• Settings—There are a few settings categories you can configure:
• Account settings allow you to sign out of Xbox Live Services or sign in with a different account. You can also create an account from here.
• Notification settings enable you to get notifications when favorite friends are online, when favorite friends start a twitch broadcast, and allow pop-up notifications when you receive a message.
• Game DVR settings, shown in Figure 27.9, include keyboard shortcuts and settings related to video and audio quality.
FIGURE 27.9 You can create your own keyboard shortcuts for Xbox Live features in the Xbox app.
The Xbox app unlocks a lot of features when paired with an Xbox One gaming console on the same network and when signed on with the same gamertag. Streaming games from an Xbox (Game Streaming must be enabled in Settings) is a feature that is not fully available at the time of this writing because Xbox One game consoles must be running a special preview of Windows 10 to use the feature. Although game streaming is a great feature that creates new ways to enjoy your console games, there are limitations that can damper some of your excitement:
• When streaming from an Xbox, the console cannot be used for other activities.
• You cannot stream video or TV from the Xbox One to your computer. The exception is if you own an Xbox One Digital TV Tuner (sold in Europe and Australia) or purchase a device like an Hauppauge 955Q TV Tuner ($79) that reportedly will allow you to stream TV to your Windows 10 devices.
Microsoft has indicated the following recommended requirements for streaming a game from your Xbox One gaming console:
Best Performance: Wired Ethernet connection
Good Performance: Wireless—5 GHz 802.11 N or 802.11 AC wireless access point
Limited Performance: Wireless—2.4 GHz 802.11 N or 802.11 AC wireless access point
It is also recommended that your Windows 10 PC have at least 2 GB of RAM and a 1.5-GHz CPU or faster.
The Absolute Minimum
• Setting up your Xbox account includes a gamertag and an avatar.
• Xbox Live services bring a lot of extra features to gaming, such as friends and messaging.
• Use the Xbox app to find friends you can play with, watch clips, and follow skilled players you can learn from.
• Use the Xbox app to play Xbox One games on your Windows 10 device.