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Now for something completely different - Program / Game locations

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  • Now for something completely different - Program / Game locations

    This is something that's been bugging me for years and I've tried asking on places like Reddit and never had a single reply from anyone (well apart from a few other people also wondering the same thing)

    I'm trying to understand why over the last few years there's been a major shift in the save / install locations for games and software from visible folders to hidden folders that some PC users probably don't even know exist due to them being hidden by default ?

    Excuse the overworn phrase of "back in the day"(been messing about with computers since late 80's and cobol programmer)... With Windows since win 95, the vast majority of game saves and settings configs ended up in \Documents\Name of Game, or even better still for descriptive titles \Documents\My Games\Name of Game, both of which are visible by default to the PC user while the game installs would be in program files or program files (x86) or their own folder in C:\

    Now though it seems that the majority of games and software are using the, hidden by default and sometimes requiring admin access to modify, AppData set of folders for both installs and saves, and they are seemingly randomly scattered between AppData\local, Appdata\locallow and \AppData\roaming.

    To make it even harder to backup game saves and settings configs it seems that not only are they scattered across these 3 different folders but none of them even use the name of the game to identify themselves so instead of having, for example \AppData\Local\Name of Game we now get \AppData\Local\Developer Name or Studio Name and it's now having to remember which name of multiple developers / studios has made which game.

    Also for anyone that's trying to either save space on their OS drive or wanting the added safety of not storing game saves and setting configs on the same drive as the OS to help prevent loss or corruption due to an OS crash / failure it makes it a right pain in the butt trying to either move these or back these up.

    So basically why has everything started moving to hidden folders that the end user cannot see by default and some users don't even know these folders exist, instead of using the, what seems to be, perfectly usable, visible by default and obviously named \Docs\My Games, or even the Windows specific "\Saved Games" folder, which no-one has ever really seemed to use?

    Cheers for any insight as to what on earth is going on here and why the change over the years from visible folders to hidden folders.

  • #2
    I think it is made for new users who want everything to work automatically without the necessity to follow your saves, application data files and so on. You do not need to know where the game files are stored, because all you need to do is to launch them from specially made launcher (Steam, Epic Games, MS Store and so on). Young people today may not even know that things were much more interesting in the past But it's only a guess.


    • #3
      Cheers indeed for that.

      I was never sure if it was just a gradual drift by game / program developers or whether it was something that Microsoft had promoted for developers to be doing and hiding everything.

      Still I guess it does make it "easier" for people that want a console like experience without the worry of what all the extra folders in their documents (and other places) are, plus I guess there's less risk of people accidentality deleting data required for whatever program if the "basic" user cannot even see them.

      Not that I've ever deleted just my dos mouse drivers while trying to tidy up my very first Windows PC (486) in the mid 90's and had to wait for the company to post them to me on a floppy disk....that's when I learnt the major difference between Windows PC's and Amiga, Spectrum, Acorn, etc.... Turning it off and back on again doesn't put everything in the OS back to how it was


      • #4
        Totally understand you

        Yep, this is something Microsoft promotes. For example, this article from the guidelines. It even points the developer to the folders the system reveres for the data.


        • #5
          Ah fascinating indeed

          Thank you very much, that finally answers my question if this is a Microsoft driven change to use these folders.

          Mind you I notice than not all developers are reading this fully after seeing this sentence

          Don't use app data to store user data or anything that users might perceive as valuable and irreplaceable.
          underlined by me

          As I'm sure most users would consider game saves to fall into this category


          • #6
            Yeah, user data should be visible. In reWASD, we have decided to store configs (as it is the best example of user-generated data) in Public Documents but with the ability to change it if you like. Maybe our default folder is not the best choice, but you can at least change it