Roguelike Gallery Notes

Windows Support Dropped

February 17, 2018

The Early Roguelike Collection is discontinuing support for Microsoft Windows. I don't want to abandon the most popular PC platform, but I have few options.

Microsoft's software building tool is called Visual Studio. Using Visual Studio requires a Microsoft Developer account. If you are not signed in to your online account, Visual Studio will not start.

Recently, my account has not been working. I tried resetting my password, but that had no effect. I was still unable to sign in.

Today, I reset my password again, and this time the new password worked. But when I logged in, I was informed that my account had been suspended. I was told that perhaps my e-mail address was being used for spam (it's a Gmail account), or that I had violated some other unspecified clause of the terms of service.

Whatever crimes I had allegedly committed, Microsoft was willing to overlook them all, if I would just verify my phone. I don't want them to have my phone number, and I have no way of knowing that the problems with my account would be fixed permanently. So I declined. Since I cannot run Visual Studio anymore, I will not be providing new builds for Windows.

A Digression about Internet Trends

My experience is part of a common trend with large online companies. They build automated mechanisms that ban lots of accounts for suspicious-looking behavior which they never explain. I don't know if my account was suspended because I reset my password too many times, because I logged in infrequently, or because I never spent any money. All these things could have influenced the decision. The companies end up banning many real people who have done nothing wrong. To get their accounts back, these users have to supply information about themselves which the company can monetize. Microsoft wanted my phone number. Social media sites often require people to scan their identity documents. Microsoft couldn't really have verified who I am with my phone number, because they didn't know my phone number beforehand. Attackers trying to impersonate me could have supplied and verified the number of any phone under their control.

That may sound like a conspiracy theory, but I don't think these companies are intentionally running phishing scams. They have millions of accounts, some of which are actively causing trouble. They build automated banning systems because it would take too much effort to investigate everyone manually. The average user account is of very little value to the company (remember, it's free and always will be!) Letting suspicious accounts remain active is a risk. So the systems tend to have false positives.

But if you give the company information about yourself that can be used to deliver or target ads, your account becomes more valuable. Now the company is willing to spend more effort investigating you. Usually their suspicion was based on nothing more than flawed algorithms, so your account is reinstated.

It would be unfair to call these companies scammers with malicious intentions. But keep in mind that from the users' point of view, their intentions make no difference.

The Effect on the Roguelike Gallery

I don't think I will try Visual Studio again. There is no legitimate technical reason for a compiler to require being signed in to an online account, and no legitimate business reason for its vendor to require users' contact information. This is a design flaw that will be a security hole as soon as some cybercriminal hacks into MSDN.

I will probably try to use MinGW to make Windows builds, but this is low on my priority list. Don't expect it to get done anytime soon. If you want to play the Gallery's roguelike games on Windows, use the Web app. You won't need to run software downloaded from mysterious Web sites, which is a particularly bad idea when running Windows.

The existing Windows builds will remain on the downloads page, and the Visual Studio project files will remain in the source repository. They will not receive updates. They are likely to stop working as platforms change underneath them. New additions, like UltraRogue, will not be included.

I'm sorry to fail roguelike enthusiasts like this. Whenever you use non-Free computing platforms, your ability to benefit others is limited by someone else's goodwill. In this always-connected, AI-monetized world, that goodwill increasingly means the random decisions of badly designed robots, much like the ability to win a game of Rogue depends on a few random choices made by the item generation function.

With enough effort, Rogue and its monsters can still be beaten. And computers that aren't controlled by Internet companies and their hostile algorithms are possible too.

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