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Windows Vista improves the user experience of gaming on Windows by including Games Explorer. Games Explorer is exposed in the Windows Vista Start Menu as the Games folder and provides a central location for accessing games.

Starting with the March 2009 release of the DirectX SDK, a new game definition file (GDF) schema is used to support features in Windows 7, Game Provider and RSS feed, and IGameExplorer2. IGameExplorer2 is a new interface on Windows 7 that simplifies the process of integrating a game with Games Explorer.

This article outlines the process of registering a game with Games Explorer and parental controls on Windows Vista and Windows 7 by using the new GDF schema.

Contents:

  • Debugging Tips

Prerequisites

Before you can integrate a game into Games Explorer, you must create a game definition file (GDF). A GDF is an XML file that contains metadata that describes the game. In the March 2009 release of the DirectX SDK, a section for game provider, RSS feed, and game task has been added to the GDF schema. To use the instructions in this article, you must use this new GDF format to create your GDF file.

Microsoft provides a tool for authoring GDFs in the DirectX SDK, Game Definition File Editor, to make this creation process easier. This tool also helps you create localized versions of a GDF.

Once a GDF has been authored and localized, it must be encapsulated within a resource section of a binary file (either an executable or DLL), along with the game's thumbnail and icon. The GDF contains all of the metadata associated with the game, including the game's rating. Windows Parental Controls use the game's rating to allow parents to control access to the game. The binary file which contains the GDF must be digitally signed with a valid Authenticode certificate; otherwise, Games Explorer and the parental control system ignores the game's rating, because the rating information cannot be trusted without certification. For more details about signing code with Authenticode, see Authenticode Signing for Game Developers.

Integrating with an Installer

To simplify Games Explorer integration, the GameUXInstallHelper sample provides a common API that can be called on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. It is designed to work with scripts for InstallShield and Wise Installation System, as well as MSI custom actions and custom installation tools. Detection of the operating system is handled inside this sample DLL, so the caller does not need to worry whether the client is running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7.

The functions exported by this DLL are the following:

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GameExplorerInstallW

Pro

Registers a game with Games Explorer, given a path to the GDF binary, a full path to the folder where the game is installed, and the installation scope.

GameExplorerInstallA

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Registers a game with Games Explorer; ANSI version of GameExplorerInstallW.

GameExplorerUninstallW

Removes a game from registration with Games Explorer, given a path to the GDF binary.

GameExplorerUninstallA

Removes a game from registration with Games Explorer; ANSI version of GameExplorerUninstallW.

GameExplorerSetMSIProperties

Configures the CustomActionData properties for the actions of an MSI deferred custom installation. Usage of this function is described in detail later in this article.

GameExplorerInstallUsingMSI

Adds a game to Games Explorer; for use during an MSI custom action installation.

GameExplorerUninstallUsingMSI

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Remove a game from Games Explorer; for use during an MSI custom action installation.

These functions are further explained in the GameUXInstallHelper.h header.

Integration Process

Once the GDF and related files have been added to a binary resource, it is then possible to integrate the game with Games Explorer. Using GameUXInstallHelper will simplify the integration process. To register the game with Games Explorer, call the GameExplorerInstall with a path to the GDF binary, a full path to the folder where the game is installed, and the installation scope. To remove the game's registration, call GameExplorerUninstall with a path to the GDF binary.

Note that the removal process only removes one unique installation. If a game has been installed multiple times, this process must be repeated for each unique installation.

Games Explorer Tasks

Games Explorer tasks will appear in the context menu of an item in Games Explorer. Tasks are divided into play tasks and support tasks. Play tasks launch a game into a particular mode, while support tasks serve any other purpose, including linking to web sites.

In Windows Vista, tasks are simply shortcuts that are located in specific folders. Play tasks and support tasks are stored in folders with the corresponding names PlayTasks and SupportTasks. GameUXInstallHelper can read the game's task information from the GDF binary file and create all of the shortcuts automatically.

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In Windows 7, the shortcuts to the tasks are not needed, because Games Explorer obtains all of the task information directly from the GDF binary file.

Integrating into InstallScript

Calling Games Explorer APIs from InstallShield's InstallScript is made easy by using the GameUXInstallHelper sample. The steps required to integrate with InstallShield are as follows:

  1. Open an InstallScript project in the InstallShield editor.

  2. Add GameUXInstallHelper.dll to the project to be installed to the target directory.

    To add GameUXInstallHelper.dll to an InstallScript project:

    1. On the Installation Designer tab, click Application Data in the navigation pane on the left.

    2. Click Files and Folders and browse in Source computer's folders to locate GameUXInstallerHelper.dll in Source computer's files.

      The default location for GameUXInstallerHelper.dll is DirectX SDK rootSamplesC++MiscBinx86.

    3. Under Destination computer's folders, click Application Target Folder.

    4. Drag GameUXInstallerHelper.dll from Source computer's files to Destination computer's files.

  3. In the InstallScript explorer, click the InstallScript file (usually setup.rul) that calls the DLL function.

  4. Paste the following InstallScript into the file:

Integrating into an MSI Package

The following is a high-level description of the steps required to call the Games Explorer APIs using MSI custom actions:

  1. Add a property to the MSI Property table called 'RelativePathToGDF' containing the relative path to the GDF binary.
  2. After the CostFinalize action, call the GameUXInstallHelper DLL function SetMSIGameExplorerProperties in an immediate custom action to set the appropriate MSI properties for the other custom actions.
  3. Upon installation, trigger a deferred custom action after the InstallFiles action that calls the GameUXInstallHelper DLL function AddToGameExplorerUsingMSI. If the installation is for all users, then the custom action must set the flag msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate; otherwise, it must not set this flag. Therefore, two nearly identical custom actions are defined: GameUXAddAsAdmin and GameUXAddAsCurUser.
  4. Upon removal of the installation, trigger a deferred custom action before the RemoveFiles action that calls the GameUXInstallHelper DLL function RemoveFromGameExplorerUsingMSI. If the installation was for all users, then the custom action must set the flag msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate; otherwise, it must not set this flag. Therefore, two nearly identical custom actions are defined: GameUXRemoveAsAdmin and GameUXRemoveAsCurUser.
  5. Define rollback custom actions to handle the case where the user cancels installing or removing after one of the these custom actions has already happened. This results in an additional 4 custom actions: GameUXRollBackAddAsAdmin, GameUXRollBackAddAsCurUser, GameUXRollBackRemoveAsAdmin, and GameUXRollBackRemoveAsCurUser.

This procedure is described in detail in the following instructions, which describe a process that can be done using an MSI editor, such as the Orca editor found in the Platform SDK. Some MSI editors have wizards which simplify some of these configuration steps.

To configure an MSI package for integration with Games Explorer

  1. Open the MSI package in Orca.

  2. Add the row shown in the following table to the Binary table in the MSI package.

    NameData
    GAMEUXfile path to the DLLGameUXInstallHelper.dll

    Note

    This file will be embedded in the MSI package, so you must do this step every time you recompile GameUXInstallHelper.dll.

  3. Add the rows shown in the following table to the CustomAction table in the MSI package.

    ActionTypeSourceTarget
    GameUXSetMSIPropertiesmsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue = 65GAMEUXSetMSIGameExplorerProperties
    GameUXAddAsAdminmsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript + msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate = 3137GAMEUXAddToGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXAddAsCurUsermsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript = 1089GAMEUXAddToGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRollBackAddAsAdminmsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeRollback + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript + msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate = 3393GAMEUXRemoveFromGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRollBackAddAsCurUsermsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeRollback + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript = 1345GAMEUXRemoveFromGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRemoveAsAdminmsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript + msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate = 3137GAMEUXRemoveFromGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRemoveAsCurUsermsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript = 1089GAMEUXRemoveFromGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRollBackRemoveAsAdminmsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeRollback + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript + msidbCustomActionTypeNoImpersonate = 3393GAMEUXAddToGameExplorerUsingMSI
    GameUXRollBackRemoveAsCurUsermsidbCustomActionTypeDll + msidbCustomActionTypeBinaryData + msidbCustomActionTypeContinue + msidbCustomActionTypeRollback + msidbCustomActionTypeInScript = 1345GAMEUXAddToGameExplorerUsingMSI
  4. Add the values shown for Action, Condition, and Sequence in the following table to the InstallExecuteSequence table in the MSI package.

    ActionConditionSequenceNotes
    GameUXSetMSIProperties1015The sequence number places the action soon after CostFinalize.
    GameUXAddAsAdminNOT Installed AND ALLUSERS4003This custom action will only happen during a fresh installation for all users. The sequence number places the action after InstallFiles and after the rollbacks.
    GameUXAddAsCurUserNOT Installed AND NOT ALLUSERS4004This custom action will only happen during a fresh installation for the current user only. The sequence number places the action after InstallFiles and after the rollbacks.
    GameUXRollBackAddAsAdminNOT Installed AND ALLUSERS4001This custom action will only happen when a fresh installation for all users is cancelled. The sequence number places the action after InstallFiles and before the Add custom action.
    GameUXRollBackAddAsCurUserNOT Installed AND NOT ALLUSERS4002This custom action will only happen when a fresh installation for the current user only is cancelled. The sequence number places the action after InstallFiles and before the Add custom action.
    GameUXRemoveAsAdminREMOVE~='ALL' AND ALLUSERS3452This custom action will only happen during removal for all users. The sequence number places the action directly before RemoveFiles and after the rollbacks.
    GameUXRemoveAsCurUserREMOVE~='ALL' AND NOT ALLUSERS3453This custom action will only happen during removal for the current user. The sequence number places the action directly before RemoveFiles and after the rollbacks.
    GameUXRollBackRemoveAsAdminREMOVE~='ALL' AND ALLUSERS3450This custom action will only happen when removal for all users is cancelled. The sequence number places the action directly before RemoveFiles and before the Remove custom action.
    GameUXRollBackRemoveAsCurUserREMOVE~='ALL' AND NOT ALLUSERS3451This custom action will only happen when removal for the current user is cancelled. The sequence number places the action directly before RemoveFiles and before the Remove custom action.
  5. Add the row shown in the following table to the Property table in the MSI package.

    PropertyValue
    RelativePathToGDFrelative file pathname of binary file that contains the GDF

    Note

    The location specified by the path is relative to the location specified by the installation path. For example, binGDF.dll.

  6. Save the MSI package.

For more detailed information about MSI packages and Windows Installer, see Windows Installer.

Debugging Tips

The following are some tips to help debug issues when calling Games Explorer APIs:

Test with sample code

Building the GameUXInstallHelper sample solution will create a GameUXInstallHelper.dll and a GDFInstall.exe. The GDFInstall.exe is a sample application that uses GameUXInstallHelper.dll. Running GDFInstall.exe will prompt if you want install or remove a GDF binary from game explorer. You can test your GDF binary file by passing it in as the first command line arg to GDFInstall.exe.

If you don't have a GDF binary or yours fails to install, try using the sample GDF in the DirectX SDK. The GDFExampleBinary sample is found in the DirectX SDK and is just a DLL that only contains a GDF file. Also included in the source is its GDFMaker project. You can build it and test it using GDFInstall.exe. You can also compare the its XML to yours to pinpoint exactly where the issue is.

Make sure that your game was removed properly

If the game is already installed in Games Explorer, then subsequent calls to IGameExplorer::AddGame will return E_FAIL so make sure your game isn't installed before testing. This also applies if you install the GDF for only the current user and then try to install the GDF for all users. You must first remove the game from the current users before IGameExplorer::AddGame will succeed.

If you run GDFInstall.exe enum, the sample application will enter a different mode which will enumerate all of the installed Games Explorer games and prompt you to remove them. You can also browse and search the registry in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionGameUX to make sure that your game isn't installed for another user on the system. However, do not alter these registry settings for any other purpose, as they are not guaranteed to remain compatible in future versions of the operating system.

Be sure to sign using Authenticode

If you have provided a rating, but are not seeing it in Games Explorer, make sure that you have used Authenticode to sign the executable or DLL file that contains the rating. Games Explorer ignores ratings information in unsigned files. For more information about Authenticode, see Authenticode Signing for Game Developers.

Be sure that parental controls are available

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Ensure that you are testing parental controls on an edition of Windows Vista that provides parental controls: Home Basic, Home Premium, or Ultimate. Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise do not provide parental controls however if you are testing on Windows Vista Ultimate, and the test computer is joined to a domain, you must change a group policy setting make parental controls visible. To do this, see Getting Started with Games Explorer.

Verify that tasks are of the correct type

If you have specified support tasks that do not appear in Games Explorer, verify that they are all Web links. Any other shortcut tasks must be created as play tasks. Tasks are covered earlier in this article in Games Explorer Tasks.

Verify the data in GDF binary

GDFTrace.exe is a tool found in the DirectX SDK. You can run GDFTrace.exe on your GDF binary and it will output all the GDF metadata contained in the binary for every supported language for quick validation. It also displays any warnings about missing or outdated information.

Summary

Games Explorer in Windows Vista provides an easy, customizable way to present your game to users of Windows Vista, but it also requires you to register the game with the system during the installation process. The GameUXInstallHelper sample greatly simplifies this process for developers.

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