Monthly Archives: June 2012

An open letter to Joe Belfiore – manager of the Windows Phone Program at Microsoft

Posted by admin on June 25, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / 8 Comments
Joe,
I am a long time exclusive game developer for the Windows Phone platform. My games, MonsterUp, Galaxium and the recently released MonsterUp Adventures, have proven to be huge hits, constantly being in the top games of their respective categories. I’ve supported the platform before it was even first released, debugging my first games on a Zune HD. I have worked with Microsoft on several occasions and I am starting to develop games for Windows 8 as well. I’ve never done any development for iOS and Android so far. I’ve placed a huge bet on Microsoft winning the mobile wars, a bet which I have documented here (http://www.karios.gr/?p=626) and here (http://www.karios.gr/?p=621). As you can see, I have been fully engaged with Windows Phone development for the past 18 months.
Having provided so much time and effort on the platform, I feel I have the right to say a few things about the recent announcements. Most of the things are trivial, but even so they were not followed by Microsoft and this hurts Microsoft, Windows Phone, Nokia and myself personally. I do hope that the Windows Phone team is small, flexible and independent enough to be able to make some core decisions on the future of Windows Phone and not tied by some bureaucratic corporate policies that prevent you from doing so.
  1. Avoid bad publicity at all costs. Only in show business it’s true that bad publicity does not exist. We can’t afford it no more than we could last year. The recent announcement has completed shattered Nokia’s future. I cannot believe that no-one from your team though of that. Don’t take my word for it, Nokia’s share has fallen to 1996 levels today because of Microsoft. Nokia has invested the whole company’s existence to Windows Phone and at the moment, it is not working for them. And you aren’t helping. Unfortunately, Nokia’s “beta test” campaign seems like an ironic joke at this moment.
  2. Make announcements complete. This goes to both your team and the Surface team. A complete announcement is a much hyped day, where anticipation is really high for something amazingly cool, with you on the stage showing the full set of characteristics (or the coolest ones), including user features since Windows Phone is a customer first product, pricing and availability. People want to be able to get sucked into the hype and preorder on the spot. They want to hear the words “…and it will be available TODAY”, they almost expect to! If this information is not available, don’t do the announcement, but use the extra time to build up more hype (by leaking a few stuff). The same goes for the surface team, announcing a product with a potentially huge coolness factor, doing an awesome job keeping the whole project a tighly kept secret, but blowing it in the end. No firm availability dates, no pricing, no specific requirements, and worse of all not allowing the press to even use the Surface hardware at the end of the event (http://marketingland.com/hands-off-microsoft-surface-tablet-review-15146). I understand it is a beta OS on unreleased hardware. In this case, do not invite the press to have a fake “hands on” session, it is bad publicity (see number 1).
  3. Listen to your users. The (sadly) few people that are enthusiastic about the platform do everything we can to promote the things Windows Phone has to offer and you know what kind of an uphill battle this is. By killing support on current devices, you lose twofold: you lose a lot of your current customers (since you lose their trust) and you lose their promoting work (since you cannot expect them to suggest Windows Phone to anyone after that, do you?) I’m sure you have seen the poll about this already at uservoice (http://windowsphone.uservoice.com/forums/101801-feature-suggestions/suggestions/2945071-bring-new-features-of-wp8-that-can-be-supported-by) and the hundreds of angry customers’ comments below. The interesting thing is that the poll itself is a mature suggestion, and not some ranting , suggesting that you just port the most important user features to the existing user base. If I had written the suggestion, I would have demanded that you do a full transition, with the kernel and native code support, since this would avoid fragmentation on the Marketplace and give the Windows Phone team a big “wow” from everybody. Apple did a full transition from PowerPC architecture to x86, including development tools and OS, and they had much less resources that Microsoft has at their disposal. It is obvious to many people that these are just wrong strategic decisions and not technical barriers. If WP8 runs a bit slower on older hardware, so be it, people will be pleased with the effort and upgrade their harware as soon as possible. If someone puts iOS 6 on their iPhone 3GS, do they expect snappy performance? No, they don’t. They get a trial version of the OS version, and upgrade happily to iPhone 5 in a few months.
Fortunately, you still have time to fix all these, since Windows Phone 8 is still months away from actual deployment. Hire more people, make this a priority, demand more resources and make it happen. Come up on stage and announce it. But please do it sooner rather than later.
Thank you,

Marios Karagiannis

Ideas/Design/Development

.:Karios Games:.

A feature I miss in Windows Phone game development

Posted by admin on June 22, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, General, PC, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / No Comments

I never owned an iPod. My portable music needs were satisfied by various other players, like an iRiver and a Zune HD. The latest was the one that also proved very useful when I begun developing games for the then up-and-coming Windows Phone platform. The Zune HD is an amazing MP3 player. The software was fast, fluid and intuitive (not to mention it looked absolutely gorgeous). I still use it a lot, and I am sad that it has been discontinued as a product. I always believed that Microsoft should follow the iPhone-iPod paradigm, that of having an extra product that acts like a media player, but is also able to run all the software Windows Phone can, without being a phone itself. That would catapult the platform, since developers would potentially have many more users. Oh, and I would buy one :)

Anyway, back to the feature of the title. While developing my first game for XNA, Tetrada, which essentially became my first game for Windows Phone, and then got pulled from the Marketplace, I discovered that the Zune HD hardware had a unique and amazing feature. While its (gorgeous) touch screen was capacitive (as in “reacted to touch and not pressure”) it also had variable pressure sensitivity (although I do suspect that it was implemented in an “touch area variable” way more than actual pressure sensing). So it would react like any Windows Phone, iPhone or Android phone today to touch, but if you pushed further on the screen, the hardware (and of course software) would register this push depending how strong you pushed. This little feature is amazing and gives many possibilities to game developers. For example, imagine being able to control a racing game’s accelerator or brake pedals by pushing harder. Or control the power of the shot in a football game.

This pressure sensitivity already appeared in this week’s Microsoft announcement of the Surface tablet’s keyboard, so I guess I can still hope!

I would love it if this feature returned to Windows Phones, it would make games on the platform stick out in yet another way.

Windows 8 Surface – to RT or not to RT

Posted by admin on June 21, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, PC, Web, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / No Comments

Huge news from Microsoft this week.

And awesome presentation, up to the point that no information was leaked before the actual events, especially in the case of the Surface tablets, kudos for that. There was also lots of solid information about Windows Phone 8, but I will get to that in a later post. On this one, I would like to focus on the Surface tablets (codename: Hero).

Awesome design, awesome hardware, an awesome OS (and yes, I have been using it myself for a few months now – as a matter of fact, I am writing this post on a Win8RC tablet) and choice. And when I say choice, I don’t mean Apple kind of choice, which spells 32GB or 64GB, 3G or not 3G. I am talking about real choice.

At the moment, there are two Surface tablets that are going to be designed, build and sold by Microsoft themselves.

The first one, Surface RT, runs the Windows 8 RT version while the second, Surface Pro, runs – you guessed it – Windows 8 Pro. What is the difference between the two versions I hear you ask. Well, hardware wise, Surface RT is thinner, lighter, cheaper and runs off an Nvidia SoC, probably Tegra 3. It also has less storage. Surface Pro runs off Ivy Bridge i5, which means speed and power.


But the most important difference is the OS.

Surface RT can run only software written specifically for Windows RT, through the Windows Store. This makes it more of a consumption device, directly competing with the iPad, but in a much nicer package (in my opinion). If it can compete in prices, Microsoft has a winner in their hands. Another important bonus is that Surface RT comes with the latest Office suite built in, that runs on a normal desktop mode, with a keyboard and mouse if you so wish.

That is a killer feature for many.
Surface Pro can run all the software that are in the Windows Store as well as all software that Windows 7 can, including all games etc. This is a huge thing, since it’s a no compromising experience, and having used Windows 8 on pre-release versions for some time now, I can tell you it’s awesome, since they are even lighter than Windows 7 to use. This means, you can do actual work with one of these things, it’s not only a read-my-email-surf-the-web-tweet-what-I-had-for-breakfast-and-play-some-angry-birds device like all of the tablets, iOS and Android alike, out there today. Visual Studio? You got it. Photoshop? Illustrator? Flash? With a built-in double digitizer (touch and stylus with multiple pressure levels), this is an invaluable tool.
Both tablets feature the awesome cover that doubles as a touch keyboard and touchpad. Awesome stuff there.

What will I get?

It’s a tough choice. I need a few tools that I think I would not find on Windows RT, like Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Visual Studio, so I am a bit biased towards Surface Pro. On the other hand, if I was not looking to replace my current ultrabook (a MacBook Air) but I was looking to replace my iPad instead, I would go for a Surface RT, because of the characteristics it has, lighter, cheaper and with most likely better battery life.

What would be really amazing for me personally, since I mostly do Metro and Windows Phone game development these days, is if we could have a Visual Studio version for RT (VS RT?) that would compile only for these platforms. Since drivers are going to be common to all Windows platforms (including Windows Phone 8 as we learned today), it would be awesome to do Windows Phone and Metro game development on a light, silent, long battery life tablet, with a normal keyboard and mouse. That would be just awesome.

Is anyone from Microsoft taking notes?

MonsterUp Adventures’ real competitor is … the original MonsterUp

Posted by admin on June 15, 2012
Development, Games, Windows Phone / No Comments

It’s a fierce battle. MonsterUp has been in the Marketplace for Windows Phone since January 2011, while MonsterUp Adventures has been there for 6 days. But it seems like the battle is going to be to the end.
On the red corner, the veteran, MonsterUp with 450 reviews and an average of 4.41/5 and the following rankings:

#1 in Greece +4 places compared to MU
#4 in the UK +1 places compared to MU
#8 in the US -2 places compared to MU
#14 in Germany -10 places compared to MU
#14 in Spain -11 places compared to MU
#15 in France -12 places compared to MU
#3 in Hong Kong +6 places compared to MU
#3 in Singapore +1 places compared to MU
#7 in Denmark -2 places compared to MU
#8 in Belgium -3 places compared to MU
#20 in Switzerland (FR) -16 places compared to MU
#5 in Mexico +1 places compared to MU
#6 in Canada (EN) -3 places compared to MU

On the blue corner, the challenger, MonsterUp Adventures with 24 reviews and an average of 4.91/5 and the following rankings:
#5 in Greece
#5 in the UK
#6 in the US
#4 in Germany
#3 in Spain
#6 in France
#9 in Hong Kong
#4 in Singapore
#5 in Denmark
#5 in Belgium
#4 in Switzerland (FR)
#6 in Mexico
#3 in Canada (EN)

Well, who is the winner? Who cares! The Trelloland cute monsters win!

MonsterUp Adventures is already soaring

Posted by admin on June 11, 2012
Development, Games, Windows Phone / No Comments

MonsterUp Adventures, the sequel to MonsterUp, was released only a couple of days ago, but the response has been phenomenal so far. The game has reached the top games in its category in only a few days, where of course MonsterUp is already for the past few months, and we are only getting 5 star reviews so far! We could not be happier with your support for the game!

In order to celebrate our early success, we are doing a few things already, like slashing the price of the original MonsterUp to $0.99, but we are not going to stay there. We are preparing a couple of things, but more on that later.

Take a look at today’s rankings of MonsterUp and MonsterUp Adventures. It’s so nice that, for example, in Greece, 2 out of the top 5 platform games are MonsterUp games. Sweet!

China

United States

United Kingdom

Switzerland (german)

Greece

Switzerland (french)