Last week was crazy and awesome at the same time. I’ve never really considered visiting Build, especially since it’s a looooong way from where I live (try 12 hours total flight time) but Sebastien seemed overexcited about going so he kind of dragged me along. Not that I complain of course, since the experience was educational, fun and I am not regretting going through with it.
Since it’s always a good occasion to visit nearby places, before going to Seattle (and then Redmond) for Build, we decided to visit Vancouver in Canada. Very nice place, I’ve been to Canada before and the impression I am always left with is how nice people are in Canada. Everyone seems to be living a relaxed life somehow, although it’s as cold as always, especially in late October when we visited. After Vancouver, it was a 4 hour train ride to Seattle.
Seattle is known for its rainy days, and boy is that true. I think during the week we spent there, it stopped raining for about half a day. This, of course, also means that the area is quite green. Seattle is your typical north-west city but Bellevue and Redmond looked oh-so-much better to me. Especially the Microsoft campus. The campus is more like a city of its own, with about 120 buildings (conveniently numbered B1-B120) but also with lots of amenities for employees, like stores, restaurants, child care facilities and even doctors. Employees can get in and out of them using their access card and they get special discounts on stuff as well. We, as Build attendees, were also given a sample in the form of a $120 limit voucher which we could use to take advantage of the low prices at the Microsoft Store where I got myself a nice bluetooth keyboard and a 12 month gold live subscription. The Microsoft Campus also features its own transit system, in the form of Connector
The sessions were very interesting during Build, although after the 3rd day me and Sebastien decided to focus on the Build Hackathon, creating an awesome real time weather app in 2 days for Windows Phone 8, complete with live tiles, map inverse geolocation and other nice Windows Phone features. Although it was not chosen for the finals, the app taught me a lot, since I normally make games. I also had a chance to speak to a couple of Microsoft employees about the future of XNA and I had confirmed my fears that XNA is officially dead on both Windows 8 Store Apps and Windows Phone 8. I also had the chance to find alternatives though, so I guess my next games will have to take a detour from the XNA libraries I have been building for the past 2 years (except in the case of MonoGame, which I have used already to make the iOS version of Galaxium as well as MonsterUp Memory for the Windows 8 Store). MonoGame will also support Windows Phone 8 sure, so there are good chances I will be porting my games to take advantage of the awesome Windows Phone 8 features like the new resolutions and in-app purchases in the future. Other options include SharpDX and Unity, the latter being a very compelling choice at the moment.
Of course, one of the highlights of Build was us getting 3 awesome gifts: a Microsoft Surface with 32GB and Windows RT, a custom developer edition Nokia Lumia 920 with 32GB and a 100GB SkyDrive space expansion. I will come back with close looks at the new devices in future posts, but I can say right now that they are awesome :) By the way, all the pictures on this post are taken with the 920’s awesome camera.
Food was great and the Microsoft employees were always nice and helpful even though they had 2500 weird people going around every day for a week. All in all, it was an awesome experience. Met some nice people from Nokia and Microsoft as well as developers from all over the world, had some nice (and not so nice) discussions, learned a lot and I would do it again. Maybe next year? We’ll see!