Windows Phone

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?

Why I code for Windows Phone

Posted by admin on March 01, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / 8 Comments

I am asked this question a lot the past few months. First of all it’s a good thing that people are curious about why someone would choose to code for Windows Phone instead of the other platforms, especially with the knowledge that iOS and Android have a huge market share combined and Windows Phone does not (yet). I have a few reasons, and although they might not satisfy some people, they are enough for me.

Reason 1:

Developing for Windows Phone is fun. I love the SDK, I love the tools, I love the whole experience. I have been developing games since I was a little boy and the reason back then continues to be the reason right now. I am having fun developing games. Back in the day (think: 8bit home computing), almost all of my creations were developed, tested and enjoyed by yours truly exclusively. There was no such thing as a “user base” but even so I was still enjoying developing games. I still do.  But in order for this to be fun, I have to have a fun experience doing it. C#, .NET, VS and XNA give me just that. An interesting example is given on the video below, which shows how the experience of creating a hello world app in the 3 platforms is.

Reason 2:

Making games is not my main activity. This blends a bit with the other reasons. Spending 1-2 hours per day developing games for Windows Phone allows me to go about doing the other things I am doing in my life (finishing my PhD and having a family). I strongly have the feeling that this would not exactly be possible using any of the other two platforms and be dedicated enough to master either of them. I am not saying it is impossible, but I truly feel efficient game developing on Windows Phone, even if I don’t have lots of time to spend. Also, because Windows Phone game development is not my main thing, income is welcome, but I am not going to starve because the market share is smaller than the other platforms. Yes, it is not enough to consider it my full time thing just yet, but exactly this brings us to :

Reason 3:

I have placed a bet with Windows Phone. And not just with Windows Phone, but with the up-and-coming Windows ecosystem. For me right now, Microsoft is the new Apple. It innovated constantly in many fronts and has some amazing successes to show for its efforts. For example, the xbox came late to the party, but managed to level the competition in just a few years. I knew since the beginning of the Windows Phone last year, that it was part of something much greater than just a phone OS. Microsoft’s strategy is to finally put the huge advantage of Windows to good use and win in the other fronts utilizing just that. Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the new Xbox platform next year will provide a unified ecosystem that will be unbeatable. My bet is to be involved in this as early as possible and this was last year when Windows Phone launched and I released my first game for the platform, Tetrada. I already have a few games and apps in the marketplace and the codebase and libraries I have developed are fully reusable not only in Windows Phone 8 “Apollo” (compatibility with Windows Phone 7 has been confirmed) but also in Windows 8 (MonsterUp on Windows tablets) AND XBox 360. This is a good investment for the future of the ecosystem on my part and since I can currently afford to not being sustained by the income from this activity, fun and investment for the future come first.

I think these are my main reasons. My current status may differ from yours of course but for me, I think that I am doing the right thing. The games I’ve made have proven quite successful and I am thoroughly enjoying that, so I can’t find a reason to stop doing what I’m doing. And I do believe I am going to win the Windows ecosystem bet. Nokia is in full time, Skype is here, big game and software studios are interested in the platform and it seems to be getting the thumbs up from a lot of tech-blogs, site and media in general.

The future of Windows Phone looks bright!

Interesting facts about KariosGames

Posted by admin on February 04, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / No Comments

According to the lovely site over at Xyologic, the ranking for our games are really good. With over 31.000 downloads overall and more than 1400 just in December 2011 we are ranked at place 1271! We are leaders in both the platformer and shooter categories having an app at places 23 and 39 respectively.

All the above info and more, here.

2012 – The Nokia Windows Phone year

Posted by admin on January 25, 2012
Apps, Development, Games, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / 3 Comments

Nokia Windows Phones have been around for no more than a few months. There are markets that have just started to see Nokia WP handsets, while the first up-to-par handset (the Lumia 900) is yet to be on the shelves.

Nokia is well known for its capacity to provide good quality handsets and the know-how of promoting them. So how are the first handsets accepted by the people? While we don’t have any concrete numbers for the sales (there are rumors that Nokia has shipped – not sold – about 1.5 million Lumias so far) we do have some usage information from MonsterUp and Galaxium for you, just to get a feel of what is going on.

Below, you can see two pie charts. One is the overall percentage of manufacturers since the beginning (which is January 2011 for MonsterUp and July 2011 for Galaxium). The second one is the percentage since 1/1/2012, so a little less than one month. I think the trends show up quite nicely. HTC is still the dominant Windows Phone manufacturer with Samsung taking the second place. LG seems to be losing the 3rd place to Nokia, at least with our data. Also, notice that all manufacturers are losing percentages apart from Nokia who has increased its percentage. Of course, we are comparing apples with oranges here, but I think this trend will continue.

(click on charts for bigger versions)
By the way, as a side note, we have seen out first ZTE device playing our games (not included in the data above)!