Apps

Build 2012 impressions

Posted by admin on November 06, 2012
Apps, Development, General, Windows Phone / No Comments

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.

The Seattle Needle, taken in very low light using the Nokia Lumia 920

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.

In front of one of the many logos that Microsoft should change at some point, since they recently changed their official logo:)

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.

/b switch. You know. For “build” .

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!

Blog Reader in Windows 8 Store

Posted by admin on October 23, 2012
Apps, Development, Windows 8 / No Comments

My first little app is in the Windows 8 Store as of today, for free of course. It is a simple app that you can use to read Karios Blog easier, faster and in Windows 8 style. You can even share articles with your friends as easy as using the ‘share’ charm. Enjoy!


MonsterUp Adventures – 1 month anniversary (update)

Posted by admin on July 09, 2012
Development, Games, Windows Phone, Windows Phone / No Comments

So, MonsterUp Adventures was released more or less 1 month ago. People seem to love it so far! And we would love to release some download numbers for you guys. So, without further ado, I am in the pleasent position to announce that in this month, MonsterUp Adventure has been downloaded more than 7200 (update: it seems that my unofficial downloads were off – official downloads that are just coming in indicate that we are talking about more than 12,000 downloads in the first month!) times (and counting) and has been played more than 17000 times (update: logically, this must be more than 20,000 by now).

This is huge!

We also have received more than 190 reviews from all over the world, with an average of almost 4.7/5 (94%) which left us speechless!

Thank you everybody!

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.