Thursday, 14 October 2010 18:48

GCAP 2010: Windows Phone 7's gaming shot in the foot

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I thought integration with Xbox LIVE would be a strong selling point for the new Microsoft attempt at taking on the iPhone and Android with Windows Phone 7.  But alas there are just too many restrictions that will hold it back.

Microsoft's Jean-Francois Prevost has spoken about developing games for Windows Phone 7 at Game Connect Asia Pacific today on Australia's Gold Coast.

Whilst the talk itself went well, with Prevost running through the important points of interest when it comes to using Silverlight or XNA to produce fun content for the platform, as you will see, there was some resistance to the idea from the predominantly game developer audience.

Prevost ran through the attractions of the new operating system.  In particular the mostly consistent hardware developers will be working with was proffered up as a positive.  

For me however this seemed to miss the mark.  The fact that each phone running Windows Phone 7 will be meeting stringent requirements on resolution, RAM, CPU/GPU and touch screen standards, with hardware keyboards optional, is nice on the surface, but why not instead provide an interface to the programmer so that the hardware requirements are not as stringent?   Take that worry away from the programmer.  

The answer of course is that by putting in these hardware guidelines Microsoft is ensuring the performance and look of each and every piece of software that appears under the Windows Phone 7 guise.  In the same way they can do when controlling the hardware in console gaming on the Xbox 360, and in the same way Apple does on its platforms.   

T o get started on providing content for Microsoft's new mobile platform there are a couple of ways to go.  Work for an established Publisher or pitch straight to Microsoft, and you could get an Xbox LIVE branded title up and running.  

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Getting Xbox LIVE branding means a host of advantages to consumers with Xbox gamer tags including Achievements (20 of them up to 200G), Leaderboards, Avatar inclusion (albeit a static posed Avatar) and Demo modes.

But Microsoft is also allowing developers to go their own way and self publish after meeting the usual ratification by the powers at be.  No word on whether this means creating your own Achievements or Leaderboards are possibilities.

Here is the real kicker for the audience present at today's session.  You can only develop your new Windows Phone 7 masterpiece using C#.

That's right; C++, Java or any other language will not be accepted by Microsoft as an applicable game application for the new OS.  And we thought Apple was being restrictive.

Microsoft will allow two tool frameworks under the umbrella of C#.  For rapid creation of UI heavy 2D based games, Siverlight is the suggested tool, but XNA, in particular, XNA 4.0 was the suggested framework  if you want to get serious with your mobile game development.

Provost ran through a number of easy API examples for interfacing with the particular hardware and Xbox LIVE software that is bundled under the Windows Phone 7 rollout.  The OS includes a number of built in advanced graphics, audio and general media features as well as GPS, accelerometer, mutitouch and vibration API's to play with.

There was also plenty to be said about the ability to develop for muti-screens using XNA 4.0 in particular.  Multi-Microsoft screens that is.  So developers can use a 'Reach' profile for mobile development, and have the code switch to 'HiDef' profile to utilise all the gee-whiz features of the power of the Xbox 360 or PC.

In many ways though, this news did little to appease the developers in the audience.  There are 60 million iPod Touch and iPhone devices out there, as well as an increasing number running the very open Android OS.  

Considering some of the developers on hand have had significant success on these devices already (Halfbrick with Fruit Ninja and Firemint with Flight Control) it was very evident that porting their code from the preferred C++ to C# for Windows Phone 7 was possibly going to be a pain not many wish to endure.
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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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