interviews


Sylvain Dubrofsky of PopCap Games and Windows Phone Central's Paul Acevedo

Microsoft’s Xbox One console is in stores now and doing very well; we even gave it a highly detailed review last week. Early adopters have more than twenty games to choose from, most of which are actually quite good. We’ll be reviewing more of those titles very soon, but in the meantime let’s look ahead at the next great Xbox game to go on sale: Peggle 2!

PopCap’s Peggle 2 is one of the upcoming Xbox One titles we played during our visit to Electronic Arts headquarters just before Thanksgiving. If you’ve ever played the original Peggle on Xbox 360, PC, DS, or phones (sadly it never arrived on Windows Phone), you should know why we’re excited for the sequel. Peggle 2 launches as a timed exclusive on Xbox One this Monday as an $11.99 download.

Head past the break for our video interview and hands-on footage of Peggle 2 in action!

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The Xbox One launched in 13 countries last Friday, and early adopters (including much of the Windows Phone Central staff) have a fairly robust selection of launch titles to enjoy. That doesn’t mean we’re not already looking to the future, though. When you buy a console during the first month of its release, you’re investing in the games that will come later even more than the first wave of titles.

One of the most exciting early post-launch releases will be Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare from PopCap Games. Garden Warfare now has an official release date of February 18th, 2014 for both Xbox One and Xbox 360. I actually played the game during our visit to Electronic Arts headquarters last week and came away highly impressed. Head past the break for impressions, gameplay footage, and our video interview with Garden Warfare producer, Brian Lindley!

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In the last week or so we’ve brought you interviews and announcements from German developers Handy Games and Flare Games. Now we’ve made it a trilogy by speaking with Exozet Games, the studio who brought popular board game Carcassonne to Xbox Windows Phone last year.

Matthias Hellmund, the Head of Mobile Development at Exozet, sat down with us to discuss the development process of Carcassonne, its online multiplayer, and even the notorious grinding Achievements! Few game makers come prepared with as many development stories. Head past the break to learn the full picture behind how Carcassonne arrived on Windows Phone.

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Next up in our Casual Connect USA gaming coverage are two titles from an established Windows Phone developer. Earlier this year, Handy Games (one of Germany’s largest mobile game studios) jumped onto our platform with two impressive Windows Phone 8 titles: Epic Battle Dude – a “one-dimensional“ casual RPG and Aces of Luftwaffe – a vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up. Both are great games (especially Aces) and both are free to play.

So what does the studio have in store for us next? Quite a lot, it turns out. Christopher Kassulke, CEO and owner of Handy Games revealed to us the next two games in the pipeline for Windows Phone 8: 1941: Frozen Front and Townsmen. We were in town for a casual games conference, but both games looked deeper and more fully featured than the average casual title. Get the full scoop in our video after the break!

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A couple of days ago we promised you lots of gaming coverage from the Casual Connect event in San Francisco. Well, my schedule has been overstuffed with meetings (including some I didn’t list in the previous article!), but we’re going to start getting some of those articles up today. First up is our video interview with Sam Wong from the Voxel Agents, an indie game studio located in Melbourne (pronounced “Mel-bin” for some reason), Australia.

The Voxel Agents have created a surprisingly clever and unique puzzle game called Puzzle Retreat. I say surprising because there are so many puzzle games out there, it seems like every possible concept has been done to death. So if I’m interested in a puzzler, it might possibly be a game worth noticing. Making Puzzle Retreat even more worthy of notice, the game is coming to Windows Phone 8 later this year!

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With the scarcity of certain types of games on Windows Phone, many players turn to emulators to get their fix. Emulators allow us to play titles designed for older videogame consoles on our phones. Download an emulator and you’ll have access to hundreds of classic games, assuming you can find the ROMs (software images) for those games. Some people consider playing old games via emulation to be software piracy, while everybody else marvels at just how cool it is to play those old games on the go.

The gaming emulators on Windows Phone come from two key developers, M.k and Samuel Blanchard. Today we bring you an in-depth interview with Samuel, the French developer who created Purple Cherry (a GameBoy Color emulator) and Blue Tomato (a Sega Master System emulator). Read on to learn about the challenges of porting emulators to Windows Phone and what Samuel’s next projects will be!

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Outside of playing the phone version of Halo: Spartan Assault and grabbing an exclusive first look at N.O.V.A. 3, we had a tough time finding Windows Phone games and news at E3 this year. Blame Microsoft’s focus on the Xbox One and the console folks’ general disinterest in promoting Windows Phone or Windows 8 for that. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t turn over every stone in our search for more phone goodness…

As it happens, just after the Microsoft Media Briefing, Sam and I met up with an indie Windows Phone developer from China named Hua “Rex” Chen. Rex showed off his new puzzle platformer for Windows Phone 7 and 8 called Eyez. We snagged some hands-on footage and an interview over lunch, and then headed off to the EA Press Conference minutes later. Eyez has just launched - more details and our exclusive video after the break!

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Yesterday at E3 2013 we managed to squeeze in an interview with Peter Orullian, Group Product Manager at Microsoft. Peter is a ridiculously accomplished individual. He writes books, sings opera, and somehow finds time to work with Windows Phone, SmartGlass, and Xbox Music. Leave some lifetime Achievements for the rest of us, big guy!

Anyway, I sat down on camera with him to discuss his contributions to Windows Phone and SmartGlass, plus the Xbox One and his favorite games of the show. Windows Phone Central’s Daniel Rubino and “Serious” Sam Sabri also pitched in on the interview questions. Head past the break for the video interview and a brief summary!

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Earlier today, Microsoft officially announced Halo: Spartan Assault for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Just knowing that a real Halo game is coming to Windows platforms with Xbox Achievements is pretty much the best gaming news we could have hoped for this year. But of course, Halo fans will want to know more about Spartan Assault. Our fact-filled announcement article was just the top of the iceberg.

We actually attended a top-secret reveal event just a few weeks ago, where we interviewed several members of 343 Industries, Microsoft’s Halo-focused development company. Head past the break for the full video interview, Spartan Assault In-App Purchase (IAP) details, Windows 8 Xbox controller news, and everything else we couldn’t fit in the reveal article!

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Over the weekend, we wrapped up our ‘How Microsoft can save Xbox games on Windows Phone’ series with a Microsoft video interview that we’d been saving for just such an occasion. That video focused exclusively on the Xbox Windows Phone issues raised in our editorial series, but it didn't exactly put our concerns to rest. All we Xbox enthusiasts can do is keep pushing the editorials and issues with Microsoft until finally the right people realize the need for improvement and start effecting changes.

And while many of those issues have yet to be resolved, I’d be hard-pressed to claim that Windows Phone gaming has not improved since the debut of Windows Phone 8. Game development is easier than ever, and many companies who ignored Windows Phone 8 are now onboard for 8. When we sat down to talk with Microsoft's Larry Lieberman, Senior Product Manager and Casey McGee, Senior Marketing Manager, our first subject of business was all those recent advances that make Windows Phone gaming better than ever.

Head past the break to learn just how things are looking up and see the second part of our video interview!

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Although the year got off to a rocky start with an extended Xbox game release drought, the Xbox Windows Phone gaming situation has actually been looking up since February. Gameloft’s highly anticipated Windows Phone 8 titles finally started rolling out, and some weeks saw two Xbox games released instead of just one.

Don’t think we’re out of the thicket just yet. The Xbox Live certification process continues to cause games like Cut the Rope: Experiments to come out much later than on other platforms, and meaningful title updates come just as late or not at all – both Windows Phone Cut the Rope games are missing levels that iOS and Android already get to enjoy. Microsoft’s solution to this problem seems to be encouraging big games like Temple Run to release as indie titles in order to circumvent the Xbox Live certification process. Because why bother fixing a broken system?

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While everyone here has played a game or used an app that offers some kind of in-app-purchase (IAP), most of us probably don’t give the mobile payment systems that work behind the scenes much thought. And yet developers certainly have to consider mobile payment systems if they’re going to accept payments from users.

At GDC last week, we had the opportunity to speak with Rain Rannu, the Co-Founder of Fortumo Ltd.  Fortumo provides mobile payment services for Windows Phone 7.5 and 8, Windows 8 and RT, and several other mobile platforms. They’ve recently teamed up with Microsoft to offer an exciting deal for developers who sign up to use Fortumo with their Windows products by the end of May.

Head past the break for more details and our video interview!

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Skulls of the Shogun has been an incredibly important game for Windows Phone and the Microsoft ecosystem as a whole. It’s the first Xbox Live game to cross platforms between the Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. It was also the Xbox Windows Phone game that ended the game drought we faced earlier this year. After so many weeks without a new game, Skulls quenched many a Windows Phone gamer’s thirst.

We had the opportunity to speak with Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-BIT twice last year, first at E3 and later Casual Connect. Of course, that was all before the game launched. Now that Skulls of the Shogun is live and in players’ hands, Windows Phone Central jumped at the opportunity to ask 17-BIT’s lead programmer Borut Pfeifer about how the game performed and what players can expect in the future.

Head past the break for the full video interview!

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Galactic Reign was quite the revelation when it appeared on Windows 8 and then Windows Phone 7 and 8 last month. Here was an exclusive strategy game for Windows platforms with cross-platform asynchronous multiplayer, and Microsoft basically forgot to tell anybody about it before release. But it’s definitely worth playing if you enjoy competitive strategy games. Check out our review to learn just how the game works.

One of Galactic Reign’s most unique aspects has to be its large-scale space battles. See, the fleets of ships that clash against each other in the game can number in the thousands. Instead of rendering these battles in-engine, the details about each side’s armada are sent to the cloud. From there, a cinematic video gets constructed and sent back to the game for players to watch.

The technology for those cloud space battles comes from Canadian developer Slant Six games. Last week at GDC 2013, we chatted with Paul Martin, Director of Technology and James Ricker, Cinematics Director about Galactic Reign’s videos and Slant Six Games’ experience working with Microsoft. Head past the break for the full video interview!

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Our recent trip to the Game Developers Conference focused mostly on games, as you might expect. But the hardware behind the software is fairly important too. For Windows Phone, Nokia is certainly the device manufacturer doing the most to grow the platform. But regardless of the handset maker, one hardware manufacturer provides the chipsets for all Windows Phone devices: Qualcomm.

We sat down and interviewed Michelle Leyden-Li, the Senior Director of Marketing at Qualcomm about the hardware that drives Windows Phone and Windows RT devices. Check out the video after the break!

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Babaroga’s Zombies!!! was an early Xbox Windows Phone exclusive that  still commands a loyal following from board game fans. I fondly remember buying it about a month before joining the Windows Phone Central staff, and subsequently advocating for an update to make one of the Achievements more easily attainable.

Jump ahead to the present, the Xbox Windows 8 and RT version of Zombies!!! has finally gone live. We previously covered some of the new version’s features and improvements, and now PC and tablet gamers can experience the enhanced game for themselves. To get everyone in a zombie killing mood, we present this interview with Andreja Djokovic, the CEO and founder of Babaroga.

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The Windows Phone 7 version of Zombies!!! has just gone on sale as the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. At the same time, Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system for tablets and PCs just launched. That makes this the perfect time to check up on the Windows 8 version of Zombies!!!, wouldn’t you say? Windows Phone Central has done just that, and now we've got an exclusive interview about the new version’s features and enhancements to share with you.

Head past the break for the full interview, screenshots, and two videos!

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After running part one of our interview with Patrick Wylie, the VP of Big Fish Game Studios, your friendly neighborhood gaming journalist got sidetracked a bit with health problems. Don't worry, I seem to have pulled through okay. In case you missed the interview, Big Fish - one of the leaders in casual gaming on PC - has announced both Xbox Live Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 ports of their marquee title Fairway Solitaire. The game is already a huge hit on PC, Mac, and iOS – even people who don’t normally care for Solitaire games (like me) love it.

Check out part two of our exclusive video interview after the break!

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Remember that Windows Phone Summit that took place in San Francisco last month? It centered around Windows Phone 8, aka Apollo. Microsoft chose to reveal a new Apollo-specific Xbox Live game on-stage during the event: Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games. Big Fish is a major producer of casual games on PC and other mobile platforms, so the developer’s signing on to support Windows Phone is a great thing.

As it happens, Big Fish was on-hand at Casual Connect Seattle last week to reveal their new cloud gaming service, Big Fish Unlimited. Of course we took advantage of their presence to set up an exclusive interview with Patrick Wylie, VP of Big Fish Games Studios. Head past the break to learn just what Patrick’s team has in store for Windows Phone and Windows 8!

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