XNA

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XNA is dead. Long live XNA!

So, as many of you have heard, Microsoft has killed off XNA and every game written in the framework is doomed.

Except that isn’t the whole story.

If you don’t know, XNA is a game development framework made by Microsoft to aid developers in rapidly creating cross platform games. The name stands for: XNA's Not Acronymed. Writing a game in XNA enables it to run on Windows, XBOX, Windows Phone, and the [now dead] Zune HD. The only real changes that need to be made are the controls and UI (different screen sizes). Even if you’ve never heard of XNA, chances are that you’ve played a game made in it if you’ve ever used a Windows Phone. One such game is ARMED! - which now has a Windows 8 version made in MonoGame.  XNA was loved by a lot of people, and gained popularity because it was an easy entry point into 2D and 3D game development, and it was a good way to reuse code across platforms.

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Atoms, the Amiga inspired board game is now available to all in the Marketplace. We previously caught up with Ross, the developer of the game at the Bournemouth Dev Day where he was kind enough to give us a first look. It’s a turn based board game that Ross has been working to release for some time. There is an Xbox360 variant in the works and a homebrew Nintendo DS version too.

The game currently supports six players, be them human or AI but presently no turn based online play. The game sports a nice Amiga style soundtrack and clean punchy graphics.

You can download Atoms from the Marketplace for £0.79p or you can run with the full, ad supported version for free. (QR code after the break)

**UPDATE**

Ross has been in touch to advise that at present the app is currently only available in the following countries US, UK, Canada, Ireland and Italy.

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Whilst at the Windows Phone Dev Day in Bournemouth we got a chance to meet Ross Gouldthorpe, who has been developing for Windows Phone for two years. Ross was kind enough to give us a walkthrough of his upcoming Windows phone game, Atoms.

The game is also currently in development for the Xbox 360 and has a Nintendo DS homebrew counterpart. The game Atoms has roots as an old Amiga game of the same name. It started life as freebie on the cover of a magazine, which is where Ross first discovered it.  Ross tells me he still has his Amiga machines but these days they are locked up in storage, he does still have the Amiga CD32 connected to his TV though.

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For years, Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play Challenge has showcased and inspired some of the best and most innovative indie games around. Developers get the chance to compete for cash and prizes as well as showcase the fruits of their labors to the world. Most winners produce their games on Xbox 360 and XBLIG titles, with many seeing PC releases as well.

The 2012 competition looks to be the best one yet. For the first time, the contest will feature a Windows Phone category. The winners will likely go on to be hit indie titles in the Marketplace, but there’s always a chance they’ll be picked up as Xbox Live titles instead. The 2008 winner, Carneyvale: Showtime, went on to become a Games for Windows Live title on PC and Xbox Live title on Windows Phone.

The Dream.Build.Play Challenge is open to developers from around the world. Games are evaluated on the criteria of Innovation, Fun Factor, and Production Quality. Winners will be announced in the summer of 2012. Learn more about the contest and past winners at the official Dream.Build.Play web site and the Facebook fan page.

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In Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, Microsoft are kick-starting workshops simultaneously today (October 8th) to aid potential and current Windows Phone developers with improving knowledge, skill and experience. The two day training course will sport presentations by the likes of Chris Walsh (ChevronWP7) and Shane Morris (Automatic Studio), feature lunch and a competition provided by Nokia, and will cover the following areas of Windows Phone development:

  • Introduction to the developer environment
  • Navigation and App Life Cycle
  • Launchers and choosers
  • Alarms, Reminders and other Extensions
  • Device Features and Hardware
  • Tiles and Push Notifications
  • Multitask and Background Agents
  • Local Database Access
  • Marketplace tip and tricks
  • Game development with XNA and Silverlight

You may have noticed above that we stated Nokia is running a competition at the workshops, but what's the prize? Whoever can create the most popular app over the next two weeks from the workshop will win Nokia's yet-to-be-released handset - exciting stuff! 

Source: WPDownUnder

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Ricky Tan has published an insightful blog post on MSDN that covers implementing multiplayer gaming on the windows Phone platform. Using UdpAnySourceMulticastClient, Ricky walks us through enabling peer-to-peer support (over WiFi in this case) in a game for Mango.

Fancy carrying this out yourself? According to Ricky, it's not as difficult as one would assume. Here's some quick points to get you interested (check out the links below for the article with full code viewing, downloads, etc.):

PlatformerGame.cs: This contains the game code and is where the sockets are initialized, and where the sends and receives are handled.

UdpAnySourceMulticastChannel.cs: This contains the UDP multicast sockets code for joining the group, sending and receiving data.

OtherPlayer.cs: This is a modification of Player.cs to add other players to the game.

Ricky has added peer-to-peer support into the platformer start kit developed by David Russet. Read more information on this (plus the full download and snippets of code) over at Ricky Tan's blog. Multiplayer gaming is most definitely in the works, we also have to keep an eye on Microsoft's progress with 'Switchboard'.

Via: Channel9; Thanks, Mark!

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The guys over at DigitalRune have released their game UI package that include .NET packages, which will aid developers in handling device input and creating GUIs in XNA. The libraries are supported on Windows, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 and can be manipulated using mouse, keyboard, gimped or touch input.

The UI will allow one to create a simple in-game menu for a project on the 360 or WP7, but can also be used by the more experienced to craft complex user interfaces that are found in Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). The video above acts an example to show how the GUI can be projected on not only 2D UI, but 3D surfaces too. Battle on past the break for feature rundown and download links

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Coming out of talk on Silverlight and XNA (remember, devs can now combine both, making regular apps with 3D, immersive graphics), an interesting question was brought up: Can developers mix Silverlight and XNA on Windows or Xbox? Answer: no, they cannot. 

Microsoft does not have any tools for devs nor anything to announce on the matter, though they have built the Windows Phone tools with Windows and Xbox programming in mind, but as of now, there seems to be no immediate plans to bring over that functionality. What's interesting is this technically breaks the much touted "3 screens" model whereby devs can write roughly 80% of the app and have it compatible with the PC, Xbox and Windows Phones. Now, with the addition of Silverlight to games (and devs do like that ability), this is not the case anymore.

Will it have a big impact? Too early to tell and certainly Microsoft can port over this feature to PC and Xbox in the future. But for now, devs will technically be breaking that ability if they use both languages in the same app or game.

Anyways, for fun though, watch the top vid to see some more XNA + Silverlight combos. The first part shows how video can now be manipulated dynamically, making it like a liquid to the touch...very cool (the audience clapped after this) and the second shows a demo augmented reality app with 3D graphics "floating". The ability to add XNA graphics to the camera can result in some really cool 3D effects.

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We reported on the coming ability of developers to mix XNA and Silverlight programming and this was confirmed today during the MIX11 keynote.

What this means for consumers is much richer apps with fluid 3D graphics within them. In other words, think of the graphics from your Xbox LIVE games and now add that ability to say a GPS app with a 3D rotating globe.

To see what it looks like, see the above demo from a MIX11 session. It should give you an idea of what's coming soon.

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As developers learn the intricacies of what sells and what does not with the Marketplace, they will adapt. Such a case presents itself with the developer of Impossible Shoota (see hands on), which has been downloaded 21,000 times already, making it one of the most popular apps out there (#6 in games). One of its secrets is that it is free.

Much like on Android and the iPhone, free apps that are ad supported tend to do the best. In response, Elbert Perez who makes Impossible Shoota, has made his other two games free too since they have not been doing nearly as well when selling for $0.99. Because the Marketplace doesn't yet allow developers to go from a paid app to free, he has to re-release them with a "+" at the end so "Scribble Defense+" and Zombiedmix+" are the new names. Later, these games along with Impossible Shoota are expected to gain ads through Microsoft's new XNA-supported ad system. Perez is hoping this works for him and us noting:

Hopefully this will be a successful business model for me because it benefits me and everyone out there looking for a quality game for free.

Even Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds have gone free with their Android version and it has been a huge success for them. Could free and ad supported be the secret developers need for success? We think so.

Download Scribble Defense+ here and Zombiedmix+ here. Videos after the break of both games.

Source: OccasionalGamer

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Only announced in September, Microsoft has kept true to their word and released the Visual Basic programming to for Windows Phone 7, allowing an even larger number of developers to jump in on the platform.

Using these tools, developers can now have multiple means to writing code for WP7 and even more importantly, can start today. One limitation though is developers can only use it for writing Silverlight apps, not XNA, meaning games are out for now.

Kudos to Microsoft though for bringing "the most requested" tools  to developers in 60 days. Hopefully we'll even see more quality apps as we near the 3,000 mark this week.

Source: The Windows Phone Developer Blog

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For all intents and purposes, MIX10 was the real coming out party for Windows Phone 7. That was the first time we really got an extensive look at the future of Windows Phone. One of my personal favorite moments from MIX10 was the quick look (tease is more like it) of what XNA was capable of with The Harvest. What we didn’t know at the time is that The Harvest is going to be one of XBOX Live titles from Microsoft Gaming Studios available at launch. Windows Phone UK has posted several videos showing off what the game is capable of and what we can expect from this third-person shooter. First impressions, this is an awfully good start; at least as good as anything available for iPhone or Android, if not better.

What do you think about The Harvest? How much gaming do you think you will do with your Windows Phone? Let us know in the comments. Videos are after the break.

[via: MobileTechWorld]

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Yesterday at IndyTechFest, William Steele of Microsoft held a session on "Building Applications on Windows Phone 7 with XNA" which was recorded on UStream for all to watch.

While geared for developers, there were a few nuggets of information made available that many of you may find interesting.  And once again, we'll save you the hour with a summary of the new information:

 Development

  • Regarding orientation, Silverlight is portrait by default; XNA is landscape, though of course they can be altered
  • XNA games are limited to 30 FPS, but that's also the limit on the physical screen's refresh rate
  • Only Silverlight can use on-screen keyboard; not yet available for XNA but you can write your own custom keyboard in XNA
  • Games built on XNA 4.0 will NOT run on the Zune (there's a "real reason" and one they're telling us publicly. Hmmm...)
  • Silverlight app shows up in the Apps Menu; XNA apps shows up in the Games Menu or some special hub
  • XNA is obviously geared towards gaming; Silverlight is "user event driven", but both can basically do the same things

Marketplace

  • For buying software, Windows Phone Marketplace will be in dollars; Xbox Marketplace will be Points ("funny money")
  • Two separate markets (Xbox and Windows Phone Marketplace), meaning you'll have to buy the same game/different platform twice, no way to link (?)
  • "Featured" area of Marketplace = paid promotion of application by developer
  • Trial-ware will provide link to buy, pause game, hop to marketplace to buy and then continue game (like Xbox)
  • No in-game purchasing yet (e.g. bonus levels, avatars, etc.), but definitely something they are looking at

Some revealing tidbits there.

We're not at all thrilled with the purported fragmentation of the Marketplace between Xbox and Windows Phone. While developers will only have to write the software once for PC, Xbox and Phone (the first two go to one market, the latter to another) there seems to be no way to connect purchases for the consumer. That seems like a bad idea. It's also baffling as to how you can't purchase the two together but they can interact across platforms (we suppose it has to do with the backbone "cloud services"). We suggest one solution would be for developers to offer "redemption codes" to consumer who buy on one platform, to "purchase" on the other. That system already exists on Xbox, though it could be a hassle.

We also now have confirmation that the Zune HD appears to be locked out of all of future development, despite being able to run XNA 2D (and unofficially 3D with some tricks). Evidently Microsoft has a real reason, which they are not telling the public--we speculate that it's because the Zune hardware has an expiration date.

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LAS VEGAS -- We were promised more answers at MIX10, and now we're getting them. Microsoft this morning announced its developer tools for Windows Phone 7 Series.

Front and center is Silverlight. The Silverlight 4 Release Candidate is now available, "which will enable developers to create and deploy even more robust applications and rich interactive experiences." It finally brings what was born as a Flash alternative to the mobile space -- and not just as another way to view content in a browser. Silverlight's a major player here, folks, along with the XNA framework that's already been discussed.

Developer tools are free, including Expression Blend, and a preview of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express is part of the download. What, you're not up on your Expression Blend? It's a "development workflow tool which includes features such as Path Layout to enable developers and designers to build and animate innovative UI design via ground-breaking visual layout mechanism, without the need to write code. The beta also supports Silverlight 4, .NET Framework 4 and Visual Studio 2010." Think of it as more of a visual tool, rather than coding line by line.

Windows Phone Marketplace replaces the Windows Marketplace for Mobile (finally, Microsoft manages to find a shorter name for something), which brings "a new merchandising tool that will enable developers and designers to bring applications and games to market and increase the discoverability of applications with customers while supporting one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising-funded applications."

There's tons more to come this week, and we'll dive deeper into things as the week progresses.

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Microsoft is obviously making a massive commitment to Windows Phone 7 Series on a number of different fronts, as we saw announced at Mobile World Congress.

XNA Game Studio 4.0 is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s developer tool set for Windows PCs, Xbox 360 and Zune. With Version 4, XNA Game Studio gains support for Windows Phone 7 Series, but nixes support for the Zune HD. XNA and Silverlight are the two major new development platforms (new to Windows Phones, anyway) that we will be seeing a lot of going forward, and the two platforms are being discussed in-depth at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week and MIX10 next week. (Look for more from us on that front from TiPB's Rene Ritchie.)

What this means for Windows Phones is that we can expect 3D gaming to be the rule, not the exception. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that before; but between the high level minimum specifications mandated by Microsoft’s reference chassis, Xbox Live integration and the introduction of XNA Game Studio 4 early enough that developers can get a jump on the Holiday 2010 release of Windows Phone 7 Series I would say that this is pretty much a sure thing.

Throwing that much firepower at the gaming segment makes you wonder if  Microsoft is not just targeting the iPhone/Android market, but also homing in on the PSP/Nintendo DS segment. If Microsoft is able to get similar 3D performance from a Windows Phone as competing mobile gaming consoles, it would have a major leg up because of the media playback and connectivity with other Microsoft services. One thing is for sure: It’s a good time to be a Windows Phone user. [via ZDNet]

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