Behold the inside story behind Carcassonne for Xbox Windows Phone

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.

The road from board game to Xbox Windows Phone

The physical Carcassonne board game was first published in 2000. In 2011, Exozet released their mobile adaptation for Blackberry, Java, and Android phones. The Windows Phone version began its earliest stages of development in early 2011 while Exozet worked to complete the Android version.

2011 was a happier time for Xbox Windows Phone. Back then, Microsoft actually approached Exozet about developing a mobile game with the Xbox branding. The developer had already released a few Windows Phone apps for other publishers, so they knew something about working with C# and Windows Phone 7. Exozet wanted to release Carcassonne on as many platforms as possible; hence they chose it as the game to port.

Development hurdles

Carcassonne’s development was challenging for a number of reasons. For one thing, Microsoft would announce and eventually released the Mango (Windows Phone 7.5) update while Exozet worked on their game. This forced the game maker to flash and test various beta Mango builds along with their title, adding to the development time.

In March 2012, another product launched as Exozet toiled away on their game: low-end Windows Phone 7.5 Tango devices. These phones had only 256 MB of RAM instead of the 512 MB found in other Windows Phone 7 devices.

Naturally, the lower system RAM meant that games and apps had less memory to work with on these value-priced phones.  Because Carcassonne was so far along in development when Microsoft announced Tango, Exozet reluctantly abstained from reworking the game to run on 256 MB devices.

Xbox Live games don’t just release in one or two countries; they appear in a number of markets across the world. The extensive international nature of the release required Exozet to translate Carcassonne into more languages than they had ever done before. The hardest part of the translation process was reworking the game’s UI for Asian character sets (Chinese, Japanese, etc).

Paving the way for Online multiplayer

Finally, Carcassonne was one of the first Xbox Windows Phone 7 games to support online multiplayer (Battleship beat it to release last summer). Because nobody else had created online Xbox games on phone before, Exozet couldn’t look to existing knowledge or code bases when creating their multiplayer mode.

The test environment and the actual Live environment also differed somewhat. The game experienced significant and frustrating online performance issues upon its release, which were almost entirely out of Exozet’s control.

Thirteen months after starting the project, Carcassonne finally launched on Windows Phone in October 2012. Check out our full review to see how it measured up to expectations. And be sure to watch the video interview above to see Matthias’s response to our review criticisms!

More board games in the future?

While there’s no question that the developer’s ability to test Carcassonne’s online mode before release was insufficient, Exozet still speaks fondly of the overall experience.  Microsoft responded to their communications quite promptly, often providing highly technical feedback for the developer to use.

Windows Phone Carcassonne players might have noticed that the game supports downloadable expansions, but none were ever released. Exozet actually prepared at least one expansion, but Microsoft chose not to publish it. It’s a shame – if Microsoft had continued funding Xbox Windows Phone development, Exozet might have brought their adaptation of The Settlers of Catan board game to Windows Phone as well.

Carcassonne – Windows Phone 7 and 8 – 45 MB - $2.99 – Store Link

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!