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    Round 2 Windows Phone Game Design–BUILD LEVEL 1 OF YOUR GAME!

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    IC-Logo_300pxWideRound 1 has passed for Windows Phone Game Design, Round 2 entries must be submitted by March 13th! Read on to find out more about the next steps to make sure YOU have a chance to attend the Canadian or World Finals!

    Round 2 Deadline: March 13 23:59 GMT

    To save you the hassle, I looked up GMT that works out to 20:59 Atlantic, 19:59 Eastern, 16:59 Pacific

    Are you one of the Canadian teams who have entered Round 1 of the Windows Phone Game Design category? If so, you’ve taken the first step towards appearing on stage for the Canadian or maybe even World finals. The next step is to complete the requirements for Round 2.

    Round 1 is just a way for us to get an idea of who has entered, there is no judging of Round 1 entries. But you must meet the requirements for each round to advance, so here’s a summary of what you need to prepare for Round 2 with more details below.

    The official rules and regulations are here Game Design: Phone Rules 

    • Playable Game – we can’t judge it if we can’t try it, get at least one level completed, graphics can be rough for now
    • Game Play Instructions – an electronic document that informs the judges and players how to set up and play your team’s game
    • Game Video – a video capture of your team’s game in action
    • Game Design Storyboard OR Game Summary Document (You did this for Round 1 already)

    Here are a few resources that might help you get that First level of your game completed: 

    Divvy up the work among teammates to share the workload. Many of these tasks can be done in parallel: One person can start writing up the Game Play instructions before the game is completed; Collect Screenshots as you go; You can start working on your video before the game is completed. I got all this from the Game Design Rules here.

    Playable Game

    In order to judge your team’s game, we need to be able to play it! So we need an installable and playable game in the format for Phone

    Technical Requirements:

    1. All games must have been developed using Microsoft® XNA Game Studio 4.0 or later or using Silverlight technology. Visual Studio is no longer required but still an optional technology for you to use.
    2. Since your Team’s game is designed for the Windows Phone platform, it must be playable on a commercially available Windows Phone device, not only a phone emulator.
    3. Your team must include a. XAP file: a standard Windows Setup application to install your game on a Windows Phone.
    4. No source code is permitted and games will be disqualified if they are submitted as development projects.
    5. The game must be comprised of at least one (1) playable level, more than one is permissible and they do not have to be sequential levels. This playable level must illustrate the game play and features of the final game that your team would like to develop; final graphics are not required, but the Game Demo must represent the conceptual art direction of the game that you would like to develop.
    6. Your game may target any commercially available version of Windows Phone that is released by the end of Round 3 (Worldwide Qualifying), 3 May 2012.
    7. It is acceptable to support multiple languages in your game as long as English is one of the represented languages. If a translator is needed, you are responsible to procure and to make use of one.
    8. The content of the game must be equivalent to an Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating of “T” for Teen or lower. Mature games that would be rated above “T” for Teen will be disqualified and ineligible to continue in the competition).
    9. Remember: The content of the game must address a social cause connected to the Imagine Cup 2012 Theme: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”.

    Helpful Hints:

    1. If your game supports multiple languages, you are advised to ensure the default language is English even if it’s changeable in the Options of your game.
    2. If you provide multiple levels and want the judges to play them, consider supplying “save game” files for the judge/player to be able to load from different points in your game.
    3. For more information on the ESRB Game Ratings and Descriptor Guide, please visit the ESRB website.
    4. Note that the rules clearly state that your game MUST be playable on an actual Windows Phone device, not just the development environment emulator.
    5. Review the scoring criteria to best optimize your gaming experience.

    Game Play Instructions

    Technical Requirements:

    1. Include either a game screen (.JPEG file) or text document in .DOC, .DOCX, .PDF or .TXT file format in a readme file.
    2. The Game Design Summary must be submitted in the English language. If a translator is needed, you are responsible to procure and to make use of one.

    Helpful Hints:

    1. The content of the Game must address a social cause connected to the 2012 Theme: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”.
    2. This is an important element of your entry so the judges know how to play your game. If your game is complex, then make sure you take the time to explain how to play every aspect
    3. If your game is installed in a particular location or under a particular name or folder, ensure you list out the instructions on how to find and start your game.

    Game Video

    The Game Video is a video file showcasing your game. It must include a video screen capture of your Team’s game in action. This video can include narration, team introductions, and game presentation information to convey your game’s premise and intent as well as intended gameplay experiences. At a minimum, this must show your game in action.


    Technical Requirements:

    1. The video must include the Imagine Cup Intro and Imagine Cup Outro Clips. Clips can be downloaded at imaginecup.com.
    2. The Game Video length must not exceed seven (7) minutes, including the Imagine Cup Intro and Outro Clips.
    3. The Game Video must be submitted as an electronic file in one of the following file formats: .AVI, .WMV, .MPEG, .MP4, .XESC.
    4. The Game Video can be submitted in any language, however, if not in English, it must include English subtitles. If a translator is needed, you are responsible to procure and to make use of one.

    Helpful Hints:

    1. We recommend creating your screen capture using Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Screen Capture which is available to students for free at DreamSpark.
    2. Regardless of language used, consider using subtitles to ensure judges can fully understand your video’s audio portion.
    3. While you must include some screen capture of your video in action, you should also showcase other elements that show your game in a positive light. For example:
      • If you have performed play-testing with your intended audience, you might include some video of that experience.
      • If you already have future plans for expanding on your game, you could provide samples or show off your models or storyboards in your game video.
      • You could introduce each of the team members and what their specialties or contributions were in the creation of the game.

    Game Design Summary or Game Storyboard

    You already did a first draft of this for Round 1, so this is just a chance for you to update that document. The Game Summary Document is an electronic text document that describes your Team’s game, the intent of your game, and details the unique game play features and how it aligns to the Imagine Cup 2012 Theme. You must include additional attributive information relating to third party content per the technical requirements below

    Technical Requirements:

    1. You must use the Game Design Summary Document Template.
    2. The summary must be a minimum of 600 characters including spaces.
    3. You must provide a name for your game. The name must be in the English language.
    4. The file format must be either a .DOC, .DOCX or .PDF, .RTF or .TXT file. This option does not allow .JPEG submission files.
    5. The content of the Game must address a social cause connected to the 2012 Theme: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”.
    6. The Game Design Summary Document must be submitted in the English language. If a translator is needed, you are responsible to procure and to make use of one.
    7. The file may include images if you feel it conveys your message better, however, images are not required for the Game Design Summary Document.
    8. Important note about Copyright: Your Team’s entire entry must only include material (including source code – both open source and third party sourced, user interface, music, video or images) that you own or that you have permission from the copyright/trademark owner to use. Your Team’s entry may not include copyrighted materials (such as source code, user interface, background music, images or video) unless you own or have permission to use the materials. Ownership is not defined as purchasing a CD at a music store for replay, playing a copyright recording on your guitar or repurposing an application’s user interface - your Team’s entry will be disqualified if copyrighted materials, including but not limited to these examples, are a part of your entry without appropriate licensing or permissions. If you do use permissible copyrighted materials, you must include the permissions information by citing the artist/creator and license information in the Game Summary Document. Note that even material released under sites such as Creative Commons, common open source code licenses, and other similar licensing may need permission or acknowledgement as per the specific license. Note: your team’s entry will be disqualified if permissions information is not included as per the requirements in the specific Competition

    Andrew Parsons is the Game Design Captain this year, he can’t wait to see your entries and neither can we!

         
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    Geeking out at the Microsoft Visitor Centre

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    Building92Welcome to Building 92 on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, home of the Microsoft visitor centre and company store both open to the public.

    So many serious posts lately, I thought it would be fun to take you on a quick tour of the Microsoft Visitor Centre that I got to visit in January.

    As I enter, I’m greeted by a picture that looks like a cross between that 70s show and Big Bang theory. Do you think they had any idea what Microsoft would become?     

    FoundersA Microsoft surface table brings back memories, this was the first multi-touch device I encountered, I first saw it at the Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles a few years back. At the time pinch, zoom, and swipe seemed revolutionary. Now we do it every day as we slide from one photo to another or zoom in and out of a map. 

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    They didn’t have any of the Nokia phones on display, but they did have the new HTC and Samsung devices. You don’t need a big surface table to explore multi-touch now, you already have it in the palm of your hand.  

    PhotoChooser-f4ef3ad2-7cf7-4f2c-b9b4-84e1b8fc3b59Now we’ve moved from multi-touch to no touch and voice recognition the possibilities really are amazing! And what really rocks is that it’s not just professors in research labs who get to play with this technology, we have it in our living rooms with Xbox and Kinect, in our coat pockets with smart phones! All we have to do is download the SDKs and start coding!

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    I can’t help it, playing with this amazing technology just brings out the kid and me and reminds me of how far we’ve come from punch cards, TRS-80 computers and Pong game systems. It’s an exciting time to be a developer!

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    Tips and Tricks from Students: Windows Phone Game “Flipper”

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    395197_375835345775252_332666150092172_1496010_1649989891_n[1]Three students from Ryerson University: Kowsheek, Anthony, and Alexey (akaThree Red Cubes)  build their second Windows Phone Game and share what they learned along the way.

    Check out more tips and tricks from students here

    Could you briefly describe your application/game?

    Flipper is a simple and addictive puzzle game where you flip triangles to complete squares. As you progress through the game you should watch for the special squares that can help you. Gain points, compete with players around the world, but watch the clock!

    Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

    In Flipper we chose XNA over Silverlight. The reason we chose XNA is because it gives more flexibility in certain aspects. For example, customized screen navigation logic because most of the times it differs between games. Also it allows you to use the same technology across the entire game unlike in a XNA-Silverlight mix application. Developers using XNA know that it’s a beautiful framework to work with. It gives developers a great amount of raw power over the platform so that they can create awesome games.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    There was a moment when the game was lagging while scrolling up. We tried profiling it, we tried decrease the resolution of our assets, we tried banging our heads. Nothing helped. Then we realized the scrolling was too fast and due to the OS limitation of 30Hz, the movement seemed to be lagging.

    The bottom line is you have to always remember that you are developing to a mobile device which has some limitations. That means that sometimes you have to do your homework before writing code.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    The solution to that problem was limiting the top speed for the scrolling, which actually worked out nicely. The final result was a nice range of speeds for the scrolling effect. You can experience this in the game by dragging vertically across the screen.

    If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?

    Some of the reviews we got from Windows Phone users included a great number of ideas to improve the game and its experience. We would take this knowledge and build it in the game from the get-go providing for a better experience for the gamers. However, some of the changes can be pushed with an update and that is why the feedback is always useful. In fact we have created an application called metrX for the phone with the intention of helping users and developers communicate.

    Any nice surprises?

    In the new version that is currently available on the Marketplace, we've implemented system color as the part of game's theme. Discovering the ability to have access to some of the phone resources from XNA was a bit of a surprise and it was quite easy to implement.

    We were also surprised and pleased that people enjoy the concept of the game and find it rather addictive. We received 25 reviews to-date and the average rating is hovering around 4.5 stars. We were trying to build a simple and addictive game and we think that we've succeeded.

    Did you leverage the mobile platform?

    Since Flipper is a quite simple game, it did not leverage any of the phone sensors unlike some of the applications that we've published previously.

    Did you leverage the touch screen?

    Yes we took the full advantage of the touch interface with both tap and drag gestures built into the XNA Framework. The API that XNA exposes for the touch interface is quite easy to work with and it can be used to provide a nice experience in games.

    Did you have a favourite feature?

    We have taken an advantage on our own API for a platform called Lead. It's an online cloud-based leaderboard that we have developed with ASP.Net MVC framework. We use this API in our game and it's been a great success. You can find out more about it here. We've talked about it and its technologies on the Canadian Developer Connection blog.

    What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?

    The game idea. We were able to build a great experience with Flipper and it is something we are quite proud of. Something in those chain reactions accompanied by flipping sounds, the endless game-play and the simplicity of it makes the game addictive and enjoyable to play.

    Are you publishing your application/game?

    Yes we published and updated the game over the last few weeks, it's available for download and we're pushing updates every so often to keep improving the game and its aesthetics.

    Where can I learn more about your app/game?

    We have a Facebook page where we post about updates and our Youtube channel has videos of Flipper and some of our other applications.

    Who developed this application?

    Our team members are from Ryerson University and we run a company called Three Red Cubes Inc. We have been developing applications and games for the Windows Phone since its release. Sudoku3D was the first game we released as a team and we're looking forward to building many more quality games and apps that Windows Phone users can enjoy.

    You can find us on Twitter and Facebook.

    Picture: Kowsheek (left), Anthony (centre), Alexey (right)

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    How do you get your free account for publishing phone apps?

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    imageLet’s clear up some confusion that arose when the new Dreamspark launched over how students sign up for the free App Hub account and save the $99 fee.

    Where do I go to download software?

    This has not changed, though the page looks different. Visit www.dreamspark.com  to sign up for Dreamspark and download software

    Do I have to use a Windows Live ID for my email address?

    Dreamspark does not require you to sign up using a Windows Live ID, but, App Hub does require a Windows Live ID. So if you are going to publish a phone app the answer is Yes.

    How do I save the $99 and get my free App Hub student account?

    1. Open a browser and navigate to App Hub
    2. Select “Join Now” on the right side of the page.
    3. Sign in with your Windows Live ID, or if you do not have one yet, please follow the steps to create one.
    4. Select your Country from the drop down list, select “Student” as your account type, and review the Terms and Conditions.  Click “Next” after agreeing to the Terms and Conditions.
    5. You will be asked to verify your student status.  Click the link that says “Continue to DreamSpark to verify your student status.”
    6. You will be redirected to the DreamSpark website.  Follow the steps to verify your student status.
    7. Upon successfully verifying your student status you will be redirected back to the App Hub registration process.
    8. Complete the registration form and begin uploading applications, don't forget to register for the Developer Movement to get great rewards for your apps (deadline May 20,2012)
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    Get some tips on Imagine Cup Software Design today at noon!

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    Rob Miles is the captain of the Software Design category at Imagine Cup and is having a Q&A session today at noon ET

    IC-Logo_300pxWideGet your questions ready! Join Software Design Captain Rob Miles on 21 February at 17:00 GMT (12:00 Eastern) or 22 February at 07:00 GMT (02:00 Eastern) via Live Meeting and ask him about competing in the Software Design Competition. Follow these instructions to join Live Meeting. The Live Meeting sessions will be recorded and posted on this page under the Helpful Links. Find out what time these meetings take place in your country/region.

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