I’m at the Game Developer Conference (GDC 2010) here in San Francisco most of the week. The conference has barely started and there’s already a ton of great buzz about gaming for Windows Phone 7 Series.

Harvest_05[1]
A screenshot from the prototype 3D game “The Harvest” by LumaArcade running on Windows Phone 7 Series. More in Andre Vrignaud’s (@Ozymandias) post here.

It seems like it was _years_ ago when I joined to Windows Phone effort, but it’s really only been just over a year. We’ve accomplished so much in such a short amount of time it really is hard to believe. One of the first things I did when I started the job was write down my “dream” for the app/game platform and developer experience. I said to myself “Hey, if I were king for a day what would I decree?”  With the help form a few others on the team we wrote down a short description of what we should do.  Note, this was before the org was really settled, before “formal planning” had actually started, and before I really knew how much leeway & freedom we’d be provided.

It turns out this exercise was really easy; either we were a group of clones separated at birth, or the “right thing to do” was just blatantly obvious. The essence of that “memo” (it was actually several emails and a few poorly formatted PowerPoint decks <g>) was:

  • Create a modern app & game framework based on Sliverlight & XNA
    • XNA for 2D & 3D simulations and games
    • Silverlight for apps (and some games)
  • Make “Web 2.0” service integration including Xbox LIVE support integral
  • Deliver phenomenal tools
    • Including exposing the power that XNA Game Studio already exposed to indie game developers
  • Create a simplified/consistent hardware ecosystem
  • Launch it all for developers in early 2010

This is all coming to fruition! I love it when simple ideas turn into real plans.

Once we got serious about planning we looked at the calendar and realized that the timing of GDC and MIX in early March was perfect for our launch. We’d tell the story about the new end-user focus at Mobile World Congress in February, let that message settle in for a few weeks, engage with game developers at GDC, and then polish it all off with a final big bang at MIX the next week.

Well, here we are at GDC and the big news is how we’ve upped our investment in XNA Game Studio 4.0 to not only support Windows Phone development but to increase its power.  Michael Klutcher, who’s a program manager for XNA Game Studio and Xbox LIVE has a great post here you should really read. The key news we are focusing on here at GDC are (I stole this from our official press briefing docs):

XNA Game Studio 4.0

    XNA Game Studio 4.0 is a set of software tools that will be used by developers to create games for Windows Phone 7 Series. This updated version of XNA Game Studio will allow game developers to create better mobile games faster by providing:

    • Power: XNA Game Studio 4.0 includes powerful audio and graphics tools that allow developers to create all types of games, from casual 2-D games to 3-D games with high-quality graphics.
    • Productivity: XNA Game Studio 4.0 is a managed code platform, which means that Microsoft has done the back-end work that will save developers time in the coding process. It allows developers to be more productive and focus on gameplay and design.
    • Portability: XNA Game Studio 4.0 makes it possible for developers to adapt games built on previous versions of XNA Game Studio to work on Windows Phone 7 Series without re-coding the entire game. Also, once a developer has created a Windows Phone 7 Series game, they can use some of that code in XNA Game Studio 3.1 to adapt that game for Xbox 360, Windows or Zune.
    Pedigree: Microsoft has invested in XNA Game Studio for the past four years to make it one of the most comprehensive and trusted tools for developers. There have been over 1 million downloads of previous versions of XNA Game Studio since its initial release in December 2006

Game Development on Windows Phone 7 Series

    Windows Phone 7 Series is a whole new approach to phone software, distinguished by smart design and truly integrated experiences. It offers users new ways to find and play games, including:

    The games hub. The games hub will contain all the games an individual has acquired through the Windows® Phone Marketplace. We are partnering with a select group of publishers to create great Xbox LIVE games for the games hub. The Xbox LIVE features include the ability to:

    • Collect Achievements and build your Gamerscore
    • View Xbox LIVE leaderboards
    • See your Xbox LIVE Avatar
    • Access Spotlight feeds
    • Add Xbox LIVE friends to your friends list while out on the go

    The marketplace hub. Windows Phone 7 Series includes the Windows® Phone Marketplace, where apps and games will be sold. Both independent and professional developers can offer games as apps via Marketplace, giving consumers a wide array of games to choose from.

Here at GDC we’ve been showing off a set of prototype games running on real phones, all developed using XNA Game Studio 4.0.  Above I posted a screenshot of The Harvest. It’s an action RPG that illustrates the potential for “core” games on the platform. It shows off awesome 3D action, sound, touch input, and 3D destructive environment.

Below is a shot of another prototype game we’re showing, “Battle Punks” by Garage Games / Gravity Bear. Again, it’s a full 3D game but designed to illustrate a more “social” gaming experience.

bpscreen4[1]

Both games show off Xbox LIVE support. Both are running at the full 800x480 resolution.  Both illustrate the productivity, power, and portability provided by XNA Game Studio 4.0.

To learn more I encourage you to follow Michael on his blog and twitter (@mklucher). You should also pay attention to Shawn Hargreaves and Andre Vrignaud (make sure you tease Andre about his Twitter handle).

As I mentioned I’ll be here at GDC all week. I then get to go directly to Las Vegas for MIX where we’ll have even more great stuff to show off and share.