September, 2012 - Microsoft UK Faculty Connection - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

September, 2012


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    You may be building great apps and games but don't forget to add the features that will make them shine


    So this week has been really busy, I have been presenting at events the length and breadth of the UK. On Thursday and Friday I has the pleasure of attending Euro Gamer 2012, to represent Microsoft at the Games Industry Fair.  During Euro gamer event we demonstrated Windows 8 and the games from the Train 2 game World Record gameathon teams,  we also demoed new games from number of UK Indie development studios who will be launching new titles aimed specifically for the Windows 8 platform for the Launch of Windows 8.


    On Friday I attend the Careers & Education panel discussions representing Microsoft on the Game in Education discussion panel which took place in front of hundreds of eager students and graduates who want to get into the industry. The video recording of the panel discussion will be available at

    One of the key questions the panel received was how do you get into the industry? Well the simply answer from all the members was to get yourself noticed!

    To help provide some guidance have a look at the following presentation which highlights some of the opportunities for building games and entering competitions such as Microsoft’s Imagine Cup or UK specific competition such as Search for a Star. For guidance on the skills you need for development take a look at this post.



    Another question was ‘How do I make my app/game shine/standout in the marketplace?’

    Here a deck to guide you through some great examples of functionality you should add to a Windows 8 game

    For more specific details on building great games for Windows 8 see

    The following are a simply checklist of features you should consider and test in the development of your Windows 8 application or game.

    Windows 8 life cycle

    lifecycleIt's important to understand the life cycle process of Windows 8 and handle this in your code. When a user taps on an application to launch it, it is activated and enters Running mode. If the user closes the application it will be terminated. But what if the user user hits the Windows key and launches another application, or simply navigates to another application? In this case, the previous application will go to Suspended mode. In suspended mode, the application does not consume any CPU,but it will lose state, so you may need to add code to remember state when the app enters the suspended state. You will also want to add code in the Activated event handler to reload state when the user returns to the application



    Implement search contract
    Let your users quickly search through your app's content from anywhere in the system, including from within other apps. And vice versa. For more info, see Adding search.


    Implement Share contract
    Let your users share content from your app with other people through other apps, and receive shareable content from other people and apps, too. For more info, see Adding share.


    Implement Play To contract
    Let your users enjoy audio, video, or images streamed from your app to other devices in their home network.For more info, see Streaming media to devices using Play To.


    File picker and file picker extensions
    Let your users load and save their files from the local file system, connected storage devices, HomeGroup, or even other apps. You can also provide a file picker extension so that other apps can load your app's content.

    For more info, see App contracts and extensions.

    Different views


    Full Screen  View - App fills entire screen


    Snap View  - App is snapped to a narrow region of the entire screen


    Fill View - App fills remaining screen area not occupied by the app in the snapped state.

    IC536102 - Copy

    Landscape View


    Portrait View

    For more info, see Supporting multiple views and Choosing a layout.


    Toast notifications
    Let your users know about time-sensitive or personally relevant content through toast notifications and invite them back to your app even when your app is closed.Learn more about tiles, badges, and toast notifications. move to the 3rd app



    Secondary tiles
    Promote interesting content and deep links from your app on the Start screen, and let your users launch your app directly into a specific page or view.Learn more about secondary tiles.


    App tiles
    Provide fresh and relevant updates to entice users back into your app.Learn more about app tiles.
    more up



    Use our library of animations to make your app feel fast and fluid. Help users understand context changes and tie experiences together with visual transitions. Learn more about animating your UI.




    Settings contract
    Let your users create the experience they want by saving app settings. Consolidate all of your settings under one roof, and users can configure your app via a common mechanism that they are already familiar with.Learn more about Adding app settings.

    Create a continuous experience across devices by roaming data that lets people pick up a task right where they left off, and preserves the UX they care most about, regardless of the device they're using. Make it easy for users to use your app everywhere, from their kitchen family PC to their work PC to their personal tablet, by maintaining settings and states with roaming.Learn more about Managing application data and see Guidelines for roaming application data.

    User tiles
    Make your app more personal to your users by loading their user tile image, or let the users set content from your app as their personal tile throughout Windows.

    Touch gestures
    Let your users connect devices, by physically tapping them together, to light up experiences where you expect multiple users to be physically nearby (multiplayer games). Learn more about proximity and tapping.


    Cameras and storage devices
    Connect your users to their built-in or plugged-in cameras for chatting and conferencing, recording vlogs, taking profile pics, documenting the world around them, or whatever activity your app is great at. Learn more about Accessing content on removable storage.


    Accelerometers and other sensors
    Devices come with a number of sensors nowadays. Your app can dim or brighten the display based on ambient light, or reflow the UI if the user rotates the display, or react to any physical movement. Learn more about sensors.

    Use geolocation information from standard web data or from geolocation sensors to help your users get around, find their position on a map, or get notices about nearby people, activities, and destinations.Learn more about geolocation.



    Semantic zoom if you have more than 4-5 groups.
    Semantic zoom makes scanning and moving around a view fast and fluid, especially when the view is a long panning list.

    Offline mode
    Users to have better experience using your app, then your app should supports an offline mode where your application will load previous data.

    Commands for a particular view/ page are in the App bar
    The app bar contains transient access to commands relevant to a particular view.

    Scale to different  screens resolution
    Design an app UI that looks great on devices of various sizes—from a small tablet screen, to a medium laptop screen, and all the way up to a large desktop or all-in-one screen. See Guidelines for scaling to screens.

    For more information on what to consider when designing a Windows 8 app refer to the Detailed UX guidelines for Windows 8 style apps.

    If you would like to attend a FREE Windows 8 training camp please see

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows 8 are you ready?



    On Friday 26th October Windows 8 students and all consumers will have the opportunity to purchase Windows 8 and new Windows 8 PC’s. So the statement of ‘Post PC era’ may be killed overnight by a wide array of amazing new devices. If you are teaching development, gaming or architecture Windows 8 has a number of major changes.

    So if your building an app for Windows 8 – or porting your existing app across – then make sure you get up to speed and attend one of our FREE camps and events.

    Here’s a short ‘trailer’ on why you should be part of the Windows 8 journey…

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    GameSalad announces support for Windows 8




    GameSalad are another game creation company who has confirmed support for Windows 8 App Store publishing via GameSalad Creator Pro.

    Once GameSalad Creator for Windows 8 is released, you will find a new "Windows 8" publishing target integrated directly into the web publishing flow, allowing you to quickly and easily publish any previously developed game or application to the Windows 8 Store.



    GameSalad and Microsoft will be hosting a joint webinar for any developer (basic or pro users) interested in Windows 8 Store publishing on Friday, September 28th at 1:00PM CST. Please register here:  - Introduction to the Windows Store.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    So what is so exciting about the gaming opportunity for Microsoft now within Education



    Students now have lots of options when it comes to language, framework and tools for creating their projects and assessments and this is now true for developing a game for Windows 8.


    GenerationApp provides design and technical consultations, video tutorials and technical articles that will help you each step of the way to getting your app in the store. We are here to help you take full advantage of this lucrative opportunity.


    You can download a evaluation version of Windows 8 below

    Download Windows 8

    Downloads Visual Studio 2012


    Or if you have a DreamSpark Premium account you can download the fill version of Windows 8 and Visual Studio for FREE


    C# Developers


    Unity announced support for Windows 8 at their annual Unite conference. We are all waiting for more details to emerge but in the mean time lets learn a little about Unity.

    Unity is a game development tool that has been designed to let you focus on creating amazing 3D games. Unity supports three scripting languages: JavaScript, C# (Mono), and a dialect of Python named Boo. All three are equally fast and can interoperate. All three can make use of cross platform .NET libraries from Xamarin which support databases, regular expressions, XML, networking and so on.




    MonoGame is an Open Source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework. MonoGame allows XNA developers on Windows & Windows Phone to port their games to the iOS, Android and now Windows 8. Using MonoGame for Windows 8 you can take your XNA code and with a recompile along with some additional code to support store requirements create a game for the Windows 8 store. ARMED! which is currently available for downloads from the Windows 8 Store is a great example of what is possible using MonoGame.



    Follow this 3 part blog series on MonoGame that takes you step by step through the process from getting your development environment setup to getting your game Windows 8 Store Ready.


    If your skills are based in XAML and C#, you have a great set of tools to create casual 2D games from scratch using Visual Studio and Blend. You can easily apply animations to text, images and shapes on the screen using the built in animation tool.

    The animations you define can modify any of the objects attributes overtime including position to create movement, transparency to make things appear and disappear and skew to change the shape and so on.



    HTML5/JS Developers

    HTML5/JS using Canvas   

    The HTML5 canvas is great for creating games. In a game you generate or display graphics in real time and then change them at regular intervals based on user interaction or through physical properties that you encode into the logic.

    Dave Isbitski has a great video post on the basics around creating a casual 2D game using HTML5/JS and the Canvas element. If you have HTML5/JS skills then you have what it takes to create basic games that draw  and animate sprites, keep score and play sound.

    Cut the Rope was the first example of an HTML5/JS game ported to Windows 8. Download the game and try it out.


    More great content from Dave

    Getting Started with JavaScript Game Development on Windows 8




    YoYo Games, a Scottish startup based in Dundee announced that GameMaker: Studio, its cross-platform games development environment, will support Microsoft Corp.’s launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. GameMaker: Studio allows developers to create games in a single code base and then easily export with one button click and run them natively on multiple formats including HTML5, Facebook, Android, iOS, Windows and OS X. GameMaker: Studio for Windows 8 will be available for developers prior to October 26 while GameMaker: Studio for Windows Phone 8 will be available following device availability later this year.


    Frameworks are incredibly useful as they supply the infrastructure, scaffolding and utilities that most programs require and they shorten he development lifecycle considerably. For HTML5 game development you may want to consider CreateJS. For an example of the power of CreateJS check out the Atari developer site to see what, Atari and Microsoft have reimagined using CreateJS.



    CreateJS is a suite of modular libraries and tools which work together to enable rich interactive content on open web technologies via HTML5. These libraries are designed to work completely independently, or mixed and matched to suit your needs. The CreateJS Suite is comprised of: EaselJS, TweenJS, SoundJS, PreloadJS, and Zoë. 

    Here is a short overview of each of the libraries that compromise CreateJS:

    EaselJS provides straight forward solutions for working with rich graphics and interactivity with HTML5 Canvas. It provides an API that is familiar to Flash developers, but embraces Javascript sensibilities. It consists of a full, hierarchical display list, a core interaction model, and helper classes to make working with Canvas much easier

    TweenJS is a simple tweening library for use in Javascript. It was developed to integrate well with the EaselJS library, but is not dependent on or specific to it. It supports tweening of both numeric object properties & CSS style properties. The API is simple but very powerful, making it easy to create complex tweens by chaining commands

    Consistant cross-browser support for audio is currently a mess in HTML5, but SoundJS works to abstract away the problems and makes adding sound to your games or rich experiences much easier. You can query for capabilities, then specify and prioritize what APIs, plugins, and features are leveraged for specific devices or browsers.

    PreloadJS makes it easy to preload your assets: images, sounds, JS, data, or others. It uses XHR2 to provide real progress information when available, or fall back to tag loading and eased progress when it isn’t. It allows multiple queues, multiple connections, pausing queues, and a lot more.

    Zoë is an AIR application that converts SWF animations to sprite sheets. Simply drag a SWF onto the application, and Zoë will automatically detect the required dimensions for the images in your sprite sheet, maintain any frame labels present in your SWF (for controlling playback), and export a sprite sheet. Other advanced features are also included.

    Visit the CreateJS website for more information and to download the libraries.

    Chris Bowen has written an excellent 4 part tutorial on how to create a 2D casual game using CreateJS. He takes an XNA/C# tutorial called Catapult Wars and ports the game to Windows 8 using Create/JS.



    ImpactJS is a JavaScript Game Engine that allows you to develop cross platform/browser HTML5 Games. The Impact developer license costs $99 and includes:


    Jesse Freeman
    , well known for his blog, conference appearances and book on HTML5 Game Development, has recently joined Microsoft as a Technical Evangelist based in NYC. His book on developing HTML5 games using ImpactJS is available on Amazon.
    Jesse writes on his experience in using ImpactJS for game development on Windows 8 in this blog post.


    Construct 2 from Scirra

    Construct 2 is a ground breaking HTML5 game engine from Scirra a UK based start up located in London. It lets anyone make games - without any programming experience.
    Construct 2 is suitable for people who:

    • Want to start making their own games
    • Want to make production quality games
    • Want to rapidly prototype new games
    • Want to move on from old tech like Flash

    Construct 2 is available at 3 price points:

    1. Free – £0
    2. Personal – £79
    3. Professional – £259

    The Free edition has a limited number of sound effects and events and is useful in evaluating the product. The Personal edition is for individual developers. The Professional is for development teams. Those editions do not have any limitations.


    Construct 2 supports building games for Windows 8. There is a great tutorial that can help you get started here.

    C++ Developers


    C++ and DirectX development offers the greatest power to developers. A DirectX app typically combines programming logic, the DirectX API, and High Level Shading Language (HLSL) programs, together with audio and 3-D visual assets to present a rich, interactive multimedia experience. Visual Studio includes tools that you can use to work with images and textures, 3-D models, and shaders without leaving the IDE to use another tool.



    Epic Games Unreal Engine 3
    image image

    Unreal Engine 3 is under the hood of many of the best computer and video games. From entertainment software to training simulations, the Unreal Engine provides the platform and tools needed to develop cutting-edge 3D projects.

    Epic recently announced the availability of the Unreal Engine 3 for Windows 8 Game development. From the press release:

    Epic Games, Inc., in collaboration with NVIDIA, today presented the first public demonstration of Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) running on Windows 8 and Windows RT during Asus’ press conference at the IFA 2012 electronics trade show in Berlin.

    While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope that it gives you a sense of the breadth of support for languages, tools and frameworks available to all developers wishing to take advantage of the huge opportunity that game development offers on Windows 8.

    Rapid2D C++ Framework


    Rapid2D is the only Game Engine that has been specifically designed for the production of Windows 8 Apps. The Rapid2D engine can be used to produce apps for Windows 8 PC, Tablet and Windows Phone 8.

    Rapid2D has a unique GUI interface that makes games production fast and accessible to both the experienced and novice developer. Rapid2D is designed to be intuitive allowing the fast production of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications. The engine uses the widely uses C++ for scripting.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UNversity at the University of West of Scotland


    UNversity is not a Game Jam – the goal is in the process, what you learn in the journey, not in the product. To re-iterate, UNversity 2012 opened with the following rules and outline:

    Pick a summer project (or two) and do it over the summer vacation period.

    Students had to Post regular updates  to keep peers informed on progress and to document their learning

    So if students were doing extra an online class at, making a game on their own or with others, re-doing a previous coursework as a personal revision exercise.

    1. Pick something to do, and tell us what it is
    2. Let us know how you are getting on
    3. There is no rule #3
    4. Ask folk for help when you get stuck, and provide advice when you can     

    This was about as open as possible in terms of objectives as it could be, and the range of projects was appropriately broad. Just about everyone involved focused on programming from the ground up – rather than using existing engines, and most people were also working with ‘programmer art’. So not much chance of winning a Game Jam beauty contest for most entries… at the beginning of this post I said that UNversity is about the process, not the product. It is about creating a community, where people can pick their own priorities, their own projects but still help each other and have a place to turn to when help is needed.  In this, it worked for some at least.. 

    As one of the students, Kieran noted on his round-up:

    I’ve really enjoyed UNversity this year! … I’ve been very involved helping people with C++ problems and other issues in general. Think it’s one of the best parts of the year to be honest. Lets hope it continues!

    'Projects' ranged from one student completing online courses that are probably equivalent to an extra semester of university, to students who worked on one or more game projects that ended in varying stages of completion. But although it was the learning that counted, rather than the product, at the product end, Kieran has been producing the Android port of Wordtrick for Outplay, David released a simple invaders clone on the windows phone marketplace, Bryan produced an online Java game evolved from Asteroids.

    Stephen McGroarty the runner up, winning a Microsoft Kinect



    and the winner Neil Finlay receiving a Nokia Lumina


    Entering UNversity gives students a early exposure to an array of opportunities and to undertake extra curricula learning or research into technologies or processes that will help students gain further insights and experiences.

    UNversity simply gives students a chance to show off their abilities and stand out from the crowd, something that's really important in an increasingly crowded graduate job market. It's a great addition to your CV and should be a lot of fun too.

    Microsoft is delighted to be supporting UNversity in the form of prize sponsorship and are very pleased with the response we have had from the University of West of Scotland and its students. All Game Studios appreciate competition such as and initiatives such as UNversity as a means of identifying talented individuals. While they also help to create another line of communication between developers and academia. This type of contact between universities and games developers is vital if we hope to increase the quality and quantity of graduate entering in industry. Many of 2012's participants were extremely strong, with a large number having gone on to secure roles in the UK games industry as a result of their participation.

    So here is looking forward to UNversity 2013

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    How Xamarin is supporting students building great portfolios


    Xamarin enables developers to build fully native iOS and Android apps in C# that can share code with Windows apps. Through code re-use and sharing, and by unifying mobile app development in C#, Xamarin makes it possible to deliver gorgeous, performant, native apps for all major device platforms quickly.

    Developer Ecosystem Impact

    This means the millions of existing .NET developers can succeed in a heterogeneous device world.

    IOS and Android developers have a path to cross-platform success and to Windows 8. And for XNA developers, our support of the MonoGame project and community makes it possible for them to get their games to Windows 8 and other device platforms.

    Learn more about Xamarin

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Xamarin now supports Azure Services


    Xamarin is partnering with Windows Azure Mobile Services to expand the Mobile Services SDK to iOS and Android platforms. Xamarin products empower more than 175,000 developers to write native apps for iOS and Android—all in C#.

    Mobile Services and Xamarin share a common goal: freeing developers to focus on what really matters.  Mobile Services reduces the friction of configuring a scalable and secure backend and lets mobile app developers focus on delivering a fantastic user experience.  Xamarin allows mobile app developers to make the most of C#, and enables mobile developers to support more devices with less code.

    For tutorials and more information on how to get started, please visit the Xamarin blog and developer center.

    The announcement on the Azure team blog:

    We're pretty excited about this one, as it means that C# developers can use the same code to access Azure services from iOS, Android, or Windows.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    BAFTA and Abertay combine to produce Unity schools bundle


    ygd_logo unity-140 games_unpacked

    This excellent package by Dundee’s Abertay University and sponsored by BAFTA is an excellent way to get young children interested in game development at school.

    As Unity continues to bring game development to the masses, its great to see that someone is considering the needs of younger users. Titled Games Unpacked, the bundle of Unity assets is designed as a series of ready made game modules that users can piece together to make simple game play.

    The BAFTA website provides a tutorial and links to all the assets you need to get started with game development.

    The pack was demoed at this years Dare to be Digital Proto Play event.

    This is a highly useful tool to get younger students involved with game development.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    UK Students are record breakers




    Congratulations to the University of Bedfordshire and the students of the University and Train2Game who secured the Guinness World Record for the Largest GameJam in a Single Location. 

    WP_000550 WP_000549

    The old record was held by Norway at 292 game designers and we were counted at 299.  It was tighter than we hoped as we say a few of the students drop out but we got there!  All the Win8 games developed had to be playable and the Guinness World Record adjudicator made sure each of them.


    The winners - The winning team (Retro Metro) won a number of Xbox prizes, a Nokia phone and a VIP trip to Rare studios in December as well as being invited to an exclusive event where Steve Ballmer will meet with them and selected group of Windows 8 developers.


    42 Teams of Game Designers each developing a game from 7pm on Friday to 6pm on Sunday.  1 X Win8 game per team around the theme of “Pride of London”

    42 playable games which will now be worked on to publish them into the Win8 Store by the students as part of their curricula module.


    Press interest



  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    GameathonUK – Windows 8 World Record Attempt




    This weekend were collaborating with online blended learning service Train2Game and the University of Bedfordshire to set the world record for the largest game jam held in a single location, at the Microsoft and Train2Game Gameathon 2012



     WP_000513 WP_000512 WP_000511

    Yesterday students on Train2Game courses gathered at the University of Bedfordshire. Student will be developing applications based on the theme ‘Pride of London’ from 14th September to 16th September 2012, students have formed into development teams and are now busy creating videogames for Windows 8 in 48 hours. The world record will be set with a target of 301 or more participants. Representatives from The Guinness Book of World Records are in presence in and adjudicating the event


    .WP_000518 WP_000517 WP_000516

    “We’re teaming with Train2Game not only to set a world record, but also to support gaming development in the UK,” said John Richards, senior director, Windows Partners and Developers at Microsoft Corp. “We’re working with the students developing for Windows 8, as they are the future of the industry.”

    Myra Smallman, Course Director, Train2Game: “This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to work with one of the most respected technology companies in the world. Microsoft is a major player in the video games industry globally and being part of this relationship will be incredibly positive for Train2Game students when they look for employment in the future. The students taking part will also be world record holders, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

    Are you ready?



    We started with proceeding grouping all the attendees across two lectures theatre, technical presentations from Simon Michael and myself gave students a overview of designing great games for Windows 8 before the two packed rooms.


    After the presentations the proceedings were streamed across the theatres and Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, welcomed all the attendees to the University and to the challenge ahead. Tiga CEO, Richard Wilson then welcomed the students to the gaming industry,  Mira Smallman then presented the Rules of Engagement for the World Record attempt clearly outlining the rule and record breaking conditions.

    Our keynote speaker, Scott Henson, Senior Director or Microsoft Studios, gave a inspiring presentation on his passion for gaming and discussed the opportunities of the gaming industry and achievement of Microsoft and the RARE studio.

    To close off, Scott had the pleasure to announce the theme for the games ‘Pride of London’.

    Student then eagerly departed the theatres to their team rooms to begin brainstorming and coding.



    Coding through the night

    So its now day 2. Unfortunately there has been no sleep for the competitors as they are only allowed 1 hour break every 8 hours .

    The teams have been getting their hands dirty coding  C++  DirectX Windows 8 games. As we all know there is simply no better way to apply the learning’s of the last few weeks than getting in front of the computer and start to code on your idea.

    Team responsibilities are now well established with teams averaging 6 – 8 members so 2 designers, 2 developers, 1 QA and 1 Artist.

    Most of the teams are Team Foundation Server via TFS preview accounts or GitHub to work allow them to effectively to work in groups.

    We have already seen some really interesting concepts and prototypes and students are mastering Blend and Visual Studio 2012 in an amazing way.

    From a personal standpoint, there is a fantastic atmosphere across all the rooms and teams.

    WP_000534 WP_000533 WP_000532 WP_000531 WP_000530 WP_000529 WP_000528 WP_000520 WP_000525 WP_000524 WP_000523

    Looking forward to another 24 hours.. Thankfully I did have some sleep..

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