Interview with Paul Boocock, Computer Games Programming Lecturer at Staffordshire University
1) Why did you make the decision to develop / teach for Windows Phone and Windows 8? It was an easy decision. The tools are free and easily accessible, not to mention easy to use. Developing for these platforms is always popular too, our students have previously enjoyed developing XNA games for PC/XBOX, so moving those modules towards Windows Phone and Windows 8 is the obvious progression. I’m really optimistic for the future of Windows Phone and Windows 8 and I hope developing for the platform at this stage will give students a good opportunity to get applications into the marketplace and for them to prove popular whilst there is a little less competition.
2) What were some of the features you used from Windows Phone and Windows 8 and why? The key reason was the introduction of DirectX on Windows Phone. This gave us an opportunity to create a new Mobile Games Development module, which takes the DirectX skills the students have already learnt by this stage and apply them on a mobile platform by building 3D games on Windows Phone. Also, our Games Development students are taught heavily in C++, so being able to write Native Code on Windows Phone was a big bonus. We also found that students could get applications up and running much faster on these platforms when compared to others, through a combination of the tools and the platform features, many students are especially fond of designing their UI using XAML.
3) What was the experience like of using Windows Phone and Windows 8 and would you recommend it to students and other educators teaching game development? I find Windows Phone development great. It’s extremely easy to pick up and the documentation is second to none. Building a module around it is easy as all the features are now present in the platform, the only issue is the SLAT Processor requirement for the Windows Phone 8 emulator but this is something which we’ve come up with a solution for quite easily. I’d definitely recommend it to other educators and I push my students towards Windows Phone development whenever I get the opportunity.
4) How did you go about persuading senior academic or decision maker re the opportunity of Windows Phone and Windows 8? This was an easy one! There’s a lot of enthusiasm around mobile development and we we’re looking into getting more mobile development in our course, especially in Games Programming. As Windows Phone and Windows 8 gives us the opportunity to continue developing in the programming languages we predominately teach, this was a popular choice for many of the teaching staff.
5) What are doing to help students develop portfolios and CVs are you successfully getting students to submit their game to the Store? I believe the assignments which we set the students give them a really good starting point to getting together an application or game which makes a great item in their portfolio but could be a starting place for creating something worthy of the store. I’m also teaching more about what is required to be an indie developer, especially looking at publishing games and the financials involved. This is a strong interest area of mine, as it’s what I have done previously and still do to some extent. It’s a great opportunity for students to earn some money and to really show off by getting their applications and games published.
Thanks for the interview Paul and looking forward to seeing what your students deliver.