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  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Build a bot that will compete in an online game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – Participants code a player ‘bot’, host it on Windows Azure, and its take part in battles with other competitors.


    Microsoft's US team are holding a challenge aimed at US based holders of a Windows Azure account (including a 90-day free trial) can win prizes is running again with three weeks still to go. However as this is US Challenge UK entries cannot win but I thought it may be of interest to some academics and students as its a nice little challenge as don't have to be in the US to play the game and as a challenge in AI or applied statistics it is probably interesting enough to attract entries from UK Academia however I must stress your imaginable for prizes if your in the UK academic or student.

    As with earlier versions of the game, participants code a player ‘bot’ that that will compete in an online game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – with some additional embellishments. The bots are hosted on Windows Azure and  take part in battles with every other competing bot.

    A bot that wins a game scores 3 points on the leaderboard and a tie scores 1 point. The number of points you can receive depends on the number of players.

    The game is both a sweepstake and a contest. Each Friday until the end of the contest on January 25th 5 bots will be selected as winners from the US – Therefore UK Enterants will not be permitted to win prizes.

    As with its previous versions, the concept of this game is to build a bot that will compete in an online game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – with a few additional rules.  participants code a player ‘bot’, host it on Windows Azure, and its take part in battles with other competitors.

    So Get Botting!

    Do be aware however that deploying the Bot Lab will incur charges if you're not using one of the free Azure account offers see for specific offers. If you are using a trial offer, hosted time will consume "compute hours" from your free allotment. Therefore, be sure to 'turn off' your Bot Lab when you're finished.

    For more details and Information see Rock Paper Azure Site
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 Developer and App publishing tips


    WinPhone8 Windows Phone

    Tips for updating existing Windows Phone 7 apps in the Windows Phone MarketPlace for Windows Phone 8 users.

    As a developer you can update both your Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 apps in the Microsoft Dev Center and republish any amendments or changes. I have had a few questions about with path in Dev Center should I follow to ensure both my apps are updated accurately.

    The Microsoft Dev Center supports multiple XAPs for any app.

    Therefore as a developer you can choose to have a single XAP (typically targeting Windows Phone 7) or have two XAPs (one for Windows Phone 7 and one for Windows Phone 8) by doing this the app has a single GUID, and has a optimised experience for each platform.

    What happens if I build a new version of my existing Windows Phone 7 app in the new Windows Phone 8 SDK?

    If you have updated an existing XAP with a new Windows Phone 8 XAP, you potentially risk eliminating the Windows Phone 7 version.

    To mitigate any issues take one of the following steps.

    1. To Keep a single XAP which works on Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7

    Recompile the Windows Phone 7 app with the new Windows Phone 8 SDK and update the XAP file. NB. This is ideal scenario if your app doesn't require use of any of the Windows Phone APIs. However if your app takes advanatage of the Windows Phone 8 APIs please use option 2 below.

    2. To enable two versions of your app. One for Windows Phone 8 and one for Windows Phone 7

    You will need to create the new Windows Phone 8 version and utilise the new APIs and then add this new Phones 8 XAP to the Dev Center.

    To Add your app to the Dev Center

    1. Login to the Dev Center

    2. Select ‘add new’

    3. Upload your new Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 XAP (ensure version number is higher on the Windows Phone 8 XAP than your existing or new Windows Phone 7 XAP)

    4. Add meta data (NB. Please ensure the country list and language support selected is identical on both XAPs, if these do not match your app will NOT Appear in search Windows Phone now has 191 new markets so developers need to ensure they cross submit to take advantage of these new markets and consumers.

    5. Click Submit

    6. Your new apps will then be tested and published if they pass all necessary checks.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Rapid2D C++/DirectX Gaming Engine and Competition



    Are you using or teaching C++/DX?

    Teaching C++ is like teaching no other programming language or development tool. Among the complications in designing and presenting a C++ course are:

    The worst fault a C++ course can have is to focus exclusively on the rules, but many courses do just that. I have seen some courses which explain every detail of every language feature drawing little distinction between important and unimportant or between good and bad. Such courses may
    help the student pass a certification examination, but they won't help him or her to develop high-quality software.

    The value of any programming course lies in conveying a solid grasp of problem solving and good programming practice. Because of the vast range of
    choices in C++ that need is especially acute here. We shouldn't  worry if students haven't memorized every detail of C++ syntax and semantics; they can always
    look something up when they need it. If they understand the purpose of each feature, the relationships among features, and how to use C++ well, they will
    have gotten value from the course.

    Teaching C++

    From the feedback I had this year from games educators the majority say teaching C++ is an enjoyable experience.  However with the release of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 C++ is also an educational experience for many of the lectures with new opportunities and new enhancements to DirectX. Any many lectures have already commented that they  learn something new about the subject matter each time. Given the pace of growth in the language, in related libraries, in add-on products, and in object-oriented C++ and the opportunity of Windows is pretty exciting.

    Having fun

    Despite the daunting difficulties, a good C++ course ought to be an enjoyable and satisfying experience. More than most other languages, C++ lets us exercise
    creative design over a wide range of levels.

    It's fun to design and build classes and other object-oriented constructs and then see them exhibit the desired behaviour.

    It's fun to debate the pros and cons of alternative approaches to some problem.

    One of the key issues students state is that they spend lots of time on framework design or development and not actually producing a fully operational game. Well, for all you who want to let your students experiment and develop a game I would like to make you aware of Rapid2D.

    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.

    Rapid2D Easter Competition

    We've got a great competition for you! Make an app using Rapid2D and - provided the game meets the Windows 8 submission criteria - we'll help you publish your app to the Windows 8 Marketplace. In addition, the app that is judged to be the best by our Rapid2D team will receive a Windows 8 Tablet.

    Competition Details
    • The competition is open from today and closes on 1st March 2012.
    • The theme for the app must be Bunnies or All Things Easter.
    • You can submit your entry any time from today until the closing date of 1st March 2012 at 5pm.
    • Provided your game meets the Windows 8 submission criteria we'll publish your game in time for Easter.
    • After the closing date one winner will be selected by our Rapid2D programming team. The winner will receive a Windows 8 Tablet.
    • There will be two runners up who will receive Windows 8 phones.
    • Please send your zipped entry to to arrive with us not later than 5pm on 1st March 2012. We are hoping that your entry will not be too large to email, but if it is please contact us by email at, tell us the size of the file and we will arrange an upload location for you and respond via email.

    Please click here to view the terms and conditions of the competition (PDF, opens in a new window).

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    The Windows Startup Challenge!



    Are you ready to launch your Windows Store app at DEMO Mobile 2013?

    If you have a Windows Store app idea, we want you to apply and compete for a chance to launch your app at DEMO Mobile on April 17th, 2013.

    It’s easy to enter the challenge

    1. Submit app prototype! This can be a video, a slideshare presentation, screenshots, whatever as long as it hits on the judging criteria

    2. Get votes! Once your app prototype is approved, tweet the link using #windowschallenge and share it to collect votes (50% of your score will be based on public voting)


    First Prize: Top team will receive a free trip to San Francisco to launch at DEMO Mobile on April 17th, 2013.

    Second Prize: Top five teams will receive a marketing package to promote and launch the app

    Third Prize: All semi-finalists will receive free design and technical support from experts

    About the Challenge

    This is a joint effort between Microsoft, Startup Weekend and DEMO to accelerate apps from prototype to development to launch.

    Entre Period

    The entry period ends on January 29, 2013. Please submit a prototype of your app here.


    For other related inquiries and questions, go to our support group on Facebook or email us at More information including the Official Rules can be found here.


  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Want to learn Windows 8 development – Gameification with Visual Studio Achievements



    I am excited to announce an update to the Visual Studio Achievements extension: the availability of nineteen new achievements all oriented toward Windows 8 app development.

    These new achievements can be earned in JavaScript, C#, VB and C++. Some examples include: I Like To Move It Move It which is earned by using the accelerometer and The Play Is The Thing which is earned by using the AutoPlay contract. You can see a complete list of the nineteen new achievements at Channel9

    If you are new to Visual Studio Achievements, check out this post.

    Download It

    Download Now

    If you already have the extension installed for Azure or Visual Studio achievements, you can update the extension right from the Visual Studio Extension Manager.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Mobile App Programming for Everyone with TouchDevelop NEW CURRICULA PACK




    New curricula available Learn programming on the go with TouchDevelop! In this short course, you will learn how to write mobile apps directly from your web browser. With its simple language, touch-friendly interface and cloud-connected environment, TouchDevelop is a great place to get started.

    Download teaching curriculum pack.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Using Construct2 to build a HTML5 Window 8 Game


    scirra-logo-01     WinPhone8 html5 Win8_logo

    Using Construct 2 to build an awesome Windows 8 HTML5 game.

    Construct2 is a superb application for building HTML5 games, you can download the Free edition and get going with the Beginner's guide to get started on building great games in a very short time period also I have produced a really nice framework for curricula adoption see 


    You will need Windows 8. You then need to install Visual Studio 2012 Express on Windows 8 if you have a DreamSpark account then you can install any version of Visual Studio 2012. You will also need to ensure you setup a FREE windows 8 and Windows Phone developer account via DreamSpark see

    You'll need to add touch controls. See this tutorial on touch controls for help on that. Different devices have different size screens. See supporting multiple screen sizes. You can add the Windows 8 object to your project to take integrate with Windows 8 specific features like snap and roaming storage.
    Exporting from Construct 2

    First, ensure your project has the right Name, Description and Author properties set, since these will be used in the exported app.
    In the Export Project dialog, choose Export for Windows 8 and follow the next steps as you would for exporting an ordinary project.
    In the export directory you will find a Visual Studio project.

    Note there are three image files for the app icons, app-logo.png, app-smalllogo.png and app-storelogo.png. You should replace these with your own images but keep them exactly the same dimensions. The main project file has the extension .sln (solution). Double-click it in Windows 8 and Visual Studio should open it.

    Testing from Visual Studio

    If you've not used Visual Studio before, it's a complex and sophisticated tool for application development. However, you only need to use a small number of commands to configure and test your app. Find the "Solution Explorer" bar which lists all the files in the project.
    The solution explorer.

    Double-click package.appxmanifest. This file contains all the settings for your app. There is one thing you need to set up because Construct 2 can't export it for you, which is the publisher certificate for your app. Click the Packaging tab, which probably has a red X by it because the certificate is not set.
    The app manifest.
    Now click Choose Certificate.... In the dialog that opens, click the dropdown and select Create test certificate....
    Choosing a certificate.

    A dialog appears with your Publisher ID and a password entry. Don't enter a password - leave it blank and hit OK. Click OK on the Choose Certificate dialog as well, and you should now have a certificate set.

    If you've done this correctly the red X should have disappeared too.

    Test certificates only allow you to test your app. When publishing to the Windows 8 App Store, you'll need a different certificate to publish your app.
    Now you can launch your app by pressing F5. Visual Studio will build it and launch it as a Windows 8 app, which uses the Internet Explorer 10 browsing engine. This allows you to test everything is working in the new browser and OS. You can also try tweaking the settings in package.appxmanifest, which include options like orientation lock and other tile images.

    To submit to the Windows 8 App Store, start following the steps from this URL: You might also be interested in exporting to Windows Phone 8 as well (which must be done separately).

    For more details on Construct2 and Windows 8 see
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 in the curriculum


    AsusVivoTab Nokia-Lumia-920 Win8_logo WinPhone8logo

    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.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Global Game Jam 2013



    Exciting gifts for Global Game Jam UK venues.

    I pleased to announce that Microsoft will be providing Global Game Jam prizes for UK venues.

    The UK venues will hosting a differentiator competition based on building games for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, as part of the differentiator we will be offering prizes for the for the best game jam game made for Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 at each UK Global Game Jam venue.


    To top it off, we are also offering a national prize selected from all the UK GGJ games that makes it to the marketplace by the end of February.

    To enter this competition there will be an online entry system  at which will go live during the Global Game Jam, teams simply need to register online and confirm the details of their games Windows store/marketplace submission,

    So what are you waiting for! Get over to and register today and check out the following resources.

    Windows Phone

    Windows 8

    Ubelly Gaming Resources

    Developer Resources, Camps and howtos –

    Even if your not physically attending a Game Jam you can enter the following online competition.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    TypeScript and real life examples



    Over the Christmas break I had a few emails asking me about TypeScript the JavaScript extension invented by Anders Hejlsberg.

    So what is TypeScript?

    1. TypeScript is a language for application-scale JavaScript development.
    2. TypeScript is a typed superset of JavaScript that compiles to plain JavaScript.
    3. TypeScript supports Any browser. Any host. Any OS. Open Source

    So where is TypeScript being used?

    Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2012

    The TFS team made the decision to convert all of our JavaScript to Typescript. TFS had over 150,000 lines of JavaScript.

    The approach... more details at

    As we looked at how to approach the effort of migrating our code, we talked to a few other team at Microsoft who had adopted Typescript before us.  One was Erich Gamma's team.  Erich estimated that manual conversion, to get fully annoted Typescript, one class/function/line at a time could be done at a rate of 300 or so lines per hour.  Of course, all valid JavaScript is valid Typescript so you can just change the file extension and be compiling it but if you want all the benefits you will want to take advantage of some type annotations and that's the manual part.  80,000 lines, at 300 lines per hour was a daunting proposition.  So we decided to invest in a tool to help with the process.  Thankfully, we had been pretty rigorous in our approach.  We used Javadoc fairly consistently to document our APIs.  We used consistent patterns for our classes and modules, etc.

    All told, it took us (1 dev) less than a week to write a tool (in Typescript, of course, :)) that would recognize Javadoc and the rest of our patterns and convert them to the corresponding Typescript constructs.  It took about another week to run the tool, tweak our Javadoc comments (like filling in some that had been missed), update our build process, test the conversion, etc.  Of course there's more we can do with Typescript.  For instance, we didn't have any previous recognizable pattern for interface contracts - so there was nothing for the tool to use to generate the Typescript constructs.  Over time, we'll be going through by hand, as we have reason to revisit modules and further tightening up the Typescript.  I expect we'll find more issues that we don't know about now.

    Overall, we've been super happy with the result.  We feel like we're going to be more productive with better tooling experiences like Intellisense, the code will be better structured, more maintainable and ultimately higher quality.  It's been a very good experience and if you've got a sizeable JavaScript codebase.



    If you've not met TouchDevelop before it provides a drag-and-drop scripting environment which, it has now been revealed, has been developed in TypeScript.

    The Web App has some amazing features,  including code synthesis and trace+ replay and its a great tools for inspiring school children and beginners to programming. see

    Although TouchDevelop was designed for devices, specifically Windows Phone 7, with touchscreens, it can also be used with a keyboard or a mouse and so the browser-based version probably is an improvement in terms of productivity. It also provides the "work everywhere" element that allows for collaboration; as all the TouchDevelop client apps use the cloud service, all of your scripts will get synchronized between all platforms and devices and you only need to log in with the same credentials to access them. TouchDevelop Web App loads automatically on  and, having logged in with your Windows Live, Google or Facebook credentials, you find yourself in the Hub, where can view tutorial videos, visit the showcase to see apps already developed or just get on with creating your own apps in a highly intuitive environment. And once you have created an app you want to publish there are buttons to create a Windows Store app and to create a Windows Phone app.

    TypeScript and the opportunity

    So with these two great examples I encourage you to give it a try.  You may be surprised at the bugs you find in your JavaScript code even if you've worked hard already to make sure there aren't any.

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