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Windows Phone 7 Game Development : Developer Diary – Week 1

4 Nov 2011

Well, it has been 1 week since I started my first Windows Phone 7 game. Even though I’ve been writing software for the last 12 years, this will be my first game. I’ve tried a few other projects recently, but they never got to the stage where I could release them. Now that I’m doing this full-time, I need to get something out there. My plan for this game is to release a new version to the Windows Phone Marketplace every week, to keep moving forward, and get some feedback about what people want.

My end goal for the game is for it to be a 3D massively multiplayer online roleplaying game using the rules from the Open Gaming License (OGL) that are also used by the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 and Pathfinder role playing games. This is an overly ambitious goal, a project that usually takes teams man-decades of work to produce anything even remotely worthwhile, and I’m just a team of 1. For that reason, it’s probably about the dumbest thing I could choose to do. A real-time multiplayer game on a phone is probably a really bad idea too, because of the network connectivity it requires.

There are lots of things I can do to reduce the work involved. I could revert to a single player game, I may even be forced to do that if the multiplayer aspect doesn’t work. I do want it to be 3D, which is again, much more work than 2D, but if I use a simple art style like Minecraft, hopefully it will be achievable. Implementing only a small subset of the classes, monsters, levels and spells will also reduce the work that I need to do.

Microsoft have some great learning resources at create.msdn.com and channel9.msdn.com, which is probably the only thing that will make this possible. My learning curve will not only be steep, but also long. I got my hands dirty with XNA this week.  I still don’t know how the whole thing works, but I was able to produce a 2D game that doesn’t really do anything at all, apart from let you move a character around on a green background. I thought that such a thing would pass certification for the Marketplace very quickly, because it hardly does anything, but it’s still in the process after a few days. Puzzling.

Consistent execution is the key. My first step is pretty mediocre, but it is just a first step after all. Week after week the game will get better, I just need to keep at it. Having to learn all the technologies that I’m using is slowing me down, but I’ll take the “tortoise” approach to get there in the end. Constraints also force innovation, and I’m very constrained in this situation, so who knows, this might be the best thing I could do after all.

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