You may not be aware of them, but CodeGlue – a developer in the Netherlands – is something of a Renaissance development studio, having developed titles for just about every system and handheld available. Their most recent release was Rocket Riot 3D for the Windows 8 App store. With this much experience, it was hard for me to not geek out with the questions I asked of CEO and Co-Founder Peter de Jong.
We discussed everything from the Windows 8′s “closed platform” criticisms by Gabe Newell and Minecraft’s Notch, to the Nokia N-Gage! (CodeGlue developed a game for it!)
Without further ado…..CodeGlue!
[Troy, GamesFiends (GF)] Prior to the Windows 8 launch, a lot of concerns were raised in response to the Windows 8 Store being a “closed platform,” especially when Gabe Newell of Valve and the creator of Minecraft, Notch, spoke negatively about it. Having been using Windows 8 for almost 6 months, I never understood why such a big deal was made over this, as the only Windows 8 systems it would affect where the ARM-based ones that run Windows RT, like the Microsoft Surface. Gamers using Windows 8 Pro should still be able to install traditional “Windows applications” as well as the simplified, start screened “Windows 8 Store apps,” correct? What are your thoughts on developers worried about Windows 8 Store’s closed platform? It is really something to worry about when developing with Windows 8 in mind?
[Peter de Jong, CEO & Co-Founder CodeGlue (CG)] I totally agree with you. It is exactly like you say it is. Windows RT could be called more closed, but it is very similar to Apple’s App Store – and I don’t hear a lot of people complaining about that. And as far as one of the main complaints is concerned, the one about Steam not being accessible through Windows 8: On Windows 8 Pro you can keep running your Steam games (and Minecraft), and you can still develop any game you like, just on Windows 7. Windows 8 just comes with an extra store, the Windows Store. If you want to be in that store, you’ll have to submit your game to Microsoft and follow some guidelines. Fun fact: one of the best selling apps in the Windows Store actually is an app to pin your Steam games to your Start Menu.
[GF] You recently released your first Windows 8 Store app, Rocket Riot 3D. Having previously developed versions of Rocket Riot for iOS, Windows Phone, and Xbox Live Arcade, was the process developing for Windows 8 significantly different compared with the other platforms?
[CG] Not really. The biggest difference was that Windows 8 uses DirectX, whereas the iPhone uses openGL and on both Windows Phone and Xbox we used XNA. Of course each platform comes with its own challenges and its own APIs, with Windows 8 being no exception. Codeglue is lucky to have worked closely with Microsoft during previous projects, and like always they helped us through any issues we ran into. And as always, developing for the latest version of Visual Studio is an ideal playground for any developer.
[GF] Rocket Riot 3D is only available for Windows 8 through the Windows 8 Store. How does Windows 8 Store development differ from traditional Windows application development?
[CG] It’s surprisingly not that different! There are some APIs you are not allowed to use, but if you stick to that from the beginning, there shouldn’t be any issues. Of course, Windows 8 store applications can contain some extra features, such as the Share Charms and Live Tiles, but they’re not difficult to implement.
[GF] We here at Games Fiends love games from all of the different platforms. You’ve developed for them all: iOS, Android, Steam, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Network, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. Was one platform easier to develop for?
[CG] Most developers love Unity and that makes developing for Android and iOS really easy. Of course iOS has a certification process (as opposed to Android), but the Xbox, the PS3 and Windows 8 require certification as well. Developing for consoles is always a bit trickier, but once you have your game-engine in place, actual development itself isn’t really that different or more difficult.
[GF] Where do you see games on our home consoles in the next generation? What do you think will be the next big leap?
[CG] Ow, this is an interesting question. Home consoles are going to get a lot of competition the upcoming years, look at the Ouya, Game Stick, Nvidia’s GameShield and the SteamBox. But also tablets like Apple’s iPad could be considered competitors. It’s pretty easy to hook up a tablet to your HD TV nowadays. All these new platforms are more “open” than the traditional consoles, so the big win will be that consumer can play much more games on his or her TV in the near future, (including games from smaller devs). Oh and I like Microsoft’s IllumiRoom!
[CG] Where do you see gaming on mobile devices like phones and tablets in the next couple of years? Do you think that Apple and Android, with tons of free and inexpensive games, will force Nintendo and Sony out of the handheld gaming market? Can they continue to expect people to buy $40+ games, when development studios like Codeglue are creating mobile games for a fraction that are being sold for a fraction of the price?
[CG] Smartphones and tablets are already affecting Nintendo’s and Sony’s handheld sales. More and more people are playing games on the phones now. When I look at my nephew he now also has traded his DS for an iPod. But I still think Nintendo has decent papers though for their Nintendo DS. These devices are still popular amongst younger kids. Parents buy these devices for their kids, and they don’t want the hassle of online payments. I think the pricing models on mobile will affect the pricing models for games on handhelds in the long run, I expect the prices to go down. All in all I think the traditional handheld market will shrink, but still be around for a certain target audience.
[GF] According to your website, Codeglue developed for the Nokia N-Gage, which was one of the first phone/gaming devices released nearly a decade ago. Are there any Codeglue team members, who were around then, who could give us a unique glimpse into developing for mobile games in 2003 vs. today?
[CG] Back then most mobile devices were running a Java based environment and had very limited capabilities. E.g. some mobile devices had screens of about 96×36 pixels and did not allow your game to exceed the 64kb install size! The N-Gage made things a little better by providing a native, C++ based, environment, but there was e.g. no hardware acceleration available. Compare this to the current, quad-core, gpu based systems with full HD screens and you are more or less comparing apples and oranges.
[GF] Back to Windows 8 development. I find it interesting that a lot of Windows 8 Store apps are designed to run using a unique split-screen mode, where two apps can share the same screen, one running at ⅓ the width, while the other is at a ⅔ width. I think this is a neat alternative to famously alt-tabbing between applications (which you can do on the start screen by holding down the Windows key and pressing tab). Is designing for three possible landscape-oriented display types easy to accomplish (not to mention a portrait orientation if supported)? It feels similar to the way web developers are designing instantly scalable web sites using responsive design.
[CG] We love this feature, it’s officially called Snapping. Given that this is a PC game, multiple monitor sizes need to be supported. Players can always alt-tab out and change their screen resolution while in game, so this was something we had to deal with anyway. For snapping, Windows 8 actually sends the game a message to say ‘Your screen size has changed’. This made implementing it even simpler. For the smaller ⅓ screen size, the game was too small to actually play, so we pushed in an extra pause menu showing a statistic from the game. We also built a special menu editor system, so that our menu designers could work in a ‘what you see is what you get’ environment, which scaled dynamically.
[GF] Would you like to tell us about any projects that may be coming from Codeglue in the future?
[CG] We are currently working on ibb & obb, a cooperative PSN game for two from Sparpweed. We hope to release this game the first half of 2013. Besides that we are working on a few new concepts for 2013. I can’t tell too much about those, because it is still unclear which one is going to make it.
[GF] Do you have any suggestions for young developers who want to start developing mobile applications. With so many choices out there, is there a good platform to start learning on? Are there good sites to visit for resources?
[CG] Nowadays there is a lot of technology that makes (mobile) game development a lot easier. One of them is Unity3D, which is excellent for creating 3D games for mobile and it will run almost on any platform. If you want to create a 2D game you might want to check out Game Maker Studio. It is very easy to learn and will also run on most mobile platforms. I would encourage young developers to take a look at these technologies!
[GF] If you could go back and remake any video game in history, is there one in particular that you’d like that the team would like to give the Codeglue spin to?
[GF] We’d love to make one of these then: Rainbow Islands (Maurice), Rolling Thunder (my personal favorite) or Transport Tycoon Deluxe (David).