WP7, Xbox, and PC

Posted: June 14, 2010 in Blogroll, interactive fiction, Textfyre
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

So while I’m porting Shadow to Windows Phone 7, I started realizing where Microsoft is going with all of their platforms. They want to make it so that if you play a game, you can stop and restart on another device.

So the scenario is…start a game on your new Windows Phone 7 device on the train. At some point you decide to save and quit. When you get home, you fire up the Xbox and load up the same game and continue playing. But wait, your friend Joe calls and wants you to come over. So you head over to Joe’s and pull up the same game on his PC, right where you left off.

Since we’ve been talking about user interfaces lately, this brings up a completely different problem. What will the three different devices/platforms looks like and how will they work? It’s obvious that the WP7 device will have a minimalistic user interface and touch controls. The Xbox might have a keyboard, but it would also have to support users without one and just the standard controllers. The PC user would be running something closer to what we would consider a traditional user interface.

All of this can be done in Silverlight using the various SDK’s and common data file formats, which we already have with FyreVM and Quetzal save files.

I’ve always thought one of the flaws of the iPhone (and now iPad) model was that you couldn’t buy an app and play it on your computer. Why not? What’s preventing Apple from creating an SDK that shares the same code base, but allows the developer to choose different devices to target? Seems like a no-brainer to me. Unless you don’t care about your desktop business anymore and you’re solely focused on mobile devices. That would seem to be the direction Apple is headed.

It will be interesting to see how this dynamic impacts the market when WP7 is launched and the marketing of Microsoft platform neutral gaming comes into play.

In any case, Textfyre is likely to pursue this model. I think telling people they can play our games on their new Windows Phone 7 device, a PC, or an Xbox, is going to be a nice draw.

  1. someone says:

    Bear in mind that while Silverlight is being developed for the XBox, Microsoft is only going to allow select partners to develop for it. Unfortunately, that probably only means the big guys like Netflix, etc. If I were you, I would think about developing your GUI in XNA. If you stick to SpriteBatch-based 2d. Then you can use the SilverSprite library to cross compile to Silverlight.

    • We use text a lot, so I’m not sure how the XNA library would work. Is there a way to do XAML like tags in a text box? I haven’t look at it (despite it staring at me, fully installed on my laptop).

      • Aaron says:

        I don’t think you will be able to move games into or out of the XBox anytime soon. It is a very closed environment to help prevent hacking and cheating.

        If save games could leave the system and come back in, then people could modify their save files on a PC and load them back in. This would allow you to cheat on achievements, or possibly cause a buffer overrun and run arbitrary code which would comprimise XBox security.

        I think you will be able to eventually write a Silverlight app for XBox, but I’m guessing it may be a while. You could do it in XNA now, which can re-use your Silverlight engine code, but you would have to do the interface from scratch.

        Your notion of device to desktop and back is spot on however. Especially if you save games to the web, or host the games on servers.

  2. @Aaron: Since we run a custom game virtual machine and the save files are just byte arrays for it, there’s really no way for someone to hack it. If the VM reads something it doesn’t understand, it just dies. And the VM has no concept of files. Whenever it’s deal with files, a filestream has to be passed in.

    • Amy says:

      While that may be true, Microsoft’s policies are traditionally difficult to bend, even with an avalanche of logic. While they’re currently kinder to developers for their console than some other platforms have been in the past, they have some lines they’re extremely staunch in maintaining.

      On the topic of Silverlight versus XNA, there are several projects in place intended to make transitioning between the two platforms relatively seamless. An example I’ve been toying with recently is FlatRedBall, an XNA-based game development toolkit that is meant to target multiple platforms simultaneously, including Silverlight web apps.

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