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Games on Windows Phone 7 Series should look gorgeous running at 480x800 resolution. Full shader support will be added via an update after the phone's initial release, which may allow for colorful 3D titles, like the one pictured in this Microsoft XNA PR shot.  (Source: Microsoft)

Game developers can craft titles for Windows Phone 7 Series either in Silverlight or using the XNA framework.  (Source: Erictric)
New device prepares to take on the iPhone for mobile gaming's crown

Mobile gaming was long dominated by Nintendo with Sony coming in a distant second.  That was until Apple stormed onto the scene with its iPhone and stole the show.  Today the iPhone is arguably mobile gaming's most influential platform.

Microsoft hopes to steal Apple's thunder when it releases Windows Phone 7 Series phones later this year.  This week Microsoft shared some details about what gaming on the new operating system will look like.

Unlike the Zune and Courier prototype, which are both powered by NVIDIA's Tegra, most Windows Phone 7 Series phones will use a Qualcomm SnapDragon chipset that contains a GPU from NVIDIA-rival AMD.  The GPU, the AMD Z430, features a unified pixel & vertex shader pipeline (based on the Xbox 360
Xenos GPU).

Unfortunately, developers won't be able to use the GPU's shaders in 3D game titles at launch.  However, an update to Direct 3D Mobile will provide this functionality sometime late this year or early next year.  Describes Microsoft's Shawn Hargreaves in a blog, "

The phone supports full hardware accelerated 3D, but we are not exposing programmable shaders in this release. Charlie Kindel summed up the reason for that in a great article about focus and priorities:
We will do a few things and do them very, very well; we are better off not having a capability than doing it poorly. There are always future versions.”
Instead of programmable shaders, we augmented the existing BasicEffect with four new configurable effects: SkinnedEffect, EnvironmentMapEffect, DualTextureEffect, and AlphaTestEffect. These are designed to run efficiently on the mobile GPU hardware, and I think do a good job of providing enough flexibility for developers to create awesome looking games, while also meeting our goals of being able to ship a robust and well tested product on schedule.

Microsoft is offering developers two screen resolutions -- a 480×800 (WVGA) display resolution and a 320×480 (HVGA).  The HVGA resolution will come post-launch as an update.  Developers can pick which resolution to run, and Microsoft is dictating that its handset partners use dedicated scaling hardware to prevent GPU resources from being gobbled up and to provide better quality scaling.  Touch input will automatically scale with whatever resolution you pick.  

For example, if a user with a WVGA phone fires up a HVGA iPhone port on a Windows Phone 7 Series phone with a high resolution screen, the hardware will seamlessly scale the game up.  This allows game developers flexibility and potentially better performance.  Describes Hargreaves, "480×800 is a lot of pixels! This is a great resolution for displaying text, browsing the web, etc, but it can be a challenge for intensive 3D games to render so much data at a good framerate. To boost performance, some games may prefer to render at a lower resolution, then scale up to fill the display."

According to a separate 
Joystiq interview with Xbox Live GM Ron Pessner and XNA Game Studio manager Michael Klucher, developers will have two options for writing games -- Silverlight (Microsoft's Flash competitor) or the XNA Game Studio and the XNA framework.  Developers can reuse assets, but they will have to port their efforts in Java or Flash to these new platforms.  Silverlight games will be fully able to access Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming service.

One final tidbit is that it sound like it will be ridiculously easy to use Microsoft XNA Game Studio to port Zune titles to Windows Phone 7 Series phones and vice versa.  States Microsoft, "Another big point is -- just like the portability piece we've shown here -- we've done some work internally and with some of the other Zune HD developers, and again, it's 90, 95 percent code reuse. Literally, in an hour or couple of hours, we're taking games that were written for Zune HD and putting them on the phone. We can do the same in reverse. Game Studio is a really powerful platform for portability between these different devices. We think there will be a series of developers that will want to target both platforms and Game Studio gives them a really great way of doing that."

While it may be a bit of work to port iPhone titles to Windows Phone 7 Series, it certainly seems like a tempting target, given its ability to exploit higher screen resolutions and likely larger amounts of texture memory.  This is good news for Windows Phone 7 Series, as a lot of the iPhone's popularity has been due to its gaming success.



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XNA?
By z0d on 3/12/2010 8:03:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
For example, if a user with a WVGA phone fires up a HVGA iPhone port on a Windows Phone 7 Series phone...
I have to wonder what kind of drugs they're taking at MS. iPhone games are written in Objective-C, or C/C++ with parts in Obj-C. Also, Xbox360 games are written in C/C++. How exactly do they think that people are going to port iPhone games to C#? Also, how do they expect professional game developers to write games for WP7? C# is a different language than C/C++. Are they providing a C/C++ SDK? Not that I know of. Are they providing some magical tool that will rewrite your C/C++/Obj-C code to C#? I doubt it. Game developers will have tens of thousands of lines of engine and game code that will not be able to be compiled for WP7, not to mention having to learn a new language (even if it's similar to C++)... and also not even thinking about rewriting the UI systems in Silverlight.

Again, I have to wonder what they are thinking at MS. Then again, they did think that brown Zune was a good idea.




RE: XNA?
By omnicronx on 3/13/2010 1:29:39 PM , Rating: 2
You say all 360 games are written in c/c++ and that is just incorrect. Anyone who wishes to make a custom game, and those old games on the marketplace are most likely XNA. In fact anyone can connect their 360 to their PC and develop using XNA Game Studio.

I don't see how anyone can take your comments seriously if you didnt even know this.. just the usual MS bashing from those who don't know what they are talking about. Microsoft already has a large XNA following, so i don't see how its a bad idea. You also make it out as though it will be impossible to port over gaming engines which is also not the case, it has already been done.

The framework in general is also very similar to c#, which is also very similar to Objective-C.. neither of which are native languages. Even with the iPhone, only full on OpenGL games are written fully in c++, basically if you are using any iPhone UI elements you essentially MUST use objective C.

Full on 3d games are only a tiny part of the iPhone app store, most of the apps are basic made in objective-c, there is no reason to think it will be any different on other platforms. The cool thing about phones is that you don't need to be a major developer to release software,.


RE: XNA?
By z0d on 3/14/2010 5:44:26 AM , Rating: 2
When I said that Xbox360 games are written in C/C++ I was referring to games made by professional developers, not the community games which are of course XNA, since that's all MS allows. So, when you say that I dont know what I'm talking about and imply that my purpose is simply to bash MS, you are wrong.

MS can court amateurs all day long if they want, but if they really want to be serious about making this a games platform and getting devs to port existing games, they need to support C++.

Regarding your point about the similarity between these languages, yes they are similar, but similar is not same. In order to port games to C#/XNA/Silverlight anyone with an existing game will have to re-write or alter large parts of their code. All this, in a language they're probably not familiar with, for a new device with no install base, and with no real hope of being able to reuse that code later on another device (iphone, android, etc).


"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad














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