Cortana for Games

Because Microsoft is still working on porting Azure Mobile Services for Windows 10 Universal apps (you may cast your vote at the Visual Studio User Voice site), I’m going to pause the blog series I started last time and present you with a different topic today: Voice commands in games.

In Windows 10, Cortana can recognize your voice to tell you the time, check the weather for you, look up your next scheduled meeting or simply chat with you. As a developer, you may add as many additional voice commands to Cortana as you like – a great opportunity to increase the retention and lifetime value of your game!

Cortana

In this blog post, we’re going to build a simple app that resembles popular mobile strategy games and extend that app with voice commands that allow the player to ask Cortana for their current gold, last attack or building construction progress.

To get idea of where we’re headed, take a look at this YouTube playlist illustrating our desired results.

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Creating A Windows 10 Game With Azure

Exciting times! Starting today, Windows 10 is available for everyone: During the next twelve months, people can upgrade for free if they’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8 on their machine. What’s in it for us?

Well, we can see that Microsoft’s efforts of rewriting the Windows kernel over the past few years have really paid off: With Windows 10, universal apps enable each and every one of us to develop a single app and run it on phones, desktops and consoles alike!

Universal Windows Platform

I found that this is the perfect time to start a new big blog series about developing multi-platform online games. In this series, we’ll learn how to build a classical strategy game on Windows 10 using a (free!) Microsoft Azure backend. Azure enables us to create a backend that scales to arbitrary user counts, is easy to connect to various client platforms (not just Windows) and comes with full tool support for maximum productivity. Azure is a huge platform, and this can really be a little overwhelming – it was for me, and I think it will be even for more experienced developers. So we’re going to go through this step by step.

We’ll talk about building and deploying client and server, authenticating users, implementing the game logic itself on both sides, and sending push notifications, among others. Whenever you’ve got any questions, or are aching to see a specific feature, just add your thoughts to the comments below!

Okay – let’s do this!

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Game Analytics for Windows Phone 8.1 & Windows Store

Game analytics can help a great deal in improving your games. By tracking downloads and in-app purchases, player demography, average session length, player progress and performance, as well as quality metrics such as crashes, companies are constantly trying to be one step ahead of their competitors.

At slash games, we’ve been using GameAnalytics for about a year now. It’s easy to implement, easy to use, and it provides great visualizations, custom reports and funnels. Oh, and it’s free.

While GameAnalytics already provides integration for Unity, iOS, Android, Corona and Flash, there’s been no native integration for Windows Phone and Windows Store apps so far.

Based on their REST API and on the work by Jason Ericson, I’ve succeeded in creating a native plugin for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Store apps. You just have to include a single source code file in your project, and sending an event to the GameAnalytics backend becomes as easy as

The plugin automatically generates unique session ids, uses the app package version as build id, and the Application Specific Hardware Identifier (ASHWID) as user id by default. However, you can change these at any time.

The library is open source, works out-of-the-box with the standard Visual Studio “Visual C++ Windows Phone DirectX App” and “Visual C++ Windows Store DirectX App” templates, and is tested to pass store validation:

https://github.com/npruehs/game-analytics-win8

EDIT: Works with Windows Phone 8 apps as well now! Enjoy!