Thursday, 25 October 2012

All-in with Microsoft: The first few hours

It has begun. My Windows 8 experience begun in earnest with an install to a brand new 256GB SSD. I'm currently dual-booting with Windows 7, but plan to ditch the old OS as soon as I've pulled across everything I need.

For this first update, I'm just going to list some of the niggles and surprises I came across in my first few hours exploring Windows 8 as a replacement for my Windows 7 desktop.

  • Starting off with a positive, I absolutely love the multi-monitor support in Windows 8. I run three displays as extended desktops, and have always used Ultramon on Windows 7 to provide taskbar and wallpaper functionality for the second and third displays. Windows 8 takes care of that out of the box, and does so quite elegantly.

  • For some reason, I was under the impression that Metro was locked to your primary display. This is not the case. Every desktop has the same corner zones for Start, Charms and task switching. When you click to open the Start screen on a display other than your primary, the Metro experience opens up on that display. It also resizes to the display's resolution (I have three different-sized displays).

  • Furthermore, if you open a Metro app from the Start screen on any display, the app will remain open on that display while you carry on working on the desktop on other displays...

  • ...which would be awesome if there were any Metro apps worth using. I haven't yet dived into the store for third-party apps, but the standard apps are barely functional at best, and downright buggy at worst. I'm going to dedicate a whole post to railing on them very soon. What I will suggest is making sure to update the apps from the Store before you start using them, as that will at least take care of some of the initial bugs... 

  • the hour that I spent trying to figure out how to connect to my account from the Mail app. Once the mail app was updated, the account showed up automatically (which I expected from the outset as it's tied to the Microsoft account that I use with Windows 8). All I needed to do then was to go to the account settings in Mail and check the option to sync Email from that account.

  • The new desktop stuff is all great. The new file explorer, the file copy dialogue and new Task Manager are fantastic. Once the newness of Metro wears off and I largely ignore it (save from the odd decent Metro app, video playback and the Start screen), I can honestly see Windows 8 being a joy to use.

I'm still waiting for my Surface to be dispatched.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I'm going all in with Microsoft

It's been a long time since I've blogged anything. So long, in fact, that Blogger appears to have an entirely new back-end interface. I took a long hiatus from games development over the summer, only recently getting back into it. I'll save that for another post entirely apart from mentioning that Dreamland is not dead, and will be finished at some point.

This is the first in what will more than likely be a series of blogs where I lay out my decision to go "all-in" with Microsoft this year and beyond, and write about my experiences within the Microsoft ecosystem.

What does "all-in" mean, exactly?

I will be adopting and using the following hardware, software and cloud services in my personal life on a day-to-day basis:
  • Windows 8 Pro on my main home PC
  • Surface RT
  • Windows Phone 8 (More than likely a Nokia Lumia 920)
  • Xbox 360
  • Microsoft cloud services, to include:
    • for email, calendar and contacts
    • Skydrive
    • Xbox Music
  • Internet Explorer 10 as my primary browser (while having Chrome on standby for comparison)
  • Visual Studio 2012
  • Office 2010 now, 2013 when available

What I've been using recently

I've always been a "Microsoft guy", since moving from the Amiga back in 1999. My primary reason initially was because I'm also a gamer, and Windows was the only real way to game (outside of consoles) for the longest time.

More recently, I've stuck with the Microsoft ecosystem because I believe that Microsoft have, hands down, the best software development stack with the combined power of Visual Studio, C# and .NET. I work with Microsoft CRM and .NET in my day job, and I develop games with XNA as a hobby.

So what does my current technology usage look like, compared with the above list?
  • Windows 7 Ultimate on my main home PC
  • No tablet
  • Windows Phone 7 (Nokia Lumia 800)
  • Xbox 360
  • Cloud services:
    • Gmail for email
    • Google calendar
    • for contacts
    • Skydrive
    • Zune for music (with a Zune pass)
  • Chrome as my primary browser
  • Visual Studio 2010
  • Office 2010
Not exactly a world apart, right? Main differences will be Windows 8, IE as primary browser, and for email. I'll also have a tablet. I'm not even sure where a tablet fits in to my "digital life" - the Surface will mostly be used for development.

Initial trepidations

I have a lot of hangups regarding Windows 8. I've tweeted about them a fair bit, but Twitter really isn't the place for constructive ranting, thus the blogging. I'll go into more detail in subsequent posts, but making the leap from 7 is far and away the most daunting part of this silly experiment.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the Surface, and more importantly Windows RT. I'm absolutely of the opinion that the Desktop mode shouldn't be in RT, but I guess it had to be as Office won't be fully Metro-ised for a couple of years (if ever). That's really my only thought about RT as it stands - everything else will come down to daily usage and app availability.

Sidenote: I will be using the "Metro" moniker throughout. I don't care that it's not a thing, it was a great name and MS should have stuck with it, consequences be damned.

Using IE10 as my primary browser is a bit of a question mark. I've not been as vehemently against IE as almost everyone else seems to be, but I stopped using it in favour of Chrome a couple of years back. I don't know how this is going to go. I hope bookmark syncing is in there somewhere.

Why not Apple?

I get it. Apple make incredibly sexy hardware and couple it with software that just works. They have a quickly-maturing cloud ecosystem, and iOS has all the apps.

But at the end of the day, I'm a .NET developer and a gamer. Windows is the home for both of those things.

And besides, I like to support the underdog.

First Steps

I've put in my Surface pre-order. I have an SSD on the way to do a fresh install of Windows 8 (by the way, I've never used an SSD before). I'll have to wait to get my hands on a Lumia 920 as it sounds like they have an exclusive with Everything Everywhere and my contract with Three isn't up until April. I've started using and have forwarded all my current email addresses to it.

Here goes!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dreamland Dream Build Play 2012 Teaser

To celebrate completion of the six "dungeon" areas of Dreamland, we've released a short teaser trailer! This is a major milestone, and we're well on our way to having a completed game to enter into the Windows Phone category of DBP 2012. Enjoy!


Friday, 2 March 2012

New Dreamland Screenshots

Work is progressing nicely on Dreamland, an RPG for Windows Phone 7 which will be an entry in this year's Dream Build Play competition. We're hard at work on the Windows Phone version of the game, which we're targeting for a June release! Without further ado, here's a selection of new screenshots from the current alpha test of the game:

And here's a bonus video of timelapsed development running up to the current beta:

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Target: Dream Build Play 2012

First post of 2012!

The news that there will be a Windows Phone category in the Dream Build Play competition this year has given me a solid target for Dreamland's completion. While no actual submission dates have been announced yet, I'm fairly confident in my assumption that we'll be looking at a June date for final entries.

Six months is plenty enough time to finish Dreamland and give it all the polish it deserves. Leon, Team Mango's resident graphics artist has been hard at work producing the last of the assets and storyline required to complete work and I'm following up with getting the last of the game mechanics coded.

To give me some extra motivation - and taking a cue from some of the Ludum Dare participants - I've started live streaming of my development sessions. Using a rather neat app called XSplit, I can screencast and show the game running on my Lumia 800 via webcam all on the same stream. I can stream to the Team Mango UStream channel and record to disk at the same time. The recordings allow me to make neat timelapse videos like this one:

My plan is to record and stream most of my Dreamland development sessions between now and DBP and make a huge timelapse video at the end of it all.

I'll be livestreaming at weekends and on weekday evenings (GMT), though not to any fixed schedule. I'll always announce on Twitter before I begin. It's development, so I can't promise too much excitement but I will sometimes have the microphone on and commentate my work.

Here's to a productive new year!