Social gaming with Windows Phone, Azure

Cloud computing brings unique opportunities to social gaming and Windows Azure can provide efficient tools when building Windows Phone 7 games.

Daron Yondem, Microsoft Regional Director for the Middle East, at this year’s Tech*Ed discussed some of the processes and benefits involved in building social games with the Windows Azure platform.

Social gaming is on the rise and Yondem encourages developers to take advantage of its growing popularity.

“Gamers expect to be constantly connected with interactive experiences that they can share with their friends. In addition, gamers expect their experience to be responsive irrespective of the time of day or the popularity of the game. Because a modern game can go viral very quickly you need to be ready to handle the demands of millions of users from day one. Windows Azure can help,” says Microsoft.

Yondem’s session explored ways to quickly get started building new social games in Windows Azure. Aside from popularity, the social gaming market continues has “become more profitable, and predictions tell us it will increase to U$1.32-billion in revenues by 2012 (up from U$856 million in 2010)” says Yondem.

Yondem explains that Windows Azure can help developers build social games on Windows Phone 7 by storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards and in-app purchasing.

“The Windows Azure platform provides game developers with on-demand compute, storage, content delivery and networking capabilities so that you can focus on your game development not the underlying infrastructure,” he added.

With Windows Azure, Yondem says developers can start small and scale up quickly. Already established games or developers, however, can start big and scale down as usage dictates. The Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games “enables developers to quickly get started building social games on multiple platforms such as HTML5, Facebook and mobile devices” the software giant explains.

The toolkit supports multiple programming languages and provides incorporates common tools such as, Visual Studio and
Emulators for development. The benefits of Azure according to Yondem:

The claim for Windows Phone and the cloud is that the cloud levels the playing field for developers by making it easy to develop games and allow users to play on multiple device platforms. The cloud provides a larger pool of resources from which to pull, which “Azure is perfect for because it provides various tools”.

Identity options in the cloud are also key to gaining an engaged audience who are able to play from multiple devices. Yondem advises that developers give users the option to create their own (e.g. username + password, token) or using existing identity systems such as Live ID, Facebook and Google ID. The same goes for developers when accessing the Azure Service, when building the application.

Communication between the game, gamers and the cloud is also important so users can keep track of their score and fellow gamers. Yondem demonstration of cloud-initiated-communication using Push Notifications, which provides a single connection between phone and Microsoft Push Notification Service. He also claims that for social gamers this more Bandwidth-and battery-friendly. Though there is no guarantee of notification delivery without internet connection. He outlines three kinds of push notifications:

  • Raw — send a message to an application
  • Toast — send a message to the user
  • Tile — update an image, title, or count

“What makes social gaming successful, is the ability to publish across various social networks and Azure implements this for you, there is no need to code this in the game yourself. The game will remember the gamer’s social identities and if they authorise it, it will publish their scores and progress in the game and that information is protected as much as they want it to be,” says Yondem.



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