The studio tells us why it's backing Microsoft's new OS and discusses the process of bringing games to the platform
European mobile games firm Game Insight is confident that Windows 10 can offer studios a new audience for their games and encourages devs consider bringing their titles to the platform.
The company points to its own success and Windows 10 portfolio as a sign of what's possible on Microsoft's new OS.Game Insight has launched four games to coincide wth yesterday's launch of Windows 10, including Running Shadow (pictured), Paradise Island 2, The Tribez & Castlez, and Maritime Kingdom, adding to the 11 titles already available on Windows. These games will be rolling out to all countries over the next few weeks.
We spoke to Game Insight's CEO Anatoly Ropotov about the process of developing for Windows 10, the benefits of Microsoft's new Universal apps, and the potential audience his company now hopes to reach.
What does Windows 10 enable you to do that you can’t with previous Windows or other platforms?
Windows 10 brings even better uniformity to development, finally approaching one-solution-fits-all approach, providing common API for desktop, notebook, Surface, mobile, and even Xbox, resolving dozens of previously confusing issues.
It brings back optional windowed mode for apps, so games need to learn to scale on runtime again. Dozens of game engines including Unity already support Universal Windows Phone (UWP) and Cocos2dx, making deployment to both Windows Phone – now Windows Mobile – much easier than before.
Our latest releases Transport Empire and Big Business Deluxe are using these features and we can't wait for Windows 10 to roll out on Windows Mobile devices to take full advantage of this approach.
Conversely, what restrictions remain? Was there anything you were unable to accomplish?
In the first year of developing games for Windows platforms, it felt like you are developing for a very strict, limited sandbox that was restricting every single step. Just overcoming the difficulties of C++/XAML integration in early days and remaking render/run loops was complex enough to push back even the most mature game developers, as C# was given a lot of preferences. Skeptical developers need to revisit the tutorials and guidelines to see how much the onboarding and development experience has improved for all technologies out there.
If you have any questions to whether the platform is viable or “worth” the time, we can prove it is.
How well does the cross-platform functionality work? Was this easy to implement?
Their cross-platform functionality is a huge step in the right direction. We anticipate it will make things much easier not only for players, but for developers. Cross-platform is very important to us as players need to be able to choose when, where and how they play. It's our job as developers to make that possible for them and Windows is definitely moving in the right direction to support that.
How has developing games for Windows 10 differed from previous versions of the OS?
With the potential to reach the next billion users with the free upgrade to Windows 10, it makes much more sense now for every developer to tackle that opportunity. Few developers have transitioned their games to Windows 8/8.1 in order to distribute them through Windows Store. Targeting the WinRT API has been tedious with certain restrictions in build tools and it was hard to follow platform evolution with a lot of backwards compatibility tools.
Previously, porting paid apps to the Windows Store didn't make much sense as Steam has a far wider reach and doesn't limit itself to the few hundred million users of Windows 8/8.1. Game Insight has been a pioneer on Windows 8 around its launch, and we've followed the platform's evolution throughout the years, launching original sim/tycoon game My Country almost three years ago.
Supporting ARM's architecture for Windows RT builds and tiny Atom Intel tablets was an extra tedious task as everyone had to over-optimize for super low-spec $99 tablets and with their tiny batteries, the gameplay experience didn't really match expectations of players accustomed to other tablet platforms.
Also, a few developers had had enough of hardware like that and had a learning curve on how to remotely deploy and debug games on such devices.
The advantage of releasing games for Windows Phone (after Windows Phone 7 was so focused on C# apps) wasn't obvious and the compatibility level of WinRT API was sub-par. However, once WP8.1 started to dominate, the new Visual Studio started to support Universal projects that let developers easily compile both Windows and Windows Phone projects. Windows Phone actually yields the most downloads for Game Insight compared to Windows desktop.
Our theory is that players have enough choice on Windows platforms, downloading clients straight from official game sites, through Steam and other services. However, with Windows 10 that situation is about to change as Windows Store will be much tighter integrated into the OS and Start Menu, and its experience is finally on par with competing platforms.
We've spent a lot of time providing feedback to Microsoft and we are glad they've listened on most of the subjects, from discoverability of newly-installed apps and having a way to launch an app straight from there, to improvements in various system level API.
With the potential to reach the next billion users with the free upgrade to Windows 10, it makes much more sense now for every developer to tackle that opportunity
What other Windows 10 features should devs consider using when creating games for the platform?
We are particularly excited by the new way developers could sign-in players without requiring them to enter any passwords and the upcoming Xbox Live roll-out on PC with ability for players to save and share their replays, bringing dreams of cross-platform gaming to life. For us, the social aspect of player interactions and the way to see that your friends are playing 'that game you've been shy to talk about' is super important.
Another feature that we are thrilled about is support for new platforms in Visual Studio and new ways to port and enhance games from other platforms straight to Windows. This came as a real surprise for us and it looks like we'll be able to bring some of our top hits that have been developed years ago for specific platforms while still preserving the single codebase.
What other features would you like to see added in future?
As we developed most of our 3D games, such as Running Shadow and X-Mercs, utilising the Unity game engine would be most useful. We also can't wait to get our hands on HoloLens dev kits to see how we'll be able to blend reality with alternate reality gaming experiences.
What advice do you have for any other games developers using Windows 10 for the first time?
One thing I'd like to say to developers – and I recently spoke about this together with Microsoft at Unite Europe – is that if you have any questions to whether the platform is viable or “worth” the time, we can prove it is.
We have titles that earn over $10,000 per day on Microsoft platforms and are reaching 14m players there, creating multi-million dollar revenues. Hopefully this proves that it's a viable platform. And, we believe it’s only getting better. The free availability of Windows 10 will convince users of Windows 7 to upgrade to the much improved OS and will open doors of the Store to hundreds of millions of new users across all different mediums.