HoloLens and GameDev News at Build

Some highlights from the Build keynotes today and the announcements from Microsoft:

News: HoloLens apps, for Microsoft’s AR HoloLens device, are Windows 10 apps. Windows 10 apps that run in windows will be able to snap to your actual walls. For examples, see some pictures here or check out the link to the video: HoloLens on the Walls

Unity 3D will work to create apps and games for HoloLens! I’ve heard really great things about this integration. Imagine making a game character that could run right out into the real world and jump around on all your furniture… More info released from Unity today here: Unity Blog

Unity announced deeper integration with Visual Studio recently. So not to leave Mac or Linux developers behind, Visual Studio Code is a new cross-platform Visual Studio family member. You can get it here, free: Visual Studio Code

Full Unity support for this is still pending, but it has some features that Mac and Linux developers should find useful!

Also, for game devs who have been holding off on Windows support for their games, Build also announced support to easily retarget Windows with your Java or C++ apps from Android and Objective C apps from iOS. Here’s some details at TechCrunch.


Now Playing: Mortal Kombat X

I was already interested in trying Mortal Kombat X, because it had been a little while since I bought a Mortal Kombat game. I was pushed over into the “immediate purchase” category by a tweet from Javy Gwaltney saying he’d like to see what a woman thought of the game. Specifically, he was asking about the changes in outfits, but I thought I’d go ahead and write a bit about the game in general. That turned in to wanting to write a lot about the game in general, so this is the first post of a bunch.

As a woman, I am also a person who really likes Mortal Kombat. I would go so far as to call myself a fan, though I haven’t bought every single installment. I played MK a lot back in the old controversy days of the 90s. I like to think I was pretty good at it, as a kid. In the arcade, I didn’t have to be better at fighting games than the rest of the world. I just had to be better than whoever had the next quarter to put up. The thrill of seeing someone’s head eaten in a Fatality, even if I didn’t perform it myself, was more than worth the 50-cent price of admission.

We bought the Sega Genesis when we did partially because it had the “real” Mortal Kombat port, with the actual blood. You still had to enter a code to get it (ABACABB, and no, I didn’t have to look it up). In the years that followed I went to see both films (yeah even the really terrible second one) and continued to track the series’ insane, pulpy story. I’ve purchased installments of the home game off and on over the last few years.

I’ll break my “review” into a few parts, starting with an overview of characters. I have no idea how long this is going to ramble on for, so I’m using my own blog for it. Also, except for saving my absolute favorites for the end, I’ll discuss the characters in no particular order! So, starting tomorrow and ending Whenever: A Review of the Characters (and guest stars) in Mortal Kombat X.

For today, here’s the “We Hate Movies” podcast picking fun of the movie. You’re welcome.


Get ready for Philly Tech Week!

Philly Tech Week has almost begun! Microsoft is sponsoring, and I plan to be all over the event as much as I can.

Here’s where you can find me and Microsoft next week…

Starting on Friday, where the Arcade @ Dilworth event is going to bring in local game developers from all over town! (UPDATE: this event is now Saturday, due to rain. So Saturday night!)

On Saturday, I’ll be at the 4th Annual Philly Women in Tech Summit, talking about Cloud computing!

On Tuesday, I’m going to be at Girl Develop It! Rise and Shine to connect with the great GDI Chapter here.

Wednesday, Microsoft is hosting a special all-day event: Doing Business and Developing in the Cloud. We are going to have great info, and also some great raffle prizes to give away, so don’t miss out on this if you can make it!

On Thursday I’m going to talk about Kinect and exercise at the Dev Day Talks. And I’ll see you at the Dev Day After Party too!

And it’s all over next Friday, with the big Signature Event!

A full list of events Microsoft is recommending, and where to sign up, is located right here: http://phillymtc.com/SitePages/ptw2015.aspx

Unity Roadshow and other Philly Game News

Quick programming notice:

Unity Roadshow is going to be in Philadelphia this week! I’m very excited to be there on April 2 at the Philly Game Forge. If you want a great day of Unity training, it’s not too late to register for free!  Hope to see you there!

Also, if you love Philly games, please check out the results of the latest Philly Dev Night Game Jam: ProfitJam.

The GDC Vault also released lots of free content today. This includes the GDC Failure Workshop featuring Will Stallwood from Philly’s Cipher Prime and Indie Soapbox featuring Philly developer Greg Lobanov talking about his adventure biking across the USA. Cipher Prime’s Dain Saint also did a cool talk about the Universe from a game design perspective, and How to Break the Game.

So much love for local devs! Can’t wait to see many of you this week!


Currently Playing – Ori and the Blind Forest

I had a weekend set aside to relax, so I spent some of it playing Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox One. I first saw the game at the ID@Xbox showcase at GDC, and then it was available just a few days later, so I took the plunge. It’s super pretty but super hard, like Super Metroid mashed up with Super Meat Boy … and then rolled in a Miyazaki film (I ran out of ‘supers’). I’m just past the 50 percent mark, and I’ve died over 200 times. Which is probably lousy!


But look how pretty it is!

I just changed my Twitter background to this just because it’s so soothing. It felt a little weird to have Mario and not a Microsoft game in that background (even though I still love Mario).

I’d definitely recommend the game, if you have a high tolerance for thumb numbing frustration. (Or, naturally, if you are much better at tricky platforming than I am. The GDC demoer had a much easier time with the “tree escape” sequence than I did.)


The big trends in indie gaming this year so far seem to be Metroidvanias in the single player, and 4 or 8-player local arena games for the multiplayer. Towerfall and Sportsfriends are the trendsetters here. At GDC I also spent some time with ClusterPuck 99, which I’ve written about at Tap-Repeatedly after a good chat with the developers.

Metroidvanias I’ve played so far this year:

  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Chasm
  • Axiom Verge

Local Arena games I’ve played (or at least watched) so far this year:

I feel like I’m forgetting some, and here it’s only March.

Feel free to talk about how “metroidvania” is a bad name for a genre – I am not 100% on it, but it seems to be what everyone’s settling on for now.


Learn Some New (or older) Game Technology!

Having just got back from GDC, I saw a little bit of That Reddit Post that’s going around. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry about it, though I for one support colorful hair and hugging (As I said in so many words on Twitter – Hug a Dev – Ask First). Specifically, though, I want to address just part of the post that I found interesting, which was about the game technologies on display at GDC.


First of all, I noticed that this poster praised Torque, which I found odd. A few jobs ago it was the engine I was using, and everyone that I said that to expressed their sympathies. Nothing against the people working on that middleware, but it had a really difficult asset pipeline, especially for teaching to students. And it lacked flexibility; things that seemed like they should be easy, like moving platforms for a platforming game required hacking the base sourcecode. I still think we learned valuable skills working in Torque. But when I saw how simple the same tasks were comparatively in Unity, I was really happy to switch. Maybe that makes it easier for just anybody to make moving platforms, but there’s no point in emphasizing a higher barrier to entry for the same exact resulting game mechanic. (Please note that is is all just my personal tech opinions, but it’s something that I worked with for several years.)

At GDC I was part of the Quick Start Challenges for Microsoft’s booth, right on the expo floor, and people were allowed to check out whatever challenge they thought was most interesting. The premise: code up a coding challenge and enter a raffle to win great MS prizes. From my observations (and our post-event surveys) people were most interested in checking out our Unity challenge above all. Maybe it was because they were already familiar with the engine and thought it seemed easy. Or maybe it was because of the really amazing graphics in our sample game, Zombie Pumpkin Slayer (Source code and assets available on GitHub thanks to the amazing Adam Tuliper).

GDC booth Windows 10-sm

But there were some other challenges in the QSCs equally worth checking out. For one, we showcased the Xbox Live SDK for Windows 10, which will allow developers to use XBox Live Leaderboards, Friends Lists, etc, in their Windows 10 games. I’m really excited about this because it’s a feature people have been asking for, and that I’ve personally wanted too.

We also had a Cocos2d-x Challenge!  I don’t know if this is a surprise to the Reddit poster who seemed to imply it wasn’t around anymore, but Cocos2d is a platform MS is committing support to, and if you want to learn it, we’re here to help. I helped out with the live event for the Cocos2d-x tutorial on Microsoft Virtual Academy, which is lead by Eric Mittelete and Sanjeev Dwivedi. If you want to check out the challenge that people were able to do on the floor at GDC, it’s available on MVA as well.

Microsoft is posting a lot of free game development tutorials on Virtual Academy to get beginners started. There’s resources for WebGL, C++/Direct X, and MonoGame, as well as the “easier” middlewares like Construct 2, GameMaker, and of course Unity.

And here’s some other MVA’s Microsoft is encouraging people to check out right now:

C# Fundamentals for Absolute Beginners (Very valuable to me as I started my C# journey in Unity 3D)

Microsoft Azure Fundamentals (If you want to learn about Cloud and how that can fit into your pipeline)

Developing Universal Windows Apps with C# and XAML (The Universal App Platform is what Windows is moving toward in in the future – no separate codebase for your  PC and Phone versions!)


So… maybe you want to dive right into writing code. Or maybe you find that intimidating, and something more graphical is more your speed. Whatever it is, I’m happy to help point you in the right direction. Good luck to all the beginners, and experienced coders, and riffraff out there.

Where to Find Me

A quick update on my upcoming plans and appearances:

I just got back from IndieCade East (look for more coverage soon).

Now I am heading to the Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing where I am presenting a TouchDevelop session on Saturday!

After that, I am speaking at the Narrative Summit at the Game Developers Conference! I’m very excited about this opportunity, where I will be discussing my game narrative research in a presentation focused on how gamers make moral choices. If you want to find me at GDC, let’s chat!

And when I’m back in town, I’ll be a mentor at LadyHacks, Philadelphia’s women-focused hackathon. See you soon!

Amanda Lange's Blog