I just ranked #10 in Card+Board Category in the Windows Phone Marketplace!

imageIn November 2011, i.e. less than four months ago I humbly released a card game app to the Windows Phone marketplace. Mostly I built it, because I feel that as a Microsoft Windows Phone evangelist, I can help developers and partners better, if I have a hands-on experience on the subject, and also generate some content for my blogs, presentations and events. Today is time to celebrate: XYOLOGIC site ranked me #10 in the card and board category in the Windows Phone marketplace! Today, I want to tell you the story of this little achievement, hope it’ll be entertaining to any aspiring app developer.

It was a great and rewarding experience indeed, from the start! And I feel very proud and grateful for every $0.99, free download and user review I’m getting. In fact, I read every review, including those written in Chinese, German, Italian, French and Russian (thanks to Bing Translator!).

Where did my game engine come from?

I created the card engine called “Card Lion” back in 1999, when I was trying to build a Java applet for a little known card game called 101 “Hundred and One”. The game had a console client and a Java applet client. The purpose was just as humble: learning Java language.

Later, when .NET 1.0 came along, I decided to port it to C#, with the same goal: learning a new language. It was a Windows Forms based game, and I also built it for Pocket PCs. Microsoft was waaaayyyyyy ahead of its time with Pocket PCs! What we were missing was the Marketplace! This tiny little bit of infrastructure makes all the difference! This is why you can download my games today, and not back in 1999, when I already had it built, but had no way to share with users.

Porting to Windows Phone: the big leap

I took the leap and ported a Windows Forms .NET 1.1 C# game to Windows Phone XAML and C#. So all graphics had to be replaced, I’m glad my game engine was in a separate library and could be simply recompiled and attached to a new Windows Phone solution. Because of all animations on the composition thread possible in XAML, the game of 2011 started to look much better than Windows Forms game of 1999!

I had to recreate all graphics: every graphical element in this game, including cards was manually created in Inkscape in SVG format. There’s only a couple of images I bought for $$, everything else is my design, and boy, was it a lot of work!

Decisions, Decisions

There were many decisions I had to make, and every development decision had consequences: whether to use XAML or XNA, whether to make my games 2- or 4- players, whether to use landscape or portrait orientation or both, whether to integrate with Facebook, whether to use live tiles… How to design scoring and achievements… Should all my games be FREE? What should be the pricing and monetization? App developer needs to do lots of thinking and make many decisions Smile

Reading Reviews and Really Listening!

image6_thumbI use a fantastic app called zTop for that, it really simplifies the process or reading through user reviews across all global marketplaces, and even allows you to contact the reviewers back via Zune.

Most reviews, including negative ones have been extremely helpful. For instance, the first version of the game didn’t have a mute mode for sound effects. Thanks to the reviewers, I added mute mode and many other features to the apps. People mentioned that the trial on the “Card Games Chest” was limited to only one game, and I submitted an update, which allowed any game in the chest to be played in the trial. Over time settings, achievements and other features were added thanks to users’ comments and reviews.

Sharing the Code and Ideas

I also used many code samples from my apps in during my presentations in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the US, and I feel that became somewhat of an expert in the card game subject area for Windows Phone.

Since then I published 5 other card games, and I’m not at eleventh iteration, which added more features, including achievements, Facebook integration, live tiles and more.

Advice

My advice to app developers: listen to your users, submit updates, change pricing if necessary. Follow best practices and advice available on MSDN for app developers, but also listen to your inner self. Think of your users as your friends. Good rankings and reviews will come! If you are fair with your users, they’ll notice it! That’s the magic of making good products Smile Somehow your users will feel that you take care of them, and will promote your app. I’ve seen some apps placing an AdControl at the bottom of the screen where the user can mistake it for the application bar and click the ad. This will earn you $0.01, but it won’t in terms of your users’ love. Winning love is far more important (to me) than winning a few cents of revenue.

So, I call for fair apps. I call for fair apps that treat users with dignity. This is not about being free: there’s a lot of sweat and sleepless nights in those little apps. But economics of scale will only work with fair apps, it seems.

Many Thanks!

During all this time many people supported me enormously, and to all of them I’m very grateful. This may be a little funny game, but with all the polish, and work, and sweat, and nights it turns to be an adventure. Like writing a book.

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Async CTP – Task based asynchronous programming for Windows Phone

6 code samples for this post

[my apps for Windows Phone that use Async CTP Smile]

Intro

Asynchronous programming is super-interesting especially today, with responsiveness required by all modern devices. In the context of Windows Phone 7, Async CTP Version 3 was released last year, and it’s compatible with SDK 7.1, Silverlight 5 and Roslyn CTP. Our takeaways today is using async in the context of Windows Phone 7, understanding TAP (task based asynchronous programming). I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes: we’ll go beyond basics to exceptions, cancellations, progress, switching threads, combinators and even re-entrancy.

Historical Background

And let me just say: it’s worth learning NOW, because this model is quickly becoming mainstream, especially with Windows 8 not that far on the horizon. In terms of the where we are with Async CTP Version 3: you don’t need to wait for C# 5.0 to start using it. It has been a long time since 1960s when Steve Russel was one of the first to add continuations to LISP on IBM 704. I like this definition of continuations:

Say you’re in the kitchen in front of the refrigerator, thinking about a sandwich. You take a continuation right there and stick it in your pocket. Then you get some turkey and bread out of the refrigerator and make yourself a sandwich, which is now sitting on the counter. You invoke the continuation in your pocket, and you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator again, thinking about a sandwich. But fortunately, there’s a sandwich on the counter, and all the materials used to make it are gone. So you eat it. :-)

Scheme formally introduced call/cc operations.

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5 Windows Phone games great for holiday travel

In my previous post we discussed using Expression Blend to create a flipping card animation. Since the Holiday season just started, I’d like to share these games I built, that use this technique. Happy Holidays, have a great holiday season, and for those skiers: Let It Snow!

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Flipping Card animation for Windows Phone 7 using Expression Blend

Download Source

In this post I’ll show you how to create a card flipping animation for Windows Phone 7, using Expression Blend. The source code is available for download in the attachment. First, I create a Windows Phone 7 project from scratch, using Expression Blend, you can also create a project in Visual Studio, right click on any page and select “Open with Expression Blend…” context menu option. I actually used this technique in real Windows Phone games I built:

ApplicationIconUno
DUO
*****
ApplicationIconCrazyEights
Crazy
Eights
ApplicationIcon101
101 Card
Game
ApplicationIconMauMau
Mau
Mau
ApplicationIconSwitch
Switch
*****

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iSkiSchool app gets ready for Windows Phone 7 Mango

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Great news about iSkiSchool and 12 Ski Lessons apps! I’ve been quietly adding Mango features, such as live tiles and the new execution model. When Microsoft releases the new version of Windows Phone 7 “Mango”, my apps will go to production. There may be some pricing changes, which will benefit more skiers.

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