Interviews

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell gives us his opinion on various Windows subjects

Stardock was already a well known developer of Windows utilities and games before the launch of Start8 in 2012, a desktop Start menu for Windows 8 to take the place of the one that Microsoft decided to remove from the OS. While Start8 is not the only Start menu replacement for Windows 8, it turned out to be a massive success for Stardock. Since then the company has released a number of other utilities for Windows 8, including ModernMix, which allows Modern UI apps to run in windowed form on the desktop. Both the Start menu and the ability to run Modern apps on the desktop are slated to be added to the next official version of Windows by Microsoft, code name Threshold.

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Microsoft announced a big batch of upcoming ID@Xbox games for Xbox One at E3 earlier this summer. One of the more interesting titles from that announcement is Woolfe: the Red Hood Diaries from Belgian game developer GriN. Woolfe is a 3D action-platformer starring Little Red Riding Hood. The game intertwines her tale with several other fairy tales, creating a dark and unique fantasy world.

GriNrecently launched a successful Kickstarter campaign (with just over a day left to contribute as of this writing) to help finance Woolfe's development. We reached out to Wim Wouters at GriN to find out more about the studio's plans for the game, as well as their experiences with the ID@Xbox program and Kickstarter. Continue reading for our first Xbox One developer interview!

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Our interview with Smoking Gun Interactive's co-founder about the upcoming Age of Empires game made for touchscreens

Microsoft will offer Windows Phone owners not one but two new games based on their Age of Empires strategy franchise this fall. In addition to the previously announced Age of Empires: World Domination game from developer KLab, the company announced last week plans to release Age of Empires: Castle Siege for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 sometime in September.

As the title implies, this game concentrates on offering players a way to build a castle, complete with defenses that will be made to keep it from falling to enemies. Developed by Vancouver-based Smoking Gun Interactive, Age of Empires: Castle Siege will offer a way to link up with friends on Xbox Live for alliances as well as support for online leaderboards. We got a chance to chat with John Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of Smoking Gun Interactive, to find out more about Age of Empires: Castle Siege, including how the free-to-play game will handle in-game purchases and more.

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Our interview with Alienware's General Manager discussing the Alpha

While game consoles like Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One have found their way into hundreds of millions of homes to be connected to televisions, it's been a challenge for the PC industry to offer a product that's designed to connect to a big screen TV and be used in a living room setting. A year ago, Valve announced a plan to launch its own Linux-based operating system, SteamOS, that was designed to be used in small living room PCs to play native Linux games and to stream PC games from their Steam service.

While Valve announced earlier this year plans to team up with a number of third party PC OEMS for a SteamOS hardware launch later in 2014, the company later revealed those plans have been pushed back to sometime in 2015. However, one of those SteamOS partners, Alienware, decided to go ahead and launch their SteamOS machine this year as a Windows 8.1 PC, the Alienware Alpha. While it may use Microsoft's latest operating system, the team at Alienware (which Dell acquired in 2006) are also developing their own UI that will allow owners to use the Alpha as a gaming PC with an included Xbox 360 controller, with no requirement to use the Windows 8.1 desktop.

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Let us not beat around the bush: Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8.1 has been a rough ride. Ever since the separation of the app from the OS, criticism for being behind not only the competition but behind Windows Phone 8.0 hangs around the proverbial neck of the Xbox Music team.

Earlier this week, we spoke with Jerry Johnson, Group Program Manager and Gurpratap Virdi, Director of Engineering, both of OSG Entertainment Apps about Xbox Music, including where it is heading and why it had such a rough start.

The answers may surprise you.

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A few days ago, Vivino Wine Scanner made a triumphant return to Windows Phone. Although an app for Vivino had come out a few years ago, it hadn't been updated in a long time, and the company wanted to start from the ground up. The new app is designed for Windows Phone 8 and beyond, bringing with it a highly polished UI and enhanced user experience.

If you're not familiar with Vivino, they're the largest service for finding and logging your wine collection, including ratings. Their cool scanner device though is the real attraction, as all you have to do is scan a bottle's label and let the service fetch all the necessary data through its image-recognition technology. It makes logging your wine a whole lot of fun.

With the recent launch, Mobile Nations writer John Callaham had an opportunity to ask Vivino CEO Heini Zachariassen a few questions about their service and the new app.

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If you’ve been itching to learn more about the recently-announced Lumia 930, Nokia’s Conversations blog has posted an interview with one of their chief designers, Jonne Harju, on the device. Harju notes that the lack of a camera bump eases the way for wireless charging. The outer aluminum frame is a single solid piece, which keeps down manufacturing costs. Harju emphasized the human qualities of the design, namely the shared focus on simplicity in both Nokia and Microsoft designs.

As for the future, Harju’s looking forward to designing around changing expectations in biometrics, ergonomics, and usage habits (how often do we want to get notifications, anyway?). Be sure to read the full interview to get a peek behind the scenes at the creation of the Lumia 930.

Source: Conversations

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Barcelona – Early this morning, Nokia held their highly anticipated press conference here at Mobile World Congress 2014. Anticipated is the word used because while two new and admirable low-end entry phones were introduced – the Asha 230 and Nokia 220 – all eyes were focused on ‘X’.

Yes, Nokia has gone Android. But if you think that’s all there is to the story, you may be missing the point. We sat down with Jo Harlow, Executive Vice President, Smart Devices at Nokia, for some answers to our eager questions.

If you watched the live stream of Nokia’s presentation on the Nokia X, X+ and XL devices, you may have noticed that their message was crafted perfectly. Yes, the words ‘Android’ and ‘Google’ were used, but Stephen Elop was purposeful in focusing on Microsoft’s services and Nokia’s Lumia line. It was as if they knew that one wrong word could be misconstrued as “Nokia has doubts about Windows Phone” or that this new device series was an admission of failure.

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Windows Phone Central visits the Windows 8 and Windows Phone development group UI CENTRIC

Located several floors up in an unassuming east London building is a quiet office where some of the most creative and beautiful experiences available on Windows Phone and Windows 8 are being developed. You may have never heard of them, but the guys at UI CENTRIC have produced quality apps that you’ve most likely enjoyed if you’ve been an avid Windows Phone user. We recently had the chance to visit that office and chat with CEO Dan Ulzhoefer, to find out how they work, what they’re most proud of, and their plans for the future.

Dan had some great experience to share which we’re sure would benefit any developers reading this article. UI CENTRIC are currently hiring developers with a passion for Windows Phone or Windows 8, so if that sounds like you, check out the interview below for more details on how to contact them.

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Last week we reported on Jay s Windows 8.2 concept design. Many Windows fans around the world looked upon the concept animation and screenshots with awe, at a design that could not help to amaze. This week, we decided to have a virtual sit down with Jay and discuss his motivations for designing the concept as well as the impact it might have on Microsoft’s future designs going forward.

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Sylvain Dubrofsky of PopCap Games and Windows Phone Central's Paul Acevedo

Microsoft’s Xbox One console is in stores now and doing very well; we even gave it a highly detailed review last week. Early adopters have more than twenty games to choose from, most of which are actually quite good. We’ll be reviewing more of those titles very soon, but in the meantime let’s look ahead at the next great Xbox game to go on sale: Peggle 2!

PopCap’s Peggle 2 is one of the upcoming Xbox One titles we played during our visit to Electronic Arts headquarters just before Thanksgiving. If you’ve ever played the original Peggle on Xbox 360, PC, DS, or phones (sadly it never arrived on Windows Phone), you should know why we’re excited for the sequel. Peggle 2 launches as a timed exclusive on Xbox One this Monday as an $11.99 download.

Head past the break for our video interview and hands-on footage of Peggle 2 in action!

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We sit down with Nokia’s Stephen Elop

Nokia World is still going strong in Abu Dhabi and we have plenty of coverage yet to bring you today, but one of those is of high priority: Executive Vice President, Devices & Services, Stephen Elop. Of course many of you know him as the former President and CEO of Nokia (until Microsoft agreed to buy the hardware division of Nokia in early September). That change will eventually result in Elop becoming Executive Vice President at Microsoft once the deal is finalized in early 2014.

In a roundtable discussion with a select few in the media, we were able to ask Elop about today’s announcements, which included the Lumia 1320, Lumia 1520 and Lumia 2520 and new Asha devices.

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Yesterday we brought you a look at Advanced Mobile Applications’ Hills of Glory 3D and the upcoming Windows Phone 8 version of Babel Rising 3D. AMA, you’ll remember is a sister studio of Ubisoft. They’ve worked with a number of gaming franchises, including the Android version of Townsmen (coming to Windows Phone from Handy Games).

Today we conclude our Casual Connect USA coverage for the year with first looks at two more upcoming games from AMA: Animal Park Tycoon and Yeti on Furry (formerly called Yeti Rising). Both games are due out on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 later this year.

Head past the break for the full hands on video and more details!

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We’re nearly done with our Casual Connect gaming coverage. At the San Francisco-based gaming industry event, I interviewed a number of Windows Phone and Windows 8 developers. One of the largest of those developers is Advanced Mobile Applications (AMA). Founded in 2004 and based in London, AMA is a sister company to Ubisoft, who publishes some of their games.

During the event, AMA’s VP of Sales Jean-François Denis took the time to show us several of AMA’s Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 titles. Today we look at two of those: the recently-released Hills of Glory 3D (also available for Windows 8) and the upcoming Babel Rising 3D. Yep, a new Windows Phone 8 version of Babel Rising 3D is coming. Learn more and see both games in action after the break!

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Earlier this week we brought you a hands-on look at Autodesk’s FBX Review app for Windows 8, which we shot at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco. While there I also took in a demonstration of Sketchbook Express, a much more consumer-oriented Windows 8 app. Like FBX Review, it’s completely free.

Renée Busse, Autodesk’s Sketchbook Community Manager, used Sketchbook Express and a Surface Pro to whip up a lovely little drawing in no time at all. Head past the break to see the full video and learn more about what Sketchbook Express and its big brother Sketchbook Pro can do on Windows 8!

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You might know Autodesk for their 3D design tools like AutoCAD and Maya, or their game design middleware like Autodesk Scaleform. They also make a couple of Windows 8 apps for consumers: Sketchbook Express and FBX Review, which we discussed when it released back in July.

During my recent trip to San Francisco for Casual Connect, I stopped by the Autodesk Gallery for a quick visit. From a quiet corner of the Gallery, Wes Adams, Autodesk’s Games Industry and Product Marketing guy walked me through some of the cool things FBX Review can do. Head past the break for our hands on video, plus a photo tour of the Autodesk Gallery.

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In the last week or so we’ve brought you interviews and announcements from German developers Handy Games and Flare Games. Now we’ve made it a trilogy by speaking with Exozet Games, the studio who brought popular board game Carcassonne to Xbox Windows Phone last year.

Matthias Hellmund, the Head of Mobile Development at Exozet, sat down with us to discuss the development process of Carcassonne, its online multiplayer, and even the notorious grinding Achievements! Few game makers come prepared with as many development stories. Head past the break to learn the full picture behind how Carcassonne arrived on Windows Phone.

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Most of the developers we spoke with at Casual Connect last week weren’t there specifically to promote games for mobile Windows platforms. But one team came for just that reason; submitting their Windows Phone and Windows 8 game to the Indie Prize Showcase contest. The game: Fling Theory from Vancouver-based Coding Jar Studios.

You might remember Fling Theory as one of the six games that Microsoft and its partners launched during GDC back in March. It also happens to number among the first Unity releases for Windows Phone 8. Jodon Karlik, the studio president and Doug Insley, technical artist walked us through Fling Theory’s gameplay, development process, and possible Xbox Live plans during our chat. Get all the details and see the video after the break!

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We’ve still got some Casual Connect coverage in store for you guys, starting with this news from Polish developer Artifex Mundi. You might recognize them as the publishers of several popular adventure games on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, including Nightmares from the Deep, Abyss, Dark Arcana, and Enigmatis.

We spoke with Tomasz Grudzinski and Mariusz Szynalik of Artifex Mundi about their plans for mobile Windows platforms. It turns out Artifex Mundi has four or five games in store for us this year! Head past the break for video previews of three of those games, including sequels to Enigmatis and Nightmares from the Deep, plus a fresh new title called Deadlings.

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Great news if you’re into the whole NASCAR racing sport as today, the official app to keep track of the race series is available to all Windows Phone 8 devices.

That’s the good news as the app is well designed and offers up race results, scheduling information and video clips. The bad news is if you want all the cool stuff, by which we mean access to the Live Race Center, you’ll need to be a Sprint customer.

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