Microsoft Spotlight: Chimpact

Microsoft Spotlight: Chimpact
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

February 13th 2013 at 1:26PM

Yippee on how the iOS hit gracefully swung to the Windows Store

In the crowded world of smartphone games, it’s famously hard to create a hit. But Yippee Entertainment has done just that with its game Chimpact, which has thrived on both the Windows Store and iOS.

Debuting on iOS, after enjoying adoring reviews from fans and critics, Chimpact was earmarked for the Windows Store, with the Yippee team attracted by the range of platforms Microsoft’s marketplace serves.

“Essentially, the biggest distinction on Windows 8 came about by our choice to support the vast laptop and desktop market available through the Windows Store,” explains Yippee technical director Stephen Ruddy.

“We committed to reworking our levels, rendering and UI to support the landscape view of the standard desktop monitor, while retaining our portrait view which gives a closer HD view on portables.”

Clearly then, some effort was needed to ready the game for a move to Windows 8, and undertaking a careful reworking served Yippee far better than a straight port. And Microsoft were consistently on hand - not just with advice, but entire suites of tools.

Yippee had signed up to the tech company’s BizSpark program, which helps new studios gain momentum with a wealth of support options.

“As members of BizSpark, the programme Microsoft runs to support start-up companies, access to tools and software could not be better,” confirms Ruddy. “To develop Store apps we needed Windows 8 and Visual Studio 2012. BizSpark gave us free, instant access to both.”

A HEAD START

Undeniably, access to free tools of such a caliber serves as a huge boon to any studio getting on its feet, but, according to the Yippee team, liaising with Microsoft staff proved equally useful.

“They supported us with direction for implementing core Windows 8 features and requirements, technical queries, testing, pre-cert and submission,” says Ruddy. “They really did go above and beyond what we expected, so much so that after the Windows 8 version was completed we decided to get Chimpact submitted for Windows Phone 8.”

Evidently, Ruddy’s experience has changed his perception of Microsoft, which is often imaged as far removed from the world of true independent studios.

“Obviously, you know the people working at Microsoft are regular guys just like you and me; but you can’t help but have a little fear that you’ll be dealing with the Borg collective,” jokes Ruddy.

“However, what came through with the guys who supported us was their genuine enthusiasm for Windows 8 games development – it this that was excellent to see.”

REACHING OUT

It’s of course good to hear that the support team at Microsoft have a sincere devotion to their platform and the indies that it attracts, but where Yippee reaped the greatest benefits was in the audience Windows 8 offered the studio.

“Our tech code base is cross-platform C++, with all our development and data pipelines running on Windows PCs – Visual Studio, Perforce, 3ds Max, Photoshop, Cubase, Qt Creator and Excel,” states Ruddy, in a technical frame of mind.

At that point, Yippee already had a standard Windows Chimpact build running with DirectX 9 rendering and XACT 3 audio, which they used as a preview tool for art, design and audio.

“We had decided against developing this into a distributable version as we felt Windows as was, was really home to hardcore game players rather than the casual audience we are targeting – it didn’t justify the additional work of creating an installer, supporting full screen under DirectX 9 – selecting devices and the like – and finding a distributor,” continues Ruddy. “Windows 8 has changed this.”

With the right demographics in reach, free tools available, and meaningful support, getting a game to the Windows Store appears easier than many expect.

www.microsoft.com/bizspark