Tips and gotchas for Windows Phone apps:InkSpill

inkspillThis series features interviews with Windows Phone app developers who share the lessons they learned building windows phone applications.

This week’s interview features Studio SYD, a software development startup who built a game called InkSpill

Could you briefly describe your application/game?

InkSpill is a puzzle/strategy game. The player start at one corner of the board, changes the color of the block to “spill” over the neighboring blocks with the same color. Once the blocked are spilled over they become a part of the Player’s blocks. Strategy is employed where the Player is competing for board space with the AI, which starts from another corner of the board.

Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

Although currently our game doesn’t employ much Silverlight component, in the future when online gaming functionality is added, UI component such as text input box for user name and password, ListBox for gamer listing, etc. will be desirable. Meanwhile XNA provide the performance boost which is much needed when we are fading hundreds of block simultaneously. This is the reason we use both XNA and Silverlight in our game.

What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

While not really to the point of banging our heads, some seemingly small issue such as page transition, grid layout mechanism, background music playing, etc. did give us some headache and frustration.

Did you ever solve that issue?

For page transition, we actually rolled up our sleeves and created our own page fading transition mechanism. It might not be that elegant but it works. A closer study of the sample XNA project on MSDN gave us the answer to the audio play back problem. And the “a-ha” moment for the grid layout issue didn’t come until we attended the WOWZAPP hackathon.

If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?

Although a finished project, there are always many refactoring waiting. And we ARE going to make these refactoring when we implement our 2nd version of the game, where online gaming will be added. Some focus will be: separating the core game logic with UI functionality more nicely to ease porting, improving the state machine implementation on XNA page, etc.

Any nice surprises?

The space ship tutorial on MSDN does speed up our understanding and using of XNA. It’s easy to follow and covers most of the essential part of XNA, very nice tutorial, much recommended.

Did you leverage the mobile platform?

Our game started its life on Windows Phone. Does that count as leveraging?

Did you leverage the touch screen?

The gameplay is tap-tap-tap!

Did you have a favorite feature?

As mentioned, there was some issue with performance as we needed to flip hundreds of blocks at the same time with Silverlight, in the end we used XNA to solve the issue.

What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?

Our game concept isn’t new. However, we did reinvent the gameplay with the multiplayer.

Are you publishing your application/game?

Yes it has been published. Here’s a link to the game at the Marketplace:

Where can I learn more about your app/game?

Yes and no. We are scrapping our old site and rebuilding a new site for the new version. Here’s the Facebook page for the time being:

Who developed this application?

We are Studio SYD, made up of developers who share the same passion about entrepreneurship, mobile technology, programming, and building new and interesting apps/things. We are based in the Vancouver, Canada area. InkSpill is our first game and we are now exploring social gaming with it.



If you are a Canadian don't forget to register for the Developer Movement so you get rewarded for your published app! If you are a student consider entering your app in the Windows 8 challenge of Imagine Cup!