Dirk Nordhusen is not a stranger at all when it comes to creating Indie games with XNA, having built quite a few games over the past years for Xbox Live Arcade as well as the Zune platforms. Now with the release of Windows Phone 7, we find DiNoGames Entertainment has moved on into the Windows Phone 7 marketplace with their latest release of XNA projects. Here at WinMobileFans, we ask Dirk about those experiences in developing XNA games and what he thinks about the future of Windows Phone 7.
How did you get started in developing Games Dirk and how long have you been at it?
My very first experience with game development was in 2006 when I participated in a Delphi game development contest. I had 3 months to finish the game and in the end I won the first place. From then on I had a new hobby.
How did you come up with DinoGames?
I think in 2008 I thought I need a new name, something that sounds better than my German nickname I used to have. So I sat down and thought about some possibilities and finally I came up with DiNoGames. Many people think it has something to do with dinosaurs, but to be honest, it doesn’t. Sure, it sound like dino and I use a dinosaur in my logo, but in the beginning it was just an abbreviation for my name which is Dirk Nordhusen.
Do you like playing any video games yourself, any favorites or genres?
Sure, I played games almost my whole life. It started with the Atari 2600 back in the 80s. I never stopped playing games, so I went through the whole game history and know a lot of titles from the past. Currently I am playing Red Dead Redemption. I think Rockstar Games did a fantastic job with RDR. Basically I like a lot of games, but I always loved role playing games the most.
What is your favorite platform to game on and why (PC, Console, Mobile, or Other Non-Computer)?
It really depends on the game. Some games require more than a simple controller to work well. But I switched completely from PC to Playstation 3 because I hated the continuous upgrading of the PC. If you don’t upgrade, you can’t play recent games. So I stick to consoles now because its easier. Just buy a game, insert the disc and play. No need to worry if it will perform well.
How is developing in XNA and being an independent Developer been so far for you?
Well, I did not earn any money with it yet, so it’s just a hobby and I don’t even call me an Indie Developer. I just do what I like in my sparetime and until now it’s been just fun. No stress, no pressure, no deadlines. And I think this is just because I never wanted to achieve great things with it. For example, I made a lot of Zune games in the past, knowing that I will never be able to sell them on the Zune marketplace.
The good thing about this is, that this might change in the future, because what I did in the past is an advantage in the future. I can adapt most of my ZuneHD games to the WP7 platform in just about one or two days. That’s a great thing concerning the WP7 marketplace will be opened to sell games soon.
Do you have any plans to create more XNA/Xbox 360 titles, perhaps a sequel to GemChase?
It really depends on… of course I will stick to XNA. But I don’t know if I will start new projects for the Xbox 360. I will decide this when I get a feeling for the WP7 marketplace. The good thing about WP7 is that is has a quite large screen resolution (800×480), which makes it necessary to scale the graphics bigger for new games I make. I created most of my Zune game graphics just in the resolution I needed them and so there is not a big chance to port the games to the Xbox, because this would mean to recreate all graphics. But for future projects I will keep the Xbox 360 in mind, because if I create all needed assets for a higher resolution, I could port a game to the Xbox very fast. But all this will be decided when I got the first games running on a WP7 device. That’s my highest priority at the moment.
What do you think about the new WP7 platform and the course Microsoft is taking now?
I think the WP7 OS is a great step forward. From what I’ve seen its just awesome. All the features that come with the OS alone is a lot more than any other OS offers. And the native support of Silverlight is a milestone in Smartphone history in my opinion. Its so great to see Microsoft handing out Silverlight and XNA development tools for free to developers.
Do you do any work in Silverlight at all?
Not yet. But this is related to the games I made for ZuneHD. On the ZuneHD I was not able to utilize Silverlight so I made everything with XNA. I will consider using Silverlight for future projects, depending on the type of project. Games will more likely be done in XNA while apps are a candidate for Silverlight.
Do you have any future plans for more casual games?
I plan to make a lot of small but fun games. Casual games are exactly what I want to do, because that’s the type of games I can complete alone. More bigger project like Valgards Fate need a lot of time and a huge amount of assets, which results in a long development time. I think once I got my first games approved for the marketplace I will start developing the first real casual games while continuing my other projects like Valgards Fate or Pink Mist.
Do have plans for any multi-player games or turn based games?
Not really. I was thinking about adding a multi-player mode to A Beanstalk Tale, where you can play against a friend and each player sees the ghost of the opponent on screen so that different types of multi-player games are possible. For example something like” Who gets higher in 5 minutes” or “Who survives the longest time” or whatever. There are several opportunities for multi-player mini-games. But before I add something like this I want to wait and check how the WP7 devices sell. If they fail on the market there will be no need for WiFi multi player games, cause its unlikely you will meet other people with a WP7 device (like it is the situation with ZuneHD right now).
What do you think about Kinect and some of those features for gaming?
I just saw some videos about Kinect and from what I saw I think its really great. Of course the input with Kinect will not fit to every game, but I think there are really cool scenarios where this type of input adds a lot to games. It reminds me a bit on the Wii input, cause people will stand in front of their TV’s, doing strange exercises or making weird gestures. But history showed that people have fun with such stuff. So I hope and think that Kinect will be a success. I really hope MS will support this input in a future XNA version.
Do you have plans to make use of any voice commands or perhaps the vision camera in your games?
No plans yet. If MS makes Kinect available through XNA I might think about it. At least I will play around with it. And if I get a cool idea for a game this input fits into, I’ll probably make it.
Have you thought about making any tie ins from your Arcade and WP7 games, perhaps the ability to play A Beanstalk Tale and pick up where you left off? What about mini puzzles between games to earn stuff?
To be honest, I’ve been so busy with my projects lately that I did not really follow all the possibilities XNA on the WP7 device offers. I heard about the LIVE! Feature set etc, but I don’t know if these service are available to the games in the Xbox Live Indie Channel. As far as I know only Arcade Channel games can use this. And I don’t have any games in the Arcade channel.
Do you plan to create any non gaming Apps for WP7 platform?
Yes. I have some ideas for Apps that I can’t publish here. I don’t like them to done by someone else before I actually had a chance to make them myself J But basically the answer is yes. I’d like to develop Apps, not only games. The only question is: When will I have the time to do it?
How about the Zune or ZuneHD now that WP7 is out?
I will still support the ZuneHD as much as I can. The older Zunes will not get any updates or new games anymore, because even MS don’t support them with the App channel on their own marketplace. I think the Zune 1st and 2nd Gen will die soon. The ZuneHD will get all the 2D stuff I make as long as its not too much effort to support the ZuneHD hardware and XNA limitations.
When can we see Valgards Fate HDon the WP7 platform? Will it show up on the Xbox 360?
Valgards Fatewill definitely not show up on the Xbox 360. It would take too much time to redo all the assets for a big screen resolution like the ones the Xbox 360 supports. WP7 is another story. When developing games for WP7 you can decide if you want to support the high resolution of 800×480 or the smaller one of 480×320 (which is near the ZuneHD resolution). So while I continue on Valgards Fate,I will always keep in mind that it will be released on the WP7 & ZuneHD simultaneously in the beginning of 2011 latest.
What can you tell us about your other games, like Acceleroid, Drum Machine, MetronomeHD, and Pink Mist?
Acceleroid was the first ZuneHD game I made. At a first glance it looks like a breakout clone. But right after game start you will recognize the bricks coming down. Just relying on the ball breaking all bricks is not enough. You need to shoot the bricks additionally. By breaking bricks and getting pickups you increase your ammo. The twist about the game is that you need to tap the side of the device to shoot as if there was a shoulder button on it. The game recognizes the concussion and your ship fires the laser. You can get a lot of pickups that add special abilities to your ball or splits the ball in several balls etc. All in all a fast paced arcade game.
Drum Machineis not much of a game right now. Its more something like a drum kit simulation. You can arrange your drum kit, add or subtract drums, size them, apply different sounds to them etc. The App comes with 160 different sounds that you can apply to the drums. There are 7 different drums you can add to your kit. A metronome is also included. Another nice addon is the discolight feature that adds a discolight to the screen that plays different colored lights to your drumming.
MetronomeHD is just a simple metronome for musicians. You can adjust the beats per minute and chose from different visual styles. Nothing special really. But maybe some musicians find it useful.
Do you have any plans to develop on other platforms like the Wii, PS3, iPhone or even Android?
Wii and PS3 are out of the race, because I don’t want to use another programming language. Currently I am porting A Beanstalk Tale to the iPhone using XNATouch. The game already runs on actual devices, but there are some performance issues with older iPhones like the 3G. So currently the XNATouch team is trying to get some performance optimizations running. If they are not successful I might consider limiting the downloads to 3Gs and up. I hope to be able to put ABT on the Apple Appstore soon. If this turns out to be working without a glitch I will port other games to the iPhone too.
Any words of advice for someone that is new and thinking about getting into the development of games or apps?
Well, there are a thousand ways of getting into game development. XNA is very userfriendly and I think it’s a great thing to start with. Not only that the C# language is easy to learn, there are tons of examples and even complete games as starterkits you can learn from. Also the community is very helpful and has grown very huge within the last years. If I would start from scratch today, I would start with XNA.
Outside of Computers and gaming, any thing you’d like to share about what you enjoy doing?
Whenever you can, do something outside. Life is too short to get stuck in front of a computer for years. Socialize and do sports.
DiNoGames Entertainment currently has Drum Machine, FingerBall, and A Beanstalk Tale available on the Windows Phone 7 platform.