theMolisticView

A new journey in education

Archive for the ‘Windows Phone7’ Category

How I used XNA Game Studio in the classroom Part 2

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This post is a little late; I was meaning to write it back in the last week of the holidays and this first term has been rather busy with a new head teacher, the rain, new junior classes and new computers to set up in my classroom.

Just to set the scene, I have two stage 5 classes, one is IST (which I had not taught before) and the other is Multimedia.  In my previous post I showed how I have been using XNA Game Studio in IST for Windows Phone 7 game development (see post here).

In multimedia I wanted something more substantial, something that like web design could be used as a means of income or personal benefit. I had been buying books, Evernoting (if that’s the term lol) every blog and article I could find on XNA to help me develop a course which would be easy enough for my students to follow and build on. In term 3 last year I used a section from an online source (which has since disappeared) with my year 11 Multimedia class so they had a base side scrolling game on which to develop from. This however turned out to be a total fail, the students simply did not understand the concepts of game making in a code based environment.

Just to be clear if you were wondering, XNA Game Studio is not a game engine like the Unreal engine or Unity 3D, it is a framework from Microsoft which uses C# as its managed language, Visual Studio as its coding environment and is simply a framework or set of API’s which are used to develop games for the Xbox, Windows and Windows Phone 7 platforms.

I was struggling for a way to in which teach to XNA with meaning and purpose. At close to the same time that Coding4Fun dropped the tower defence game for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s Faculty Resource Centre also dropped some XNA goodness. Now the Microsoft Faculty Resource Centre already had some XNA resources though these were aimed at university level. The new XNA resource was aimed directly at high schools. Game Development with XNA: Semester 1 – Appendix by Pat Yongpradit was what I was trying to come up with. Pat’s resource is developed using an existing Microsoft book written by Rob Miles Learn Programming with XNA (which you can download here or here for free). Pat’s course develops further the concepts found in the book and can be used with both XNA 3.0-3.1 and the newer 4.0.

At this stage sadly I have nothing in which I can show to you of what the students have learned. We started the course in term 4 last year and are only just at part 2 which involves concepts like multiplayer games, sound effects, timing, game design, reading text input from the player, object-orientated programming and two dimensional arrays.

Given how the IT situation is in our schools with software and the filter there have been a few hiccups along the way which have needed work rounds. With my school still being Windows XP at the start, we were using Visual Studio 2008 and XNA 3.0-3.1. There are extension sections built into the course to keep the gifted students challenged as well, I have 3-4 students (the class has only 15 students) really trying their hardest to complete these. The course also focuses on using the Xbox gamepad when developing games and somewhat at the expense of the keyboard and mouse. These however can be purchased off eBay fairly cheaply.

As yet Pat has not released the promised Semester 2 course. If the second course does not drop in time I will have the students take what they know and develop a game over two terms for the Xbox.

If you have any ideas on teaching for XNA Game Studio I would love to hear from you and if you would like to start using it with your classes and want some pointers drop us a line

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March 11th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

How I used XNA Game Studio in the classroom Part 1

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The last term was an extremely busy time, the last 9 weeks of year 9 IST was no different. I was originally planning to have the class start on Lego NXT Robotics having purchased 3 kits in late term 3 however there was a delivery issue with the battery charger for the kits. So I had a choice to make, move on with the basics of Lego robotics or try something else. At around the same time in which I was making my this decision I visited the Microsoft Channel 9 Coding4fun website. Released earlier in the year was Script TD, a simple tower defense game for Windows Phone 7. Script TD is a simple tower defense game which uses XML as the format to easily change gameplay and based on an open source, perfect for IST.

ScriptTD Home screen

So if you have been following along this year, you would already realise that developing for Windows Phone requires Vista or Windows 7 based computers. My school has yet to come into this decade re operating systems being stuck on XP. Luckily for my students I have 4 laptops for them to use running Windows 7 along with all the typical designer software. Other then needing Windows 7 (who really still uses Vista?) there are no other required pieces of hardware, you can do all the work in the phone emulator with no need for a phone. I have 2 HTC HD7 Windows Phones so I chose to go a little further.

To complicate things a little further, I was asked to head my schools participation in the DEC’s Google Apps trial. A little unprepared for this I chose to throw Google Apps into the mix for term also. My immediate use for Google Apps with this project would be the collaborative abilities of docs and the ease of use of Google Sites so each of the 4 groups in the class could have a site designed specifically around their tower defense game.

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December 22nd, 2011 at 2:11 am

Why Windows Phone 7 is dead already

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There are many reasons why Windows Phone 7 is dead within six months of release. For me it is the fact that Microsoft gave in to the worlds telcos and allowed them to modify the OS to suit there backward needs and stop the instant release of OS updates. You can see form the distribution list at Where’s my phone update? how bad it is and yes that is the site name. Though it still isn’t as bad as the Android devices from Sony and Samaung that will never be upgraded to the latest Android OS.

Yes Nokia did come on board the Windows Phone 7 platform but their products wont launch for six months or more. But the real evidence is when you see companies selling the phone for free! Thats right free, Logic Buy an online retailer in the US has done just that in store for free with bonus goodies to choose from when you buy http://www.logicbuy.com/deals/htc-hd7-windows-7-smartphone-for-t-mobile/27239.aspx

When I first received my phone I thought “yay integrates great with work and social, way better then my Nexus one (the phone I was using at the time) or my iPhone 3GS.”

It turned out to be false promise, Microsoft let us down again :(

The best thing about my phone at this point, is it make a great Windows iPod and my games are linked to my Xbox.

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April 2nd, 2011 at 4:51 am

Why i’m going back to an iPhone

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I feel sad writing this post, I love the idea behind the new Windows Phone 7 but the time has come (and all to soon I might add), to let it go, back in the box for now, and return to my trusty iPhone 3GS.

As I have said previously I love the idea behind the Windows Phone 7. The way the operating system integrates with social networks, windows live, windows live doc’s, the ability to play games linked to the Xbox, intuitive turn based games and the general look and feel of the panorama interface. All of this is quite powerful and unique to Windows Phone 7. The problem though is two fold, firstly Microsoft released the phone promising users that they would not experience the problems that beset many Android users of relying on carriers to deliver OS updates, and that Windows Phone 7 users would have the first of 4 minor updates by the end of January 2011. So far this has not happened and it is hurting the 2 million estimated Windows Phone 7 users world wide.

Initially the first issues I had with my phone were due to my carriers wows (Telstra Australia). Once these were fixed other small issues crept into the phone, problems like the Four Square and Twitter apps opening and instantly closing, or opening and just hanging open without displaying any data. All of which require a system reboot, which admittedly is far quicker then both iOS and Android. The screen freezes and the phone becomes a brick even if you try to call it, yet again another reboot, though this time you have to take the battery out etc just like a Windows laptop. Now when using the alarm (which is also an excellent feature) the interface goes all weird and requires a restart and a call to work saying I’ll be late.

If the problems with the operating system weren’t bad enough, all the main applications such as Four Square, Twitter and Facebook are not made by the respective companies and have not been updated since the launch of the phone. Where are all  the main third party applications like Dropbox, Evernote etc? Their no where to be seen. Admittedly you could get by on Windows Phone 7 in Australia with nothing else but the free Microsoft applications and only buy games. Oh wait that is what every user is doing already! In the market place all the top selling applications are games. God help the developers who need to make $200 USD of sales before they get paid for their hard work on a forgotten system which is not six months old.

So now Nokia is in the Windows Phone 7 game. Will this help? I do not believe so, Nokia has been losing market share like a falling satellite in recent years and is only truly dominate in developing nations with its reborn 1100 hand sets. So its over before it all began which becoming an all to normal occurrence at Microsoft. We need to bring back Bill or someone like him.

Back to the iPhone you’re now saying, why?, why not your Nexus One?

Android has its own issues as far as I am concerned. Its out of control multitasking for one, kills it for me. Having to go deep into your OS just to kill a program you opened two hours ago is stupid. The only good thing about Android is the Google integration and the auto syncing of photo’s, contacts etc.

So back to my 3GS which has never let me down other than the Vodafone issues with networking which luckily will now be avoided with the Telstra. Why is the iPhone superior as a device? Well I have never had any issues with it other then carrier related, which I believe explains the American issues with AT&T. All the third party applications I use are there and many more are designed to integrate naturally with them such as Elements with Dropbox. “If your phone does not have Dropbox, it is a useless brick”. And yes there is the having to deal with iTunes, no over the air updates that @benpaddlejones keep reminding iPoney users, but i’m sorry Ben, the Apple device is what is superior from any other in this market and not it’s ecosystem. But with such a device the world can put up with iTunes.

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February 15th, 2011 at 1:36 am

XNA game studio at school

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Start this  at the start I guess.

Being a Play station user since the play station (one), and not into computers at the time I never really cared about the Xbox when I bought my PS2, or even early last year when I upgraded to the PS3. The first I had heard of Microsoft XNA Game Studio was in 2008 and it was totally by chance when having purchased the then new Microsoft Expression Studio. Microsoft Expression Studio came with 2005 Visual Studio. Now at the time I had only just been made a permanent teacher filling in at what is now my school and my position. I had at that time had little experience with computers except what I had to learn at University and what I had picked up during the many casual and temporary permanent positions I had, had since 2004 and had no interest in coding or  programming.

Fast forward to June 2010, I had spent the last 6 months trying to get year 10 into Flash games using their DER laptops. What a nightmare that was, the DET Lenovo’s struggle to power Flash projects, there is a constant issue with the Flash player plugin being out of date. So this quickly removed any enthusiasm the kids had. Around this time rumors of the new Windows Phone 7 started along with some of the then suggested capabilities of the phone. One of these was to play games, games that would be linked to an Xbox Live account. In one article that I read they linked to XNA Game Studio.  On arriving at that page I was amazed that this secret had been hidden away from me for so long. With a simple download you could make games for your PC or Xbox.

So immediately I download the development tools which were available at the time and then went in search of books which would help me in learning how to make games. I spent most of the school holidays reading through books and coming up with ideas for my multimedia classes.

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February 5th, 2011 at 5:23 am