Microsoft is promoting Azure as a potential platform for games developers - games in the cloud could be a bigger money spinner than mobile games.
Microsoft has just announced the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games.
The toolkit consists of deployment tools, common libraries and accelerators along with sample games and guidance for aspects such as using Facebook credits.
The toolkit has tools for storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards, and for players to buy items within the application. It is limited to .NET and HTML5, but Microsoft says future updates will include support for additional languages. At the moment the server API is a JSON REST service that can be used from an HTML page or mobile device. On the server side we have ASP.NET MVC pages augmented by Ajax style coding on the client.
The API currently supports:
- Weapons – Manage users weapons and current inventory.
- Gifts – Send other players gifts. The gifts could be free or could require points/credits.
- Virtual Currency & Resources – Manage players current money and resources.
- Achievements – Award and track achievements based on game actions.
- User Accounts – Manage your users accounts and link them with their credentials from Windows Live ID, Facebook, etc.
- Notifications – Send messages to your users and notify them of game actions.
- Real-Time communication – allow your users to message or chat with each other during game play.
- Session/Game Management – Start and stop multiplayer games.
Notice that some of the API is about money virtual or otherwise and there is likely to be a lot of scope for cashing in on the right game. The HTML5 library claims to include an AI module that simulates users and or provides virtual players. At the moment the documentation is very patchy.
The main sample game that is included with the toolkit is called Tankster and was developed by the team at gskinner.com. The game includes sample code showing how players can interact using methods such as messaging, wall posts and comments, and player achievements and game stats are presented on a live leaderboard. The game comes complete with reusable server side code and documentation.
However if you try it out you will discover that, even though it has luxury artwork, it is little more than a 2D throwing bombs game that is very simple. Things are going to have to get more sophisticated if "social" games are going to catch on.
Microsoft is pushing Azure as a potential platform for games developers, and has rolled out spokespeople from the companies behind Fantasy Kingdoms and Bola Social Soccer to back up their assertion that Azure takes care of the problems of scalability so you can concentrate on the plot.
You can read more about the toolkit and download the preview from CodePlex.
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