I'm a professional game developer from Wakefield, England, working for TickTock Games.
I'm a married father of five and I am also the director and lead programmer of Retroburn Ltd.
Martin 'Bytrix' Caine
Father. C++ Games Programmer. Cyclist. Guitarist.
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Monday, January 30th 2012 / XNA

C++ on Windows Phone 7?

A few days ago I spoke at a Game Republic event promoting Windows Phone 7 with Mike Ormond, Will Leach and Simon Jackon. The various presentations covered the Windows Phone 7 platform, Xbox Live integration for licensed developers and then Simon and I showed off Vequencer and spoke briefly about how we'd developed it.

The audience are primarily games programmers and technical guys from local game studios. I knew before the presentation that to these guys WP7 would be an after-thought as they're really in this to make a living. These are proper full-time game developers with a history of creating great games for numerous platforms and not hobbyists like myself. While I believe Windows Phone 7 and XNA are great as a platform, there's not a huge amount of money to be made from releasing games on them just yet. These guys have successful games on other platforms and they need to warrant the time it'd take them to learn C#/XNA and port the game across to a new platform.

The reception we received was generally pretty good, I think everyone liked the platform and understood that it IS going to be a major player in a few years time. After speaking to a few people following the presentations however, Tony Warriner (Revolution Software) had a very interesting question which summed up the entire event for me.

Tony asked if or when Windows Phone 7 would support C++. It was a simple enough question, but we honestly have no idea if C++ support will come to Windows Phone 7. Out of all of us, Mike is probably the most likely to know about any potential developments with XNA (since Simon and I are just admins for the XNA UK UserGroup and have no real affiliation with Microsoft) but even he couldn't confirm anything. Tony did say that if Windows Phone supported C++ he'd be able to port his existing engine over pretty easily and he'd love to release Revolution's games on WP7. The same could probably be said for every other mobile developer that attended the event!

This then got me thinking. I have to admit I was in a similar situation when I started looking into developing for iOS and Android. If Android did not have the NDK and iOS did not enable me to write game logic and large chunks of code in C++ I probably would not have even bothered learning to develop for those platforms.

Now, a few days later, I see a tweet mentioning native code on WP7 in the next Windows Phone update. After reading the article I did a bit of searching and found some other hints that Microsoft are indeed planning on allowing (some) developers native access. This would be a smart decision for Microsoft but it's too early to tell how this will work and whether it's very low level ARM ASM or higher level C++ that will be supported.

What interests me most is if Microsoft do open up the platform to allow C++, what form will it take? Will it be in the form of libraries which can call in to XNA methods or will it be more like working with DirectX at a low level on the device? I don't know, but this would be huge if Microsoft do it. There would be so many more developers willing to jump on WP7 if they could easily port their existing games written in C++ to the phone.

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