Windows 8 Platform Overview
From YoYoGames Wiki
With the introduction of Windows 8, the Windows family of operating systems have changed dramatically. Windows 8 presents an enormous opportunity for developers targeting the new Windows Experience. GameMaker:Studio makes it easy to capitalize on this opportunity and build engaging Windows Store games that are completely integrated with unique platform features.
The following Windows Store application features are currently available for use with GameMaker and are briefly explained in the following sections.
The App Bar
You can use the App Bar to display commands to users on-demand and it will show commands relevant to the user's context, usually the current page, or the current selection. The app bar is not visible by default, and nor is it active for GameMaker:Studio made games initially. However you can activate (or deactivate) it using the new Windows 8 functions that are incorporated into the GameMakerLanguage (GML), as well as add your own buttons and separators which will communicate directly with your game (see "Windows 8" in the GameMaker:Studio manual for more details).
The App Bar will only appear when a user swipes a finger from the top or bottom edge of the screen, or uses the Right Mouse button to click on the game screen while playing (note that the app bar is transient, going away after the user taps on a command, taps the app canvas, or repeats the swipe gesture or right mouse click). This functionality makes it the ideal place to have your options button, pause button, sound on/off button etc... but you should try and maintain a clean and functional aesthetic when creating functions for your game in this way, following these general guidelines:
- Limit the number of commands to avoid the app bar from looking complicated.
- Choose icons that are easy to understand or predict.
- Keep text labels short (use the tooltip to convey more information on hover)
- Place persistent commands on the right
- If there is a larger number of commands, separate distinct command sets on the left or the right to balance out the app bar and to make commands more ergonomically accessible.
Live Tiles and Badges
The Windows 8 user experience revolves around the Start screen and it's Live Tiles. These tiles are a new way to organise the installed apps and content on your computer and can be set to notify the user of events and changes in your app or game even when it's not running, and can also have Badges displaying certain information (either a numeric value or an icon).
Live Tiles come in two sizes: Wide (310x150px) and Square (150x150px) with the default setting for your app being the wide format, but you should bear in mind that the user can change this at any time they wish. You can set the images for both formats of your live tile from the Windows 8 Global Game Settings, but you can also "push" notifications to your live tile using the unique Windows 8 functions in GameMaker:Studio.
The GameMaker:StudioLive Tile functions permit you to use any of the available templates (a full template list with examples can be found here) but basically these come in four main types:
- static square
- peek square
- static wide
- peek wide
Static tile notifications are ones that show a single set of text, a single image, or a static mix of text and images, while peek notifications will flip between two different states, either of which can have images, text or combinations of both (depending on the template used).
Note that we mentioned earlier that tile notifications sent to your app can use both wide templates and square templates, therefore it is a best practice to include both square and wide templates in a single tile notification because the user can change your tile's size at any time and only notifications that match its current size will be displayed. For instance, if you include only a wide template in a notification and the user has chosen to display the square tile, the default square image will be shown instead of the notification content.
A notification badge conveys a certain status information concerning (and specific to) your app. These badges can be numeric, showing a value from 1 to 99 (any value over 99 will be shown as 99+) or one of a set of Windows-standard icons. Examples of information best conveyed through a badge include network connection status in an online game, the current state of a game like paused or playing, the current lives of your player, etc... Badges can be displayed on both square and wide tiles (the functions in GameMaker:Studio will work regardless of the tile size) and they will appear in the lower-right corner of the tile (lower-left corner on a computer set to a right-to-left).
The Charm Bar is a brand new feature addition for the Windows 8, and it works as a universal toolbar of sorts for the OS. This means that you can access it from anywhere no matter which application you are working on, or what game you have open. The two ways in which you can access the Charm Bar is, firstly, by dragging your mouse pointer to the top or bottom right corner of the screen (since the show desktop area is also at the bottom right, you may prefer the top right corner). You can alternatively press the Windows + C button on your computer keyboard to invoke the bar.
The above image shows the five different Charm available to the user at any time while using windows 8, and GameMaker:Studio gives you direct access to three of these charms with some special functionality that has been built into the GameMaker Language. The following sub sections explain briefly what possibilities this opens up to you when you develop your games.
The search function is basically the same search box that you should be used to seeing in all previous incarnations of Windows, and with it you can search files, applications and control panel settings (as you would expect), only now the results are almost instantaneous unlike the older search tool. However, one thing that is new is the ability to use search to find keywords within Windows 8 apps.
This functionality has been added to Windows 8 games made with GameMaker:Studio, and with a few lines of simple code, you can add keywords to your game that can then be found through the search charm. These keywords can also be used to trigger callback scripts within your game. This means that if someone searches for "inventory" (for example) and you have it as a keyword in your game, you can have a callback script that will take the player instantly to the inventory screen.
As the name indicates, the share button is used to share information with people and apps. Basically, this is the typical cut and paste feature that you would expect from an OS, but it has been souped up and extended so that those Windows 8 apps and games that have sharing integrated and the necessary permissions can then receive varying types of information.
What this means for those who develop Windows 8 games in GameMaker:Studio, is that you can use the special sharing functions to share the following different information types to other apps and games:
So your game can now share text files with level information from a level editor with your friends, or screenshots of your current progress, etc... A powerful system that can make your game or app stand out and integrate with the Windows 8 environment.
From the Settings Charm you can control all the settings of your computer. The normal direct access controls are Audio, Brightness, Network, Power, Notifications and Language, with other options available at the top depending on the app or game that is currently being used. With the new Windows 8 functions in GameMaker:Studio you can now access this charm and add your own settings to the slide-out menu, or even create your own slide out sub-menu activated from this charm using HTML (to see a basic example template, please see here).
These settings are designed for you to provide users with a consolidated place for fast, in-context access to settings that affect their current Windows 8 app or game that they are using, and should therefore have a quick-dismiss system (which disappears when the user touches anywhere on the screen outside of the settings slide-out menu). This is because the Windows 8 idea is to have the settings UI enable users to adjust the behaviour of the app quickly and then seamlessly return to the experience they were emerged in.
An extra bonus for the developer using GameMaker:Studio is that by providing access to the settings UI at all times through the Settings Charm, you do not have to sacrifice any application real estate to show buttons or options, nor do you have to build in any navigation to and from a settings page in the game or app itself. This means that you can dedicate more time and energy on making your game as immersive as possible!
For further information on the Settings Charm, it is worthwhile looking over the Microsoft Settings Charm Good Practices.
Windows 8 and GameMaker:Studio
Now that you have an overview of all the new and exciting functions that Windows 8 brings to GameMaker:Studio, you are ready to set up things and create your own games for the Windows Store. Before going any further, however, it is recommended that you read the following sections on setting up GameMaker:Studio correctly, as well as revise the new functions in the manual that comes with GameMaker:Studio.