Build 2016: Here's what Microsoft has in store for gaming

If you're a gamer of game developer, Build 2016 has some interesting news for you. Updates to UWP notwithstanding, gaming advancements pale in comparison to the bot framework and even Ink.

If you're a gamer or game developer, Build 2016 has some interesting news for you. Updates to UWP notwithstanding, gaming advancements pale in comparison to the bot framework and even Ink.

Universal Windows Platform

Valve's Gabe Newell called the Store and Windows 8 a "catastrophe," Epic Games's Tim Sweeny wrote that UWP (Universal Windows Platform) "can, should, must and will die."

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We've said it before and we're saying it again, UWP was nice on paper but terrible in practice. Anyone who knows anything about UWP has been complaining about it since day one, purely in terms of PC gaming of course. The good news is that Microsoft has been listening and are working on fixing it.

Here's what they're planning to fix: V-Sync, G-Sync and FreeSync? Check. SLI support? Check. Mods? Limited support. Legacy applications? Check.

These aren't the only changes that Microsoft is implementing, but they are the more prominent ones. In a stage demo, Microsoft demonstrated Age of Empires II: HD (I love that game) and Witcher 3, both ported to UWP, running flawlessly after the porting process. This doesn't mean that UWP issues have been fixed, it just means that the porting process works. Microsoft used the "Desktop App Converter" tool for this and apparently, legacy Win32 applications and .NET applications can easily be ported to UWP with that tool.

Xbox One Dev Mode


Another surprising announcement at Build was developer mode for the Xbox One. Anyone who's creating Universal Windows Apps can switch their Xbox One into dev mode and use it to test apps. That said, you still need to be registered as a developer (paying a $19 one time fee) to use the feature.

This mode does come with some caveats though. ArsTechnica dove into the fine-print and discovered that while your Xbox will switch to dev mode, you will only be able to develop and publish apps for UWP. To test and publish Xbox One games, you still need an ID@Xbox account, which isn't very easy considering that you'll have to be vetted by Microsoft first.

When the Xbox is in dev mode, you will be unable to play games or view data from existing games. You will however be able to push apps from Windows to the Xbox and test them out.

Mobile gaming

By far the biggest announcement, but not an unexpected one, was that UWP and the acquisition of Xamarin mean that one can now develop apps across platforms. Built a game for Windows Phone? Port it to iOS and Android from the same development environment (Visual Basic).

Microsoft said that emulators for all three platforms (WM10, iOS and Android), would be integrated.

DirectX 12

So far, we've only been hearing about the awesome power of DirectX 12 and are yet to see it in action. DirectX 12 is supposed to be the next big thing in gaming, after VR of course. The API is designed to massively reduce CPU overhead, resulting in a very significant bump in performance. So far, we've only seen a couple of tech demos and preliminary testing seems to indicate that only AMD is benefiting from the upgrade.

There wasn't much said about DirectX 12 at Build and all we really got was a video. Still, we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.



While the world is jumping up and down about VR, Microsoft has been working on a more practical approach with augmented reality. While the initial AR demos with Hololens were interesting, Build's Hololens demo was a tad underwhelming when it came to gaming, though it was spectacular in every other respect.

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