Links for December 4, 2013

It’s the last day of classes, which means applauding our profs and starting the long, tired march toward finals. But VGAD will still be happening until the 18th. Both Christmas and New Year’s fall on a Wednesday this year, so VGAD will not be happening on either of those days.

Also don’t forget about the Game Night this Friday at 6:00 pm. It will coincide with the UACS LAN Party, so we may try to participate in that as well, but we’ll definitely be having our own internal VGAD event on that day. We might actually start earlier, depending on whether or not people want to do it.

But enough of that. Let’s get on to the links.

Project Spark Open Beta

As reported by multiple sources, Microsoft’s Project Spark will be going into open beta soon. If you’re not sure what Project Spark is, it’s a new game creation tool similar to LittleBigPlanet or Kodu Game Lab for Xbox One and Windows 8.1. You can use it to create games for Windows 8 or Xbox One. One of the interesting features of the Xbox One version is that supposedly the Kinect sensor will be usable to do motion capture, which is very interesting and exciting if true.

To sign up for the beta, go to joinprojectspark.com and type in your email. They will be emailing the keys once the beta is set to begin. From there, you will simply install the game through the Windows Store.

One important thing to note is that the open beta (And presumably the product itself) will be for users of Windows 8.1 only. If you have Windows 8 but not 8.1, the update is free through the Windows Store (and highly recommended, as it brings back the Start button and just generally makes things a bit smoother).

Dreamspark Premium

If you do not have a Windows 8 key, but you are taking a Computing Science course this semester, you can get a license through DreamSpark Premium. Check your @ualberta.ca email for an email with “Dreamspark Premium” in the header to get your account up and running. From there, you simply go to the link provided and add a copy of Windows 8.1 to your basket.

If you are not taking a Computing Science course this semester, you can still get free software through the Microsoft Dreamspark service. The best thing you can get is Visual Studio Professional, a very robust IDE for C++, C#, Visual Basic, and other Windows-centric languages. C# in particular is used as a scripting language in Unity, and if you connect Visual Studio Professional to Unity, you can use it in place of the built-in Unity Scripting environment, MonoDevelop.

Visual Studio and C# are also part of the XNA Framework, which can be used to develop Windows and Xbox 360 games. While this program doesn’t have as much of a future as other frameworks, it’s a fairly robust game platform in its own right.

To activate your Dreamspark account, you must provide Microsoft with a ualberta.ca email address. Click Sign In, and follow the instructions until it asks you to input your School. Select Canada and input University of Alberta into the list. From there it will ask you for your Ualberta email, and once it determines that your email is genuine, you can get Visual Studio Professional 2013 for free, which comes with Microsoft Blend, a powerful tool for designers.