Step out into the real world with Monster Buster: World Invasion

We caught up recently with Tag of Joy co-founders Šarūnas Ledas and Žilvinas Ledas to learn about their experience developing a Universal Windows version of the game for a wider audience.

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Monster Buster: World Invasion

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Outstanding monster fights with a twist on reality! Monster Buster is the only monster-fighting and collecting game that takes you outdoors. Explore your city with your smartphone and find rare monsters from parallel universes invading our world.

Windows 10 provides a perfect environment for cross-platform games. If a developer can design a game that makes sense on all of the devices, it's definitely a way to go.

– Šarūnas Ledas, Tag of Joy co-founder

Monster Buster Goes Universal Thanks to Windows 10

Imagine a game in which you could fight monsters on the real streets of your local neighborhood or city. That’s what Tag of Joy created with its award-winning augmented-reality game, “Monster Buster: World Invasion.”

Originally created for Windows Phone 8.0, the Lithuanian game-development company released the Windows 10 version of the game in October, 2015. We caught up recently with Tag of Joy co-Founders Šarūnas Ledas and Žilvinas Ledas, to learn about their experience developing a Universal Windows version of the game for a wider audience.

Monsters in the Making

The original “Monster Buster” was very successful, garnering more than 500,000 downloads. But Šarūnas and his team wanted to reach an even wider audience by jumping onto the Windows 10 platform.

Monster Buster encourages players to get on their feet and scour the real world in search of collectable monsters, rare items and real-time battles.

“Players can turn on their mobile camera and find monsters floating in the air!” says Šarūnas, the CEO of Tag of Joy.

To make the universal version a reality, Šarūnas and his team needed to port the app’s Windows Phone 8.0 functionality to be compatible with Windows Phone 10 by introducing updated device position and orientation tracking for mobile, as well as geo-fencing to notify users when they approach a monster in the real world.

There are quite a lot of system API differences between Windows Phone 8.0 and Windows 10, Šarūnas says, including sensors, in-app purchases and device IDs.

The Tag of Joy team worked with Unity, a flexible development platform, to create immersive 2D and 3D gaming experiences, to bring Monster Buster to the Universal Windows Platform. Doing so allowed the developers to concentrate on making the game as fun as possible and on implementing innovative features instead of focusing on building the underlying game engine.

Šarūnas says the team has been using Unity for a long time, and since it was available on Windows 10 early on, it was very helpful in easing the game’s transition to the platform.

“Unity does a great job unifying development for various platforms, and it's always one of the first engines on every system. This naturally makes it the first choice for us when making multiplatform games,” Šarūnas says.

Part of the appeal of the Universal Windows Platform is that it makes the game available not just on smartphone, but also desktop and tablet. That meant Šarūnas and his team had to account for different input options such as touch, mouse or keyboard, and different interfaces.

“We had designed the UI to be dynamic in the very beginning, and the Windows Universal Platform has convenient ways of differentiating between various input types, so it was possible to handle everything with only a few changes,” Šarūnas says.

To retain Monster Buster’s unique AR functionality from Windows Phone 8, Tag of Joy developers worked with Unity to extend the engine and write plugins for the Windows 10.
Thanks to a bit of experimentation, the latest version of Monster Buster includes features that make it even more fun.

They include geofencing; toast notifications to let users know when their monsters are ready to fight again; and live tiles to show the currently selected monster’s image, name and basic stats. In addition, Monster Buster stores player information and monster data in Azure.

It's exciting to become available on a variety of devices and platforms by publishing only once, and that's exactly what the Windows 10 store offers.

Developing for Windows 10

Tag of Joy’s developers wanted Monster Buster to be one of the first games in the Windows Store after the release of Windows 10.

“It's exciting to become available on a variety of devices and platforms by publishing only once, and that's exactly what the Windows 10 store offers,” Šarūnas said.

“It's also one of the general Tag of Joy goals to try out new promising platforms as soon as they are released or announced.”

They got the help they needed from AppCampus, a global mobile applications accelerator program founded by Microsoft, Nokia, and the Aalto University Foundation. Thanks to funding from AppCampus, Monster Buster achieved its goal of being one of the first games on the Windows 10 store.

Tag of Joy continues to update the game with new challenges, monster customizations and geo-located places of interest. They also intend to explore other exciting interfaces such as Hololens, a no-tether holographic computer that runs Windows 10. Since HoloLens leverages the Universal Windows Platform, it’ll be easy for the developers to reuse their code.

“We’re working on a spin-off title for Xbox One; or even HoloLens since it would be a perfect continuation of the augmented reality experience,” Šarūnas said.

Overall, Šarūnas is pleased with the final result and the universal platform opportunities Windows 10 provides. Tag of Joy is already working on a new game for Windows 10, called Crowns and Pawns, and plans to release the point-and-click adventure in 2016.

“Windows 10 provides a perfect environment for cross platform games. If a developer can design a game that makes sense on all of the devices, it's definitely a way to go,” Šarūnas summed up.

Follow Tag of Joy on Facebook to keep up to date with new releases, or read the Monster Buster blog to find out what is next for their world invasion! And while you’re at it, check out Windows Dev on Twitter.