Anyone using XNA Game Studio Express?

Discussion in 'Game Development (Technical)' started by mpolzin, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    I was curious if anyone else has been working with Mircosoft's XNA Game Studio Express?

    I started playing with beta 2 just before Thanksgiving, and have been pretty impressed with it. I've been developing a nice 2D game engine in it for the past couple of weeks, and plan to start on a 3D engine once I complete that.

    It is proven to be very powerful, and makes game development quite a bit easier, and its free, which is definitely the right price. It sits on top of the C# Express Edition (also free) for development, but others have been able to successfully use it within Visual Studio with C++ as well. I was a bit concerned about performance developing in C#, but so far I haven't run into a single performance issue.

    The bonus is that it allows you to roll out your game to the PC and XBox 360 through XBox Live and joining their creators club ($99/yr). Although it is pretty limited access to the XBox 360, they are looking at other options for distributing games where the developers could also have a revenue stream from this... something on the order of YouTube for XNA based games. It is still all coming together, but the multi-platform support is a nice feature.

    The offical release 1 is due out this coming Monday, Dec. 11th.

    Mike
     
    #1 mpolzin, Dec 7, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2006
  2. ZeHa

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    Although it is pretty limited access to the XBox 360[...]

    Could you explain that sentence a little further, please? I don't understand its meaning :)
     
  3. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    By limited access I mean that, first you must have a subscription to XBox Live, and second you have to belong the the creators club which is an additional $99/year. Then you can only share your game with other people in the creators club, which I would imagine is going to be mostly other Indies. So the audience is limited, but they are planning to expand on that in the future, but how is still up in the air.

    The other cavaeat to distributing through the creators club that you must also provide the full source code to your game, which is going to be undesireable for those who have put a ton of work into an engine that they don't just want someone else to rip off.

    But even so, it is a great tool, even if you just release for the PC, which you can so with no strings attached.

    Mike
     
  4. Sharpfish

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    I downloaded it when it first came out, dabbled with it for a week then I decided that *for me* it was leading me up blind alleys from a indie perspective because it wasn't suited to "mass market" PC indie game development (not with current consumer system levels) nor serious 360 development (because it's not actually a way to get on XBLA per se').

    And by that I mean primarily games intended for the casual demographic but not always exclusively, any game for any audience is going to be a better bet if it uses lower specs, and doesn't need additional downloads (frameworks etc)>

    It appears to me at this point more for the curious console coder much like devkit advance and others for the DS, GBA rather than a guaranteed way to get games on a console (that sell).

    And to be honest I don't like C# (I use C++ daily so that's my thing) or managed code/.net in my games for windows (not until everyone has the required frameworks as standard in about 5 years perhaps).

    (edited to clear up what I meant by "Indie Games", though I think it applies to all indie games unless you are making "hardcore FPS's or MMORPGS" Why up your requirements needlessly? You need as many factors in your favour as possible to get your game to the people who buy indie games, casual or otherwise!)
     
    #4 Sharpfish, Dec 7, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2006
  5. MrPhil

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    Watch this Channel 9 video as Frank Savage, yes THAT Frank Savage, deploys several games from his PC to the Xbox 360 using XNA.

    PS I love XNA.
     
  6. MrPhil

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    When you use this phrase, do you mean in a casual game sense? I ask because I think XNA could be great for some game types, like turn-based for example, but agree with you when talking about casual games.

    I always agree it is smart to go with your strengths. I work with C# all day at work so I'm pretty productive with it. .Net is becoming more ubiquitous everyday. I’m currently researching .NET Framework penetration and will make another post when it’s ready. Teaser, the following products ship with some form of the .Net framework: Office 12, Windows Vista, HP consumer imaging devices (printer/scanner/camera), Microsoft mouses, and ATI graphics cards.
     
    #6 MrPhil, Dec 7, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2006
  7. Nikster

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    I've not been using XNA with GSE, but using the references within studio pro, and I like C# too, because it makes me able to read java code, without knowing it :D
     
  8. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    For the past couple of years I have also been working with C# on a daily basis, so for me it is also a natural transition. I have been doing C/C++ for nearly 20 years though, and will gladly jump to C# over C++ now days, it is just because I find that the objects make it so much easier to do things, and I don't have to deal with all of the memory management stuff.

    As far as XNA capabilities, I have managed to put together a fairly nice 2D game engine (think of a modern SCUMM engine) with XNA that does full scrolling backgrounds, doing world space collisions, sprites residing in multiple layers(depth), physics, effects, and quite a bit more. Granted 2D isn't polygon pushing, so it doesn't fully test its capabilities, but I think casual games are very possible. Anything that can be done in something like Torque Game Builder can easily be pulled off in XNA.

    I haven't moved into the 3D end of XNA yet, so I can't really say much about what it has to offer there. But so far I am with you MrPhil, I really like XNA. I am hopeful though because they have partnered with Autodesk, so I can can save my 3DS models directly from MAX in a fortmat suitable for use in the XNA content pipeline.

    I'll be bringing my laptop down to the Indie gathering in Shaumburg, IL this weekend so if anyone is interested, I'll be more than happy to demonstrate some of this stuff. I have the full XNA development environment installed on my laptop.

    Mike
     
  9. Matthew

    Indie Author

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    XNA requires a DX9 GPU capable of Shader Model 1.1 as a minimum. So, no, it wouldn't be a wise idea to use it for a portal-distributed casual game today. Give it a few years, though, after Vista sets in...

    Regardless, XNA itself looks great. 1.0 launches on Monday (which includes Xbox 360 support). They're announcing details on "XNA Professional" or whatever it'll be called this spring. XNA Pro will essentially be targeted towards XBLA developers.
     
  10. Sharpfish

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    I agree, if you are good with C# and you don't particulary want to deliver hassle free products to your players (i.e extra downloads) then C# is a nice solution.

    However some of us prefer non proprietary languages, and no additional downloads. If I had any compelling reasons to use XNA then I would possibly waive those concerns but right now XNA doesn't even do anything that I can't do myself (for PC) with Direct3D and C++.

    If I was looking at XNA as an easier way to develop games I would still look at other engines/languages that don't have additional dependencies. I'm not saying XNA is bad but it's pretty useless for the 360 (apart from experimenting and paying a subscription for that luxury, and dishing out source code - no thanks), while it's "good" for the PC. But it isn't intrinsically better than either doing it yourself (if you already have a framework/engine up and running be it in C++, Java, Blitzmax or whatever) or using something else readily available that doesn't need non-standard runtimes (on older systems) or require a dx9 card! :cool:

    Oh and XNA Pro sounds a lot more exciting but I hear you still have to pay the normal Devkit price/get licensed if you plan on seriously developing for the 360, which is lots of cash right now and only a wise investment for a studio with a track record that would stand a chance of getting MS attention/approval.
     
    #10 Sharpfish, Dec 8, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2006
  11. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    I assume are mean the .NET 2.0 framework, and yes it is required. However I don't plan to release anything for quite some time, so penetration should be pretty good by the time I do anything with XNA. Vista is on the way to the shelves to that will insure .NET 2.0 is on those PC's.

    Mike
     
    #11 mpolzin, Dec 8, 2006
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2006
  12. Spindle

    Spindle New Member

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    mpolzin, you'll be coming down from WI to Shaumburg for the meeting. Thats awesome! I think I'll make it to the meet to. I will be showing off some of my public TGB projects. I'd love to see what you have done so far with XNA!
     
  13. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    Spindle yes, I will be at the Shaumburg meet this coming Saturday. My wife and I are going to be in Chicago for the weekend, so its just a matter of heading a bit west to hit it. Although I would have come down anyways, even if I wasn't going to be in the area :D

    I like in SE Wisconsin, so I can be in the suburbs if Chicago in less than an hour, as long as traffic isn't a disaster!

    Mike
     
  14. Vincent033

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    Our studio is very interested in releasing games on a console and saw XNA as a great opportunity to due so. After reading alot of articles and evaluating the production pipeline I must say I am very disappointed.

    1) There seems no way to protect your source or assets. Currently the method developers are expected to share their games is to give their source and assets and have other "gamers" build/deploy/play their game. Who wants to develop and distribute that way... I hope that will change!

    2) Our game engine uses alot of other existing tools and resources like ODE for collision detection/reaction or OGG for streaming sound. Correct me if I am wrong but all that technology seems to be gone when using XNA putting our game engine at square one. All XNA is left with is MDX.

    I wish XNA could cater to our game studio but it doesn't at present. Personally I wish Microsoft would allow indie developers access to the original XBOX. But they are delivering a great opportunity for early developers and hobbiest so I give them credit for that!
     
  15. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    Vincent,
    You are correct, that with the initial rollout using the Creators Club there will be no way to protect your assets or code, as a result I doubt any real ground-breaking games will come out on the XBox 360 until they rectify that. MSFT is aware that this is an issue, and has said that they intend to eventually move to a model where you can protect your assets. How far down the road that is however is unclear; I can tell you that in general the XNA community is pushing pretty hard for it, and a way to generate revenue.

    You can use all of those tools you mentioned with XNA, however they would only work on the PC, not the XBOX 360. I was pretty disappointed myself that the only tool for sound was XACT which only uses WAV format, which is extremely bloated. A 4MB MPG file turns into a 36MB WAV file.. UGH!

    XNA does have stuff built in there for collision detection though, using boxes or spheres for three dimensional objects. And it allows you to line them up along the object for accurate detection. This is used in their SpaceWar demo in fact.

    No doubt there are short comings, but it does seem like the XNA team is working hard, and openly taking suggestions from the community for improvements. But, it is Microsoft so who knows how it will all play out.

    I am willing to give it a shot because it will be some time before I release anything, and I am mainly targeting the PC anyways. If they come up with something good that works on the XBox 360 where I can protect myself, and make some money, that will just be a bonus for me.

    Mike
     
  16. ZeHa

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  17. Nikster

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    People seem to forget that XNA is merely just a managed DX wrapper, as for sound, XACT only uses WAV ? and not WMA ? I do agree with sharpfish though, for most there isn't much point unless you want to prep yourself for the tech, even TourqeX has its tech based on XNA, you also don't even have to use XNA to do your games, you could just use it as part of your tool set, you just have to ask yourself what the learning curve might be if you don't already know C# and the like, and if you think you may plan to go via 360 whether it's worth poking at bits now so your ready, and like I said before, you're also semi learning java as well, so you can kill three birds with one stone ;)
     
  18. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    Nikster,
    I agree, I used to teach Java at the local university a while back so again for me it was an easier to make the transition from C/C++. But you make a good point that if you are only targeting PC's you don't have to limit yourself to what is contained in XNA, you can use other tools.

    What I plan to do is use some #if def code to make sure I can support all platforms. My PC games very well may not used XNA for sound if I can't get by the WAV issue... but I have to investigate that further, I got a couple of messages indicating there might be other options available in XACT for using more compressed formats. If nothing else, I'll post a message on the support forums on Microsofts site to investigate alternatives and report back.

    Just as a final note, there are a number of people out there who have got XNA working in Visual Studio using C++. Microsoft is just focusing on C#.

    Mike
     
  19. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Managed C++ I assume?

    Posters are correct, there is no clear way to monetize XNA projects at this time. Microsoft is launching XNA in what is known as a cost recovery model. The $100 annual game creators club membership is a means to get some additional budget subsidize the things they want to do with XNA. They have stated that they want to create a channel separate from XBLA that creators could upload binary versions of their games to and share them with other xbox users. I think the "youTube for games" line was dropped again here as well, but only as a metaphor I think the want do to a lot more with it.

    Personally, I think XNA makes a lot of sense for indie developers. At least ones that want to make indie games that match the interests of core gamers as opposed to casual ones. The biggest reason is being able to target a fixed platform, it's a big reason why a lot of the retail PC developers switched over to consoles when the 1st Xbox was released. It's is just sooo much less effort to target a fixed platform. This is clearly a boon for indie developers who are always strapped for resources. I didn't realize it until I started playing around with XNA just how much effort goes into cross platform, backwards compatibility, and just general compatibility across all the different HW people plug into their PC's. It's easily one of the most time consuming and complex problems of any pc game, even the most basic casual game. (especially the most basic casual games?)

    The second thing, while there's no good way to make money from an XNA game just yet, there is an advantage to getting in early on XNA. Microsoft is about to spend a ton of marketing on XNA, it's going to be on the Xbox, their up for numerous industry awards for innovation, it's going to be everywhere with high visibility. If you are an early adopter doing something cool, Microsoft is definitely going to be steering traffic your way as an example of something cool that's being done with XNA. This is the cheapest marketing and visibility you'll ever get. So even if you can't monitize that just yet, there is promise, and a very good likelihood that you will be able to soon. Any time you can do something that results in a lot of people knowing your name or your work, it's a very good thing.

    So if your one of those indies who's making cool games primarily for the sake of making cool games and maybe selling a few sometieme in the future, then XNA is a pretty sweet platform. Where else can you used managed code, the latest graphics techniques and still not sacrifice any part of the target market? If your an independent who's mostly focused on going full time and becoming financially independent then it may not be the right thing for you .
     
  20. mpolzin

    mpolzin New Member

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    Dan,
    Some very good insights there. This thread has definitely generated some good conversation and I'm glad to see it.

    For everyone else, I did verify that the XACT tool does allow you to use ADPCM compression on your sound and music files, which should provide a reasonable solution for using compressed music and sounds in your projects.

    More info is available here:

    Cheers!

    Mike
     

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