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XNA Game Studio Express Beta Now Available

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the that'll-learn-ya dept.

Microsoft 24

d.3.l.t.r.3.3 writes "The long awaited XNA Game Studio Express public Beta is finally here. Despite some high claims by Microsoft, the Game Studio remains a code-only experience, with a more coherent and less fragmented feature set than the old DirectX 9 SDK. As I describe in this review, XNA has successfully streamlined many dull tasks of game development (helped a bit by the new game-supportive features of Windows Vista). It's also, unfortunately, kept too many frustrating pieces and bugs (especially when it comes to cross platform input handling and audio) to be successfully considered a real multi-platform game developing tool."

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I have to say I think this is a really good idea.. (1)

DoChEx (558465) | about 8 years ago | (#16023539)

I have to say I think this is a really good idea for Developers. To help reduce cost, it's only a question of how cross-platform it really will be.

Re:I have to say I think this is a really good ide (3, Insightful)

DavidLeblond (267211) | about 8 years ago | (#16023571)

Cross platform as in PC/XBox 360 or cross platform as in PC/Mac/Linux.

I think you can pretty much count out the latter. Unless there is a cross platform DirectX that no one knows about.

Re:I have to say I think this is a really good ide (2, Interesting)

bangenge (514660) | about 8 years ago | (#16023633)

http://msdn.microsoft.com/directx/xna/ [microsoft.com] this baby's just for windows. i would assume though, that eventually, they can port to the xbox360 with little fuss.

of course, being MS, they can create a whole lot of fuss about something so simple.

i was shocked reading TFA:

The shortcoming is evident if you run the sample included, a modern version of Spacewar. The game defaults on the joypad and you have to #define (yes, #define) a flag (USE_KEYBOARD) to allow the use of a Keyboard instead of a Joypad, crippling the "portability" of the game code. There's no way to transparently handle keyboard, mouse and joypad actions together unless you code it by hand. Frankly, in an era where even the lowliest mobile SDK has the functionality to completely abstract from the input device when writing game code, it is a bit discouraging don't see it in XNA.

a little bit too much of a mixed bag really. on one hand, it's great that a simple programmer (like me) can actually get to develop my own games for windows with as little fuss as possible *at least that's what i hope*. while on the other hand, if the TFA was to be believed, i guess i still have to wait. but kudos to MS for at least trying.

Not to mention that it's C# only (1)

abandonment (739466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16028127)

This is the biggest issue with XNA that I can see so far. You MUST use C# to write code for it - pretty much eliminating years of experience writing games with C++

So every developer has to rewrite whatever engine they were working on for other platforms to work on the MS platforms.

You can write managed code in C++ without problems, this decision can ONLY be designed to try and force indies to support their platform only. Typical MS decision

It's the former (2, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | about 8 years ago | (#16023639)

PC/XBox360. But still, that's a big thing.

If you want to do cross platform computers do OpenGL/(some windowing toolkit) ... but you will still have inconsistencies between each platform. Unfortunately.

Re:It's the former (1)

d.3.l.t.r.3.3 (892347) | more than 7 years ago | (#16023826)

Would be nice to see the Mono Project tackle the XNA libraries :)

Re:I have to say I think this is a really good ide (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16024603)

Unless there is a cross platform DirectX that no one knows about.

There is, its called Wine and works suprisingly well.

Impressions (5, Informative)

Corngood (736783) | about 8 years ago | (#16023617)

This is a copy of a post I made on evil avatar. I figure people here might actually care. :)

I found it a little bit disappointing so far (I know it's a beta).

The biggest problem is that there is no content pipeline. Apparently this was due to be included, but got delayed until the next version. This would be less of a problem if they still had support for D3DX meshes, but they've removed all that stuff without replacing it. Since the content tools are coming soon (hopefully) I'm really not inclined to build my own temporary pipeline, and I seriously doubt people who are new to game programming want to mess about making pipeline tools when the whole point of this thing is to let them focus on making games.

You should be able to fire up the spacewar example and easily replace the ships with some .x files you've created and exported with an exporter provided with XNA (or using .fbx, which they plan to support). As it stands, the models are all in an undocumented bespoke format, for which there are no tools, so you'd have to follow the loading code and write your own converter, or write a bunch of code to support another format.

The documentation references DxTex and XACT, tools you need for all but simple textures, and for any kind of audio respectively, but they aren't included (as far as I can tell), so to get them, you need to get the full DirectX SDK as well. I can see DxTex being replaced by the content pipeline, but why isn't XACT included? Perhaps I'm missing the point, but I saw this thing as being an alternative to the full SDK, not complementary to it.

They call it 'XNA Game Studio', so I was expecting some IDE integration, with GPU debugging, or PIX integration, or anything DirectX related. Unfortunately it just seems to have added some new project wizards, and that's it.

The framework is pretty much the same as previous versions of Managed DirectX, with a whole lot of stuff ripped out, some new helper classes, and the rest cleaned up nicely.

I'm still excited about the XNA Framework and XNA GSE, and I can't fault the direction they are taking with this stuff. My main problem is that there's barely anything here that you can't do just as well with the old version of managed DirectX and the same copy of VC#, and with that you can at least use the .x stuff to get some content in your game. Anyway, I look forward to checking out the next release, especially the content pipeline, which sounds very cool from what I've read about it.

Re:Impressions (1)

d.3.l.t.r.3.3 (892347) | about 8 years ago | (#16023784)

Well, it's good to know that I'm not the only one to think that the project is highly limited or still largely incomplete.

People are too critical (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16023632)

Too many people are complaining that XNA is not easy enough, not visual enough. I just tried it and compared to the C++ implementation and even Managed DirectX in C# and all I have to say is that it is much cleaner and simpler to make anything.

Non-programmers are currently trying it expecting something that would work like a drag and drop interface. They have been the loudest to complain because they cannot be bothered to learn to code a little C#.

Re:People are too critical (1)

Fyre2012 (762907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16023817)

They have been the loudest to complain because they cannot be bothered to learn to code a little C#.

It seems to me that the complaint isn't so much that it's not "drag & drop" 'enough', it's that people new to game development (for whom it was understood that this kit would be developed for) have no idea how to write the necessary 'plumbing code' to make trivial tasks, well... trivial.
Please correct me if this isn't the case

Re:People are too critical (1)

varunnangia (999363) | more than 7 years ago | (#16024020)

I'd have to agree with that assessment. I think people were thinking on the lines of Lego Mindstorms-like drag and drog interface, and this is clearly not that, nor is it intended to be such a development tool. I have to admit, its a lot of fun using the Mindstorms, but it was very limiting. This is intended for people who already know C# (or something like it) and have ideas for games, or those learning C# and are looking for a good outlet on which to practice. As far as those two goals go, this is likely to be successful. The only thing that Microsoft has skimped on is documentation, which would be helpful for someone just starting out. But bravo to Microsoft for taking the first step.

Re:People are too critical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16024278)

Also needed is knowlegde of how DirectX/3D graphics works as well as C#. Unless you stick with sprites a small backgroup in 3D and linear algebra is needed.

a little C#? for non-Programmers? (2, Funny)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#16024673)

There's no such thing as "a little code" even for us actual coders, much less in any gaming project, much less anything XNA-related.

A non-programmer shouldn't touch this stuff with a 12 meter (that's 39 and a half feet for us non-British people) pole.

Pretty easy for 2-D (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 7 years ago | (#16023821)

I'm a little annoyed this simply just RIPPED out the 3-D mesh stuff for this Beta but so far...

SWEET! I wrote a simple bounce-ball w/ paddle in a couple hours. Most of that was learning how to use the API. In terms of coding time, I'd say it took me less than an hour. The API docs included is almost useless, but I can only hope MS gets a basic idea: enable amatuer developers. This is how MS built up its developer base in the first place with GW-Basic and QuickBasic. Think how many developers got started writing for MS platforms with that. And VB, which had to have been the most pirated language since TurboPascal, enabled Windows to become entrenched everywhere.

Good call. Now we need to do something like this for SDL for some good competition. :-)

Pretty easy for 2-D put-downs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16024435)

"Think how many developers got started writing for MS platforms with that. And VB, which had to have been the most pirated language since TurboPascal, enabled Windows to become entrenched everywhere."

Yes, and think of how much derision they got too. Now it's the 'game developers' turn to be sneered at.

Cross platform development? Are you kidding? (1, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16023997)

C'mon... Microsoft has completely NO desire to allow you to easily make things cross-platform
for their consoles and whatnot.

They want you as locked in as they can get you- if you want cross-platform (Considering the
overall interest in the game dev space MS has, you'd do well to consider this- everywhere
else they've had an "interest" in, they've either muscled the company out (Netscape, Stac...)
or pressured it almost out of existence (Borland, Intuit...). Do you HONESTLY think they're
NOT going to do the same thing to the Game space??) you have to do it yourself. In reality,
it's not as difficult as it'd seem. If you've done your game design right, you've abstracted
out most of the things like the input layer into something that actually handles a the interface
of things like input for the game. The bulk of the code for the game SHOULD be the game itself
not input, sound, or graphics. At that point, all you need is a translation layer inside of
another interface module for the appropriate piece and you're good to go.

Yes, it's more complicated that I'm making it out to sound, but it's NOT as difficult as
people keep making it out to be. Yes, it consumes 10-15% "more time" doing it this way.
But what people keep missing is that if you've designed it "this way" it typically gives
you back the time you spent on it in the form of less effort that comes from good up-front
design instead of relying on MS' API's, the C++ compiler, or cowboy coding to make the
work "easier".

Re:Cross platform development? Are you kidding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16024182)

Oh, Thank you, Oh master of game development! :)

No, seriously, thank you. Very good points. This is the way things should be coded. This can still be done with XNA.

Coding is not the only thing though. I think the bigger help from XNA will come later on in the toolset lifetime, just as it has in other MS tools and products. MS also has a good track record for starting out behind the pack and moving out in front. This just might be the beginning of their move to overtake the leaders.

Granted, it could be better now, but so could everything.

Personally, I look forward to tools that make my life/job easier. Sometimes I use them and sometimes I don't. Whichever is most convenient for the current project I'm working on. It's interesting though... when I don't use the tools provided, it's because I've created my own similar tool with just a tweak here and there with my desired functionality added. This is usually good enough for single person development, because there are bugs in any tool that is developed so quickly. Multi person teams need robust tools that take time, or money, or a big company or OSS organization to release quality software/code for re-use.

Anyway, that's just my 2 cents.

Re:Cross platform development? Are you kidding? (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16024635)

Hey, come on, they've given you THREE platforms buddy! Xbox, XP, Vista. Don't get greedy! But seriously, I played around with the samples and whatnot, and it seems pretty interesting. I'll be interested in the final version and to see what comes out, along with the professional version (which will supposedly be supported along side VC++ as a standard Xenon development platform.) What I'm wondering is whether or not MS supports a Mono build of this stuff. You have to wonder what's more valuable in the long run - short term OS lock in, or becoming THE de facto development platform for games? Owning the OS is what allows them to do this, but ask anyone who's developed xbox/360 vs. ps2/ps3 and for the most part MS makes a better development platform.

A few good games, lots of noise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16024053)

I think that there will only be 20 to 30 useful games produced over the lifetime of the Xbox 360 with this.

There will be a lot of people who think that they can develop games, but have never programmed. The XNA forums will be cluttered with half finished poorly written code.

There will be people who are dedicated and bright, who will end up producing some interesting stuff. But they will be grossly outnumbered by idiots.

Good idea, hope it spreads (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#16024380)

The idea behind XNA is excellent even if the start is a little rocky - here's hoping all of the next gen platforms open up development in similar ways.

All of them can benefit greatly from it too by allowing some games to be sold through the online portals that each console is providing... What will be really interesting is to see if any revenue goes back to the creator. If so, it could spawn a great wave of people that are focuses on making small but innovative games to help offset the path of games today becoming larger and larger.

I Don't Know About This. (0, Troll)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16025114)

I looked around for the source code to download and compile; I couldn't find it. My Computer Science Advisor says, "Using someone else's code without checking it first is not like cool running." But I thought, "What the heck, it's microsoft; They've never been convicted of lying, cheating, or stealing other peoples stuff." So I downloaded it anyway, and tried to unpack it. I couldn't find anything that could unpack it. Funny thing, there was no MD5 value on microsoft's web site; That's kinda weird to me. I figure that it's broke. Maybe if they opened a forum, and let us see the code, maybe someone could figure why it doesn't work in Linux.

sharing games (1)

ksheff (2406) | more than 7 years ago | (#16027459)

I thought that this bit from the FAQ [microsoft.com] was kinda interesting:

Q: How exactly can I share my 360 game to other 360 users? Will my game only be available to people with the XNA "Creators Club" subscription? Will it be available to all 360 users that have an Xbox Live account?

A: There is currently no supported way to share binaries on the Xbox 360. Currently, there are four requirements that must be met in order to share a game targeting Xbox 360 which is developed with XNA Game Studio Express.

1. The individual you are planning to share the game with must be logged in to Xbox Live and have an active subscription to the XNA Creators Club

2. The receiving user must have downloaded the XNA Framework runtime environment for the Xbox 360

3. The receiving user must have XNA Game Studio Express installed on their own development PC

4. The game project, including all source and content assets, must be shared with the receiving user. The receiving user then compiles and deploys the game to their Xbox 360.

That sounds a little like how people shared Unix programs before linux or free versions of BSD were available: must have an account on university/work machine with the development kit installed (after Sun & others started unbundling the compilers and charging for dev kits..grr), you get the source and compile it for your own copy. :)

Whew it's finally here. (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16028409)

"The long awaited XNA Game Studio Express public Beta is finally here."

So now I guess the question is, "Long awaited by whom?"

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