GDC '08: Secret Microsoft announcement XNA-related

Schizoid dev says tomorrow's keynote will reveal a new game-distribution system which will have Microsoft's development suite at its core.

SAN FRANCISCO--Much like the midwinter rain on the streets outside, rumours have been swirling around the 2008 Game Developers Conference that Microsoft will announce something substantial during Live vice president John Schappert's keynote speech tomorrow. Those rumours took on some substance today when Chris Early, general manager of Microsoft's casual-games program, hinted during a presentation that tomorrow's announcement would concern casual games and "asynchronous play" between Microsoft mobile platforms and Xbox 360 and PC games.

Now, another GDC presenter has let slip even more details, saying that Microsoft's developer toolkit for the 360--XNA Game Studio (XNA GS)--will be at the heart of the new game distribution system. In his talk this afternoon about developing the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game Schizoid using XNA, Torpex Games president Bill Dugan revealed that tomorrow's Microsoft announcement will involve XNA GS, but provided little other detail.

"There's some sort of announcement tomorrow that MS is giving at the keynote, where they're talking about some sort of future game distribution system that XNA Game Studio is apparently the center of. I don't know what that is, we didn't use it and they didn't tell me," he said.

XNA GS is a suite of tools designed to make programming games for the PC and 360 easier and quicker, and was first unveiled at GDC in 2004. Schizoid--a Geometry Wars-like game where two players control two ships--will be the first game to be released on XBLA using XNA when it launches in the second quarter.

In Dugan's lecture, which was part of GDC '08's Indie Games Summit, he praised XNA for being a much faster and cheaper way to develop a game, particularly in its early stages. Dugan said the Schizoid prototype which was used in the original pitch to Microsoft only took four days to create using XNA.

Dugan had some caveats for prospective XNA users, however. His primary problem with the platform is the obvious difficulties which arise should developers wish to port their games to a Sony or Nintendo platform down the line.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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61 comments
rasterror
rasterror

I was souped up about XNA. I already have a couple of games I want to make and the fact that the tools are relatively cheap and you get great support is an added plus! It's great for those who really don't have programing experience but have gaming ideas for simple games. If you want to design topnotch games you would definitely want to learn C/C++ and other programs.

red_shock
red_shock

"People also argue that C++ / Direct X is faster, but this is really a non issue on current hardware" You're kidding, right? lol... good luck porting Assassin's Creed to XNA :) It's not a pretty ride, and that's why no company has tried. XNA sits ontop of DirectX. Thus, it is dependent OF DirectX. C# is dependent OF C++. This is probably another reason why someone should avoid higher-level APIs. They think it's going to take over tool 'X' but its the very thing it is dependent of and it has to for any kind of possible speed.

red_shock
red_shock

To the guy that discouraged C++/DirectX: It depends on the approach. Study C and a bit of C++, then pick up Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus. You'll be making games in no time. Also, the hard part of starting off with XNA is once you get a job, you're going to wish you spent time in C/C++ and "pointers". XNA folks hold no competition in the real world. It's purely for bedroom gamers and Microsoft said that was their target. It's to get your feet wet in game programming, which is good, but when you are ready to move on and go into C/C++, you'll think it's too hard now and will give up. It's better to start in C/C++. It's harder, sure, but you'll be 100x more competitive, and people might be able to play your games online too without having to wait 500 megabytes later. Then people complain they can't play your game because they don';t have XP SP2, Shader Model 3.0, .NET 3.5, etc. and they just want to play TETRIS..... Better yet, game demos: uncle joe wanted to buy a game, and 10 demos downloaded really fast. Your XNA game is still downloading and it lost his interest. He already bought someone else's game... yip, I speak with experience in this indie world... less money for you, more money for the guy who took time to learn C/C++ which is really not that difficult. It's actually easy to port over to C# with it. You would be suprised. But do pick up on C first. If you get that book above, it doesn't require much C++ knowledge and it teaches you what you need to know. Andre' LaMothe... look his book up. It uses DirectX 8, but that's enough to go clear to Win95 and up for your market potential, and the XNA guy is limiting himself from XP SP2 and probably soon just Vista on next release. The good thing is it runs on XBox 360. Your resume may sound good... keywords are nice on there. But lack of C/C++ knowledge is your downside. It's better to work on PC (which you're going to do anyway with XNA 99% of the time). It runs on a "sandbox" in the 360. It's really nothing different with running it on PC and the 360... but you just put your own money into the deal. Avoid XNA. It is just not worth it. Performance... hahaha... MS will never be honest on this one. But remember who their target is with XNA: bedroom programmers. It is up to you to decide if that's you or not. If so, good luck. If not, get out that C/C++ book and the real world will be waiting for you.

idontexist
idontexist

@Avenger1324 I don't agree that XNA is JUST a stepping stone for aspiring developers. It is also a viable option for serious game companies to develop commercial games on. If you go to the XNA site: creators.xna.com, you will find a couple of sample games that were writting completely in XNA. Starter kits can be found at: http://creators.xna.com/Education/StarterKits.aspx The Racing game starter kit is an incredible example of what can be done with the XNA Framework. This game was written in about 3 months and has a very hight quality. Check it out, it's a free download. I also don't agree with some forum members that you should skip XNA and focus on C++ as your language. Going the C++ and DirectX route is VERY VERY hard. XNA is a framework that sits on top of DirectX and provides a cleaner hardware abstraction and nicer interface to program with. It's the next level or the successor of Direct X. Some of you will argue that most companies in the industry still use the C++ / Direct X combo, but that will change in time. As game programming becomes more complex, these companies will invest more in established frameworks that come with a lot of built in functionality right out of the box. And this is nothing new. Each major AAA title uses the Unreal Engine. Because it's an engine/framework that comes with a lot of features right out of the box. But Indie developers don't have the cash to spend on Unreal tech. With the XNA framework they can develop their own engines in a shorter period. Because the programming model is so much easier. People also argue that C++ / Direct X is faster, but this is really a non issue on current hardware. I mean, test the Racing game on your PC, it runs smoothly. And it's all developed in XNA and C# .

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

oh well lets hope this brings good games to the xbox not just a whole bunch of trash :( Not that i even own one ....

audioaxes
audioaxes

while i think a noob should not learn programming with XNA, it would be a decent place to begin learning how to code games you are in for a much painful experience trying to pick up directx for the first time with limited C++ experience to create a game instead of XNA

red_shock
red_shock

For those that want to get into game programming, do not start out with XNA. It's slow, you have no access to hardware, and to do any PC work requires 300mb+ of runtime information. You are not going to get any sales. If you want to be a game programmer, look at what the professionals are using (as well as the indies!). It's C/C++ and DirectX. XNA sits on top and does not do a good job for tomorrow's games.

RgvXavi
RgvXavi

XNA, blah, blah, blah. i just saw the new screen's for Too Human... and man, I can't wait for this game to be released on 360. for those not familiar with XNA go to the MS website and go to downloads. From there go to Developers DL and you'll be able to DL a bunch of free tool kit's, including XNA. i'll wait to get excited when I actually hear the announcement. Until then I'm stoked on the Too Human screen shots.

GunGriffin
GunGriffin

I could not agree more with you grognard! The Xbox360 had a rocky start like all Consoles, but when it comes to online for the price the Xbox360 wins hands down. Only a total moron would pay the monthly fee for XboxLive. If you go for the yearly it's $50.00 flat fee for one year! Most collage students can afford that each year! I don't get the fuss about paying for online play. I mean if you can pay $50.00 each year instead of $35.95 each month you might as well just call it a free Phone service! Most comcast customers pay ten times that much for both Phone, and Internet, as well as Cable TV. Do the math noobies 35.95 a month for 12 months is ten times the price tag of a $50.00 yearly payment.

drummaster95
drummaster95

I dont know. You have to keep in mind this isn't E3.If they have some big announcement they would make it at E3. However there is that interesting job posting ................

grognard
grognard

Maybe there will be a Live Marketplace/Steam type service on PC to coordinate along with the 360? Maybe they'll also make a firm announcement regarding integration between 360/pc/phones that they talked about last year. Live and Live Arcade have set the standard for online console gaming and all gamers have benefitted from it, so the Sony Defense Force should take that into consideration. The features Sony is finally trickling out online would never have happened if not for the competition of MS in the console space. Competition is good for everyone.

-HCMF-
-HCMF-

good news. kinda neat..

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

@Ghost The way I see it, is you missed the point of what XNA is meant to be. I may be wrong, but my impression is that XNA is meant for "bedroom developers" rather than mainstream companies. Individuals that want to make games but until now lack the tools to do so. Big companies already have the tools they need to program for 360 (or any other console for that matter) so they don't need XNA. XNA is a stepping stone into the world of programming, so making a successful game with XNA is less about making money for the individuals that make the game, and more about making a name for themselves and potentially launching their career by using a set of tools that are free, and spending their free time making something. Of course the individual developers want to make money from the games, which they will directly through Microsoft/Live, but really the biggest benefit for a student getting something released on XBLA is that it will almost guarantee them a job in the industry, and with it the salary, perks, reputation and now the financial backing to make bigger and better games with the full set of tools available to mainstream developers

nikefreak
nikefreak

And SPD - Thats odd... Considering I own 74 of those "horrible" XBLA games. hmm I guess I just enjoy burning money... (Time to buy a PS3?)

nikefreak
nikefreak

Lookin forward to seeing what this is about :) And a little note to the people going around screaming about HD-DVD failing, once again, its simply because they follow "Sony" style thinking, where Sony put everything on the line for BluRay because they NEEDED it to be adopted for their gamble to pay off, where with Microsoft not having a vested interest in HD-DVD like Sony did with BluRay, they simply didnt really care if it lived or died, they were only offering the choice to their consumers. Frankly, I am surprised that Sony guys are at it again trying to rub something so silly and non-important to gaming in "360 gamers" faces. Its kinda like going and making fun of all GM cars because they were to use a tire that went bad in the Indy 500 or something. Just because they supported a medium and it went under, doesnt mean it affects them in the least. Further, you would also think Sony fans wouldnt attack others based on product problems, what with exploding batteries, failing cameras/mp3 players/televisions/PS3 overheats/etc. etc., they have their own fair share of problems to worry about, not to mention poor a poor image in the majority of at least US consumers. I suggest wising up, and if you want to fight about the next unnecessary media format, do it where someone cares - right now you are simply making yourself appear rather shallow and silly doing it in an XNA game dev article where it has absolutely NOTHING to do with gaming.

RebornJeremiah
RebornJeremiah

Sounded like Sony Defense Forces are all around us.....

nappan
nappan

Unless they are magically speeding up people's home connections worldwide this announcement isn't that big. For the PC end of things... I have one word: STEAM.

rockstar_88
rockstar_88

@ SPD_WeBmAsTaH So let me get this straight. You downloaded all 100+ games on XBOX Live just so you can tell people they aren't that good? You must have a lot of time and money on your hands, or you're just really pulling stool out of your ass.

flackstone
flackstone

I love how people put a $ in M$ like their the only company that wants money i mean come on i think $ony is just as greedy

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

Cool, but I thought most of the games used the XNA tool set? Guess not!

SPD_WeBmAsTaH
SPD_WeBmAsTaH

Boring. No games on XBL arcade are any good really and it doesn't interest me at all. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion and that was mine right there.

magicalclick
magicalclick

It would be cool to have a market place for us to download the game and play it (the user created games). Of course, IMO, either the game has to implement a MS advertisement service or MS should charge like 50 market place points for every game download. Just a thought.

Spyder25000
Spyder25000

PC need to install Why not use a PC? Wait 1 mopre year and the graphics will kick the 360 ass

dukerav
dukerav

While this may not sound like big news, it very well could be, considering they havent even told us what all this is about, wait and see people before rushing to conclusions.

omrikk87
omrikk87

hopefully a new exclusive , i guess what it could be

systemfan1188
systemfan1188

Wow - now if Sony could only find a way to make game developing easier..they might actually put some d*** games out.

burnteyeball
burnteyeball

I think the small shortage has to due with something about the smaller processors there putting in the 360's to make them cooler. The same with the PS3 will happen later on. I agree. Mass digital distribution is on the hurizon and probably in the future all they'l be selling is just a HDD so you can just download. They'l save millions on manufacturing.

BigDaveyDogz
BigDaveyDogz

@ ghost867: The GDC is for game developers to get together and help out each other...this show isn't really for gamers more for game developers so this news fits right in for what this show is all about. M$ would save announcements for those types of things (if they are even in the works) at an E3 or something similar.

The_Marshal
The_Marshal

Lame. I was hoping for something substantial, like announcing some significant new 360 exclusives, new Live features/functionality, or new 360 SKUs or at least a legitimate explanation as to why there are no 360s to be found in stores right now. Way to underwhelm once again, Microsoft.

onthe_dl
onthe_dl

way to be completely off topic, who cares about hd dvds or blurays, everythings going to be digitally distributed eventually anyways.

ItachiWillOwnU
ItachiWillOwnU

Wow cant wait to see whats in store for us guess well just have to wait and see

tubbablubba
tubbablubba

they're just tantalizing us so we pay attention to this speech. And it worked.

Gamemaster1588
Gamemaster1588

Wait....there are actually idiots out there saying something about HD-DVD!? Really come on! MS didn't have that much riding on HD-DVD. I mean it isn't like they made it the primary disc reader for there console. People are stupid! And what does this have to do with HD-DVD anyway?

Ra-Devil
Ra-Devil

Stop talking about HD DVD in EVERY M$ related thread please. It's REALLY, REALLY ANNOYING. On topic, this sounds interesting. If I could make heads over tales about it, I might be more intrigued, but I'll just have to wait and see.

expanded
expanded

this news doesn't seem very exciting considering, there's still some hardware issues :/

BoogieManZero
BoogieManZero

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Mystearical
Mystearical

You know, is it just me or was MS waiting for the HD-DVD announcement to poor all of this at us? If you ask me, MS predicted Toshiba's take on the blu-ray and were preparing WELL if you ask me to counter the news! I do admire MS for this actually - pretty clever!

themyth01
themyth01

Nice , very nice, I plan to finally dedicate some time to learn C# so I can begin programming with XNA, hopefully they have more goodies ready for it,.

gww101
gww101

actually blu ray player comes out in may haha big loss not.