Microsoft GameCamp, so close, yet so far…

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Microsoft hosted a GameCamp today on their XNA platform. The XNA platform promises some the ability to target multiple MS platforms and specifically Win32 and Xbox360. The details on the XNA platform are pretty complicated and quite disappointing for anyone looking to develop for the xbox360.

The MS GameCamp didn’t get off to a good start with a poorly executed demo showing the VS C# Express building for Win32 and Xbox360. After much work the game never ran on the Xbox360 and we only saw the load screen Win32 version.

While building the demo ( lots of excitement in waiting for software to compile… ) the MS team took questions from the audience. Fairly quickly the audience started inquiring about the details of the XNA environment on the Xbox360. For starters you need to get a special license from MS inorder to place XNA developed content. The details of license are not currently available yet but it was discussed as $99 USD per year.

Sharing your XNA developed games is also not clear. It would appear that the only way to share games is to provide your friends with the game source and all its resource files ( images, movies, data files etc.. ). To transfer the content to a XNA license Xbox360 you need to compile the game with Visual Studio C# Express. I don’t know too many of my friends that are going to pay $100/year, install VS C# ( and all its dependency ), compile my game and then transfer it to the Xbox360. Oh and wait, we can’t play any network games because XNA for the Xbox360 has turned off networking.

The process of transferring games to thee Xbox360 looked crazy confusing with the MS team spending alot of time trying to get keys exchanged with a special Xbox360 development edition. The presence of the developer edition seemed to elicit alot of questions about why more functionality was not include in the XNA framework. These questions were not well handled and the impression I got was that MS is more focused on large studios and the homebrew market is not as important. Not a good start to the day…

The rest of the MS keynote was a demo of some fairly basic 2D games. It would appear that 3D tools are either not available yet or not included in the XNA tools available today.

After just over an hour, I left the MS GameCamp with a very low impression of the Microsoft XNA Framework. It would appear that developers are far better off using Flash or other web frameworks to target the Win32 platform. Targeting the Xbox360 will only really be available to large development studios and Flash would provide the ability to target other platforms through the web.