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Ideal .net game development platform for beginners?

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My full-time job is teaching both computer networking as well as programming at a high school. We have a few courses that teach Visual Basic and then transition into programming with both the CLI and GUI with C#. Last year I tried to shake things up a bit and make the course more interesting by introducing XNA and providing a myriad of examples and tutorials on how to develop simple games with XNA.

This got me thinking of GameDev.net a bit.. I'm wondering how useful it would be for us as a site (or me if I so choose) to try to start collecting a ton of XNA resources together that I think both the community at large as well as my students. I was pretty gung ho about continuing with XNA until Promit posted a rather depressing view of the future of XNA.

But then I saw someone post a link for something called the delta engine. I really wonder if it would be worthwhile for interested community members of GameDev.net to try to get behind an initiative like this and support some of the .NET developers of our site with something that would make cross-platform publishing a bit easy but would also make game development a bit easier for beginners in particular. Maybe this would involve a beginner tutorial series or something.. I don't know.

I know SlimDX is out there and I've certainly found it to be extremely easy to use, but I the delta engine is something different.. it is filling in a lot of the gaps I wouldn't want my own students to worry about just yet.

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So while this entry is short, I'm wondering if anybody else has any other comparable managed alternatives to XNA that have similar features to the delta engine that are free and simple to use as a platform for beginners.. or if you think the delta engine looks like a pretty good project to get behind and start creating tutorials.

Dec 02 2011 12:20 AM

Have you tried Unity3D engine?
The Indie version is awesome, can publish to PC, MAC and web.

The games I tried to make in XNA in a few months, I created in a few days using Unity3D.

Can program in C#, Js, Python.

Dec 02 2011 10:18 AM
Well one it's just a class right? I mean we're always saying to learn the concepts not the tool. You have to be able to apply that knowledge to other platforms. So even if XNA is going the way of the dinosaur, I don't see any reason not use it in a classroom setting. Plus it can connect to Xbox, PC, and WP7. Granted the Xbox and PC options are probably the most interesting especially to HS students. However the point is that the impending death of XNA which is what.... 2 years away, shouldn't be a reason not to use it. Plus, even after it's "death" you'll still be able to use it to deploy to PC, Xbox, and WP7 anyway.

In short, XNA is still a viable solution/tool for your class for the foreseeable future. XNA won't be going the way of Perma-death, time-bomb, server's-been-formatted death at all.
Dec 02 2011 03:14 PM
As far as C# game development goes, Unity has positioned itself as the big game in town. If you are going to back an alternate platform, there needs to be a fairly compelling reason to do so.

Now, I happen to think that there is such a reason: the free version of Unity is far too crippled to be widely useful, and the pro version comes with far too high a price tag to be a reasonable teaching tool.

However, my impression is that a comparison of Delta vs Unity will reveal a get-what-you-pay-for situation vis-a-vis convenience and ease of deployment...
Dec 02 2011 05:11 PM
A choice I am considering right now is Axiom3D , it's a fork of Ogre3D, essentially they reprogrammed the engine in 100% managed code, and it targets both OpenGL (via OpenTK) and also XNA... so this might be a good choice.

Its main advantages are that it's 100% managed, cross platform and open source, so if you have the purpose of learning/teaching, I think it can be a good choice to see how a 3D engine works under the hood.

Its main disadvantage is that it tries to keep with Ogre3D main development, so it's lagging behind in terms of features... but, if your expectations are not very high, I think it has a good usability/feature rich balance.

About Unity, I tried to use it myself, but I didn't liked it, since I like to be able to touch every element of a project... Unity 3D does everything for you, which is good for fast development, and also bad if you want to follow a path different than the one dictated by Unity. Also, Unity hides a lot of the complexities of game development, which, again, is good for fast development, but maybe not so good if what you want is to teach how these difficult things are done.
Dec 02 2011 08:45 PM
That is true.. but it is the abundance of educational resources for XNA that make it an ideal choice for me as a teacher. My concern with Unity is how easy it will be to create 2D games for kids who are more 'Microsoft Paint' than anything in terms of content production tools. I'll have to look into Unity though as I'm more ignorant to what I'll be able to get done with high school kids than anything.

I also think in terms of producing useful stuff for gamedev.net for other beginners.. Ideally I'd like to make Gamedev.net useful with tutorials that my own students could use to get started as well as anyone else. I'm just wondering if our own members could do a pretty good job with beginner-oriented tutorials that target some newer technology.

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