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XNA? MDX? SlimDX? Ohh My!

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LachlanL

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Hmmmmmmmmmmmm


So I've been adding more functionality to my asset database application. Instead of manually adding assets, it now automatically scans the relevant directories and updates itself as needed. As I stated in my previous post, assets are only referred-to by their local filenames (Eg "Textures\Tiles\grass004.jpg"), so it doesn't matter if I add or delete textures, the application automatically adjusts. These names are only resolved to indeces into the texture array on game-engine startup.

I've been pondering a little more about the editor for this game. I'll be working on it again soon, but I'm swiftly realizing how annoying it will be to continue using XNA in a windows form. Currently it works, but you have to do a few crude and un-natural things to your app to get it to work. One of the annoying side-effects is that you have to be designing your form and then copying the modified code into the "real" form code as XNA doesn't play ball with the regular windows-form code. After working on my SpriteSheet and AssetDatabase editors, I've realized that this can involve much tweaking and adjusting of things in the forms designer to get them the way you like. The amount of time spent copying and pasting designer code would really add up (especially if the code modifications weren't easy to identify).

So I've been contemplating my options. My little break into Windows Forms apps seems to be well-timed because there's a few alternatives that are just surfacing:

MDX 1.1


I'm not too happy with the idea of using something which has basically been discontinued, but I'm not looking to be on the "bleeding edge" for this project and people still seem to be using it successfully. However, swiftly reaching maturity is:

SlimDX


Promit & gang have been putting in a fine effort to push this into the status of "viable alternative". Obviously as an indie library, there'll always be concerns about support and bugs, but it's looking pretty good atm.

XNA Game Studio 2.0


Yep, according to this blog post its on the cards for later this year. Aside from some of the other nice-sounding improvements is this little gem: "Host XNA Framework games easily inside a Windows Form". About bloody time! I'm still not happy with the way XNA handles some things (for one, I don't like having to "add" my assets to the project in order to use them), but this goes a long way towards convincing me to stick with XNA a bit longer.

Plain DX9


This may be an option, but it'd be my last one atm. I'm not scared of DX or anything, it's just that I'm enjoying trying out the "Managed Code" thing right now and I'd prefer to stick with it for the current project at least.
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I don't like having to "add" my assets to the project in order to use them

AFAIK, that's only when you use their content manager, which you don't have to use. I'm made quite a few small XNA things so far and haven't had to add any of my resources.

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Yeah, I've thought of that and I'll most likely be short-circuiting it myself from now on. I just prefer (in general) to do things in APIs the way they were meant to be done. I just find that often they build things to work a particular way and going another route can cause all sorts of annoyances (read: bugs) later on. [smile]

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Although it may mean having "a little faith" for an undetermined amount of time, it might be feasible to use MDX 1.1 for the time being, and switch to SlimDX down the line when it becomes more mature. From my perusals of their site, it seems that the changes between the two APIs aren't ground-shattering -- just a change here and there that you could account for ahead of time while using MDX.

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Yeah, I've downloaded the binaries & example source along with the August SDK yesterday and I think I'll do some poking around with it this weekend.

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Having read Promit's post and done some more poking around on the XNA Creator's Club forums regarding the next release of XNA, I think I'll make the switch to SlimDX for my current project. For starters, its only going to be a windows project, no XBox. Secondly, I don't want to wait around for the 2.0 version of XNA before I can work in windows forms with my editor.

I've liked a lot of what I've seen wrt XNA and I reckon in a year or so it'll be a great option for many genres of games. I think I'll probably pick up my abandoned 3D platformer project and give it a whirl on XNA around then. For the moment, it's not a good one for making an RTS, especially if you need a map editor without making your own GUI from scratch.

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