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GDC 2008 - Monday

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Meant to post this yesterday, but I met some interesting folks and got busy talking to them, anyways, here goes.

I attended the morning sessions of the XNA Developers Day. Overall the sessions were of mild interest, and some of the information was helpful.

The first one being about the new networking components that are integrated into XNA Game Studio 2.0. Pretty much the jist of the talk was that XNA takes care of pretty much all of the work, letting you focus on writing your game, and not the necessary components to deal with the networking aspects of the platform you're on. Luckily for us, networking is supported on the XBox 360 and PC platforms. The current libraries available in the express editions allows you to create lobbies, and find/join existing lobbies. Although no centralization exists, and you can't tie the games into personal profiles. Voice "just works" as they say, although you do have the ability to enable and disable it on a per-connection basis.

The second session dealt with the content pipeline in XNA 2.0. For those of you who are using XNA 1.0, significant improvements have been made on the content pipeline, allowing much easier integration of custom formats, readers, writers, and processors. Its pretty much just write your plugin, and drop it in. Good news for us. Overall the talk emphasized mostly just the ease of use of the new content pipeline. I was dissapointed at the lack of ability to chain processors automatically. While you can chain processors, the only method to do it is via a proxy processor that handles the action of chaining, not very clean.

The third session before the lunch break dealt with the new XNA "pro" stuff, which requires an XBox 360 dev kit, but does allow you to write games that could ultimately be published to XBox Live Arcade. The API has been kept as close to the XNA Express content as possible, and most of the capabilities of it are just plug and play. Things like achievements, and leaderboards all work pretty much in the background, with you just needing to do the work of updating when they are triggered. This means that there is a path available to go from a Creators club game to a full on XBox Live Arcade game, without rewriting your application entirely in C++. Of course, you will need a dev kit to ultimately compile and test it, but assuming you have a game already, that shouldn't be much of a problem to acquire, assuming you meet the requirements, either through the Arcade group or via an account manager (at MS).

Met up with superpig, Oluseyi, Drew, and various other peeps... (maybe.) We talked for a bit, said "hai!" and then Oluseyi dragged us off to another session of "Wasting time with GameDev."1 Then we wondered around for a bit, and I ended up missing the two sessions I actually wanted to see at the XNA tutorial ('CLR Performance on Windows and Xbox 360', and 'Understanding XNA Framework performance').

I did catch the final episode of the day 'Advanced Debugging with Game Studio 2.0', hosted by Frank Savage, overall the information wasn't what I would consider overly advanced, but I did enjoy it...especially the part where I helped to fix some of his code, he accidentally missed a 'public' on one of his constructors so the debugging example didn't go as he had planned... mind you, he was writing this live on the stage, and accidents are bound to happen. Deer in headlights syndrome. He was amusing and a good speaker, and I'm glad to see that somebody is getting the knowledge about some of the most useful parts of the diagnostics API of the .Net Framework out there.

1 "So ends yet another episode of wasting time with Faye." Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. If you don't get it, don't worry about it, its amusing.
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