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XNA

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I''m kind of lost between all of this, is XNA suppose to be the next version of DirectX except working across all platforms? Apparently from the article on the main page it seems MS is trying to get Sony and Nintendo to hop aboard, I''m not sure if that''s going to happen, but I have yet to see any type of toolset for XNA. Is it out yet, or is it still vaporware? -John "bkt" Bellone Flipside Software FlipEngine!

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Pretty much, it sounds like a development platform for several hardware/os platforms Microsoft XNA // XNA FAQ. It seems like they're hard selling it with very little information.

Whilst the concept is sound, I can see it coming up against harsh criticsm from Anti-Microsoft spods... Mainly because it seems intent on wiping out the Middleware market.

[edited by - downgraded on June 10, 2004 2:28:12 PM]

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XNA is more than just an SDK. It''s a toolkit including optimization applications like PiX and XACT, along with DirectX Next, and definitions of baseline featuresets for various subsystems like 3D file formats. It''s supposed to be a vendor-neutral initiative to lower the development costs of creating games by allowing for greater reuse and mix-and-match development. It sounds good to me.

Some people will of course raise doom and gloom scenarios for it based on its being developed/championed by Microsoft, but recall that Microsoft has a history of successfully getting lots of vendors to work again for consumer (and Microsoft''s) benefit. See DirectX. See Plug n'' Play.

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aaahhhh...

I bet this thing will cost money. It''s not replacing DirectX; it will "include" DirectX, as well as Visual Studio and what seem to be its own libraries, which must be their answer to "supplying boilerplate code."

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quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
It''ll be free. Read the FAQ. Keep in mind how many developer tools Microsoft has been giving away recently - WiX, MSVC Toolkit 2003, .NET Framework SDK, ASP.NET Web Matrix...


and some visual studio .net 2003s too, but not downloadable

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quote:
Original post by downgraded
Mainly because it seems intent on wiping out the Middleware market.


I think that''s exactly the opposite of what it''s going to do. XNA isn''t destined to replace middleware; rather, it''ll lay down standards and common interfaces for that middleware to follow. The result would, in theory, be much faster integration of middleware into products, along with a reduction in dependencies on specific pacakges. Havok not quite accurate enough for you? Replace it with different package in a matter of hours. The result is a massive increase in competition in the middleware market, which is usually healthy.

It could also mean some very good things for indies, too. Currently, indies have basically no access to professional middleware packages such as Havok. We can''t even write our games with the intention of adding it in after we secure funding because we don''t know anything at all about the interface. If that interface were a public standard, we''d be able to write for it - perhaps using a ''reference'' component in lieu of the real thing, much like the reference rasterizer in DirectX - and plug components in once publishers are interested.

Still, this is mostly speculation. As you said, they''re pushing it hard but not really telling us anything. It could just be a big PR excersise to persuade everyone that "Microsoft cares about your game."

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I like the idea, bash MS all you like they do come up with some damned good ideas at times.
Personaly, I''m not that arsed about it unless you can use OpenGL as your 3D render and call me crazy but i dont see that happening (but hey, i''d gladly be proven wrong)

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Microsoft realized a while back that there really isn''t a whole lot of money in development tools these days. The money lies in consumer / business software, and (to some degree) within Windows. Which do you think MS is more concerned about as a business strategy:

1.) Selling a few thousand copies of Visual Studio at $999 a pop.

2.) Selling several million copies of Windows at $50 a pop (average cost when you factor in OEM prices)

3.) Making it extremely easy to develop for MS platforms - thereby improving the overall "user experience" (translation: keeping customers)

When you have as much penetration as MS does, it''s more of a question of "how much can we hold on to" than "how much can we expand". When you have 95%+ market penetration with your OS, you don''t have room to grow there.

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Agreed. Furthermore, they''re pushing for a future in which software isn''t a good, it''s a service; things like game rentals become much easier if everything''s using a common base technology. Streaming of XNA components to the user''s HD, XNA-level authentication... it''s a business model which could completely reshape the game industry because you don''t make your money from gaining customers as much as you do from keeping them.

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It''s all starting to sound interesting; but how much of this will be accessable to the indie developer? From what it sounds like they''re basically upgrading DirectX and pushing it more into the market while changing the name to XNA. Yes they are making it easier to interface with the PC and the X-box, but is this going to work on Mac, Linux, PS2? OpenGL still seems like a better solution...

-John "bkt" Bellone
Flipside Software
FlipEngine!

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quote:
Original post by bkt
From what it sounds like they''re basically upgrading DirectX and pushing it more into the market while changing the name to XNA.


No, that''s totally not what it is. And the news item on the front page - MS talking about getting the other console firms to buy into the scheme - should persuade you that it''s not just another thing locking people into Windows. Platform-exclusive titles aren''t good for game developers or gamers.

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quote:
Original post by superpig Platform-exclusive titles aren''t good for game developers or gamers.



Agreed, but it *is* good for the console developers. Both Sony and Nintendo have exclusive titles, the purpose of which is to maximise their sales of their hardware. I think this is becoming a thing of the past, mainly because the consumer doesn''t want to cut it any more.

The XNA idea sounds great on paper, but I''m not sure if people like Nintendo or Sony would buy into it, effectively making it Windows only again.

Does XNA rely upon the CLR? If so, Microsoft have hardly been enthusiastic about porting it to other OS''s (sure, the specs are out but they haven''t made their own Linux version for example) - What would make XNA any different?

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The CLR (or rather the CLI) is an ISO standard. It''s up to individual developers to develop a VM for it.

Theoretically, a CLI VM could run just as well as native code on a system like a console, where all hardware parameters are known from conception. It would basically be a VERY thin layer between the hardware and the software (much like directX is...) That''d make life a hell of a lot easier for developers.

But I agree with the sentiment that console hardware manufacturers won''t like it. It means they''ll actually have to compete on hardware capabilities rather than relying on having the "best games" available. The ps2 is clearly behind the xbox and gamecube from a technical standpoint, but it''s the winning console due to it''s availability of games.

There is one clever ploy here that I''m surprised no one pointed out yet, though: Microsoft, as much as they claim hardware isn''t important, sells the console with the best hardware currently. Why would you buy a game for a different platform if it''s available on the X-box in a graphically superior form (assuming you own another system that it''s available for).

Then again, MS isn''t really trying to be in the hardware business in the first place, which means that it would come down to a hardware competition between Sony & Nintendo.

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I''m thinking that Microsoft learned an expensive lesson with the X-Box. Whilst, as you said, it is superior in terms of Hardware specs, it simply didn''t have the titles that the public wanted to buy. I''m guessing that if Microsoft succeed in levelling the playing field with the industry-wide adoption of XNA, they will be able to enter the hardware market again and succeed.

As Oluseyi said previously, Microsoft have a history of bringing Hardware developers together to agree common specs and technologies - mainly because if they have a common base to work on, they can punt more software to the public. I think in terms of developing common bases, they''re becoming vastly experienced. Remember, these are the guys that have developed standard technologies; COM, DCOM, DirectX, Active Directory, .NET - each time they step forward they leave the floor quaking. Provided they can get hardware-developers buy-in, XNA will be a success.

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quote:
Original post by downgraded
I''m thinking that Microsoft learned an expensive lesson with the X-Box. Whilst, as you said, it is superior in terms of Hardware specs, it simply didn''t have the titles that the public wanted to buy.

Depends on what public you''re aiming at. The Xbox was meant to be more for the average purchaser of games (which is not the teenage crowd). I don''t have stats on units but many Xbox games have been snapped up and continue to do so.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I don''t think the exclusive titles stuff would matter. ''Cos Nintendo and Sony will continue to offer advantages to developers so they keep releasing titles exclusively, or first on their consoles. Offer a more lucrative margin and the developers will sign with you, even if it would be easier to release it for several different hardwares.
And besides, Nintendo''s triumph has always been their own title catalogs, so this wouldn''t matter to them. In fact, if it was easier to develop to gamecube, many developers wouldn''t have abandon it. Or can you get loads of sports titles for it?

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
I don''t think the exclusive titles stuff would matter. ''Cos Nintendo and Sony will continue to offer advantages to developers so they keep releasing titles exclusively, or first on their consoles.


I was about to respond with But the point is, they won''t be able to keep the titles platform-exclusive if they''re all using the same technology, but I''ve just realised that may well not be true. Sony, Nintendo and MS could all use different formats for their CDs or whatever, and that would let them keep their exclusives while making practically no difference to the developer...

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You have to understand that there is more money in the software than the hardware. Most (all?) consoles are sold at a lost and the money is made up with the games. That is why all the games must be blessed by the makers of the console.

Now, flash foward in time, all consoles are running XNA. Makers like Sony and Nintendo are losing money, but for each one they sell they have to send Microsoft $10 (or whatever). Microsoft is making money even though others are losing. They would also probably get a cut of each game that went out.

So the tools are free, but you won''t be able to sell the final game without sending some money Microsoft''s way. We all become Microsoft employees at that time.


- onebeer

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I don''t think MS ultimately cares about hardware. The X-box just seems like a more experimental thing than anything. MS is in the software business - and they always have been. It stands to reason that they''re going to continue to do so.

If XNA succeeds, I fully suspect the following:

1.) Hardware will become more expensive.
2.) There will be fewere hardware developers.
3.) Games will be developed faster
4.) You can get most games on your platform of choice
5.) Sony & Nintendo will focus more extensively on the software side of their businesses, as it will be harder to make as much money from the licensing fees.

I''m more worried that it will have the effect of making Nintendo abandon hardware development and go the route of Sega (only doing software), leaving only Sony to develop hardware (can you say "anti trust"?)

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why would microsoft be getting $$$ for sonys console sales? surely XNA is just like Direct X and AFAIK MS doesnt get royalties for that.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
> I don''t think MS ultimately cares about hardware.

On the contrary. It''s all about fighting commoditization; both hardware and software are involved in this. The only business strategy against becoming a commodity is to relentlessly innovate, either incrementally or radically. Otherwise you''d better be bloody good at marketing & managing your sales channels (like Dell, IBM, and HP/Compaq) as there is little other sustainable competitive advantage in a commodity-based market.

You need to understand you need to ship software products that are aimed slightly beyond the current hardware''s capabilities and content developers'' skill sets so that the sales of the product extends throughout the entire product life cycle. If you aim too low, you get tossed aside because you''re an ''also-ran''; too high and you incur heavy loss while the market cathes up to you or worst, goes into an entirely different direction. DX3-4 was aimed too low and nobody used it; DX5-6-7 were aimed dead center, but their usefulness was limited in time forcing rapid introduction of DX updates. DX8-9 were aimed slightly above the mark; it''s been almost 3 years since introduction and still very much relevent today.

XNA follows the same pattern; it''s aimed at hardware that are coming along in the next 6-18 months. It''s also slightly beyond content developers'' skill set so not to ''piss them off'' early on.

Microsoft innovates by combining software products into single offerings; that''s how they compete. XNA, like DX9, combines several multimedia libraries into a simgle offering; but now they combine support for multiple platforms as well. You can''t tell exactly when hardware will be ready and what is going to be the feature set, and each platform hardware live in different market spaces and have different rates of innovation. It''s a gamble by a long shot, but if they aimed right this time too there is a big payoff in the end.

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quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
It''ll be free. Read the FAQ. Keep in mind how many developer tools Microsoft has been giving away recently - WiX, MSVC Toolkit 2003, .NET Framework SDK, ASP.NET Web Matrix...


I read the FAQ, and it currently states:

quote:
Q: Does Microsoft XNA mean added costs for game developers?
A: No. XNA does not change the way that developers get tools from Microsoft today. The existing process for developers to get access to both the DirectX SDK and the Xbox XDK will remain the same. Costs for Microsoft XNA technology, tools, services and support will be the same as always. Microsoft XNA allows developers to put their money where it matters-making great games.



I don''t see where this gives any hint of it being free. It won''t cost any more than the current tools is what I see it saying, and I didn''t think the XBox XDK came cheap. As I see it, XNA will probably be as out of reach as the official XBox dev tools are, as far as indie developers go. If there''s anything I missed in reading this, please let me know.

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