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XNA

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Trying to get into game programming as a hobby. I started making database software using vb.net last year and produced some good results. I am fairly confident in my general knowledge of programming. I've read a lot about C++ DirectX and XNA studios. I prefer XNA just because it seems a whole lot easier to program for. How much efficiency/speed will I be sacrificing by using XNA vs C++ DirectX APIs. Can XNA handle a RTS game with hundreds of units and dozens of buildings? And how is the networking abilities of XNA?

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XNA is just a framework. It provides certain things which will make it easier for you to create a game. With XNA you will use C#, which will provide more than enough power for you to accomplish what you want here. C# is syntactically closer to C++ than VB, however if you know VB .NET then you will be able to learn C# quickly enough (as the language details are fairly similar) to dive right into XNA and start experimenting with something like Tetris or Pong.

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Honestly, I wouldn't be too worried about peformance at this point. Get something up and running, then worry about making it run fast. Chances are, if you are careful, XNA will be able to do most everything you can throw at it.

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your first project, no, your first 5 projects, are going to be learning experiences, and arent going to be something you want to market. Don't sweat it if your engine can't keep up to par with state-of-the-art tech. Sweat that stuff once you get hired by a studio.

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