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Microsoft Shows First XNA Studio Tools and Opens up Xbox Live to Developers

by Rainier on March 20, 2006 @ 1:43 p.m. PST

Microsoft today delivered a pre-release version of the first XNA Studio tools and unveiled the XNA Framework to attendees of the GDC 2006. Microsoft also announced that the company is opening its Xbox Live Server Platform to game developers and publishers, allowing them to innovate and extend the Xbox Live experience in their titles.

XNA Studio Eases Game Production Challenges

XNA Studio represents a set of tools and technologies Microsoft is building to help streamline and optimize the game development process.

“Developers need a better way to make games and manage the production process,” said Chris Satchell, general manager of the Game Developer Group at Microsoft. “XNA Studio enables all developers — from major development studios to the two guys moonlighting on a dream project in their garage or dorm room — to create games in new, more efficient ways.”

This community technology preview (CTP) represents the first public opportunity for game developers to get their hands on key components of XNA Studio. Included in the CTP is a pre-release version of XNA Build, which delivers mechanisms for orchestrating, debugging and optimizing the game build pipeline. XNA Build also provides studios with a foundation that helps them easily identify game asset relationships and dependency information to unlock a wealth of benefits, ranging from incremental content builds to assistance in identifying orphaned or unused content. Tools such as XNA Build enable game developers to spend less time building and maintaining their internal tools infrastructure, and more time creating great game experiences.

“Creativity is the core of Ubisoft’s success. Since the very early days of Windows and Xbox, and now with Xbox 360, XNA and soon Windows Vista , Microsoft has provided us with excellent developer tools, support and online services in addition to great hardware,” said Martin Sevigny, director of production technology at Ubisoft Entertainment SA. “With this collaboration, our developers can focus on their creation instead of being constrained by the platform.”

XNA Framework Simplifies Cross-Platform Game Development

The XNA Framework contains a custom implementation of the Microsoft® .NET Framework and new game-development-specific libraries designed to help game developers more easily create cross-platform games on Windows and Xbox 360 using the highly productive C# programming language. Using the XNA Framework, game developers will benefit from the ability to re-use code and game assets in developing multiplatform titles, without sacrificing performance or flexibility.

“We’ve been writing games for the last 15 years as monolithic, single code bases that are growing unwieldy and complex,” said Chris Butcher, lead developer at Bungie Studios. “C# on Xbox 360 lets us think about new modes of programming. It lets us get back to creating a game rather than wresting with code, while maintaining the real-time performance that we need.”

With millions of developers worldwide proficient in C#, the XNA Framework is designed to make game development significantly more approachable for independent and aspiring game developers, while enabling rapid prototyping and concept iteration.

“We were proud to be a launch partner with Microsoft for Xbox 360 Live Arcade, and we’ve been pleased with its success so far,” said James Gwertzman, director of Business Development at PopCap Games Inc. “Anything that simplifies the process of creating great casual games and lowers the development complexity for Windows and Xbox 360 is something we’re happy to support.”

Xbox Live Services Open In-Game Innovation

In addition to XNA Studio, Microsoft today announced further enhancements for extending Xbox Live services with the Xbox Live Server Platform. Using this platform, developers can create their own back-end servers to run alongside Xbox Live. Developers will get firsthand experience with this update — which provides easier-to-manage and more scalable technology on Xbox Live — in the next Xbox Development Kit, expected in May. Microsoft Game Studios’ blockbuster Xbox 360 game, “Project Gotham Racing® 3,” offers an early example of how these services can work; up to 30,000 gamers can easily watch other racers play in real time through Spectator Mode. More recently, in the stunning “Burnout: Revenge” from Electronic Arts Inc., the Live Revenge feature and the Save and Share feature were made possible by functionality that will now be distributed through the Xbox Live Server Platform.

By opening the Xbox Live Server Platform, Microsoft provides developers and publishers with the tools and environments they need to create all-new online game experiences, and delivers the benefits of an open platform for innovation while providing the solid foundation of the full-featured Xbox Live service. Developers will be able to tap into real-time Extensible Markup Language (XML) feeds to update things such as weather, rosters or other changing information. The Xbox Live Server Platform can also be used to support the creation of massively multiplayer online game worlds. In addition,
it will serve as the enabling technology for game developers to unleash their creativity to bring a steady stream of fresh ideas to the Xbox Live gamer community.

With XNA Studio, XNA Framework and Xbox Live services, Microsoft provides a trio of technologies that enable game developers to manage the escalating demands of game production, effectively deliver game experiences across multiple platforms and provide innovative experiences for casual to hard-core gamers in the rapidly expanding online market.

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