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Looking at XNA - Part Two

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In Part One of this series, Boyd Multerer told us all about XNA.

Now, in Part Two, Frank Savage shows it all to us.

Frank will talk about XNA from his perspective, deploy an XNA project to an Xbox 360, modify the application, and also give a debugging demonstration.

All of this is done at 1080p, showing off both the 360's recently acquired ability to support this resolution, as well as the power of XNA. It's really quite amazing: High frame rates at 1080p under managed code using only a single core of the three available.

I think it's reasonable to say that XNA is going to change the way people do homebrew games.

It's going to be interesting to see what kind of crazy stuff people dream up with these tools.

In addition to the nifty XNA bits, Frank and I also chitted and chatted about the good old days of gaming - he worked on Wing Commander III (one of my favorites in the series), as well as other games that I loved in my childhood.

Never thought I'd get to meet one of the people who worked on Wing Commander, so, for me, it was a thoroughly enjoyable geeky event Smiley

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  • MachairaMachaira Jim Perry - Jedi coder
    This was mentioned in the XNA webcast this morning. I didn't expect it to be up today. Sweet! Smiley
  • odujoshodujosh Need Microsoft SUX now!

    So what is the URL to your site Rory.

    Josh

  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    odujosh wrote:
    

    So what is the URL to your site Rory.

    Josh



    www.neopoleon.com

    But it's down right now because my hosting provider really, really, really, really sucks.

    Hoping to have it back up today, but I don't know. The guys I'm working with are doing a terrible job.
  • Sounds fantastic and I can't wait to start writing games for my 360, but I'm curious what the $99 subscription is for? I could understand charging $$ for the dev kit, but without any XBox Live support I doesn't seem to deserve a subscription req.

    DJ
  • Great video. Definitely exciting times ahead for game development.

    I just have a few lingering questions regarding XNA.

    Is it going to (eventually) replace for MDX2.0 ? (which apparently was discontinued in October).

    It seems XNA is strongly gaming oriented, is it pointless to try and create a regular Desktop app that incorporates 3D elements, or do we really have to stick to MDX1.1 as mentioned in this FAQ ?
    The XNA Framework looks much more refined compared to MDX1.1, I'd rather not wade through that again unless I have to.

    Should I even bother with MDX and XNA when it comes to 3D desktop apps, or should I be looking at .NET 3.0 and WPF??

    Maybe it's just me, but when Microsoft throws 3 different frameworks (MDX, WPF, XNA) at you that seem to serve the same purpose, things can get very confusing Perplexed
  • odujoshodujosh Need Microsoft SUX now!
    I think it is to help recoup the the cost of continued development. If you were to release liscensed game for the XBOX I am sure this is less than a tenth of a percent of what you pay in TOC. For many it is already a sunk cost of being an XBOX user. If all you want to do is try it out you dont need a subscription for that. Code afterall runs in Windows. Its like Express and for money versions of Visual Studio.

    Just conjectoring here on reasoning on the why. But you don't need it all if all you want to do is play around.

    WPF is great for 3d rendering for Windows APP. It will be even better once Orcas and Expressions make it out the door. If you have MSDN access I would play with the bits for Orcas. Linq is a dream come true. I been reading the documentation and running the demos. Anyone know when Entity Mapping (part of ADO.NET 3.0) will CTP.


    Expression you can find with <cough> Google.[A]
  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    BrianPeiris wrote:
    It seems XNA is strongly gaming oriented, is it pointless to try and create a regular Desktop app that incorporates 3D elements, or do we really have to stick to MDX1.1 as mentioned in this FAQ ?
    The XNA Framework looks much more refined compared to MDX1.1, I'd rather not wade through that again unless I have to.

    Should I even bother with MDX and XNA when it comes to 3D desktop apps, or should I be looking at .NET 3.0 and WPF??

    Maybe it's just me, but when Microsoft throws 3 different frameworks (MDX, WPF, XNA) at you that seem to serve the same purpose, things can get very confusing


    XNA is for games - it is in no way a competitor to WPF.

    WPF is all about creating rich user interfaces, both on the web (WPF/e) and on the desktop. You could certainly use it to write a game, just as you could use GDI, but that's not really what it's for.

    The frameworks are very different, and, as far as I know, there won't be any WPF (or WPF/e) support for the 360. I could be wrong, so maybe someone who knows more can chime in, but that's what I've gathered.

    The tools shown in this video are all about creating games for Windows and the Xbox 360 using managed code (C# compiled to run against a modifed version of the .NET Compact Framework).

    So, no confusion necessary Smiley

    WPF: For the web/desktop.

    XNA: For games on Windows/360.
  • Tongue Out looks like it was just me.
    Thanks for the clarification guys.
    I'm still excited about XNA though. Like you Rory, I might not be a game dev, but I'll definitley get my hands dirty when it's released
    cheers.
    *runs off to play with .net 3.0*
  • Wow that really is amazing!

  • Rory wrote:
    
    BrianPeiris wrote: It seems XNA is strongly gaming oriented, is it pointless to try and create a regular Desktop app that incorporates 3D elements, or do we really have to stick to MDX1.1 as mentioned in this FAQ ?
    The XNA Framework looks much more refined compared to MDX1.1, I'd rather not wade through that again unless I have to.

    Should I even bother with MDX and XNA when it comes to 3D desktop apps, or should I be looking at .NET 3.0 and WPF??

    Maybe it's just me, but when Microsoft throws 3 different frameworks (MDX, WPF, XNA) at you that seem to serve the same purpose, things can get very confusing


    XNA is for games - it is in no way a competitor to WPF.

    WPF is all about creating rich user interfaces, both on the web (WPF/e) and on the desktop. You could certainly use it to write a game, just as you could use GDI, but that's not really what it's for.

    The frameworks are very different, and, as far as I know, there won't be any WPF (or WPF/e) support for the 360. I could be wrong, so maybe someone who knows more can chime in, but that's what I've gathered.

    The tools shown in this video are all about creating games for Windows and the Xbox 360 using managed code (C# compiled to run against a modifed version of the .NET Compact Framework).

    So, no confusion necessary

    WPF: For the web/desktop.

    XNA: For games on Windows/360.


    Great video.

    Will there be a framework for developing games for the web using WPF and Sparkle, aka Expression Interactive Designer?

    When?

    Cool
  • Nice, looking forward to it! You've sold me on a 360 with this demo.
  • LaBombaLaBomba Summer
    You just sold me on a 360, dead serious.

    This rocks yo! Smiley
  • Christian Liensbergerlittleguru <3 Seattle
    What's the reason for not having an appropriate font support in XNA? That's really a question that interests me...
  • Christian Liensbergerlittleguru <3 Seattle
    Cool video. Why did Frank work in a cole mine?

    Is there a date sheduled for the final release? Answered at the end of the video.

    Great work guys!
  • Was that a 60gb HDD I saw there? I believe it was.

    Now how do we get one of those? Perplexed
  • Is it going to (eventually) replace for MDX2.0 ?

    XNA, for all intents and purposes is MDX2.0
    ... XNA/WPF questions ...
    If you're looking to build a desktop application that incorporates 3D elements, then WPF is definitely the way to go. 

    If you're looking to build an Editor for an XNA application which reuses code (say, reusing the sprite rendering engine for your game in a level editor), then you can render to a control just as you could with MDX. In fact, I've written a control that you can drag and drop onto a form to render with XNA:
    http://codecube.net/item.asp?cc_ItemID=338

    Hope that helps
  • MachairaMachaira Jim Perry - Jedi coder
    littleguru wrote:
    What's the reason for not having an appropriate font support in XNA? That's really a question that interests me...

    Because they didn't have time to work it in. Smiley There's some user-created libraries out there for font rendering though. I'm sure font rendering is on the list of "to do" items.
  • Very cool stuff!

    Great interview! Can't wait to get this!

    I am interested in the security aspects of sharing games. There would need to be someone type of validation before downloading the game.

    I assume that when the game is running on the 360 it has full access to all system resources. It would be scary to have an xbox 360 virus that propagates only on 360s.

    Also do you have to have VS express or can VS enterprise work also?
  • Christian Liensbergerlittleguru <3 Seattle
    Machaira wrote:
    
    littleguru wrote: What's the reason for not having an appropriate font support in XNA? That's really a question that interests me...

    Because they didn't have time to work it in. There's some user-created libraries out there for font rendering though. I'm sure font rendering is on the list of "to do" items.


    I'll go and cut a bitmap/png into pieces and use the pieces as characters. Gives the app also a professional touch Smiley
  • If you want to have a fast game use hardware shaders
     and keep as little code in .NET / C# as possible.

  • damage-inc wrote:
    I am interested in the security aspects of sharing games. There would need to be someone type of validation before downloading the game.

    I assume that when the game is running on the 360 it has full access to all system resources. It would be scary to have an xbox 360 virus that propagates only on 360s.


    Managed titles do not have full access to system resources on an Xbox 360. Managed games run in a sandbox of sorts. They have limited access to the file system and no access to the network stack. While you can certainly run a game that is unplayable or offensive, that game cannot corrupt or infect any other games or the Xbox 360 system/dashboard software. You can get rid of "bad" games by deleting them.

    damage-inc wrote:

    Also do you have to have VS express or can VS enterprise work also?


    XNA Game Studio Express (v1) only supports Visual C# 2005 Express Edition. VCSExpress can be installed side-by-side with other SKUs of Visual Studio 2005. The XNA Framework is just a set of class libraries, and you can reference them from other VS projects, but there are tools included in Game Studio Express that are not integrated into any other project (eg, Content Pipeline and Xbox 360 debugging).

    For more information, check out the XNA team site (where you can find links to the XNA forums on MSDN and the XNA Team blog). You can also download XNA GSE Beta 2 from there.
  • prencher wrote:
    Was that a 60gb HDD I saw there? I believe it was.

    Now how do we get one of those?


    I saw and asked that myself Big Smile
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  • Wow!  A word oft used too lightly... but wow.

    This is my favourite video on Channel9 and that's amongst a peer group of really quite impressive stuff.

    I watched it avidly - twice.  And not just because I was trying to find out when Rory called Frank Mike Big Smile

    I'd spotted the large HD thing too - although (and I don't want to sound snooty) but this isn't breaking news - there've been shots of the >20Gb drives surfacing from Korea and Japan since early November I think.  Good to see it with our own eyes though!

    I think XNA is going to be one of the great advantages of the 360 over PS3. It takes things beyond the "boxes of chips" and the machine specs into the creative fun arena, which ironically was falling out of gaming.  Sony toyed with software tools and the public before (they released a Linux build for PS2) - but let's be honest (and I may be tempting MS bashers here, opps!)  Which company in recent years has the better reputation for software and engaging with users:

    Sony
    or
    Microsoft

    I feel it's clearly the latter.  The Japanese have been worried about the software issues since their MITI govt projects in the 80s!  PS1 and 2 stuff has been impressive and I've enjoyed playing games on them, but without pushing the envelope on the creative side, as XNA and other tools are doing, they will be left behind.  They'll find they have no games with the famed "sweaty palms" feeling

    Top points also to MS for doing this in an open yet sensible way: letting people use tools, not killing the golden goose of premium games and still managing to tap into a new part of the market (after all, your typical enthusiast isn't going to get into giving away £50 games.  Well, not till they chuck the day job!)

    One final point (brevity not my strong point tonight!): is there a plan in place to help get people (enthusiasts) together to learn stuff / have intro classes / swap advice etc.  MS could really get the ball rolling there - even if they then left it to people to socialise and take it to the next level.  It needn't be some uber-fancy conference show; just make it a Channel9 type meeting in a hotel somewhere; do them all over and the people will come.  I'm sure of it.  Yes, this could be done via internet communities, but face-to-face is exactly what this type of learning benefits from.

    Thanks again Rory and Frank.
  • This is amazing. Allowing us to code to the Xbox at all is cool, but to go to so much trouble to make it as easy as possible! Should make game coding fun again.

    Machaira wrote:
    This was mentioned in the XNA webcast this morning. I didn't expect it to be up today. Sweet!


    Can you point me in the direction of the webcast? :O
  • I'll probably have to repost this in the coffeehouse, but here goes. I have an all wireless set up here in my apartment. In the video it's mentioned that you need to have a hardwire network in order to deploy to the 360. With that said is it possible to connect both the wireless and the hardline ethernet into the 360 so that I can keep the 360 and my dev PC on their own network and at the same time remain connected to the internet via the wireless?
  • Of all the Channel9 videos I've seen (nearly all of them), this is the one that has made me the most excited!  I'll be buying an Xbox 360 in the very near future to start playing with this.

    Curious though, is there a reason for why only one core is being used?

    Thanks for the awesome vid Rory!
  • MachairaMachaira Jim Perry - Jedi coder
    mycroft wrote:
    This is amazing. Allowing us to code to the Xbox at all is cool, but to go to so much trouble to make it as easy as possible! Should make game coding fun again.

    Machaira wrote: This was mentioned in the XNA webcast this morning. I didn't expect it to be up today. Sweet!


    Can you point me in the direction of the webcast?

    It was a one-shot only. There doesn't appear to be a replay option for it.
  • jonmjonm Blah..
    The game demo was ridiculous!!  I did not think it possible to create a game of that quality on the first version of the XNA.  I personally, don't care about creating XBOX 360 games.  However, I would like to create PC games without C++.  I also am a huge Wing Commander fan (I still play it on Windows XP, there are some hacks for the Win95 Kilrathi saga so you can play 1,2,3). What ever happened to those games??  EA bought out origin, Chris Roberts left and everything went to crap!!  We need a new game, a multiplayer co-op version.  I shall him XNA Commander!
  • My brain just exploded.
  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    theLawless1 wrote:
    Of all the Channel9 videos I've seen (nearly all of them), this is the one that has made me the most excited!  I'll be buying an Xbox 360 in the very near future to start playing with this.

    Curious though, is there a reason for why only one core is being used?

    Thanks for the awesome vid Rory!


    You should thank Frank Savage for the video Smiley He was a lot of fun to talk to, and, being a Wing Commander fan myself, it was a fanboy experience to get to hang out with him.

    As for only one core being used... I'd guess (emphasis on guess) that it has something to do with simplicity. Given the kind of games that most people are going to create with XNA, that single core will probably be all that's needed. I doubt that most hobbyists will create games on the scale of the racing game in the video (but new, interesting, innovative, compelling games nonetheless).

    That said, there are ways around only using a single core. Frank mentioned that.

    I don't know what those ways are, but they're there.

    Remember, though - this was a demo of a game running under managed code at 1080p - that's the highest resolution supported by the 360. If what you saw was possible with a single core and at that resolution, you'll probably be OK for the foreseeable future Smiley

    But, like I said, the other two cores aren't unavailable - they just aren't used by default.
  • Truly outstanding video.  This interview practically answered each question I had as I watched it;  How will resolutions on the PC and Xbox be supported?  What about debugging and breakpoints?  What about Live support? etc.

    Great interview.  Can't wait for a part 3.
  • Great video. A couple questions remain.
    1) The $99 fee, is that only for developing stuff to gain access to the ability to move content from my PC to my XBox 360 (when I get one)? That is, if my friend doesn't want to develop stuff, but wants to download something I made once Microsoft works out a way to share these things (I would guess they will host them on XBox Live somehwere after doing a virus scan) will they have to pay the $99 fee as well, or just pay a small token amount if anything at all? I don't think the thing will be as good if people just wanting to use the games/applications have to pay the fee as well.
    2) Networking is coming, all well and good, but will this just be between computers and 360s on the local network and XBox Live, or full Internet access. If I made a IGS client for example, would that be able to connect to the IGS server? KGS would be cool, but I don't think you can make clients outside of theirs...
  • BrianAThomas wrote:
    Great video. A couple questions remain.
    1) The $99 fee, is that only for developing stuff to gain access to the ability to move content from my PC to my XBox 360 (when I get one)? That is, if my friend doesn't want to develop stuff, but wants to download something I made once Microsoft works out a way to share these things (I would guess they will host them on XBox Live somehwere after doing a virus scan) will they have to pay the $99 fee as well, or just pay a small token amount if anything at all? I don't think the thing will be as good if people just wanting to use the games/applications have to pay the fee as well.


    With v1, in order to run XNA Framework-based games on your Xbox 360 you must have the $99 / year subscription activated on your Xbox 360. Unfortunately for your scenario this means that you will need to pay while you develop the game, and your friend will need to pay in order to run your game. The XNA team has said that their longer term plan is to open this up with some more sharing options maybe like what you describe with Xbox Live, but they haven't announced any more details about this.
  • This is definitely one of my favorite channel9 vids.  One that I'll download for my archive.  Smiley
  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    theLawless1 wrote:
    Of all the Channel9 videos I've seen (nearly all of them), this is the one that has made me the most excited!  I'll be buying an Xbox 360 in the very near future to start playing with this.

    Curious though, is there a reason for why only one core is being used?

    Thanks for the awesome vid Rory!


    I got a better answer to the question about why only a single core was used.

    Where I was guessing before, this time, Boyd Multerer (whom I interviewed for the first XNA video) emailed me with the answer:

    Hey rory, here is the proper answer to the single core question:
     
    The XNA framework has full support to access all three cores on the Xbox. We even added thread affinity, which isn't available on the Windows version. The reason the racer only runs on one core is that it was performant enough that we didn't need the other two. We'll come up with a sample that uses all three eventually.
     
    --Boyd

    Not only is that more informative than my answer (since mine was basically wrong), but it's a better story.

    I love that the only reason they didn't use the other cores was that it was already performant enough with just one.

    I know I used the phrase "this blows me away" (and variants of it) over and over in the video, but... this stuff really does. I'm floored by what the XNA team has accomplished. Makes me really proud to be a part of this company - like some of that awesomness might rub off on me... Smiley
  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    Soviut wrote:
    Truly outstanding video.  This interview practically answered each question I had as I watched it;  How will resolutions on the PC and Xbox be supported?  What about debugging and breakpoints?  What about Live support? etc.

    Great interview.  Can't wait for a part 3.


    I'm guessing you posted this before you got to the end of the video Smiley

    Breakpoints were demonstrated later on - maybe around 2/3 of the way in (just a guess).

    As for a part three - I'm working on getting a few more XNA videos together (as well as other interviews with Xbox team members).

    It's fun. Even though I'm not a game programmer, I love getting a glimpse inside that world. It's so different from other types of coding.
  • RoryRory Free Tibet While Supplies Last
    Escamillo wrote:
    This is definitely one of my favorite channel9 vids.  One that I'll download for my archive. 


    Very cool Smiley

    I'm going to try to get Frank back on again sometime. He did a great job, methinks.
  • I read yesterday's entry at the XNA blog, and it looks like XNA Game Studio Express won a couple of awards at last week's DEMMX Awards:
    Game Innovation of the Year
    and
    Best of Show: Innovator of the Year

    Congrats to the XNA team!!

    Here's a link to the DEMMX awards:
    http://www.demmx.com/demmx/awards/2006.jsp

  • MalverMalver Look out behind you!
    A bit of confusion:

    Frank says, at one point, that the game could be run on lowered settings on a GeForce 3 card. However, the GeForce 3 series is of the DirectX8 specification, and XNA lists that a DirectX9 video card is required. Is there a mistake on Microsoft's end, or did Frank just made a bad estimate?
  • Hi, new to this forum, but an avid watcher of Channel 9!  What a great video...perfect amount of content and visual interaction. 

    I have been developing software for 12 years and this is very exciting news.

    I have .net, xna, and c#express,  and an xbox 360.  How long will it be before I have the necessary tools to do what was shown in the video?  Q1?


    Thanks!
    Steve


    ps:  My very first RAM upgrade to my PC was to play Wing Commander!Smiley
  • ok, as I wrote that post it gets released! LOL....
  • rhmrhm
    Hi, I'm a little bit late with this so I'm not sure if any microsofties are still watching this thread, but anyway....

    Have the XNA team done anything to deal with the garbage collector locking up the process? I remember when MDX first came out there was a lot of talk about different ways of structuring the renderloop so that WinForms wasn't creating message objects on every redraw, the idea being that they were trying to avoid triggering a generation 1 or 2 collect because that would stall all the threads and make the animation jerky.

    This was always the most significant issue to do with writing games in managed code - not the overall performance, but the fact that the GC would lock up with process for a noticeable amount of time and thus make the animation jerk randomly. Although the GC style of memory management can be as efficient as the explicit memory management used in C++, in C++ the effort is (A) spread out over time and (b) only disturbs the thread that makes the new/delete call most of the time.

    I notice on the video that the XNA Racer game runs very smoothly so I'm wondering, is it just very careful about allocating new memory, or have the Framework team introduced a different collector that doesn't lock up the whole process?
  • So, what is new with XNA? Are there any reason, at all, to use XNA instead of other frameworks besides that it runs on Xbox360?

    I'm having a hard time figuring out what it is that is so speciall about XNA, really.
  • MikeeeGMikeeeG Only the few against the many
    From an amateur of game making skills, I would say that XNA is really cheap . So cheap ,that it is free and it runs under the CSharp canopy.
    Its so easy to work with, a majority of the time.
  • Stevan VeselinovicSteve411 Me, all suited up!
    Imagine being able to create XBOX 360 Applications with this ... sort of like WPF-Style-3D-Enabled-Database-Powered software for the 360 platform.

    Oh man.

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