XNA Game Studio Express

Interesting development over in Xbox 360 land. Microsoft has just released the XNA Game Studio Express package that allows aspiring developers to target both the Xbox 360 and Windows by simply recompiling their C# code. But, as usual, it’s not as rosy as it appears.

My first objection is that to actually run your code on the Xbox 360, you have to subscribe to the XNA Creators Club which will set you back $49 for a 4 month subscription or $99 for a full year. Contrast this with the PS3 model for running Linux — you download some ISO files, copy some files to a memory stick, and install. No additional cost. But even that model is flawed — you still don’t get full access to the machine.

Which brings me to my second objection — the only targets (obviously) are Microsoft platforms. What you have here is a classic example of “Get them hooked while they are young”. Sure, you’ll be able to create games with this. And there will probably be some really nice gems amid the junk. But, at the end of it all, you’ll have learned a proprietary API that only serves Microsoft’s best interest. Count me out.

I’m of the opinion that when you are a new game programmer, it’s best to stick to learning the concepts first, and the APIs that you learn should be generic. You just never know what kind of system you will be targeting when/if you land that big game developer job. Why tie yourself into what Microsoft (or any vendor for that matter) is pushing when you can learn about open standards such as OpenGL and SDL?

It’s easy to get into the mindset that because Microsoft is so dominant that you need to learn their stuff because that’s where everyone else is, but I would say that’s exactly why you don’t need to learn it. As a starting game programmer learn the skills that you can build upon later. Once you have that, learning the latest API flavor of the week will be easy. But, if you learn based on what some vendor is giving you, you’ll be stuck in their ways for a long time.

Please feel free to post comments below — I would love to hear what other people have to say about this as well.

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