XNA Essentials

Game Programming for Xbox 360, PC + Windows Phone


New Tutorial: Storing and Retreiving High Scores

A new tutorial was just added to the site.  It is a section from Chapter 21 in the book.  It shows how to create, load and save a high score list on disk.  It works on the Xbox 360 and on Windows.  It has also been added to the XNAWikiNick Gravelyn started up the site and hopefully it will contain a lot of good content in the coming months.

Happy Coding!


Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0 Unleashed

I am in talks with the publisher about the upcoming book Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0 Unleashed.  The original Microsoft XNA Unleashed book which covered XNA Game Studio Express has been successful and has received many good reviews and has been recommended on the XNA forums many times.  Of course, with a technical editor like Shawn Hargreaves, it is to be expected.

Since there is only a year between XNA Game Studio 2.0 and XNA Game Studio 3.0 we decided to not create a 2.0 specific book.  I was going to create 4 new chapters for networking, but those will just be added to the 3.0 book.  Since the decision was made to not update the book to 2.0, I upgraded the code included in the book to 2.0 and released it yesterday.

Besides networking chapters, the new 3.0 book will also include information on creating 2D games for the Zune.  It will include features that are specific to that hardware device as well.  The book will also include information on distributing games on the Xbox 360 through the Xbox LIVE Community Games service.

All of the items that made the first book a success will be included: Performance Considerations, Physics, AI, Game State Management, Particle Systems, 2D Demos, 2D Parallax Side Scroller Game, 3D Demos, Extending the Content Pipeline (including the new parameters introduced in 2.0), and a complete 3D game.

There is a lot of information coming, so if you have bought the original book and are looking to learn some of the topics mentioned above it may be worth getting it now.  Otherwise, just sit tight and the 3.0 book should be released shortly after Microsoft releases the product (around Holiday 2008).  So it could be as early as a couple weeks after the launch, but could be a long as two months after the launch.  We can all hope for the former.

As always, if there are any questions with the current Microsoft XNA Unleashed book, please ask a question in the book's forum on amazon.com.

Happy Coding!


Updated 2.0 code for XNA Unleashed is now available for download!

I am pleased to announce that the code for the book has been updated and is now available for download.  The files can be located at http://xnaessentials.com/downloads.aspx

As always, questions about the book, or the updated code can be directed to this book's forum located at amazon.com.

Happy Coding!


XNA Game Studio 3.0 is coming

Spring 2008 is when the beta is supposed to be out ... Holiday 2008 is when it should be released.

I can't wait!

Some very exciting things are coming including:

Develop 2D games for the Zune



   Discussion Thread:


Deploy your Xbox 360 game to anyone on Xbox LIVE!



    Discussion Thread:


  General info on Game Studio 3.0


       Things to note is that VS2008 will be used.  I love VS2008, so this is great news.  I would love to be able to use some of the C# 3.5 language features, but it is unknown if any of that will be available yet.  Using LINQ to query a scene graph would be excellent fun!

Lots of information and as much as possible will be in my new book - Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0 Unleashed.  More details on that to follow ...

Happy Coding!


Academic Trial Memberships

There was a press release on December 12th that discussed three main topics:

1. XNA Game Studio 2.0 Supports Xbox LIVE.

2. Microsoft will provide a free trial membership in the XNA Creators Club beginning in January, allowing faculty members and students to use XNA Game Studio 2.0 and Xbox 360 for instructional purposes.

3. Another Dream-Build-Play Warm-Up challenge is underway.


The piece that is new is number 2 above.  Here is the excerpt from the press release:

Academic Trial Memberships
Since its release last December, XNA Game Studio has been an incredible success, with 750,000 downloads, adoption by more than 300 universities worldwide and at least nine textbooks on the tools in development. In subjects from computer science to fine arts, introductory courses to graduate and research projects—XNA Game Studio is helping faculty members and students explore the boundaries of applied gaming technology in education.

Along with XNA Game Studio 2.0, Microsoft will also provide a free academic trial membership in the XNA Creators Club beginning in January, allowing faculty members and students to use XNA Game Studio 2.0 and Xbox 360 for instructional purposes.


There are a couple of universities and community colleges that either have picked up my XNA Unleashed book or are going to this coming semester.  There has been some discussion about providing some extra material to help instructors.  If you are thinking of adopting my book and are interested in any supplemental material, leave a message on the Amazon forum for the book.

Happy Learning!


XNA Game Studio 2.0 Released Today

The XNA Team made the announcement that XNA Game Studio 2.0 has been released.  The Net Rumble starter kit is a good place to see the most anticipated added feature of networking in place.

Some tips if you try to upgrade any of your 1.0 code to 2.0:

1. Make sure you have the Project Upgrade Wizard installed.

2. If you have sound in your project, you will want to open the project with the new XACT tool and then save it under the newer version.

3. If you use Render Targets you should read this local help page.

4. This doesn't require immediate change, but the LoadGraphicsContent and UnloadGraphicsContent methods are now obsolete.  LoadContent and UnloadContent should be used instead.  Shawn has an excellent post about this.

In general, read this local help page (available after installing XNA Game Studio 2.0).

Happy Coding!


Dream Build Play 2008 Warm-Up Challenge Announced

Dream Build Play 2008 Warm-Up Challenge has just been announced.


Make sure you visit the page for all official rules.  They are looking for a game with excellent AI.  In fact, the winner could possibly get an internship with the Microsoft Research guys.  I met a couple of these guys at Gamefest 2007 -- they are some very smart guys!

Here is a small blurb about the judging criteria ... while the chapter in my book on Artificial Intellegence will not be enough to make your game win - it will definitely help get you there. 

Judging criteria
Contest entries will be evaluated by 3 standards:

  • Game A.I. (60%) – Game A.I. will be evaluated based on how it serves the game design, and how it contributes to the game experience. Novelty and originality of the AI is appreciated but not required: a novel use of an existing state-of-the AI method is in itself considered to be innovative. General applicability of the AI concepts/techniques is also valued
  • Fun Factor (20%) - The fun factor will be evaluated based on how the game design creates a positive user experience. This may include how intellectually challenging, relaxing, stimulating or satisfying the game is. A key indicator for the fun factor will be the desire to keep playing.
  • Production Quality (20%) – Make your game world as polished as possible and hook your judges with exciting, entertaining action. Production quality will be evaluated based on how seamless the overall game play is, the quality of the assets used, and the structure, readability and level of documentation of the code.

Entry requirements
To take part in the Silicon Minds Warm-Up Challenge, you must:

  • Be 16 years or older.
  • Live in an eligible country/region. (For full eligibility requirements, see the Official Rules.)
  • Create and submit your game in English.
  • Game size limit: Single uploaded .zip file should not be more than 200MB

Happy Coding!


Gamefest 2007 - Day 2

Gamefest 2007 - Day 2 was good.  All of the big announcements happened on day 1, but it was very exciting to see the animation possibilities with the SOFTIMAGE|XSI Mod Tool.  The advanced debugging session was great!  I will probably create a tutorial on some of the advanced techniques discussed including one I didn't know about -- very cool.

Happy Coding!


Gamefest 2007 - Day 1

Gamefest 2007 - Day 1 was great!  Highlights of some of the things announced today are as follows:

  1. XNA Game Studio 2.0 is the only sku (no longer Express and never will be a Pro).
  2. XNA Game Studio 2.0 sits on top of all Visual Studio skus (Visual C# Express, VS 2005, etc)
  3. XNA Game Studio 2.0 will support networking via Xbox Live.  Certain things will not be available like Acheivements, Leaderboards and Matchmaking.  However, being able to network the Xbox 360 and Windows together in the same game is amazing.  Also, being able to easily setup code to either run a system link network game or over Xbox Live (and of course local multiplayer) is excellent.
  4. XNA Game Studio 2.0 includes Gamer Services (Gamer tags, gamer card, game defaults, privledges, etc)

Day 1 was great.  The top 20 of the Dream Build Play entries were absolutely awesome!  The XNA Framework simply rocks.  Go write great games!