December 11, 2006 12:12 PM PST

DIY games for the Xbox

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Microsoft released free developer tools on Monday that will allow amateurs to make their own video games.

XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 is a framework for creating games with the C# programming language and a content pipeline for incorporating 3D-rich content. It includes libraries of 2D and 3D content that can be applied to games. XNA games can be played on the Xbox 360 itself or a Windows PC. The development tool package is free to download, though a subscription service is required for developers to share the games they create with anyone else with an Xbox 360.

The new tool is part of a push from Redmond to create a YouTube-equivalent for video gamers. Microsoft also plans to release a professional version of XNA Game Studio in 2007 that will allow independent developers to create commercial games.

Microsoft has not enabled the created games to be shared on Xbox 360 consoles by burning them to DVD or a memory card. Instead, developers will need to use the XNA Creators Club, a subscription-based service where gamers can debug, share and play each other's games on the Xbox 360. The club subscription, available in the U.S. via the Xbox Live Marketplace, is $49 for four months or $99 for the year.

XNA-created games can be burned to a DVD or memory card from a Windows PC and played on another Windows PC, but not on the Xbox, according to Dave Mitchell, director of marketing for Microsoft Game Developer Group. The XNA game launcher on the Xbox will only look to one approved location to retrieve games; it will not read DVDs or memory cards. When you transfer an XNA-created game from a PC to an Xbox, XNA uses an encrypted transport and places the game in that approved location on the Xbox hard drive. Only the home-networked PC associated with that Xbox via a generated connection token can create and place games in that location. Players can play or delete a game from their Xbox, but they can't move it, said Mitchell. To share with others, they have to subscribe to the XNA Creators Club.

"We're tremendously excited that people can more easily create games, and now for the first time ever in the history of retail video games, people can play their own games on an Xbox 360. From what I've seen, the community is very talented and I think we are going to see some true innovations as a result of this," said Mitchell.

The XNA platform does not support Xbox Live, the networking which allows Xbox gamers to play against one another. According to the XNA FAQ, that is something Microsoft is "actively working on" to include in XNA's next release.

To generate excitement about the new tool and video game-sharing site, Microsoft is also launching a "Dream-Build-Play" contest in January for the best original game created with XNA Studio Express.

The hardware requirements needed to run XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 are the same as those required for Visual Studio 2005. They include Windows XP SP2 and Microsoft Visual C# Express 2005. A beta version of the software is in development for use with Windows Vista, according to Microsoft.

See more CNET content tagged:
Microsoft Xbox, development tool, Windows PC, Xbox 360, Xbox Live

6 comments

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Games access for young minds
I am not a games expert, don't even know how to make a game, but it seems like if MS wants to be a King with the potential in attracting young game developers to Xbox platform, why charge a fee for the game creation ?

youtube is free, they don't ask for any money, so I don't see how you can compare this with youtube.com

Maybe SONY will wisen up and offer a Educational Development Kit for free, so that people can burn their games to DVD and use it on any machine and not need special permission, for as long as they don't mass produce and sell them for profit.

Quote "Instead, developers will need to use the XNA Creators Club, a subscription-based service where gamers can debug, share and play each other's games on the Xbox 360. The club subscription, available in the U.S. via the Xbox Live Marketplace, is $49 for four months or $99 for the year."
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sure...
Yes, I'm sure we'll see a community game developer kit for PS3 and PC showing up any day now.

I have a hard time seeing Sony getting thier stuff together even in time for PS4, let alone any time in the next few years. I bet they are YEARS from releasing this kind of platform, if they ever do at all.
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Link Flag
Readers misinterpretation to stories
Besides not being a games expert, you show not to be that great of a reader. Microsoft doesn't charge any fee to end-users like us for the game creation, only for their distribution through the Internet and Xbox Live.
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
Link Flag
Good Idea
People often forget that one of MS' strong points has always been their ability to attract developers. When it comes down to it, you can have the greatest platform of all time, but if you can't get the developers then the platform is meaningless.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
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Where are all the haters?
Where are all those Microsoft haters that say Microsoft never innovates and never comes up with anything new? Or those amusing Apple fanboys to say Apple came up with this 25 years ago and Microsoft is just copying it?
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
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