August 13, 2006 9:00 PM PDT

Play your own Xbox game

Microsoft is trying to turn hard-core gamers into Xbox programmers.

The company plans to show off on Monday a new set of developer tools that will let college students, hobbyists and others create their own games for the Xbox 360 console, for a Windows PC or both.

Dubbed XNA Game Studio Express, the free software is expected to be available in beta form by the end of the month, with a final product available sometime this holiday season.

"The tools we are talking about make it way easier to make games than it is today," said Scott Henson, director for platform strategy for Microsoft's game developer group. Microsoft will demonstrate the new software at Gamefest, a company-run show for game developers that takes place in Seattle this week.

The approach is similar to one Microsoft has taken with software development in general, selling its Visual Studio tools to professional programmers while making a more limited "express" version free to hobbyists.

Microsoft released the first version of its XNA tools for professional developers in March 2005, ahead of the Xbox 360's release the following November.

With the hobbyist release, the software giant is hoping to lay the groundwork for what one day will be a thriving network of enthusiasts developing for one another, something akin to a YouTube for games. The company, however, is pretty far from that goal.

In the first incarnation, games developed using the free tools will be available only to like-minded hobbyists, not the Xbox community as a whole. Those who want to develop games will have to pay a $99 fee to be part of a "Creators' Club," a name that is likely to change. Games developed using XNA Game Studio Express will be playable only by others who are part of the club.

Next spring, Microsoft hopes to have a broader set of tools that will allow for games to be created that can then be sold online through Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade. Microsoft will still control which games get published, and it'll get a cut of the revenue.

Down the road, probably three to five years from now, Microsoft hopes to have an open approach, where anyone can publish games, and community response helps separate the hits from the flops.

That would mark a major shift in the gaming world. While people have long been able to create their own PC software, console game titles have historically been created by a far more limited set of developers.

Everyone says they could do better if only they had a chance, says Envisioneering analyst Richard Doherty. Now gamers can match their skills with the pros, he said. "They may not have a popular game, but they can at least try it."

Plus, in creating a new outlet for enthusiasts, Microsoft is looking for one more way of winning the hearts and minds of the hard-core gamer set ahead of the release of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii, both due later this year.

Sony tried something somewhat similar with the original PlayStation, releasing in limited quantities a $750 add-on kit called the Net Yaroze that let people write their own games.

Part of the impetus for expanding the pool of developers is the growing expense of making major video games. Many games take 18 to 36 months to develop Henson said, meaning big game companies only want to back sure hits. "Future titles look like existing titles," he said. "There's not a lot of branching off and taking risks."

A particular target of the new program is colleges, with Microsoft having signed up 10 universities to use the new software as part of their curricula, some as early as this fall.

Doherty said Microsoft is the biggest beneficiary of the program as the effort both helps tie gamers to the Xbox and potentially leads to new ideas.

"I think some new talent is going to come out of it," Doherty said. "I'm not saying it's going to be 'American Idol.'"

See more CNET content tagged:
hobbyist, game company, Microsoft Xbox, enthusiast, gamer

26 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
open source....microsoft?
sounds like an open source development community but of course it's microsoft. We'll just have to see. There are many homebrew developers for the playstation 2 and the xbox but no support from the actual respected companies this will be a change definatly but will it be nice.
Posted by rippleAdder (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not even close to open source.
This will be highly restricted license-wise and library wise.
Posted by UntoldDreams (91 comments )
Link Flag
Playstation 3 sheme better
With the Playstation 3 you can develop on the PS3 in any format you choose on IBM's open source Cell proccessor.

With XNA as the engine, the game remains MS' property.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ah... you're kidding right...
The Cell Process "IS" propeitary. If you make a game that runs on the Cell processor there is NO WAY this game will run on any other system. You would have to port it. With XNA, when you develop it for the 360 then it is suppose to require little effort to port to windows. However, when you develop for the Cell the whole process is more complex and requires coding for special hardware. Hardware that is not even close to any existing console or PC OS. PS3 = Ballon Development costs. That has already been documented by several development firms that actually develop for the PS3.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
Huh?
You do realize that the XBOX 360, Nientendo WII and PS3 all have IBM Risc Processors. The cell essentialy is modification of the same CPU Family. As far as development goes on the PS3 you cannot write any games and publish them without a Dev Kit from Sony and you will have to purchase that. There are no true "Open Source" game development projects on any of these consoles.
Posted by Captain-Atari (80 comments )
Link Flag
BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
That is the single most retarded comment of the day. With multi-million dollar developers pulling there support for the PS3, you think you're going to design a game for the Cell architecture???!!!
Posted by Gronar Snaggletooth (35 comments )
Link Flag
Keep it American!!!
Keep it American -- Buy XBOX only!!!
Posted by maverick_nick (205 comments )
Link Flag
Sony should use this as a lesson
There are many people and groups hacking around on the PSP to make homebrew games and apps. Yet each patch release, Sony closes off the holes that are used to allow users to run those homebrew apps.

Homebrew is here to stay. Companies like Gamepark have based their entire business model. MS realized this when XBox Live Arcade started pulling in more cash for tiny games made by small developers than the $60 disappointments by large developers.

Knowing Sony, if they did make a hobbiest devkit, it will be $999 and only other people who paid that $999 will be able to play your games and you won't be able to burn them to a disc to distribute.
Posted by jgoewert (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sony is a couple steps further than you think
Sony will have a "development kit" (although not the offical devkit) that will come with the Playstation 3. It will include a version of Linux pre-installed on it's hard drive. This means it isn't necessary to hack or reverse engineer anything. Now, any software developer can use any tool he wishes. They only thing they must include with that is a C compiler for the Cell arcitecture; which does (or at least will) exist considering that there is going to be a Linux kernel on Cell.
Posted by Datalus (5 comments )
Link Flag
Return of simple amateur games?
Could it be return of simple interesting computer games we all loved when PCs were only born? Honestly - can't wait. I'm tired of cashing out $50 for remake of game I was cashing out $50 many times already.

If all goes well, M$ would need an iTMS analog for computer games, where indies would be able to sell their games.

Of course if M$ wouldn't screw up as it did with digital music.
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed
At least at the core of XBOX it is windows (while slimed down) it still is windows so it could be converted to run on the PC with a little hacking plus it will probably support a more featured and easy to use language then just hacking away with x86 Assembler, C or C++. At least then some indie studios with Java or the .NET methodology could come and create some awsome titles for the community. Besides in actuality wouldnt the MS XBOX be more protable because they already have ways of running linux on them so couldnt you just install OpenGL and just create your games on that framework. I dont know sony has a lot of ways of being non-open but at its core its all just a glorified PC, i look for the WII to be the technology to program for, as it has a more intresting input scheme then the standard analog controller that only interfaces with simple to complex button permutations.

- Mike
Posted by mxrss (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not x86
They are talking about Xbox 360, not Xbox. The Xbox is Pentium III based, which is x86. The Xbox 360 is PowerPC based, not x86.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
XNA Game Studio Express
Microsoft has recently released XNA Game Studio Express ($99), which is a more basic version of its XNA Framework, which will allow anyone with a Windows (gee, no Apple support?) PC to design Xbox 360 (gee, no PS3 support?) video games. Actually, on the surface I think this is pretty cool. Good idea. Heres where it becomes a bad idea.

According to Microsoft vice president Peter Moore, the XNA Game Studio Express, will let anyone with the desire, create their own video games and then share them on Microsoft's Xbox Live online game service.

Lets recap, shall we?

Pay $99 for a cool video game programming toolkit. Good idea if youre so inclined.

Develop your great ideas for video games and possibly launch a lucrative career as a video game programmer. Good idea if youre so inclined.

Share said designs & hard work with other Xbox live gamers. Maybe a dumb idea, as someone may steal your idea & pawn it off as their own.

Share said designs & hard work on a Microsoft sponsored web site, which they no doubt will be perusing so they can innovate. A company known for stealing ideas & crushing competitors with anti-competitive tactics. An EXTREMELY dumb idea.

Makes sense if youre Microsoft though. Why pay programmers for the next great idea in gaming, when you might be able to get it for free. Hopefully the people who use this product wont be blinded by the Microsoft PR machine. If their smart enough & talented enough to design video games, they should be able to blow away the smoke screen.

Just say NO, to Microsoft.


Im Guessing
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://imguessingblog.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://imguessingblog.blogspot.com</a>
imguessingblog@gmail.com
Posted by imguessing (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
FUD
and open source is orginal? News flash buddy microsoft is not the only company to steal ideas, Apple Anyone or have we forgoten that no Apple Did not invent the UI but copied it from Xerox while they were not looking. Isnt that what OS is about inovating for another company to use. Come on, ms does not say anywhere you have to make your source, assets or even design docs avail? Your baseless argument just stymes from the fact that you hate any company that uses the idea of another to create a competing product. And if a programmer knows how to port they will not just use the XNA toolkit besides is it really MS's responsiblity to make a totatal toolkit that is free re-read because you think that you have to pay to use the toolkit you have to pay if you want to release your games. How many ideas have MS stole vs. How many ideas has IBM stole you tell me that. And sony is the epitimy of propritary, they own the DVD's they own the Hardware they own the components for making every part. Open? Yea you can use the Linux Packages to run PS games but only certain ones with a certain op-code and certain hardware.



- Mike Roth
Posted by mxrss (35 comments )
Link Flag
MS dropped the ball on this one.
I initially disagreed with you until I read about the FAQ for this. In order to play another person's game you must download their source and art resources, build the game on your PC and then download it to your XBox 360. This is both inconvenient and others get to see your source code.
Posted by pch4101 (23 comments )
Link Flag
What if I just want to make a game?
Well?
What if I just want to design a simple game for the xbox, for anyone to play, emulate, steal and/or improve upon. Just for fun.

How is this a bad thing now?
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Gimme a break!!!
First you talk of no support of rival brands, like Apple and Sony. Then you talk about the protection of intellectual property. Just as you wouldn't want anyone to have a free-for-all with you hardwork, Microsoft feels the same way. Why should they enable support for their rivals? -- that would be idiotic!

Besides, if you have a problem with Microsoft taking the basic idea of your game to build a luctrative version of it, then keep your idea to yourself -- nobody will have privy to your intellectual property, and it will have no value anyway.

What happened to the patriots of this country, huh? KEEP IT AMERICAN!!! XBOX ONLY!!!
Forget about Sony -- that *** crap :&gt;
Posted by maverick_nick (205 comments )
Link Flag
Gimme a break!!!
First you talk of no support of rival brands, like Apple and Sony. Then you talk about the protection of intellectual property. Just as you wouldn't want anyone to have a free-for-all with you hardwork, Microsoft feels the same way. Why should they enable support for their rivals? -- that would be idiotic!

Besides, if you have a problem with Microsoft taking the basic idea of your game to build a luctrative version of it, then keep your idea to yourself -- nobody will have privy to your intellectual property, and it will have no value anyway.

What happened to the patriots of this country, huh? KEEP IT AMERICAN!!! XBOX ONLY!!!
Forget about Sony -- that *** crap :&gt;
Posted by maverick_nick (205 comments )
Link Flag
BomberMan clone coming soon?
I look forward to some decent clones of the Japanese Bomberman games from the 90s!
Posted by ChrisSpence (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MasterTronic will live again!!!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastertronic" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastertronic</a>
Posted by baswwe (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It was only a matter of time...
It was only a matter of time!

before MS took their best skill and flipped it on the gaming industry with a solid console to back it up.

Developer Tools (in case you were wondering)!

I'm a db/business/web/bunch of other sh*t developer (.NET, check it out sometime), all because M$ gave me the tools to do it on a decent (if setup properly, secure) platform and with a great bang to bullets set of developer tools.

Tiny game developers will now hopefully gain access to all the guns the big boys use when developing good games. This will in fact create some good games.

I see some comments regarding open source.. m$?
This isnt open source, so shutup!!!

But dev tools and getting programmers to back those tools, and r*tard_ing them down so the idiot who wants to, can use them&

You get my point.

Open Source vs. Billion Dollar Dev Tools.

Thats really where the fight is going on.
Posted by pcpimpster (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.