Welcome to this first feature as part of the Microsoft XNA portal at Gamasutra. XNA is Microsoft's collection of software and services designed to assist all types of developers in creating games for an expanding set of platforms. That definition covers a lot of ground, but these days, so does XNA itself.
XNA was first announced at GDC 2004 in San Jose, CA. J Allard introduced XNA as an initiative to create a common set of development tools across Xbox and Windows. The announcement was accompanied by a great deal of excitement and some impressive demos.
Meanwhile, the .NET Compact Framework (NetCF) team had succeeded in porting the NetCF to the Xbox 360 console. Having the NetCF on Xbox 360 opened up the possibility of managed-code and specifically community-built games on the console due to the protected sandbox environment the console provided.
When the XNA Team found out about the NetCF port, they saw that managed-code could radically simplify the game-development process and make it accessible to people who otherwise would never be able to develop viable games in today's market. XNA was no longer only about solving the common issues faced by game developers. XNA was about redefining who could be a game developer.
In Fall of 2006, the team released XNA Game Studio Express 1.0. The response from the community was tremendous; we had hit on something big. At the time of writing, we’ve had over 750,000 downloads of XNA Game Studio Express and the number continues to rise steadily. An even more pleasant surprise was the response from the academic world: students are hungry to learn game development. There are now more than 300 universities worldwide that incorporate XNA Game Studio Express in their curricula.
Because of the success of XNA Game Studio Express, many people now consider XNA to be synonymous with managed-code and community game development. However, the greater part of XNA is actually focused on ensuring that professional developers have the very best support and most productive development tools to create amazing native-code games for Xbox and Windows. The folks in the XNA group create the Xbox 360 Development Kit and the DirectX SDK, which include tools like PIX, and the C++ and HLSL compilers for Xbox.
Just like the XNA Game Studio team, this side of XNA is passionate about enabling developers and justifiably proud that their technologies and tools are far-and-away the leading choice for professional game developers. This work is as much a part of XNA as is managed-code; XNA encompasses the entire continuum of game development: platforms (Windows, Xbox 360, mobile), languages (managed-code, native-code), and developers (students, hobbyists, independents, and professionals).
This site is about XNA, all of XNA. We'll bring you articles that are focused entirely on native-code development techniques, written by the XNA team members who assist in the development of AAA titles, such as Halo 3 and Gears of War. You can also expect to see articles that discuss Xbox 360 architecture and development considerations. And of course, we'll have lots of information about XNA Game Studio as well.
Speaking of XNA Game Studio, we have just released XNA Game Studio 2.0. This is a big step forward for us in democratizing the game development process. With XNA Game Studio 1.0, we opened up the console to the community. The 2.0 release sees us open up the LIVE service on both Xbox and Windows, and early next year we will have some big news on the third and final step toward truly empowering the community. This month, Frank Savage, development manager for XNA Game Studio, will discuss what’s new in XNA Game Studio 2.0 and how we’ve evolved the product to suit the needs of professional developers as well as hobbyists. Take it away, Frank.
Chris Satchell, General Manager