At the Game Developers Conference this year, we announced our launch of Microsoft® XNA® Game Studio 3.0. We talked about an exciting new feature – the ability to develop games for your Zune® device! In this article, we’ll summarize for you the capabilities of running XNA Framework games on Zune, and explain how you can make the most of gaming with your Zune.
One of the cornerstones of XNA Game Studio is the cross-platform compatibility of the XNA Framework APIs. On Windows® and Xbox 360®, more than 95 percent of the APIs are the same across networking, graphics, audio, input, and storage.
The same is true of Zune—with a couple of notable exceptions. Probably the most obvious is that Zune doesn’t have a 3D hardware accelerator built into it. This makes most of the 3D graphics APIs less valuable since, without hardware acceleration, there isn’t enough CPU performance on even the fastest Windows computers to emulate what a 3D graphics processor can accomplish. However, the 2D SpriteBatch APIs are available, and Zune is quite capable of rendering a lot of 2D sprites, even with alpha blending turned on.
Since it started life as a media player, the typical Zune likely has a bunch of audio tracks on it as well. There are new APIs for Zune that allow games to discover the audio content on Zune and play back this content as music during the game! (The APIs are coming soon for Xbox 360 and Windows as well.)
Let’s take an in-depth look at the device, each API namespace in the XNA Framework, and some of the key differences you can expect on Zune.
All the Zune devices have a fair amount of “stuff” in common. They all have 16 MB available for the game to run in, a 320×240 display with varying DPI depending on the device size, and some type of mass storage capability ranging from 4 GB flash to 80 GB of hard drive. All the devices have built-in wireless networking as well, which is available to game developers through the XNA Framework network APIs.
While the development experience is similar to the Xbox 360, it is much more seamless. You plug your Zune into a PC that has XNA Game Studio installed, run XNA Game Studio, select Zune as the debug/deploy device, and start developing! Zune automatically switches to the “connect” screen when it detects XNA Game Studio trying to attach; you don’t need to run a special application on Zune.
Games on Zune appear in their own category in the Zune UI and look and feel like other media on the device. The icon and description you provide in XNA Game Studio are copied to the device – this means browsing to games is as rich an experience as browsing to other media. When you “play” the game, it loads and plays just like other media. Once you deploy games to the Zune, you no longer need a PC connection to run them; they just work like any other media on the device.