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Sponsored Feature: Xbox Live Community Games

November 5, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next
 

[In this sponsored feature, part of Gamasutra's XNA microsite, Microsoft's Hawkins presents a comprehensive overview of Xbox Live Community Games, which uses XNA Creators Club and a peer-reviewed submission process  to allow indies to put their games onto Xbox 360, starting on November 19th.]

We are excited to announce that we released XNA Game Studio 3.0 and Xbox LIVE Community Games 1.0 on October 30, 2008. This joint release marks the culmination of a three year initiative to democratize game development and distribution for academics, hobbyists, and indie game developers.

XNA Game Studio provides a managed platform upon which to write rich games that can target Windows, Zune devices, and Xbox 360 consoles. Xbox LIVE Community Games enables game creators to sell their Xbox 360 games to more than 10 million Xbox LIVE members.

How can you be part of this? Read on. This article covers the major improvements and changes we've made to the submission and review process, how customers can acquire and play your game on their Xbox 360 consoles, and how creators get paid for their games.

The Diff Notes (with apologies to Cliff)

Here is a quick rundown of the changes between beta and version 1. I'll go into more detail throughout this article on the following points, so don't worry if you aren't familiar with the beta:

  • Consumers can now play your games. As promised, Community Games will be available to all of the 10+ million Xbox LIVE users! You no longer have to be an XNA Creators Club member to download and play community games. Of course, you still do have to be a Creators Club member to submit and peer-review community games.
  • Creators will get paid. Version 1 will support payment to creators residing in these countries: United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.
  • Games will be distributed in multiple regions. Xbox LIVE Community games will be available in Xbox LIVE Marketplace in the following countries: United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain.
  • Community Games are integrated into the New Xbox Experience. We have a great experience aimed at the consumers of your game. We've streamlined the download experience (no more separate download of the XNA Creators Club launcher--the XNA Game Studio Connect), exposed a community games Marketplace on the console and Xbox.com , and did a ton of other things to put the community game experience on par with other gaming experiences on the console.
  • XNA Game Studio 3.0 improves the game creation process. New platform features make it easier than ever to build your games to take advantage of Xbox 360 functionality.
  • It is easier for creators to share community games. We now enable a Playtest phase of your community game so that you can get others to look at your game before placing it in peer review. In addition, we automatically create a new forum thread for each game you place in Playtest or Review. This makes it easier to exchange ideas and feedback with other creators.

I'll step you through the end-to-end process of submitting your game to the Creators Club Web site, reviewing other's games, downloading and playing your game on the Xbox console, and getting paid.

This article does not cover the art of game creation or delve into XNA Game Studio 3.0. We have lots of resources on http://creators.xna.com, and a great creator community to give you a head start.

I will highlight some of the new features of XNA Game Studio 3.0, but I'll refer you to Frank Savage's article also posted on the XNA microsite for a much more in depth look at XNA Game Studio 3.0.

Important: The game catalog and Xbox LIVE Marketplace has been cleared of all entries from the beta. This means that you must resubmit your game built with XNA Game Studio 3.0.

Profile Enhancements

Before we get started, creators need to provide two more pieces of information for their profile.

1. The languages you speak. This information allows us to show you only games for which you understand the language by default. Your language options are limited to the languages we support in version 1: English, French, Spanish, and Italian. This can be set in your profile under the manage my profile link.

2. Your payout information. This information is required for you to get paid as a creator. You'll need to provide a tax identification number and the other information we need to make direct deposits to your bank account. More details on this requirement can be found here. You can access the payout information through the my business option under the creators menu heading.

Note that you may submit a game before providing payout information, but you won't get paid. It really is in your best interest to fill this out and get the process started.

In particular, if you are being paid out in a country other than the United States, you'll need to send in your tax forms manually or meet with a local ITIN tax firm in your country.

You can find out more details about an ITIN here. Creators who are paid out in the United States can submit their tax information electronically.

Create your game

Creation of your game has not changed significantly from the beta. Make sure you create an Xbox 360 project because you are submitting your game to run on an Xbox 360, not Windows.

Be sure to check out our best practices guide for tips on making your game the best it can be.

Important: You must use XNA Game Studio 3.0 to build your game. Games built with previous versions of XNA Game Studio will be rejected from the system.

XNA Game Studio 3.0

Speaking of XNA Game Studio 3.0, check out some of the new features. We highly encourage you to take advantage of these features and incorporate them into your game.

  • Rich presence information. One of the coolest additions in XNA Game Studio 3.0 is the ability to change your presence information in your game by choosing one of the preselected strings. Presence information allows your friends to see what you are doing in the game.
  • Cross-game invites. This enables your friends to join your game session in progress even if they are playing a different game.
  • Compression. Compress your content and save space.
  • Screen captures. Now you can take screenshots from your Xbox 360.
  • Media support. Enumerate and play media on your Windows computer or Xbox 360.

Please see Frank's article for specifics. Also be sure to check out http://creators.xna.com for other features and expert advice in the forums.

Creation fine print

The submission system accepts only files in the .ccgame format created by the XnaPack utility. You can find instructions on how to package your game here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb464158.aspx. Unlike the beta, you are not required to provide a thumbnail in this .ccgame package. You provide the thumbnail at submission time.

The thumbnail you upload to the Creators Club Web site overwrites the thumbnail in your .ccgame package. The size of the game package you are allowed to submit will vary by the price point you choose.

If you choose to sell your game for 200 points, your game package must be less than or equal to 50 MB. If you choose to sell your game for 400 or 800 points, your game package must be less than or equal to 150 MB.


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