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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 , 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, 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 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: 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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Mike Lopez
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"Community Games are treated as first class citizens in the console and on A few exceptions do exist, however. Notably, community games do not support achievements or leader boards."

There's always a catch. Without achievements and leader boards XNA content will continue to be treated as the tragically less loved step child to the can do no wrong favorite son that is XBLA.

David Hof
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If I recall correctly, the reason Achievements would not be supported is that it would be too easy to abuse for gamerpoints farming.

Luke Rymarz
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They could, at the very least, give out a few points for just playing a community game for, say, 5 or 10 minutes. That way, point farming would be a nearly eliminated, and you'd be giving people a reason to go in and check it out.

Evan Combs
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You could technically still have achievements, it just wouldn't show up on your gamerscore.

Maurício Gomes
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Just the fact that you must use XNA suck...

Bob McIntyre
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Having to use C# isn't great. It's really limiting, and I heard from some companies where I interviewed, companies that were publishing XBLA titles, that XNA's use of C# makes it slightly less than suitable for development. If you just want to make a Pac-Man clone or Asteroids or whatever, the 360 is powerful enough to handle it in a managed environment. But it's just a pain in the butt, especially for any real game programmer who is used to C/C++ code.

Vicente Cartas Espinel
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Anamy, the XBox and XNA are more than capable of moving very complex worlds and, so please stop the myths about managed code not been able to perform well.

And btw, any real programmer can get used to C# in a pretty short time (as he can be used to any language out there). There are plenty of game studios already using C# for their tools or even in their AAA games.

Mike Lopez
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I'm not buying the no Achievements argument due to potential for farming. If there is not an issue with XBLA games there should not be an issue for community games. I suspect the true reason is Micro$oft wants to steer independent developers with more than minimal funding away from the cheap solution.

My real concern is more from the consumer standpoint. I believe consumers will be less likely to latch onto Community games if they perceive them to provide a reduced on-line experience from what they have grown accustomed to and frankly what the 360 does best with Xbox Live. Achievements and Gamer Score may seem like a small thing but consider that pretty much every gamer who has both a PS3 and 360 will always choose to buy a retail game for the 360 every time when it is available on both platforms unless there is some major 360-specific issue exposed in a review. The reason is clearly for the achievements and to invest further in their Gamer Score; the multiplayer game play they can get on either platform.

Robert Schmidt
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For those of you complaining about the "limited" extent of Microsoft's XLCC (language, achievements, etc) one question; you are aware that this is for the most part free aren't you? C# Express is free, Xna is free, Creator's club is inexpensive, what more do you want? Next you'll be complaining that Microsoft makes you design the game, write the code and make your own coffee. Maybe you can work out a better deal for the PS3 or Wii. I can understand offering suggestions for more features, personally I'd like to see support for network games for the PC (apparently in the works), but this negativity is really boring, regardless of how fashionable it may be to hate Microsoft.

BTW Well said Vicente! The C++ snobs should get over themselves. Their complaints about managed code are the same complaints the C coders had about C++ (and I'm sure assembly coders had about C). There are always tradeoffs. To me, a nominal performance hit is a worthwhile tradeoff for getting my game to market quicker, and/or with fewer staff.

Shawn Lehner
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The XNA/C# development environment is more than powerful enough to create amazing next generation games as long as you understand the best practices for achieving optimum performance from the managed runtime. Also, the benefits you gain from development speed far outweigh any performance hits you may suffer in my opinion. Many bad impressions given to people about C# and managed code are spread by C/C++ veterans who have never even used C# or have never given it a fair shake to explore just how capable of platform it really is.

The limitations of XBLCG are so minimal when you consider this is a platform for the masses of hobbyists, enthusiasts, and up-and-coming game studios looking for that start-up opportunity to get into the game development business. XBLCG offers this opportunity with very little upfront investment beyond that required developing the game.

I did see a comparison in a previous comment between XBLCG (Xbox Live Community Games) and XBLA (Xbox Live Arcade) making the statement that because there were features available in XBLA there is no excuse why these features should not be available in XBLCG. One glaring difference between XBLA and XBLCG is that every single game that goes into XBLA passes an extensive Microsoft certification process which includes a direction relationship with a Microsoft account representative. XBLCG on the other hand requires very little if any Microsoft involvement when adding a new game.

Tomas Galler
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it is even more easy

kate Green
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