Officials from Microsoft have announced the release of the second major iteration of XNA Game Studio Express beta, the software toolset aimed at PC and Xbox 360 homebrew programmers and students.
The update includes the XNA Framework Content Pipeline, a feature allowing the easier importing of 2D and 3D content from third party packages such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Maya and Softimage|XSI. There are also new content importers for .X and the Autodesk FBX 3D asset format.
As well as general performance improvements and optimizations, the new version also includes improved game component architecture with a simpler design, based on community feedback. A new project system also allows users to preview game design and pre-compile games.
The new software will also launch alongside a closed beta of GarageGames' Torque X toolset that combines Torque Game Builder, Torque Game Engine and Torque Shader Engine. More information on this beta can be found at GarageGames' website
. The actual XNA software can be obtained from Microsoft's website
Microsoft now claim that XNA Game Studio Express is being used by 30 universities worldwide, with 150,000 downloads recorded, 30 new XNA communities, 100 user generated tutorials online and more than 60 independent games in development. The new version of the software is described as "near final" with the actual final version due to go live on December 11 and XNA Game Studio Professional available next summer.