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GS: And the videos, tutorials, and white papers and whatnot, are those going to be available free or will there be a charge associated?
DM: There are two levels. We are certainly going to be providing a number of these resources for free. Everything on the Windows side is for free, you can download the tool, you can build games for the Windows environment, and there's no cost, no obligation to do so on the Windows environment. We want to make sure people are successful there as well, so there will be some tutorials, samples, starter kits, and videos that will help you be successful.
On the XNA Creators Club, this is a membership, and in many ways it's an investment in really learning the techniques, the trade, different genres of game development, and these are for really the more serious people who want to make games. It's not just about creating games for the Xbox 360. It's really about access to premium content, premium models, premium textures, premium videos and tutorials, and more advanced topics, and ultimately the members of the Creators Club are going to be the ones at least initially that are going to be able to go through this process of getting their game out into the wider community marketplace.
GS: And what's the difference between the Studio Express and the Professional service?
DM: Right. We've announced XNA Game Studio Express, that's the product we released yesterday, as well as XNA Creators Club, and that really a product targeting hobbyists, academics, and small indie game developers. People who otherwise would not have access to the Xbox 360 developer kit or ever write an Xbox game. Now we're providing them with a capability of doing that in a pretty unique way. The Professional product is built upon that technology, but is for commercial game developers and commercial game development. And so you can imagine for example that an Xbox Live Arcade title that's going to go through full certification and become a retail title on Xbox Live Arcade or even pressed onto physical media, that requires a different level of requirements and also requires access to Xbox Live. There's all those APIs, achievements, leaderboards, the whole nine yards, and that's what Game Studio Professional provides. It provides all the remaining pieces, the bells and whistles, all the necessary tools and libraries, and the certification capability to make a commercial title on the 360.
GS: What do you think of the what the PlayStation 3 has been doing with Linux and such? Do you think that they are going for a similar route here?
DM: On the one hand I've got to commend them for moving up their platform there, but we really don't view what Sony and PlayStation 3 and particularly the Linux solution that they are making available, we don't really view that as a competitive offering or trying to do something in the same vein. The fundamental difference here is not just about providing access to a platform, it's really about making an investment in something, and ensuring that people who will want to make games on your game console are successful in doing that.
And so if you look at our strategy and you look at our vision, we are doing things that really, whether they are not talking about it yet or don't have plans to, we really don't know and I really can't speak to that, but what we are focused on doing is providing great tools at a free or low price point that are going to enable consumers to be absolutely successful at creating games for both the Windows and the Xbox 360 platforms. And looking forward in that vision, in terms of how we really enable the broad YouTube type experience for games, but also one that fits in with the business model, so there are financial rewards, there are a theme of components to it, there is broad distribution and sharing, and there's certainly the ability to create your game, and games that you maybe never thought you even have the capability or skills to create. And so if you look at the whole breadth of the offering, and the technical depth of what we are looking to bring to the market, it's not even the same thing as what those guys are doing right now.
GS: Where will all the game data be stored? Is the user created content stored on the user side or is Microsoft hosting it?
DM: We have not resolved that yet. The data in terms of where the games are stored and how they are distributed, what the discovery mechanism and interface and all those things, we have not resolved any of that yet.
GS: What is the complexity of 3D games without an engine, and more specifically will you need to license an engine or can you make textures and things without going through Turbosquid? And if so, what is the pricing model?
DM: First of all, you do not require a 3D engine to make pretty high end games using XNA Game Studio Express and XNA Creators Club. In the montage video, one of the games that I'd like for you to take a look at is at the very end of it. The game, when it comes up, is the 3D racing game called XNA Racer. In particular with that game, it's a pretty richly rendered car racing simulation. It's got a lot of arcade quality to it, you're racing on a race course that's more like a roller coaster ride than an actual race track, and you're doing time trials on the thing. But if you look at the world it's got a lot of sort of lens flair effects, bloom effects, and HDR. As our graphics programmer puts it, its got the “graphics bling jargon” enabled on this game. And that was all done doing just our XNA Game Studio Express game environment, no 3D engine whatsoever, and yet that game is pushing 30 solid frames per second 2 times anti aliasing and native 1080p output.
GS: So it can be pretty much entirely user created if people choose to?
DM: One hundred percent. And whatever favorite 2D texture editing tool you have, including Microsoft Paint, you can use that to create textures if you want and use them in your game. Because one of the really cool areas that we invested a lot of technology and time into in XNA Game Studio Express is the content pipeline. How you get your content into the game, into your code, and work with it. And we're really proud of the work that we've done there. We did a sampling at our open house last night where we took a model, just a random model and we were just rendering it out in a game environment in less than five minutes just to show people how easy it is.