XNA: Enabling studios and publishers to develop better games

The past few months have been keeping me pretty busy, as you might discern from the lack of blog entries. That's because after we shipped Visual Studio 2005 on November 7th I transferred into a new role at Microsoft. My new job is on the XNA team, which has me working in the Xbox group. It should go without saying that the Xbox group is an amazing place to work, especially for a self-professed game addict like myself. But I don't get paid to play games all day. Actually, I don't get paid to play games at all really. In fact, if it's any consolation to the folks who continue to stalk their Best Buys, I also had to hunt down and buy my Xbox 360 at retail, which was without a doubt the best purchase I've ever made. I'm hooked on the 360, and the system has absolutely blown me away. But I digress... so what do we do on the XNA team? Well, the easiest way to describe it is that it's our job to build tools and technologies which will help game developers produce better games. And that, to me, is a very exciting challenge, with an even better payoff: better games.

The XNA mission statement is:

XNA enables studios and publishers to develop better games, more effectively, on all platforms.

Let's break that down a bit:

"XNA enables studios and publishers" - in case you're not familiar with the way the video game industry works, studios are the organizations that make the games (design, programming, art, testing, etc.) and publishers are the organizations that usually fund advances to studios and ultimately take those games to market (similar to the way a book publisher operates). There are some exceptions to this rule, of course - like EA and Microsoft, who act as publishers and developers simultaneously - but even within those organizations there are usually separate teams focused on the studio and publisher functions. With XNA, we're aiming to help both the studios and the publishers.

"to develop better games, more effectively" - Today, developers and publishers are forced to spend too much time and energy solving technology challenges - whether it's eeking out extra performance from their game engines, meeting the escalating demands of content creation, or maintaining complex tools and scripts to manage their game asset pipelines. If we can reduce the amount of effort required to solve even some of those technology challenges, then it will free up studios to focus on cramming more fun into their gameplay.

"on all platforms." - That's right. All platforms. The state of the games industry is such that many games are developed for multiple platforms to strive for maximal profitability. But building games for multiple platforms also introduces a lot of additional complexity. Hence, many of the tools we're building are actually targeted at the complexities of developing for multiple platforms. Of course, we expect we'll have a better out-of-box experience for targeting Microsoft platforms, but studios will still have that flexibility when they need to target other platforms as well.

If you want to read a bit more about XNA you can visit www.microsoft.com/xna. There's not a lot of information on that site today, but it will be updated closer to the GDC timeframe where we'll be disclosing a lot more and we're aiming to release a technology preview of one of our XNA tools. I'll also try to blog more, so I can talk more about what's coming in XNA...