Now You, Too, Can Make Xbox Games

from the unleash-the-pong-clones dept

Microsoft has announced it’s making a free version of its game developer tools, meaning amateurs, students and anybody that’s interested will be able to develop games for Windows, and later, the Xbox 360. Microsoft says that the software, called XNA Game Studio Express, simplifies development, and is intended to create a new pool of games developers. It’s an interesting idea, particuarly since the world of console gaming has largely been closed off to homebrew and small developers, while PC games have gotten a huge boost from third-party mods and add-ons. Later this year, people will be able to pay a $99 yearly subscription to distribute their games via Xbox Live, something that could hinder the company’s desire to create a community of user-generated games, but it’s unclear as yet exactly how the details will pan out. Getting the games into Xbox Live opens up a lot of possibilities, including the chance that developers could charge for downloads of their games and Microsoft take a cut, like in the Xbox Live Arcade. Giving people an incentive like this to create their own games could spur a lot of interest, as well as test the idea that great games don’t require the most powerful technologies. The Xbox 360’s media capabilities mean it’s much more than just a simple video-game console, and it could be a powerful living-room media platform for Microsoft. But for it to become that, the company has to take steps like this to open it up and allow people to play with it, to explore new uses and discover how to make it more valuable to people.

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Comments on “Now You, Too, Can Make Xbox Games”

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Amos says:

Re: What I wanna know is...

The microsoft press release mentioned “revenue sharing” for homebrew games distributed via Live.

[“I’d love to send a royalty check to a kid,” said Moore (Peter Moore, vice president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business), who added that Microsoft hopes to get the tool kit into high schools.]

Dunno about who “owns the rights”, but at least there’s some credit and royalties involved.

Grant Woodward says:

Not bad at all, but...

I don’t own an XBox 360 and don’t really plan to, but if this takes off I might consider getting one eventually. Believe it or not, I approve of the $99 yearly fee; it’s less than $8.50 a month (comparing favorably to most MMORPGs), but it will keep a lot of small-time script kiddies from creating bad games or straight-up rips of games. And really, someone’s got to pay for the extra server space and whatnot — Microsoft, of all companies, certainly won’t give that away, and I can’t really blame them.

The $99 fee works even better if small indie “companies” of games — really more like teams of programmers working together — take advantage of it. Those are the games I’m really looking forward to: Clever games drawing on the strengths of a few people.

My one concern here is that this could conceivably open the XBox 360 up to security flaws in its OS and hardware. If Microsoft is hosting the games directly and controlling their release that won’t be a major problems, but expect a lot of people to try to poke holes in the 360 for amusement and “M$” bashing.

Guard says:

Great idea

I definately approve of the $99 charge, in order to keep the system from filling up with alot of junk. At least if people are paying, they’re going to show a little more dedication than if given distribution for free. Also allowing online programming teams to have the 360 as a development platform option could open up good possibilities.

Lisa says:

From a girls view

I would consider myself a geek. I own an Xbox, I play “shoot em’ up” games as much as I have time for. I think this is pretty awesome. This product could not only open up doors for Microsoft, and XNA Game Studio Express, but also the person making the games. Gaming and game design is becoming larger with the production of new game consoles. Everything seems to be advancing exponentially. And the $99 YEARLY charge seems pretty cheap for someone who is very serious about making games for others to play. The only thing that we will see down the road are parents and other government restrictions. If parents are having a hard time with GTA and such, what would they think about the games some pubescent, 16 year olds make…could be scary, and parents may have a problem

jo mamma says:

Re: From a girls view

Girl Geeks are awesome, especially when they’re halfway decent looking.

Anyway, yeah, this idea is cool. And as much as people bitch about MS, they come up with some pretty inventive, creative stuff.

Of course, the downside to the creativeness will be the security flaws that’s bound to produce, but with the $99 fee (presumably charged by credit card) the purpotrator of any virus-type nastiness would probably think twice before unleashing it onto the Xbox network. It’s much easier to track people if everyone is required to registered… with correct information.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: From a girls view

I’m surprised no one else has brought up that last point. How is Microsoft going to control and censor the content? Will they allow more adult content? Will they have ratings for these games and who will assign them? I can’t imagine that the ESRB will be rating any of these, especially since they rate games based on publisher-provided video.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not so great.

Yeah, Lucas, and people have been saying that about open source development for years too.

Why do so many people think that in this day of communication that they actually think big M$ is going to outright steal from them? Do they honestly think microsoft wants or could even handle all the negative publicity and backlash they would get from trying ot steal someones game?

rijit (profile) says:

Re: Not so great.


I gotta say your point is invalid to an extent but does bring to mind some things. I am all for this, homebrew software and games on a modded Xbox rock, so it goes without saying on the 360 they would kick a$$. I also think, no proof, that Bill let the mod community stand so he could take the ideas of the homebrew scene and apply it to the Xbox 360. Many of the features available on the 360 were done first and sometimes better on a modded box. However, I do not think MS would outright steal any one’s ideas on a community program they themselves run. It would cut their own throat, no one would stay around if MS took others work and made it their own. After all, this is not the day and age Bill took DOS, it is a much more paranoid society than it was then and people watch big corporations closely.

ProgrammerHobbyist says:


So what’s the real difference between this and the Direct X developers kit aside from the bulk of the APIs being for C#?

The Direct X Developers kit even has all the code snipets you’d ever want to piece together your own game engine including source for HDR lighting and other nifty things. It doesn’t really require much knowledge at all to churn out a decent engine, the vast majority of time is spent on story development and graphical production. So unless they’re including thousands of textures and an easy mesh creator (you’d be surprised to see how many people have issues with constructing objects in 3d) I don’t see much of an advantage over this than what is currently available. Unless of course Microsoft has some crazy, innovative, revolutionary development process up its sleave, but I high doubt it.

mistress of destruction says:

fellow girl geek...

with a motorcycle 😉

first thing, they are trying something new. kudos to them. i love having tools and toys at my disposal and so do most developers.

second, havent you heard of the 80/20 rule (or even 90/10) ? if you change 20 percent of the code, its yours. so if m$ does the same to a start up game…it would be theirs.

and as mentioned before, with the quality of games already out, i find it hard to believe that any one developer could create a game of the quality we are used to. some of these core game engines have been around for a long time, the renderers, the switch states, etc. they just reuse and build on them.

this will be a place for people to show case their strengths and teams to form. lots of fun. 🙂

Sanguine Dream says:


I dont think stealing will be that big of a deal because all it would take is one good idea to be stolen and even if MS came up with some story to claim that it wasn’t the resulting shadow of doubt would scare a lot of the serious developers away for fear of having their ideas stolen.

Gotta say I’m for the $99/yr subscription service. If it were free the precious server space would be filled with crap and slightly modified existing games (even though modding Halo 2’s weapons to restore the Assult Rifle of Halo 1…).

Even (or especially) if I were with an idie developer group I’d read every nook and cranny of the EULA, TOS, contract, etc. to make sure the owner of the property is clearly stated. Will this start a new chapter in the trademark/copyright wars?

Anrkist says:

Not a single overly anti-MS comment.. MS must be doing something right =]

I think this is a great step in the right direction.. I don’t see how this could hurt anyone. These homebrew games probably wont cost to much, so if it sucks.. you wont lose out on much.

Even cooler will be communities dedicated to reviewing these games.

Fox says:

Security, anyone?

I believe I read only one person who mentioned that this could very easily be a security hole. I mean, think about it for a minute. If you have some game developer at (just to use a real-world example) Electronic Arts who’s pissed at Blizzard (we’ll say he used to work there) and he wanted to get even, this is his perfect venue. He could very easily create a game and then put in some extra code which would block users from playing any games made by Blizzard. Not only that, but he’d be highly successful, since this person would basically be writing a virus for a console which nobody other than huge game firms really knows the inner workings of. Even with thm opening up this toolkit to the masses, I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff like buffer overflows or whatever that can be slipped into a game and exploited. The real test of this system is how it’s moderated. If MS simply takes a credit card number i a form and accepts the upload without anyone reviewing it first, then there’s a huge problem. I don’t know about you, but I can think of several people who I’m pissed off at enough to blow 99 bucks a year on pissing them off. $8.50 is a small price to pay to completely disable somebody’s $499 XBOX. I suppose I’m saying that unless microsoft hand-screens every submission before allowing users to play it (which could arguably take a ton of both manpower and time, two things MS has never put into anything besides perhaps Vista) then I tink this will be a far bigger disaster than anything that could screw up in Vista.

And in response to #26, I’m running Windows Vista Beta 2 CTP as we speak right now on my laptop doing this post. I’ve got 496MB of DDR and 870MB of space using ReadyBoost on my 1GB Cruzer mini flash drive. With it fully booted and WMP, Windows Mail, IE 7, and the Sidebar all running (plus about 12 tray items) I’m using just over 306MB of memory, not even enough to use the readyboost, so if yours is eating 800MB of memory, perhaps you could try filing a bug report. I mean, the Beta 2 files them automatically, but still…it seems to me that your experience is very out-of-the-ordinary.

Personaly I prefer Ubuntu Linux to just about every OS out thee, but I have to tell ya, if Vista runs about 20% faster once it’s actually up for sale, it might just be the first version of Windows I’ve ever paid for, because right now it’s running only about 10% slower than XP Home was on this system. Simply put, this may be the first time I’ll be dual-booting Windows and Linux because I actually like Windows rather than from necessity at work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Security, anyone?

Wonderful logic. Lets extrapolate on it.

Enabling people to create things and then allowing people greater ease with which to distribute them is bad.

Well, that cinches it for me. After all, the internet is not a dump truck.

We need to make sure that Microsoft does not allow people to make or distribute things. Matter of fact, I think we need to take a look at this internet thingie too. it seems that with all these tubes running around, someone might make something bad, very bad, and it could get out, and like, do bad things.

So we need to shut down the internet, make it so only companies that donated to my campaign have the right to publish content. I can think of at least three companies that I would like to destroy. They didnt donate, but they do operate in my jurisdiction..

Yes, that will keep the tubes free of commercial stuff so my internets dont get delayed…

Cruncher says:

The thing I like about game design is — there are no limits for creativity.It is open ended, always room for better ideas. it will never saturate.As the hardware enhances, it gets even better.It is paradise for game designer/developer.You can implement all sorts of algorithms, and craziness and build a superb game. Everywhereelse, there is limit to creativity.

This API thing only will increase quality of creative games as more games with less cost will start showup.There is lot of many to be made by individual game developers/designers.

Joe T says:

The security risks are (at first glance) real. Despite one comment above which postulates how the $99 account will help prevent virus and other malware abuse, one need only look at how many Ebay and Paypal accounts get hijacked monthly to realize the risk.

Question: Once your Xbox gets hit with a trojan, how do you clean it? MSAV for Xbox??

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