Building A Game Using XNA

   02/02/2009 at 14:14       Nick H       12 COMMENTS.
Last week I decided after it having been a dream of mine for some time, to try and make a 360 game. The arrival of Community Games and the Apple App Store has given creators a secure direct route to customers, while tools like torque and XNA game studio have made building the games more friendly. All of which makes my first sentence a sound a little less insane that it would have been a few years ago. So on Monday I decided to see how far I could get.

[THUMB1]In my day job I make stuff in flash and get commissioned to make the odd flash game. I'm not a complete novice at coding but have never touched C++ or C#. I knew I would definitely need some help from middleware and a decent community.

First stop was the Garage Games web site to get hold of the indie friendly middleware Torque Game Builder which I'd given a go in the past and which was, according to their site, good for cross platform development. I was hoping to code a game that could be published to multiple platforms and maximize the number of people I could get my game in front of and increase the chances of me selling a few copies.

TGB is garage Games' 2d game engine and uses a combination of WYSIWYG level builder a C++ like code. Initially it seemed like I'd made the right choice as a wealth of tutorials and documentation eased me into producing working code. A little bit of extra research on the forum and home page though, sowed a few seeds of doubt. It looked like I'd need multiple licences for each platform, which while relatively cheap, seemed like a bit of an outlay when I wasn't even sure I'd be able to make anything worthwhile. Additionally, I saw some worrying comments on the forum suggesting that I'd need to use different programming languages for Community Games compatibility.

[THUMB2]Then further bad news. Having no Mac ruled out iPod development as the SDK is only availably for Apple machines for, so I was left thinking about PC and 360. With Garage Games' website going through a sudden update, I was finding it hard to get the concrete info I needed on the ability to publish for PC and Community Games. Feeling a little disheartened I decided to have a look at XNA.

The reason XNA hadn't been first on my list was that it has no WYSIWYG editor at all, something I'd become accustomed to in Flash where I'd learnt all my programming up to now. Its full compatibility with the Community Games service and its price (FREE if you're not debugging on the 360) were enough to get me to start me learning the basics of my second programming language of the week.

The XNA beginner tutorial was great at allaying some of my fears about there being no WYSIWYG, the videos format was easy to follow and demonstrated C# practices clearly, gradually giving me the confidence that I might actually be able to get somewhere. Visual C# Express (the free code editor/ compiler) is also a revelation to someone used to Flash's error checking, letting you know what you've messed up as you type.

Writing everything in code is taking a bit of time to get used to, the fact that basic functions like animation control provided for you in Flash and Torque need to be written from scratch meant that the going hasn't been too fast. Though reading and adapting community tutorials and samples has helped me get past most of the walls I've run into quicker than I had expected.

With the basic tutorials under my belt it was time to try to get my game code running. I have a few prototypes made in flash that I'd like to port and flesh out into games but decided to start simple with a game I'd started building for the Flash lite plug in on the N-gage a couple of years ago.

It's a pretty basic game similar to Chu Chu Rocket, but with only one character to look after and a limited number of arrows that the player can pick up and move about to help get him to the exit.

I surprised myself and had my PC demo to the same point as my flash code in 4 days. It's a bit of a hack job and there are no menus or sound and only the one level but it's a start.

Next week I'll be joining the premium creators group. And trying to build my bear game at 720p and test it on my 360.
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