With the impending release of the next Xbox later this year, Microsoft introduced a new toolset for game developers last month at the Game Developers Conference. XNA Studio
is based on an upcoming version of the Microsoft Visual Studio development suite. Since John and I are both software developers, we just had to get the scoop on what Microsoft had planned for this version of the tool we use in our day jobs. Luckily Chris Satchell, the General Manager of the Game Development Group, took some time to answer our questionsGamingNexus: On a general level, how different is the IDE of XNA over Visual Studio 2K5Chris Satchell:
Our focus with XNA studio is to deliver the incredible productivity and collaboration services at the heart of VS2005 in a way that allows all members of the game development team to take advantage of them easily. While game programmers and testers are familiar with Visual Studio and can access the team collaboration services through Visual Studio itself we recognize that the game content creators and game producers may not be familiar with Visual Studio. One of the main pieces of work we are doing is making the collaborative services available in a form that is natural to these other roles and it could take many forms: small stand alone clients, direct integration with the major DCC tools etc. The key concept is to keep each team member in the environment where they will be most productive. GamingNexus: As a big believer in test driven development, are there tools that help you develop with this methodology such as developing Unit tests and also provide code coverage reports? Chris Satchell:
VS 2005 has a unit test framework and can automatically generate unit tests from existing code (you can of course write unit tests manually). VS 2005 also has numerous code related reports one of which is unit test coverage. The VS 2005 Team System product also supports different development processes and will ship with process support for Agile Software Development. In future releases of XNA studio we will also look at delivering testing tools that are specifically tailored to games. There is some amazing work done by our first Party studios in this area and where appropriate we want to leverage this experience into the game development community.GamingNexus: There are already powerful tools such as Eclipse and many open source alternatives that provide a great development tools base. Why should developers choose to use the XNA software if they are already comfortable with Visual Studio or some other development IDE?Chris Satchell:
XNA Studio is built on top of Visual Studio and allows programmers to leverage the skills they already have, while also providing tools for artists and content creators.
XNA Studio takes all that is great about developing on Visual Studio and tailors it for the game production process to increase the efficiency of the whole team. Today artists and programmers work in silos and there is little consistency between the process of building content and writing code. Developers are demanding a better way to make games. XNA Studio puts content at the core of the game development process by delivering reliable, controllable, repeatable methods for managing and building content. It delivers one, integrated pipeline to streamline data and content through the production process, saving studios time and money.GamingNexus: With development times on games increasing, how do you feel XNA will help cut down this development time? Chris Satchell:
XNA Studio will speed development time and decrease development costs by delivering an advanced build framework and a suite on integrated tools to solve common production challenges. The build framework is based on a unified file format and fully integrated into the tool suite to optimize the game production process for all team members. By delivering reliable, controllable and reusable methods for managing and building content in synchronization with the game code, XNA Studio will free time developers used to spend fighting with their build processes to be spent adding new content to their games
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