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XNA Experience - A Game from PC to Xbox experience

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A few month ago I released my first indie game on PC using the c#-XNA framework 4.0
Microsoft made something really big about this framework and the promise to Indie Developers.
What is true, what is not ?

1- Getting up to speed (note 4/5)

For a programmer c# is really a cool language, furthermore the installation of Visual Studio 2010 and XNA 4.0, even though a bit long (really long actually) was very easy.
Then you can really code within the minute and have something on your screen
The XNA Creators site provides with a lot of tutorial and code example. Also, the F1 help function and the documentation in VS2010 is really useful. The VS2010 Intellisense is blissedTesting is pretty easy as well, thanks to VS2010ok, fine.
So say I have a game concept. In my case an action-RPG (Ok, ok I know I should have started with something easier) now it's really getting serious...

2- Forum and Support (4/5)

Then I started to code : a game editor, a game-play, some IA, display sprite, windows etc etc
(please follow another article about Geex Engine)
I can tell the XNA creators forum was really helpful, very responsive. Honestly for someone with a brain it's really hard to be stuck for very long. Although you may need to think over some stufff sometimes.
I would have rated a 5/5 if it wouldn't be Visual Studio.Indeed, it's a great tool, but most of my headaches where because of VS2010 bug with XNA environment. You know this kind of bug where you really don't get it ! You turn it upside in out out...To finally be told by someone it's a knows VS2010 bug (*kill*)
Mainly VS2010 do not clean project properly, so I had to make a fresh project start a couple of time, copy pasting from my previous version into a brand new project :
(All together, the engine and the game released, it took me 2 years. I have a IRL "serious" job I shall say, gaming is not what I make a living with)
Ok, fine. On and on I have an action-RPG game running.

3- PC Release (2/5)

The ClickOnceApplication is really simple and fast. Your release for PC is really once click away. So very easy to get a game package.The server checks for update is really cool and simple. So you have your game checking for updates setup easily (it saved my ass quite a few times)
But what a surprise ?
To make your game running, the gamer has to install XNA4.0 redistribuble as well as .Net4.0 redistributable
And these are not like 2sec installation. It could last a pretty significant amount of minutes.
All together with the download (138mo) the installation of my game took a good 30minutes to install.
Well why not, but during the installation you have pop-up windows about .net and xna installation. To my experience gamers are kind of puzzled when the installation is not smooth.I don't really get the point, as to know why microsoft did that !!! They should know that for gamers installation should be plug and play.
Ok fine, let's say gamers are cool, and they keep going with this long process

4- PC updates (5/5)

As I said, the process is easy to setup. Each time the gamer opens the game, it checks for any new release and propose it if any.The download time is ok and the management of version is also very easy

5- Xbox migration(3/5)

Now is it really, as xna claims, compatible with Xbox in a straghtforward manner ?
Well, to be honest. Yes.Well, first you have to get a XNA Creators account, and it will cost you 99euros a year. And the tricky thing is that you need even for the pre-release phase.Indeed it goes with a XNA application for your Xbox which will allow you to synch your xbox and pc, to test your xbox release.Of course you have some issues, but it didn't take me long to have a xbox version.
Most of the code is the same and for some specific you can use compilation condition (like #if XBOX..do this code...#endif)
The main reason why I rated 3, is because XNA does not include some of the marketplace and xbox requirements. You have to code it yourself.For example, and main issue, the Storage on Xbox, and management of ProfileI mean, there are specific requirements for your game, like gamer can plug/unplug the UBS Storage at anytime during save/load and the game must not bug.Luckily there's an open source EasyStorage project. But it will take you some time to really manage it.ok.
Say, I have a game that works on my Xbox

6- The Playtest/Peer Review Process (2/5)

Ok, now you have to send your game to playtest. It lasts minimum one week. When you can promote it to peer review.Your game is ready to be published ONLY when you get 8 xna creators to pass your game. It's been said 2 fails and you go back to playtest, but pratically it's one.
In theory (you'll understand later on why I say in Theory), playtest is there for you to receive feedbacks on your game. And Peer review is there to check if you game fits with the Evil Checklist expectations
Why did I rate it so bad ?
Well, first of all, it always strikes me hard when you need to get approval from people you are basically competing with.
Secondly, the process is completely biaised
1- You got very rare feedback during playtest, a lot of people just wait for your game to be in peer review instead.
2- I've got failed 2 times by people who unplugged the USB storage at an exact split second that made the game to freeze
3- You can't ask for peer review, so there's a black market with xna creator swapping reviews on twitter or some forums
4- I saw someone being approved within 32 days, because he had actually 8 friends to pass its game
Now, if your game is multi-language, then it could really go insane. Because you would need at least 8 reviews, but also at least 2 reviews for each languages. And I can tell you there are not so much french/german xna creators for instance.But it's not all. For an update, it's the exact same process. Not even a shorten one.
Ok fine. I manage to release my game on XBLIG..yahoo!

7- Xbox Live Indie Game Market Place (1/5)

Your visibility on Xbox is awfull. No promotion, no communication on Indie Games, and in the xbox you really have to dig into the option to check new indie gameFurthermore the rating is such that it's always the same game being proposed for ages. And actually it was a time where it was really easy to cheat the rating system, as anyone could have rated the game through Xbox.com. Today, only Gold Account could rate games at xbox.com. Other members has to do it in the marketplace.Also, there's such an amount of game released (even crappy games, like massages and stuff) that you only get visible in the "new games list" for : 2 weeks.
Finally the report provided my microsoft is really crap. You don't even get simple raw data. You have a crappy report per location with 2 line per location, one line for download, one line for sales. You get the stats of course, but I mean I had to make my own excel interpret for that crapThe average sales to Xbox standard:
Most < 300 sales
Good >1000,
Outstanding > 10'000 sales
Exceptions > 100'000

The sales rate against download is wide as well
Most 5%
Go;od 10%
Outstanding 25%x
Exception >50%

As a conclusion, unless you're really sure to have a hit (well everyboy thinks so), you're not going to make big money with Xbox360. I think it's pity, because the demand is here, even from xbox gamers, and it would just need some more exposure to speed that up
There we go gentlemen, If I have some feedback I will tell you more about:
- Stupid things everybody does you should not do !
- Press Release
- Windows Phone release experience

Comments
Fib
Fib - - 381 comments

Did you make this game all by yourself? Did you program it all by yourself?

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GeexGames Author
GeexGames - - 131 comments

Yes I did all the programming by myself, I did the music as well ,except the intro soundtrack by DJ Fab
I've got some help here and there for characters and mapping
And the GameBox has been made by a pro : JAron

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Fib
Fib - - 381 comments

That's very impressive.

I'm currently working on a JRPG game in XNA and I'm doing all of the programming. I'm working with a few of my friends, one is doing the music, other is doing the art. It's been a real challenge for me because I have school and a part time job. The programming itself has also been challenging because I've never done an rpg game before. I'm finally getting the hang of it though and it's coming along nicely.

I've got respect for you though for creating this mostly by yourself. Mad props!

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GeexGames Author
GeexGames - - 131 comments

Thanks a lot for your supportive messages

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B1A4
B1A4 - - 7 comments

Interesting read, thanks for that.

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