Posts tagged with xbox - page 4
Today’s Apple Showtime event showed some great products, and some disappointing ones.
The tiny new iPod Shuffle G2, the fantastic looking iPod Nano G2 with the return of the iPod Mini aluminum casing and 24 hour battery life and 8GB flash option weren’t to be sniffed at.
The iPod got… downloadable $4.99 games and an 80GB model. No sign of the long sought-after wide-screen touch-screen model with the virtual wheel.
The expected downloadable movie announcement was made with movies at 640×480 – that’s 4x their existing TV-show/music video size and now on-par with the resolution of PC’s circa the late 80’s.
Job advises us this is “near DVD” which is kinda true DVD being 720×480/576. DVD given good quality source material, careful encoding and decent equipment can look pretty fine even blown up to 120″ on your wall.
What I couldn’t find out thought was how they intend on fitting widescreen movies into their distinctly non-wide-screen resolution.
DVD resolution is a little wider but more importantly it has an anamorphic mode where rather than waste pixels on the black bars the picture is stretched vertically before being encoded on the disk and then stretched horizontally on the way out of your DVD player – much the same way as widescreen movies were shot on non-widescreen film albeit with anamorphic lenses.
Jobs didn’t elaborate on whether they’ll have such a mode or something better…
Thanks to the complex licensing agreements between studios worldwide movies are a US exclusive so the rest of the world will have to sit and wait anyway.
iTunes 7 & Software Update
Adds support for movie & iPod G4 game downloads and the user interface may well be a taste of things to come in Leopard. Flat blue gradients where aqua bubbles previously existed (equalizer, scroll bars).
Also introduced is a couple of new ways to view your local library using high quality rendered album cover art (like FrontRow) and a sort of mixed up mode (like Windows Media Player 11).
It’ll also now helpfully grab album art for albums you ripped from your own CD’s and show the breakdown of the disk usage of your pod by content type (movie/art/music).
What is interesting is iTunes 7 introduces “Apple Software Update” which looks curiously like it’s Mac OS X counterpart…
Towards the end of the announcement came the one last thing…. code-named iTV (I can’t imagine they’ll get the rights to this name in the UK where ITV is one of the big TV stations).
The announcement itself was a little unusual – it’s for a new hardware product they haven’t finished and won’t be available for months. I can only conclude they are airing the product to help shift downloadable movies with users knowing they can play it back on the big-screen.
I’m sure neither Apple or the studios want another Sony UMD disaster.
When I heard the words “Mac Mini” and “TV” I thought this could be the answer to my home entertainment hub… alas no. Rather than extend to the mini with support for DVB-S/T/C or UHF tuners and PVR functionality they abandon the hard disk entirely… and the DVD-ROM drive to boot.
Which leaves iTV with no TV support in the traditional sense. If you want content it’ll have to come from iTunes and unless Jobs and his pals add illegal DVD ripping that means buying everything again from the iTunes Store, sticking with your DVD player or buying a more capable media center.
Would the iPod have been such a success if you couldn’t link in to your existing content but had to pay for all your music again?
The final icing on the cake is that the box will set you back $299. That’s exactly the same price as the Xbox 360 which will also stream media from a host computer over a network. The difference being that the 360 will play DVD’s and let you play state of the art games for that price.
iTV? More like Apple Cube 2.
Over the last few months I’ve pieced together various snippets and hints from the web to come to the conclusion that Microsoft’s forthcoming XNA platform, specifically the XNA Framework version, would be available to home-brew developers and let them develop on the Xbox 360 – the first official home-brew since the PlayStation 1’s Net Yaroze!
Indeed I’ve been telling people in IRC and on forums that I believe this to be true. One friend, after messing with Managed DirectX2, told me if I was wrong about this I was in trouble. I went as so far to claim that it’s already tested and GarageGames Marble Blast Ultra was an XNA Framework title.
Today Microsoft announced at their Gamefest conference the XNA Game Studio Express – a free download due this “holiday season” (a beta is out 30th August) – that lets anyone create XNA Framework based games on their PC which other people can run, on their PC.
The real icing on the cake however is that for $99 USD a year you can join the “creators club” and run home-brew XNA titles on your 360 – your own or other peoples.
Phew, seems my reputation is in tact.
I’ve briefly covered Microsoft’s XNA gaming platform before but have been trying to piece together what it is actually going to mean to developers.
Sorry, had to clarify the whole commercial/non-commercial parts. XNA Framework is just a portion of XNA… that won’t apply to the big guys.
Microsoft have made it clear they want to open up XNA to interested parties which should mean home-brew software.
These guys will be using C# in conjunction with XNA Build, XNA Studio, XNA Framework and managed libraries.
Licensed 360 developers get a whole set of tools and technologies that are under tight NDA just like those Sony and Nintendo insist on for their licensed developers.
These guys will be using C++ in conjunction with XNA Build, XNA Studio and no doubt 360-optimized unmanaged libraries based on Direct3D, Xinput and XACL.
Whether XNA lets Microsoft get the 360 and Windows XNA gaming platforms a little closer is anyone’s guess. Being under NDA I doubt the general public would even know.
C# for home-brew developers, C++ for licensed studios.
There’s no way the licensed studio’s are going to change and C# lets the new guys get up to speed quicker.
Licensed studios will have full control, full speed and continue to use their existing libraries and middle-ware.
Core framework – .NET 2.0 BCL
.NET 2.0 Base Class Library – well a modified version of it for those using the XNA Framework and C#.
Seeing as C# is the only managed language on the menu and games are rather performance sensitive expect CLS compliance to disappear and plenty of under-the-hood optimizations now that they don’t have to support other languages.
Graphics framework – MDX2
The graphics framework is based on the graphic assemblies of Managed Direct X 2.0 (MDX2) which currently ships as part of the DirectX SDK.
MDX2 is currently beta and will never hit a final release now all attention is now focused on the “XNA Graphics API” version that will see the weight drop and aim to be more cross-platform – no doubt hiding away all the platform-specific optimizations inside the libraries themselves.
There will be no System.Drawing and no System.Windows.Form name spaces so forget about them.
Audio framework – XACT
Microsoft Cross-Platform Audio Creation Tool (XACT). Grab it from the latest DirectX SDK and forget about DirectSound and DirectMusic. They won’t make it.
Input framework – Xinput
XInput kicks DirectInput off the scene with it’s easier-to-use API and support for vibration and varied controller types and voice headset.
Grab the XInput Driver for Microsoft Common Controller, plug in the 360 controller on your PC and start messing round.
Build tools – XNA Build
XNA Build is based on MS Build but adds asset (textures, samples, music etc) tracking to the mix to ensure you don’t do like Microsoft and ship almost an entire CD’s worth of unknowingly unused assets with your Mech Commander. It also lists incremental and distributed builds on the feature list.
A March 2006 technology preview is available that integrates with Visual Studio 2005.
IDE – XNA Studio
Once again Microsoft takes from it’s existing .NET tool-set and makes an XNA version – in this case Visual Studio 2005 Team System..
Whether the cheaper home-brew/XNA Framework/C# version will have all the C++ features stripped is anyone’s guess.
Microsoft have already announced their plan to take online gaming from the Xbox 360 (gamertags, achievements, friends, chat) and make it cross-platform across to Windows and mobile gaming.
It would make of sense then that the Live Anywhere! system is .NET framework for use with XNA – even if it doesn’t officially make up part of the package.
Have to sit and wait for this one to pan out.
Microsoft will be supporting:
- Xbox 360
- Windows XP 32-bit/64-bit*
- Windows Vista 32-bit/64-bit*
Mac OS X?
Apple should really be negotiating to get XNA on Mac OS X. It already internally supports PowerPC (360, G3, G4, G5) and Intel (Windows, IntelMac) as what they offer developers seems rather weak – about the only reusable element is OpenGL.
This would allow existing XNA games to be ported with ease although would be of little use to existing Apple developers who use Objective-C/C++ and wouldn’t want to interop with C#.
Linux already has Mono & DotGnu which could provide the basis for a .NET based gaming platform but I can’t see Microsoft wanting to open up the source for a successful Linux port.
The only obvious route here would be for Linux developers to either implement it themselves or wrap around existing technologies – Wine/OpenGL etc.
Sources & info
Microsoft have announced their XNA platform for game development.
The platform is based around C# and the .NET 2.0 CLR and frameworks, specifically tailored for the requirements of game developers. This might possibly mean much of the common language specification (CLS) elements are removed for performance.
Initially the platform will target both Windows machines and the Xbox 360 although Microsoft have touted cross-platform compatibility and with the recent shared-source version of the .NET 2.0 CLR source code ROTOR release there are hopes for Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Linux.
XNA Studio is the central IDE for the platform and is based around a modified version of Visual Studio 2005 Team Services.
Currently the only tool available is XNA Build which is a modified version of MS Build with additional tracking features to ensure obsolete game assets are suitably pruned. Microsoft have modified their MechWarrior 2 game source code to build using XNA Build and were surprised to realize that around 40% of the textures they shipped on the CD were in fact no longer used having been artifacts from previous builds.
In my opinion there’s a few reasons why Microsoft is going this route..
Microsoft want developers to get away from Flash – at least on the Xbox 360. Some of the Live titles, notably Hexic, are Flash games. Flash is okay for 2D games and their run-time has been modified to utilize the Live! and 360 controller but adding 3D would be non-trivial and it’s still a non-MS platform.
Isolation of home-brew code
It’s no secret that developers at home love to get code running on their favorite console platform be it to port existing games or emulators (such as ScummVM) or simply to hack around.
The problem with letting developers run your own code is that it becomes quite easy for other people to use this to boot pirated “warez” versions of games professional developers just spent a few million dollars developing.
By giving developers a byte code based language such as Java or .NET you can control what they do. Specifically you can give them no mechanism to launch native code such as that comprising a commercially developed Xbox 360 game…
Flesh out Xbox Live!
Xbox Live! seems to be a hit and Microsoft have put up titles from smaller indie development studios. This is all well and good as both the studio and Microsoft make money from the purchase but the Xbox 360 dev kits aren’t cheap. This probably explains why a number of those games are Flash…
With Sony’s announced PSP Live serving up highlights from the original PlayStation back-catalog and Nintendo hinting at emulation of older systems on the Revolution the 360’s catalog is going to look a slim by comparison.
If Microsoft get XNA out there and let developers write and distribute Windows versions how they see fit they can grab the cream of the crop for publishing on Xbox Live.
Either way it looks like good news for Xbox 360 owners and small developers. Microsoft have already stated back-bedroom coders will be able to get in. :)