GDC? Books? A web site? A blog post?

I never seem to find time to write posts here anymore.  Well, to be more accurate, I get frustrated with the number of things I get as direct responses to posts (or even just random mails from people from this blog).  Honestly the top two questions I get are people wanting me to send them copies of my books and people asking me for help with their homework.  These are normally followed up shortly by those same people letting me know how much of a jerk I am for not relenting to their request.  It doesn’t seem to matter if I ignore it or respond politely, the same result occurs either way.  It’s almost enough to make me wonder why I even write anything (and I’m fully convinced it will be worse at least for a short time after this post).

Anyway, enough random complaints from me, and onto what I originally was going to write about..

After the two topics above, the next most asked about topic is about books.  When is my next book coming out, when am I updating one of my older books, etc.  So let me ask you what you’d like.  If I were to write a third book, what would you like to see?  I’m guessing not many people will suggest science fiction or an in depth discussion of the civil war.

If you haven’t heard recently (sometimes I am a little slow on the announcements) we have launched a new creators club web site.  It has a new starter kit for you to download and enjoy, a number of samples to look at, and even new forums.  Naturally, there is more there as well, so go check it out!

We also have our Dream. Build. Play. contest going on, and we announced some of the prizes which are simply amazing in my opinion ($10,000 cash, a new computer, a chance to have your game published on Xbox Live Arcade and more?).  There was also a ‘warm up’ contest using the Spacewars starter kit that had some amazing entries.  I’m excited to see the things that will come out of the real contest now.  Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always wanted to run a contest for something like this.

As part of the GDC list of announcements, we also have a lot of great information.  Such as Creators Club members getting a license to the Torque X engine.  None of this even hints at some of the things we are hoping to have done in the not too distant future.  For anyone who thought we were going to be resting on our laurels as they say, rest assured we are doing nothing of the sort.

Now if I could just get myself to be more like Shawn and actually write some technical posts here once in a while…

Managed Games? Of course!

You may remember me talking about Koios Works before.  They wrote one of the first retail games using Managed DirectX.  They have an entirely new 3D game out now called Panzer Command: Operation Winterstorm

Not only are they still using Managed DirectX and having a full 3d game going, they won first prize in a contest sponsored by Intel with a nice chunk of change reward!

I wonder if and when they’ll be moving over the Xna Game Studio Express? =)

Random XNA thoughts and links..

Well, maybe not so random.

First, ever wonder what the XNA Framework was?  Look at Mitch’s latest post on the Xna Team Blog..

Second, a coworker has recently started a blog, and he has a number of interesting posts, including explaining why he joined the Xna team.

Which makes me get quite nostalgic myself.  Shortly after we announced I sent out an email internally, which i’ll now include here (albeit slightly modified for the public)..

—- Insert Sentimental Thoughts.

I can’t decide if it seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago, but GDC in 2002 was the first public showing of what became known as Managed DirectX.  Since that date I’ve listened to countless people telling me how and why managed code could never be a viable game development platform.  Actually, I guess that’s a lie.  It started before then since it was an uphill battle in the DirectX team just to get it to ship in the first place.

Yet here we are today, and listen to the buzz.  It was almost instantaneous.  Gone are the cries of impossible, replaced with the excitement of “when can I get it” and “omg, are you serious?”  Just wait until later this year when they’re actually using it.  I can’t wait.

I’m sure everyone gets up and comes to work for their own personal reasons, and I doubt everyone shares mine, but what gets me going (and keeps me going) is a combination of two things.  One, the ability to make a difference, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a certain egotistical aspect as well.

Not only am I no longer alone, there’s an entire team focusing on much larger issues, bringing an entire end to end solution.  This team is fulfilling not only my original goal with Managed DirectX — opening up game development; but going so far beyond what I had hoped it’s hard to describe.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about a project, and it’s a feeling I’ve missed.  Not only do we have the “egotistical” aspects intact, but we have the opportunity to change an entire industry for the better.  If that isn’t making a difference, I’m not sure what is.

Truth be told, this is probably one of the most sincerely “proudest” moments I’ve been able to achieve in my career, although I’m sure it will be surpassed later this year when we’ve actually shipped and people are using our stuff.  We’re not only pushing people towards the next age of game development, we’re defining what that means.  I couldn’t be more excited.

Last weekday before Gamefest!

As the title implies, Gamefest is rapidly approaching.  It’s the last weekday before the conference starts next week.  Oh man, I am excited!

I’m not excited because I’m going though.  Truth be told, I’m not, even though it’s just a short drive away.  While I’m sure I would love actually being there, I have so many things to get done, I just can’t seem to pull myself away from work.  It’s pretty great being excited about what you’re doing at work.

Could it be that I’m excited because of things that will be said?  Seems likely.  I’ve seen the presentations, I’ve seen the demo’s, I know the announcements that will be made.  Shhh.. I shouldn’t say too much.  I’ve probably said too much already.

I’ve seen the future, and I can’t wait to talk about it.

So you wanna be a game developer?

(I’m gonna copy/paste since i’m in a lazy mood)

Are you a hobby, casual or Indie game developer? If so, we’re looking for participants in a usability study which will help us build better products and technologies to help serve your needs in this area.

Participation criteria:

  • You must have been actively involved in programming games within the past year.
  • You must be a student, hobbyist (meaning you develop games for fun), or Indie game developer. For this particular study we are not considering professional game developers who work at established studios unless you also develop games for fun outside of work.
  • For this particular study we are looking for participants who reside within 30 miles of Seattle, Washington.

Users who are interested in participating in the study and meet the criteria above should complete our short (5-10 minutes) survey here:

Once we receive survey responses we will begin contacting the candidates if they meet our selection criteria.


The COMPLETE Effect and HLSL Guide

I just recently acquired a copy of “The COMPLETE Effect and HLSL Guide” and I must say, it delivers *exactly* what the title implies.  It also included a little ‘abbreviated version’ that is a few pages long and the size of two credit cards that makes an excellent quick reference.. I’m not entirely sure if the little quick reference is included with the book or not (it appears to be a separate companion piece), but the addition is welcome.

My only complaint about the book would be it’s all unmanaged code (for the non-HLSL parts).  Considering that’s a relatively small portion of the book (and the ‘port’ of that code to C# is pretty straight-forward), it’s a very minor complaint.

I wouldn’t want people to go get the book expecting to see lots of cool demos and samples of these awesome shaders you can write, because that’s not what you should expect (and based on the title, how could you?)  What this book gives you is the down and dirty details of the Effects system and HLSL.

I’ve noticed a lot of people that bought some of the ShaderX books because they have all the cool samples of ‘awesome’ shaders, and after getting the book realizing they have no idea what these ‘awesome shaders’ do, or how to make them do anything else.  If you’re in that boat, or simply want/need to know more about HLSL, I’d highly recommend this book.

Probably not quite what he intended..

I got an email recently from Phil Vaira about a new RPG he was working on.. So, like I normally do, I went and checked out the link.  What I found though was a new post detailing his ‘advice’ on native DX vs Managed DX.  Naturally, I read that as well.  What i’ve found is that it contains many misconceptions that seem to have been perpetuated throughout the last few years.

I agree with his sentiment that you use the right tool for the job.  It is (or should be) a no-brainer, but that goes well beyond game development, or even software development.  That should just be a ‘given’ in any facet of life.  I don’t agree with his implication that if you want game development to be a career you should stick to native code (while he didn’t directly say that, it was the implication I read with his ‘beneficial in the future’ comment).  The fact is, a large number of ‘professional’ game developers began their ‘career’ as a tools developer for a ‘real game’.  Care to guess what a large number of tools are written in?

He then goes on to ‘compare’ native Directx and Managed DirectX by using Call of Duty 2 (a brand new PC game) and Arena Wars (which doesn’t even use DirectX, much less Managed DirectX).  Now, the comparison here is wrong in so many ways, it’s hard to count.  First, the API’s aren’t even the same, which seems relatively important for comparing.. you know.. the APIs.  Second, he’s comparing a brand new game with one a couple years old.  Newer games invariably ‘look better’ as developers ‘mature’.  Thirdly, he’s comparing a game that has a multi-million dollar budget and a dedicated team of artists against one that was essentially done by a couple hobbyists (with no offense made to any hobbyists).  Lastly, he’s taken the assumption that because the one “looks better” it must “be better”.  Call of Duty 2 is a good game, I agree with that, but you know a game I think is better?  Katamari Damacy..  Find screenshots and I think most people will agree Call of Duty 2 “looks better”, but ‘looks’ doesn’t always mean better.

He then uses these assumptions to ascertain that Managed DirectX simply isn’t capable of creating something so ‘visually stunning’.  No basis for this conclusion other than the fact that he hasn’t seen it done.  He hasn’t seen a managed version of Call of Duty 2.  He then goes and mentions other games that have been released in the past, wondering why he’s never seen managed versions of those (nevermind the fact that Managed DX didn’t even *exist* when those games started development).  It should be plainly obvious that no development company who wants to make money would ‘waste’ so much resources by simultaneously developing two versions of their game *for the same platform*.  I also got a kick out of how he lets everyone know that you couldn’t make Morrowind in managed because “can’t get FPS where it should be” which implies that a) there is/was a managed version of Morrowind somewhere (how else would they know that) and b) he was involved in the development of that version.  Since I know a) isn’t true, i can infer that b) isn’t as well.

So anyway. For my conclusion, I’m not going to give any ‘advice’ on which is better.  Both native and managed versions of our API are fully capable of developing ‘modern’ games.  Both versions have pros and cons, and I agree with him that you should weigh these before making any decisions.  For myself?  I’d be happier if the majority of developers concentrated on making *good* games rather than ‘pretty’ games.. Regardless of what API they use.

BTW: I’ve been (am on) vacation for the holidays.  Thus my lack of activity here (even though there will be a series of posts today).

Way to go Aaron!

Saw this post on the newsgroups, and I got a kick out of both the story and the little game Aaron wrote.  Hopefully this post doesn’t give him ‘too much’ publicity.. =)

(Oh, and Aaron, my feedback is ‘nice job’ in the short time you worked on it.. I got a kick out of it.. I’ll add gamepad support to it because games like that are just too clunky on a keyboard. =)  I hope your girlfriend was proud. )

From his post:

Hey I just wanted to post a link to a 2D game I made using Managed
DirectX in C#. Its a side scroller like Super Mario brothers, comes
with the source and everything you need to run it minus of course
DirectX and the .NET framework.

I have to say it looks pretty sweet and runs very well on decent
graphics cards and computers. But I have seen problems on older cards
with some textures. Definitly its a bit of a hog since it was my first
attempt at Managed DirectX, and is probably a bit inefficent. So keep
in mind its not the best code. But it should get people started if
they are looking to do a 2D game.

I did this game for my girlfriends birthday so it isn’t something I am
really actively maintaining or anything, but I am hoping to hear
feedback, positive, negative, or otherwise. And if people learn from
my code, I figure thats all the better.


Blog entry on this:

Link to download the game and source:

Features? Whidbey? Oh My!!

Well, as I’m sure most of you are already aware, the Whidbey beta has been out for a while now, and hopefully some of you have gotten a chance to play with it.  Assuming you have, what features are you seeing that you absolutely love?  What features do you now find ‘missing’ when looking at the Managed DirectX libraries?

In short, now would be the perfect time to suggest features on things you might like to see in a “Whidbey” specific version of Managed DirectX.

( And yes, I’m aware of the loader lock problem using the current MDX assemblies with Whidbey.. So ignore that one.. 😀 )

Edit: Comments seem to be broken.. I’m trying to fix it.. Let me know if it works..

Win a prize ($50,000) for writing Managed DX apps..

Since I’m feeling quite lazy, I’m just going to copy the basic post from the Zbuffer site..

So you think you are a good Managed DirectX programmer eh ? Well if you have some SQL skills (or a friend who does) then you could be ready to enter the Connected Systems Developer Competition. There are 15 categories to enter and number 10 is:

  • Best use of Managed DirectX, Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server Express

I know it seems strange to put DirectX and SQL server together, but the competition *is* all about connected systems. Closing date is September 15th 2005 so you have plenty of time. Lots of other prizes too – check out the official rules