In his keynote at Microsoft’s Gamefest event, XNA general manager Chris Satchell unveiled the latest version of XNA Game Studio – and announced a new strategy for the product.
Previously planned to be split into two packages – Game Studio Express for hobbyist users and Game Studio Professional for licenced Xbox 360 developers – Microsoft has decided to merge the two apps into one fully-featured package, XNA Game Studio 2.0, due to launch later this year.
Developers who wish to make Xbox Live Arcade titles and who are licenced XNA developers will have access to extra libraries that will plug into the Game Studio 2.0 software.
"We made the decision to make one Game Studio. We think everyone should have access to the same tool. There should be no friction as you move from accessible development to professional development," said Satchell.
Most impressive of the new features in 2.0 is the ability for all developers making titles for 360 to gain access Xbox Live, complete with support for the matchmaking and voice-chat facilities that such access provides.
Alongside an increase in performance, version 2.0 will no longer be limited to the free Visual C# Express software and will instead work with every version of Visual Studio, enabling developers to use time-saving VS plug-ins with XNA.
The content pipeline will also be upgraded for version 2.0, with a focus on compressed resources, allowing users to minimise the download size of their games, something that’s vital for Xbox Live Arcade.
Also announced in the keynote was a partnership with Softimage and its free XSI Mod Tool, support for which is now integrated into the content pipeline.