Archive for August, 2006

XNA as a … benchmarking tool?

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Now I think of it, the upcoming release of XNA Studio Express is the first opportunity for the public to run the exact same code (well, almost, given that there’s an invisible runtime beneath your code, which is NOT the same) on a retail Xbox 360 and a PC. This means you can get a fairly accurate comparison of low-level capabilities of Xenos vs. your own PC GPU - it should be easy to devise test which stress only shader power, or only alphablending bandwidth, or only geometry througput, while taking the CPU out of the equation. These results would be useful for all PC developers planning to eventually target the 360. I vaguely remember something about the EULA for one of the previous .NET frameworks explicitly forbidding publishing benchmark results, but with the XNA Studio in open circulation and something like 10 milion 360s in the wild I don’t think such results could be kept under wraps.

It should also be possible to benchmark the CPU running MSIL, but that would only be of use if you’re actually planning to make your game in C#/XNA framework, which, while probably a reasonable plan for simpler XBLA titles, I don’t expect to become popular with full games.

Update:В Well, it seems the EULA for XNA expressly forbids disclosing benchmark results without Microsoft’s consent. You won’t see me doing this, I promise ;-)

A Tale of Two Shooters

Monday, August 28th, 2006

Please waste some of your time watching these two trailers; for greater effect you might even watch them in parallel:

 

One of them is uninspired, bland-looking, and its only aspiration to greatness are the interspersed frames of a guy hiding in his armchair when he’s not waving a remote-control in the air; even in the context of a trailer, a highly polished marketing product, the control seems somewhat awkward in the traditional tank-turret kind of way. (Meaning you either move, or target, never both at the same time.) The other game shows flow, elegance and intensity in its in-game sequences, and incredible scene richness. One of than makes me want to play it, and the other does not.

One of them will get the crown of “proper next-gen console gaming”, and the other will be regarded as an also-ran who got its priorities all wrong… but, hard for me to believe as it is, it’s not yet clear which is which. The media blitz whipped up around the second coming of the gaming gods, aka the Wiimote, has distorted the fabric of reality so much we should be seeing black holes before long. Am I the only sane man in the world? (cue hollow echo)

Xbox Live Coffee Table

Friday, August 25th, 2006

So far, most of the games released for Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) fall firmly into the “other games” category, as opposed to the more traditional “proper games”. Pool/Backgammon/Poker? Definitely “other games”. Frogger/Galaga/Pacman? I’m as nostalgic as the next guy, but still “other games”. Zuma/Bejewelled/Hexic? Well, you need a fairly long crowbar to pry my wife off Bejewelled 2 (on the last-gen, low-tech, general-purpose home PC, not on a 360, alas), but it doesn’t make it anything but an “other game”.

Now Microsoft have come up with a whole new subcategory of “other games”: sub-geek boardgames, sub-geek meaning that they have already risen above chess/go/backgammon in “number of colors used” and “thickness of rulebook”, but are still a bagful of 20-sided dice short of the real geekfest. The first three games will be Settlers of Catan, Alhambra and Carcassonne. At least the first one is a game I’ve heard nothing but praise about, so I’ll be downloading demos this fall.

Now, when do we get some “proper” games?