At the Games Developers Conference in San Jose, Microsoft has shown its next-generation plans for the first time, with three technical demos showing off XNA - standing for Cross-Platform, Next-Generation Architecture. The platform is being used to develop Xbox 2 games, as well as next-gen games for Windows and other MS mobile devices.
Microsoft representatives on the showfloor stated that the demos, entitled Xenomorph, Crash Test and Film Noir, are essentially from Xbox 2 code routines, showing the standard of graphical output the machine will be capable of when it launches, perhaps as early as late 2005.
The XNA was described as "...the catalyst for a new ecosystem of interchangeable software tools that liberates developers from spending too much time writing overly-mundane, repetitive boilerplate code." Strong claims indeed.
Introduced on stage by Microsoft head man Robbie Bach, the first rolling footage to be shown was Crash Test, a stylish car crash damage routine simulator. Crash Test, developed by Cel Damage creator Pseudo Interactive, was in place to demonstrate the real-time physics computing available to the XNA and thus the Xbox 2, with screens showing telemetric data from the car and environmental information throughout.
J Allard, Xbox bigwig, commented, "The heart of XNA is choice. No games today are built with just one tool, and no games tomorrow will be. By creating an environment wherein software innovations flourish and work together, XNA will allow game developers to redefine what is possible in games while giving gamers the freedom to pursue their own paths. XNA closes the gap between what gamers want and what developers dream about."
Developed by Microsoft's Advanced Technology Group, Film Noir is another stylish medium to demonstrate various graphical tricks, depicting a 1920's-style smoking lady, sitting at a table, the surroundings awash with art deco trimmings. Film Noir, according to Microsoft, was shown to demonstrate advanced lighting and fogging effects as well as chronicle the intricate level of environmental detail that will be gracing videogames come the next phase.
The final clip to be revealed was entitled Xenomorph, developed by High Voltage of Hunter: The Reckoning fame, and the team currently charged with the revitalisation of Leisure Suit Larry. It detailed a creature evolving from a gorilla, into an insect, to a lizard, into, well, just have a look at the screenshots...
Far from being shown to demonstrate the XNA’s morphing capabilities (which are just so-o-o-o nineties, darling) the footage was to show "...imaginative and intricately detailed characters are possible on the new technology."
Speaking on XNA, leader of the gang Bill Gates - fresh from a massive dressing down at the EU which fined the software giant the equivalent of 1% of its entire cash reserves for what amounts to bullying - said, "Software will be the single most important force in digital entertainment over the next decade. XNA underscores Microsoft's commitment to the game industry and our desire to work with partners to take the industry to the next level."
Expect a whole lot more from Microsoft and its XNA plans at this May's E3. Stay tuned!