edit: I should have made it clear that the title for this post is a semi-joke. Yes, I know XNA isn’t dead and XNA games will run on Win8 and there’s still the 360 and WP7 platforms. My apologies for any confusion.
I’ve held off with this post until I had what I thought was enough information to speak intelligently on the topic. I know, that makes me unusual for someone ranting on the interwebz, but that’s the way I sometimes like to roll.
So XNA games on Windows 8 won’t be able to be Metro-style games. They’ll still run as desktop games so everything is good, right? Not really, in my opinion.
MS had the chance of making XNA a first class citizen on Win8 and finally make the “3 screens and the cloud” mantra that they’ve been preaching the past couple of years a reality, but instead it’s even more of a red-headed stepchild that it has been.
My hope for XNA over the past couple of years has been that the PC would get a shiny new coat of paint by MS overhauling Games For Windows LIVE to make it a Steam competitor and allow XNA games to be submitted to it just like WP7 and Xbox.
Given the sorry state of XBLIG with it’s bugs, shovelware, and lack of exposure that allows XNA games to actually make decent money and the newness of the WP7 Marketplace that means income from XNA games on that platform isn’t much better, I was looking towards the PC to receive some love that would make it the savior of XNA. Sadly, that’s not to be.
It seems there will be a marketplace, but XNA games, being that they cannot be Metro-style apps, will have a Marketplace entry that is just a link to a site the developer designates, which means we have to handle all the nasty business details that the other two marketplaces take care of for us. While that’s not impossible, it means extra work that we don’t have to deal with on the other two platforms, and possibly having to maintain an extra code base for whatever distribution platform is used. It also means that many gamers will probably see the off-Marketplace hosting and either worry about security issues (viruses, payment, etc.) or get the feeling that XNA games just aren’t up to snuff to be allowed to be on the real Marketplace. They probably won’t know, nor care, about the technical issues that don’t allow XNA games to be on the Marketplace. Perception is a killer when it’s negative.
Being Desktop apps on Win8 also means that XNA games cannot take advantage of whatever functionality exists only for Metro-style apps. What exactly all that is, is only speculation at this point, but I’ve found this:
Metro style apps
|Full-trust; able to access any system resource, including all areas of the file system.||Base-trust, isolated in individual app containers with brokered access to protected resources (those affecting user data, identity, and privacy), and no access to system-critical resources.|
|Written with the Classic/Desktop SDK using the full Win32 API surface area along with the WinRT API.||Written with the Windows SDK for Metro style Apps using the Windows Runtime (WinRT; all languages) API and a small subset of Win32 and .NET (C++, C#, and VB only).|
|Run with the desktop environment with overlapping windows.||Typically, run full screen, or might share part of the screen with at most one other app; operating system chrome appears as needed.|
|Continue running until user explicitly closes them; can easily run in the background without user interaction, and can be set to launch on startup.||Are typically suspended when not in the foreground, unless an app specifically requests background tasks. Those tasks are still subject to user control.|
|Licensed per machine.||Licensed per user with automatic roaming app settings via the cloud.|
|Open distribution: retail stores, web, private networks, individual sharing, and so on.||Distributed through the Windows Store. Apps must pass certification so that users download and try apps with confidence in their safety and privacy. Side-loading is available for enterprises and developers.|
|Provide their own commerce engines to do trial versions or in-app purchasing.||Can provide trial versions and in-app purchases directly through the Windows Store. Apps can also use a custom commerce engine to handle subscription or similar purchases.|
|Custom anti-piracy, commerce, licensing, updates, and analytics.||Licensing, core anti-piracy, and updates provided through the Windows Store; analytics provided through the Windows Store developer portal.|
|Can generally access system devices such as webcams and microphones, and user data without restriction.||Must declare access to needed hardware and file libraries. Unless specifically allowed by user action, such requests are otherwise denied.|
|Custom install/uninstall processes; allowed to alter the system.||Declarative install/uninstall with no customizable steps and no ability to alter the system.|
|Maintains its own user authentication.||Can share a single user sign-on across apps.|
|Static desktop icons and custom notifications.||Live tiles, content tiles, and consistent notifications.|
|Custom code for cross-app features like search, share, and contact management. System search is limited to the file system.||Integrated contracts that allow apps to provide services to each other and to the system, including search, share, contacts app-to-app file picking, Sent To, Play To, and more.|
Exactly how much of the Metro-style functionality is useful is going to be up to the developer I guess. There are some things that are actually nice for Desktop apps, but overall the negatives outweigh the positives to me.
There is already talk in the community about ways around the outcast status of XNA games. My opinion is that workarounds shouldn’t have been necessary. For whatever reason though, MS thought that updating XNA to allow games to be Metro-style software just wasn’t important enough to be done. Could that change in the future? Sure, but that doesn’t help those of us that want to plan and be ready to take advantage of the market when Win8 is released.
As much as it saddens me, I’m seeing the announcement of Win8 as the last gasp of a dying technology. Hopefully my prophetic talents are completely wrong.