Friday, May 09, 2008 11:48 AM
My experience (so far) with XNA games on Zune
Earlier this week Microsoft released the XNA studio 3 to CTP, and it now includes support for Zune gaming. I have been excited about the idea of gaming on the Zune since they announced the support, so I downloaded it and set it up on my Zune. Here is what I found in my first day of messing with it:
Because the toolkit has only been out for a couple of days, there aren't too many games for the Zune yet, but they are coming out quickly. Every day I find a couple of new ones. Most of the games so far are simple, but as people have more time with the toolkit, I'm sure we'll see some cool stuff. At this point, think Tetris, not Call Of Duty 4. Most of the games are simple "dodge the falling object" type of games, and I have a Tetris port, a Bejeweled-like matching game, a clock application, a space invaders clone, that sort of thing. A while back there were some XNA games showcased on the Xbox 360 Merketplace that were much more complex, and the Zune should be able to run most of those without too much modification to the code.
Installation and setup was pretty simple (see my previous post for some links to good walkthroughs and to game code http://myitforum.com/cs2/blogs/smchugh/archive/2008/05/08/xna-gaming-available-on-zune-now.aspx ) but I ran into a couple of minor issues. Some are obvious, some not quite so much but maybe I can save someone a bit of time by not making the same mistakes I did. I tried setting the whole thing up on a clean Windows XP VPC to start, and that caused me some minor bumps. For starters you have to install the Zune software (and drivers) on the machine, as the XNA game studio uses them to communicate with the Zune (OK, duh...) and you will need to run the setup on a Vista machine or a machine with Office 2007 installed, because there is a truetype font used in the XNA games that comes with either Vista or Office 2007 that you need to have instaled to build the games. You could also find the font (Segoe UI) and insttall just that, but I found it easier to just move my operation to a machine that already had it. The install will also put .NET 3.5 and SQL Server Compact on your machine, so if that could cause conflict with anything else you already run be aware that it is part of the install. You'll also need to shut down pretty much everything running on your system including the Vista sidebar to get through the install.
Once up and running I found getting the games built and deployed to the Zune to be simple. Connect your Zune, shut down Zune software, Start VS C# Express, open the project file, build and deploy. The Zune shows status of the XNA files being installed and indicates that it is connected to the XNA Game Studio. The games were pretty easy to figure out how to play, and some even had support for the touchpad on my Zune 80. I have installed games on a Zune 80 and 2 Zune 30's so far with no issues. Some games are better on the 30 without touch, some are better on the 80 with the touch circle, but so far I haven't had problems running any of the games on either type of Zune.
Every time you exit a game, the Zune will completely reboot. I assume that is to take a safe approach to completely clearing all of the game files out of memory, so the games do not step on each other or the Zune media player functions. I'm sure they will have a more elegant solution on release, but I'm OK with the resets for now. It's all part of the Beta experience ;-)
I haven't blown up any Zunes by doing this and so far the games are fun little diversions. If you have some time to spend messing with this and understand what you are getting into, I would recommend it.
Filed under: Games, Entertainment, Zune