A new journey in education

XNA game studio at school

without comments

Start this  at the start I guess.

Being a Play station user since the play station (one), and not into computers at the time I never really cared about the Xbox when I bought my PS2, or even early last year when I upgraded to the PS3. The first I had heard of Microsoft XNA Game Studio was in 2008 and it was totally by chance when having purchased the then new Microsoft Expression Studio. Microsoft Expression Studio came with 2005 Visual Studio. Now at the time I had only just been made a permanent teacher filling in at what is now my school and my position. I had at that time had little experience with computers except what I had to learn at University and what I had picked up during the many casual and temporary permanent positions I had, had since 2004 and had no interest in coding or  programming.

Fast forward to June 2010, I had spent the last 6 months trying to get year 10 into Flash games using their DER laptops. What a nightmare that was, the DET Lenovo’s struggle to power Flash projects, there is a constant issue with the Flash player plugin being out of date. So this quickly removed any enthusiasm the kids had. Around this time rumors of the new Windows Phone 7 started along with some of the then suggested capabilities of the phone. One of these was to play games, games that would be linked to an Xbox Live account. In one article that I read they linked to XNA Game Studio.  On arriving at that page I was amazed that this secret had been hidden away from me for so long. With a simple download you could make games for your PC or Xbox.

So immediately I download the development tools which were available at the time and then went in search of books which would help me in learning how to make games. I spent most of the school holidays reading through books and coming up with ideas for my multimedia classes.

I kept plugging away with my XNA training during term 3, once my HSC students had finished there Major works. It was around this time that Windows released more details about the fourth coming phone and the Beta version of the developer tools. So that was it for me, we cannot do iPod/iPhone development which is what the kids are in to, though we can do it for Windows Phone 7. As usual I was sharing all these ideas on Twitter and that nice DER fellow @benpaddlejones had an idea. He started to organise a day for DET staff to go to Microsoft offices in Sydney to learn more about XNA game studio. A month 0r so prior to that day I received my Windows Phone 7 and had downloaded the new free XNA tools which now featured the phone tools.

Halo helmet at Microsoft Sydney

Halo helmet at Microsoft Sydney

As with most development platforms for phones there is a charge to be a developer and have the opportunity to test your apps on the phone. Windows Phone is no different and at $120 AUD was going to be a hurdle when it came to developing for the platform at school.

It was soon December 19th and we were at Microsoft Sydney for our Xbox in education day. This was quiet an impressive day for me, I had never been to such an event before or experienced the pleasure of Microsoft. I took many thing out of this day, the main one though was that Cherrybrook Technical HS had been using XNA since 2007 and had some amazing equipment at its disposal. Every student had an Xbox at there station for testing, they had Autodesk 3D max software just to name a few. But the best piece of information which the Head Teacher for Cherrybrook passed on was Microsoft DreamSpark. Now I new about DreamSpark prior to this, however I was not aware of how to access it for my students. DreamSpark not only provides students to free access to all the software listed for 12 months, it also provides students with developer access for 12 months to the Xbox and the phone. Now they only get to have one registered phone as students compared to three to a paying developer, but this is better then the poke in an eye from Apple and its developer situation for iPhone with students.

So over the summer break, I stepped up my XNA learning. I paid up to be a developer, I bought a second Windows Phone through eBay to use in class, I spent a fortune on new books relating to XNA and Windows Phone development and most importantly I back ordered my 3G wireless station for my 3G modem. All which relies heavily on Windows 7 coming to the PC’s at my school.

As I found out on Monday Windows 7 wont be coming to T4L PC’s for a while, well thats the latest anyway. This is a bit of a disaster for the phone development in the short term. Although Visual Studio 2010 will work on XP, XNA 4.0 which has the phone will not.

So where to from here?

Well its to plan B. Plan B is to fall back to Visual Studio 2008 and XNA 3.1 which thankfully is still available.
What you’ll need is the following;

Visual Studio 2008 which I believe is still on the DET software server. If it isn’t there is the free Express edition.

XNA 3.1 for Visual Studio.

DreamSpark for your students.

A 3G wireless router.

And lastly an Xbox which can be purchased through Dick Smith Electronics on the DET procurement list.

I have probably left something out. As I move further through this XNA journey I’ll post more about it.


Written by themolisticview

February 5th, 2011 at 5:23 am

Leave a Reply