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Feature: 'Postmortem: Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice'

Ex-Insomniac programmer Nathan Fouts created one of the standout Xbox Live Community Games in 2D side-scrolling shooter Weapon Of Choice, and explains how in thi
Ex-Insomniac programmer Nathan Fouts created one of the standout Xbox Live Community Games in 2D side-scrolling shooter Weapon Of Choice, and explains how in this Gamasutra postmortem. As the sole programmer working on Weapon Of Choice, and with his experience mostly limited to gameplay programming, Fouts saw XNA as a boon to the project, relying on the toolset to handle most of the game's low-level issues: "XNA handled most everything that's ever scared me about game development. With XACT, the suite's audio tool, I was able to incorporate initial sound effects and music within an afternoon and had minimal sound issues during development. For weeks, I avoided creating a data file to save player progression. Accessing the 360's hard drive, displaying the Xbox Guide, knowing if the memory card is available -- this was pretty intimidating for a guy who specializes in how to best cleave an NPC's forearm. Yet, I remember spending a morning reading XNA's help file and writing my save/load interface. I couldn't believe that within hours, those issues were resolved." Fouts still ran into plenty of problems while developing Weapon of Choice, however, such as not having enough information about the Community Games platform and not being able to test the title with the New Xbox Experience's dashboard: "It was very frustrating designing features like trial mode and hoping they would work; we were only able to test trial mode definitively on the day the game went on sale. All Community Games are required to use XNA Game Studio (GS) 3.0 which was made available shortly before the channel launch. Porting to GS 3.0 was quick and painless; however, WoC level load times increased by about 40%. All Community Games developers had access to the beta of GS 3.0 for months. I didn't feel like I had the time or manpower to maintain GS 2.0 for development and GS 3.0 beta in a sandbox for testing, and thus only ported to the final GS 3.0 near our launch. Regardless, I had the ability to discover the loading problems and fix them earlier." You can read the full postmortem for Mommy's Best Games' Weapon of Choice, which includes more examples of what went wrong and what went right with the game's development (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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