In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, regular Gamasutra contributor Alistair Wallis gives a comprehensive overview
of Microsoft's XNA and how it can help individuals get their games out to the public, including extensive interviews with XNA project heads and developers.
In this excerpt from the feature, intended to be an introduction to the XNA concept as well as an overview of its features and potential, Wallis explains precisely what XNA, and in general what a framework, actually is:
"So, let's step back a little: what is XNA?
"The term XNA regroups all Microsoft's effort for game developers," says Julien Ellie, XNA Software Design Engineer at Microsoft. "It's a whole ecosystem made of services, tools and a community. XNA Game Studio Express is a key part of this offering and is a new and easier way to create games for PC and Xbox 360."
The basis of XNA as a whole is its framework. If you're not experienced in making games, that can be a difficult term to understand, so let's look at exactly what it means.
The framework, essentially, is a set of code development libraries that makes it easier to write a program - which in the case of XNA would be a game - and gives users a common ground and guarantee of common behaviors within the framework. It's easiest to think of it as a set of rules that govern how the program runs, and can be transferred easily between different target platforms, like PC and Xbox 360. The usage of the XNA framework also has the advantage of meaning that users can easily integrate tools such as Microsoft's XACT Audio Authoring Tool, amongst a quickly growing list of others.
Games that run within the framework are written using C#, an object oriented programming language developed by Microsoft that emphasizes simplicity for beginners, but also provides enough sophistication and functionality for high end users."
You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature
which also includes a long list of XNA and Xbox 360 homebrew-related links, and extensive interviews with XNA engineers and managers, as well as recognized 360 developers and homebrewers (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).