It's coming up to 18 months since I started work on XAGE. During that time the focus of development has shifted so much, it seems like a good time to recap how XAGE began, where it currently is and where it is going.
The original project started as an effort to get my own adventure game on the Xbox Live Indie Games channel (then 'Community Games'). After a few months work the engine was in a playable state and, using Monkey Island 2 placeholder artwork, I was able to hardcode a small demo room. It was obvious that I needed to develop a tool to enable me to quickly create all the game content from scratch, whilst the engine itself essentially operated as an interpreter (similar to SCUMM).
Soon after the original Editor had been created, it struck me that other people may be interested in the tools I was creating. Posting in a handful of forums prompted a positive response, and I started to receive emails with comments, suggestions and general feedback - all of which has been incredibly useful and a good source of motivation. And thus, the Xna Adventure Game Engine was born.
From that point on, focus shifted from the engine to the editor itself. Numerous revisions and improvements have meant that the editor is fairly straightforward and easy to use. I took a look at the competition - AGS, Wintermute and later Visionaire2D, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. I found myself most drawn to AGS, of which I already had a passing familiarity, as it had a lot of similarities and it seemed to have the most active and friendliest community.
As development progressed I began to think more long term about possible game projects. As I'm a slow and clumsy pixel artist, I felt that it may be a better use of my time to instead think about converting existing games to XAGE for release to the Xbox. I contacted the author of a short AGS game tentatively asking what he thought of the idea, and again the response was favourable. I have since spoken to two others, and been contacted by about a dozen or so more developers, some indie, some commercial. It is pleasing that through only a few forum posts, blogs and youtube videos XAGE has caught the attention of the handful of people I had hoped it might. I have a good idea of who I'd be interested in working with in the future and there are no end of interesting games to port.
Along the way I discovered the open source Silversprite project, and in an afternoon had XAGE up and running in a web browser. This has added a complication insofar that all new functionality has to be supported across all three target platforms - Windows PC, Xbox and Silverlight. On the other hand, it broadens the scope of compatibility to otherwise C# unfriendly platforms such as Linux and Macs.
Eager to put the maturing Editor through it's paces, I spent four or five weeks making my own short game, The Fourth Wall, for Microsoft's DreamBuildPlay competition. It was a useful exercise, leading to a lot of bugfixes, as well as proving (to me and the four or five people who played it) the viability of the engine.
The next shift in development focus came when I discovered that it was possible to automate a large part of the work when converting an AGS game to XAGE, drastically reducing the work required for the end user. Numerous improvements later and I am now tweaking and altering a few outstanding aspects of XAGE's design in order to aid the AGS conversions. This has only been possible by using the few Open Source AGS games available, and more recently Awakener.
I'm working on getting Awakener to convert as accurately and simply as possible. I'm having to plumb in new functionality to support this, such as local script variables, script paramaters, GUI customisation etc. This is a lot of work, but the end result will be worth it, vastly improving the feasibility of running complete AGS games on the Xbox.
The roadmap on this blog is periodically juggled and amended. Once the work on Awakener is complete, I'll look at other AGS games to help finalise the XAGE GUI design. ETA for this is 8-12 weeks depending on how much time I get to spend.
Following that there will be three main milestones:
- Rework The Fourth Wall to work with the latest version & release to XBLIG.
- Release XAGE v0.5 (or whichever version is current) as Beta on a swanky new, dedicated website (i.e. begin the PR).
- Identify & negotiate rights to the first AGS game to be released on the Xbox360.
So ... there you have it. I'd like to thank everyone who has shown an interest in XAGE so far - your support and encouragement has always been appreciated. To that end, XAGE will always remain completely free for non-commercial use.