XNA has slowly been dying over the last year (and likely longer), but for you indie devs this isn’t new news. Not only has Microsoft chosen not to develop XNA further, but XNA and DirectX is being removed from their MVP Award Program sometime this year. Add to the fact that Microsoft has been promoting the use of alternative platforms to develop games for the past year (more on a few of those in a moment) and XNA 5 is nowhere to be seen, and one thing quickly becomes apparent: XNA is a sinking ship, and it’s time look elsewhere.
But what if you love XNA? What if it has been your premier development platform for years, yet you don’t know where to go from here? You have a few options XNA fan, and the options below will assure you that the transition from the dying XNA to another platform is as seamless and simple as possible.
Arguably the most popular development software for indie developers today, Unity is one of the most flexible yet easy-to-use platforms around today. It’s also the software that Microsoft is touting the most, meaning they are likely wanting Unity to act as its unofficial replacement (rumor has it support for Xbox One will be added soon). Complete with a strong community and incredible support, Unity is certainly indie friendly, it is evolving at a decent rate, and it is being supported on multiple platforms all the time. Case in point: support for the PS Vita was added this morning in Unity’s 4.3 update.
It’s also the development software that most indies are using nowadays as well. I can vouch for this as well. In my interviews with indie devs on Game Academy Radio, nearly all of them have used Unity to develop their game with a small minority of them using something else. In fact, some of the indie devs I keep in contact with after my interview with them have stated they switched over to Unity and wish they would have done it sooner as it essentially streamlines development. Best of all? You can get a free version to try it out for yourself.
UDK is another popular option. Using Unreal Engine 3, it’s possible to use UDK to make incredible indie games in the same way as you would with XNA and Unity. Although you will have to learn unreal script and various other tools, some prefer UDK over Unity. The learning curve is definitely higher than with Unity, but with a little bit of detective work on YouTube and other sites that offer UDK tutorials, you will be able to get the hang of UDK and continue making quality games. I mean come on; UDK is responsible for Hawken – a game about giant mechs battling other mechs. Software responsible for creating such an awesome, beautiful game is definitely worth your while, so check out the free version.
What if you prefer C++
That’s the big question, isn’t it? If you prefer to develop in C++, you may not know where to turn from here. Yet do not be alarmed, as you still have a few XNA alternatives.
MonoGame has actually become the unofficial successor to XNA. As their website states, the software, “is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4.x Framework.” Thus, it’s the closest thing you are going to get to a regularly updated XNA. The beauty of MonoGame is that it also supports a ton of different platforms, such as iOS and Android, PlayStation Mobile Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and more.
Xamarin also recently released a port for the PlayStation 4, so MonoGame can be used to develop PS4 games as well. Therefore, not only is it nearly identical to XNA, but arguably, it’s even better since it supports more than merely Microsoft platforms.
Another XNA variant, WaveEngine aims to provide the most authentic XNA experience possible. It’s definitely worth using if you want to focus primarily on selling your game on the App Store, Google Play, and Steam as it seems to only support mobile devices and Windows, but the beauty of WaveEngine is it is completely free. It even offers a component-based entity approach in the same way that Unity does, so it’s worth a shot.
The inevitable death (no matter how slow it may seem) of XNA does not mean that there is no hope on the horizon. You have a wealth of alternative software to use that is arguably more powerful than XNA ever was, yet if you absolutely love XNA and want to continue using software similar to XNA? You have powerful, alternative options as well that, again, are arguably better than XNA.
Should you mourn XNA? Yes, yet celebrate in the fact that you have powerful options ahead of you. Let us know what you think of these XNA alternatives (and other alternatives as well) in the comments below – your fellow indie devs will certainly appreciate your input!