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XNA Sanity Check

Over the past few years I’ve had an on-again off-again affair with the now defunct Microsoft Managed DirectX (MDX) then XNA (no there is no acronym).  My interest has generally been making a modeller for editing all things 3D but usually resulted in me getting stuck on something or other or leaving in a huff to play an equally frustrating pastime – WoW.

Recently I’ve come back to XNA, XNA 3.1 to be exact and have found it to be rather good with lots of useful features to allow novices such as myself to create something pretty darn good. That’s the theory anyway.  After one gets tired of creating spinning teapots, you discover how ridiculously hard it is to say:

  • Create a model in either XSI Mod Tool or 3DS Max (my preference)
  • Create model materials such as plastics, metals, enviro maps and so on
  • Export it in a format that XNA supports
  • Find out why the imported model in XNA has lost all materials!
  • Find the best model file format

Case in point – importing a model with custom HLSL effects usually results in surface-challenged blank model.  One idea is to make a custom model processor pipeline component that can read all the effect and material metadata.  If you are keen on the X file format (no I don’t mean Mulder and Scully), well stiff bickies because X apparently does not include string names for materials.  FBX does!  At this stage of my feeble knowledge, I can not fathom why many people keep pushing X over FBX in XNA (maybe it’s because X is Microsoft?).  Then again, many of the tutorials from the XNA website use FBX anyway. Hmm.  Maybe I’ll learn later.  I would have thought materials to be pretty important though.

So, as I write this down, I have discovered after many frustrating weekends, how mind-bogglingly difficult it has been to start with something in say 3DS Max and end up with a wonderful looking model in my XNA application.

Now there are many so called XNA tutorials out there, but in my opinion they are so basic as to offer no use in a realistic game, or far too complicated that during the explanation of solving a problem they mention far too many other things that just leaves you even more confused.

Stay tuned.

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