Back in 2008 Microsoft released a the code for a small Japanese-style RPG to help folks get started with coding their own indie games. If you have a little experience with coding/compiling and want to mess about with it, here’s how to get hold of the latest version and poke about with it yourself.
Download and install Visual C# 2010 Express
Microsoft released a free (as in beer), trimmed-down version of Visual Studio specifically for coding C# .NET programs and apps. If you already have Visual Studio 2010, then skip this step.
- Go to http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/express
- Download Visual C# 2010 Express
- Install it on your PC
You also have the option of downloading the whole suite of ‘Express’ packages, including Visual Basic and the Web Developer package.
Download and install Microsoft XNA 4.0
Microsoft built the XNA code library specifically for coding games on Windows and the XBox. It contains routines for 3D graphics, sound, handling game saves, sprites and so forth.
- Go to http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=23714
- Download the file ‘XNAGS40_setup.exe‘
- Run it
Once run, you can use the XNA 4.0 code libraries in Visual C# 2010 Express, and you will also be able to make use of game templates and compilation options that will enable you to export your code to an XBox 360.
Download the Role-Playing-Game Starter Kit
The starter kit comes in the form of a project that can be opened in Visual C# 2010 Express. All you have to do is download it and unpack the files to the correct place.
- Go to http://create.msdn.com/en-US/education/catalog/sample/roleplaying_game
- Download the file ‘RolePlayingGame_4_0_Win_Xbox.zip‘
- Unpack the zip file and copy the folder into your visual studio2010projects folder. You should be able to find this in your ‘My Documents’ folder. If not, just extract them to somewhere sensible where you will be able to find them later
Everything should be in place now for you to get nosing around the code, debug it, and generally hack it about to your heart’s content
- Start Visual C# 2010 Express
- Go to File -> Open project
- Navigate to where you unpacked the RPG Starter Kit
- Open ‘RoleplayingGameWindows.sln‘
- Visual C# will load in the files
- Click the green ‘debug‘ arrow at the top to compile and run the game
All being well, the game should start. Hit ‘Escape’ to get back to Visual C# 2010 Express.
This is as far as I’ve got with it so far, and I’ll be spending some time inspecting the code and classes used. I’m particularly interested in the methods used for rendering the environment, and also handling character interaction. I suspect though that my first job will involve rebinding the keyboard controls…
I make no secret of the fact that I like a lot of what Microsoft has done in the past, but occasionally they drive me nuts. I like the .NET framework, I like the free stuff, I like Windows 7, I like the old MS Flight Simulator and their keyboards and mouses seem to work well enough.
Whereas I fully support any iniative to get young people coding their own games, I do sometimes wonder if C# is really the right place to start, and whether or not kids would be better off with something similar but based around, say, Python. Maybe I just hark after the old days, where one would switch on an 8-bit machine like a BBC Micro or a Spectrum, and immediately have access to the BASIC programming language. I believe something like that would do wonders for computing literacy