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ExEn engine brings Microsoft’s XNA games to Android, other platforms

by Phil Hornshaw

A new open-source engine could be adding quite a few new games to the Android Market.

It’s called ExEn, and it works with Microsoft’s XNA software development kit, according to a story from Pocket Gamer. That kit allows game developers, especially indie ones, to make games for Windows Phone 7 and smaller-scale but interesting titles that have appeared as downloads on Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. ExEn allows XNA to support new platforms, including Android, iOS and Windows Silverlight on PC.

XNA has become an interesting force on Xbox Live, a place where downloadable titles are common but not at the same volume or model necessarily as what is seen in the mobile space. Most downloadable titles on Xbox Live are about $10 to $15 or more and come from big studios and publishers, such as Electronic Arts.

Meanwhile, XNA games on Xbox Live are largely very cheap – a couple of bucks at most – and usually more akin to mobile titles than big studio releases. Often they include lower-quality, more simplistic graphics, generally because they come from indie development teams that may include only a few people, or even just one. It’s the same story as mobile games, which is why XNA games would make a good fit on mobile platforms: they’re easy to make, free to develop, a way to make some money (more on mobile than on Xbox Live, certainly) and they foster new creative voices in the video game industry.

ExEn works by basically converting the code of XNA games to something that can be handled by Android, iOS and Silverlight; normally, the XNA code wouldn’t be compatible. Andrew Russell, the developer behind the open-source project, built it with the help of crowd funding, and received more than $10,000 in donations. It has been in development since about the end of 2010. A public preview recently went live that’s available to people who helped fund the project. Right now, ExEn can only accommodate games using 2-D “sprite” graphics, but the final version is planned to support 3-D games.

In the public release right now, ExEn supports iOS and Silverlight. Android support is coming, but the project is currently behind schedule. When Android support is complete, it’ll be available to the people who donated and are in the public preview group first. It’ll be open to everyone along with ExEn’s full release sometime after that.