Monday, January 10, 2011

“XNA for Silverlight developers: Part 0 - Why should I care?”

Silverlight Show - XNA for Silverlight developers: Part 0 - Why should I care?


Around the time the first Windows Phone 7 devices were released to the market, one popular sentence you heard was "every Silverlight developer is a Windows Phone 7 developer" – and that's true. Silverlight is Microsoft's main platform to do Windows Phone 7 development, and every desktop Silverlight programmer will feel comfortable in the new mobile programming environment instantly. Sure there are differences and libraries specific to the devices, but you won't have to learn a new programming language or new ways to define your UI, and you can use the same development environment you've been using for normal Silverlight development all the time. That's great!

However, Silverlight is not the only possibility to create software for Windows Phone 7 devices, there's also XNA. Most people that are interested in developing for the new mobile platform probably have already read about it, mostly in the context of game programming. This article tries to give a quick overview of XNA on the mobile platform for Silverlight developers who have not dealt with XNA in detail before. It explains the possibilities of interaction between Silverlight and XNA, and why you as a Silverlight developer should care about XNA even if you don't want to develop games.

In successive parts of this series, we'll go into the details of programming 2D games for Windows Phone 7 using XNA, with special focus on those parts that require a change of thinking when you are coming from a Silverlight background. I strongly encourage you to comment on each part and request more information about topics you are interested in. If possible, your feedback will directly result in the design of future articles.


In this article we have learned that Silverlight and XNA, although very different in their programming models, are not that far apart on Windows Phone 7. Both are based on a common foundation, and parts of the libraries can be and already are shared between those two worlds easily.

We have also seen that game development for the new mobile platform is not something exclusive to XNA, but can be accomplished using Silverlight too. In fact, both technologies have their advantages when it comes to effectively programming games for Windows Phone 7.

I hope that by giving a glimpse of XNA, I've sparked some interest for those who had no motivation to delve into it so far. In the following parts of the series, we will shed light on several aspects of programming games with XNA and also focus on the differences to Silverlight's programming model to ease the learning curve for those who didn't engage in XNA development yet.

Please feel free to add your comments and thoughts, or contact me directly with any questions you have


XNA is an interesting beast. It has .Net goodness we’re used to, yet lives in a “game loop” world. If you’re a WinForms/WebForms/Silverlight dev, pure play XNA development can be jarring at first. But the level of control and power it gives you, once you “get it”, is a heady thing…

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