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The Building Block Of XNA Game Studio Express Games

Mar 13, 2008
What do you suppose is the building block of all 2D and even some 3D games? If you guessed sprites, you're completely right! The sprite is a magical tool that game developers have been using to simplify the game development process. In the case of XNA Game Studio Express, the sprite makes up the building block of all graphical content.

What Sprites Accomplish in XNA Game Studio Express

Game sprites are more common that you might think. Every character, weapon, bullet, tree, and virtually everything else is usually assigned as a sprite. Very few 2D games can do without sprites (although it's possible but also impractical). 3D games also use these 2D sprites for heads up displays, particle effects, and other trivial graphical matters.

Since these sprites are so important to games in general, XNA Game Studio Express has a lot of built-in support for them. Developers, programmers, and designers can all add a sprite via the Content Pipeline. This is just a fancy phrase to describe the simple upload-and-use method that Microsoft XNA developers graciously created for us.

But just as it is easy enough to upload the sprite and reference within our code, it is just as easy to manipulate the sprite in question. There are built in functions that allow game programmers to modify attributes such as opacity, tint, size, scale, rotation points, and even use what is called sprite sheet animation.

Most of the built-in effects are major time saving functions which has led to some very interesting games produced via XNA Game Studio Express as a result. If you want a character to turn invisible at the drop of a hat, just set the opacity value accordingly. If you want to show off a smooth 30-frame animation for a roundhouse kick, then sprite sheet animation is just as easy to accomplish.

Using Sprites in 3D XNA Game Studio Express Games

Sprites are also used in 3D games, albeit less on average than 2D games. As we mentioned before, they are generally for particle systems, heads up displays, menus, and other trivial functions.

Particle systems in particular are very important. When the smoke of a barrel rises after a shot, you can bet that 2D sprites are being used in most cases. When an earth-shattering explosion knocks dust and rocks into the air, 2D sprites are again most likely at work. Although advanced 3D games don't even need to make use of 2D sprites as particle effects, most homebrew games do.

But what many (even advanced!) games can't avoid is getting information to the player which, coincidentally, requires 2D sprites. Menu effects, information to show things such as health or ammunition levels, pause menus, profile screens, and much more will still make use of sprites.

Final Thoughts on XNA Game Studio Express and Sprites

XNA Game Studio Express is a true blessing, what with its vast support for sprites. The on the go functionality of XNA Game Studio Express allows better games to be made in less time- and as we can see, much of the time is cut at the sprite level.

Game developers will tell you that a game without sprites is improbable. As a result of this fact, and the fact that XNA Game Studio Express makes it so easy, we are seeing many developers shifting to XNA game development- and rightly so.
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