MonoGame on lowering the barrier to entry for consoles

MonoGame on lowering the barrier to entry for consoles
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

March 26th 2014 at 2:20PM

Project leads Tom Spilman and Steve Williams discuss bringing PS4 support to the open source development framework

Despite Microsoft’s own abandonment of the XNA development framework, MonoGame has been championing the engine over the last year and has since built upon the XNA 4 Framework to keep it relevant for new platforms.

Last week it was announced the tool would have support for PS4 game development, and will be free for all registered PS4 developers. The first title for the console to take advantage of the engine is Matt Makes Games’ Towerfall: Ascension, and other upcoming titles using the framework also include Tribute Games’ Mercenary Kings and Supergiant Games’ Transistor.

Sharpening up PS4 development

Speaking to Develop, the project leads behind MonoGame explained just exactly what MonoGame support for PS4 means, and what you can do with it.

“MonoGame on PlayStation 4 is possibly the best implementation of XNA one could have,” says MonoGame project lead and Sickhead Games co-owner Tom Spilman.

“It's still the powerful and easy to use 2D and 3D game library that originally captured indies attention back in 2006, but adds new PS4 features like the DualShock light bar, remote play, and live streaming support. Not to mention it is running on one of the most powerful and graphically capable consoles available to players today.”

Co-project lead Steve Williams adds that providing full access to supported platforms is key for MonoGame to ensure it is not restricted “to a lower common denominator set of features”, helping empower developers to use the tool as they like.

And he says MonoGame is a great way of opening up console game development to more people than ever before.

“We see MonoGame and C# as lowering the barrier to entry on the consoles,” says Williams.

“With the console manufacturers beginning to embrace indie developers more, MonoGame and C# allows the indie developer to get up to speed a lot quicker using their existing skills and knowledge than if they started from scratch with the native C++ API for each platform."

Another key feature for MonoGame on PS4 is that it’s completely free to use for registered developers on the console. This is despite previous suggestions from its creators that there may be a cost attached to the engine for the hardware because of the work it would take to support it.

“Unlike many game engines out there MonoGame is fully open source and an entirely volunteer-driven project,” says Spilman.

“The goal has always been to bring MonoGame to as many platforms as possible. Seeing hugely popular games like TowerFall: Ascension using MonoGame on PS4 is a huge milestone for us. Our payoff is being able to use the technology we love to bring our own games to the best platforms available.”

The MonoGame PS4 beta will begin in approximately three weeks, with the full version likely to be completed by late June.

Open for console business

PS4 isn’t the only platform MonoGame supports of course. The open-source project is also free for iOS, Android, Mac, Linux and Windows 8, and continues to expand the platforms and features it supports.

Spilman and Williams say this year will see more advancements to the core API and extend it to cover more features such as compute and geometry shaders, stereoscopic displays and new input devices, as well as DirectX 12 support later this year. But the developers are also working on another big feature.

“The most important one is finishing our rewrite of the XNA content pipeline allowing developers to work entirely from Mac OSX or Linux desktop systems,” he says.

And what about the other platforms it is not yet supporting? Spilman reveals MonoGame has been in discussions with consoles manufacturers for some time now for increased support.

“We have been talking with them for a while now and they are very encouraging and helpful, but we have nothing to announce yet. We hope to see MonoGame available on all the consoles this year,” he says.

Williams adds: “Our long-term aim is to see MonoGame available for all developers, indie and larger studios, on all consoles, mobile and desktop platforms.”

A year ago it may have seemed the XNA development framework was dead. But with MonoGame continuing to build upon what Microsoft built and turn it into something new, the indie development toolset appears live and well.