If you’re an indie game developer interested in building for the Xbox, your moment may have arrived: Microsoft’s new Xbox Live Creators Program gives you the ability to publish games directly to the Xbox One and Windows 10.
On the Xbox, these indie games are located in a “special” section of the Xbox One Store; on Windows 10, they end up in the Games category of the Store. But those indie developers won’t have access to all of the Xbox platform’s capabilities; those who want to layer Achievements, Gamerscore, or internet multiplayer into their creations will need to upgrade from the Creators Program to ID@Xbox, a selective tier that offers more tools and support for professional creators.
The Creators Program, in Microsoft’s words, is aimed more at “small or budding studios, hobbyists, makers, teachers and students.” For any tech professionals who build games using Unity in their spare time (just as one example), the opportunity to port their finished product onto the Xbox platform might be too good to pass up. (According to Microsoft, there is no concept approval required “outside of standard Store policies.”)
For those interested in game development, but who have no background in it, try out the Unity game engine, which supports a broad gaming ecosystem including Xbox, PlayStation, Oculus Rift, Windows, and mobile operating systems such as iOS and Google Android. Developers can use C# or Boo (a platform similar to Python) to build within Unity, which is offered on a subscription basis.
Unity 2017.1, the latest version of the platform, includes some new tools such as Post-Processing (for applying realistic filters to scenes), Unity Teams (designed to streamline how development teams collaborate), and Timeline (a tool for creating cinematic content and cut-scenes).
If you’re curious about working with other tools—and building for gaming platforms other than Xbox—check out Unreal, one of the oldest and best-known development toolkits. There’s also Amazon Lumberyard, which integrates tightly with AWS SDK for C++ and features a suite of visualization tools—plus you can use it to build non-gaming applications in the event of a zombie apocalypse.