Delta Engine Blog

AI, Robotics, multiplatform game development and Strict programming language

Seattle Day 2 - Second day at Microsoft

Welcome back to my little photo diary of my experiences here in Seattle.

Today I worked a lot with the Xbox 360 side of XNA. In the earlier builds I had a lot of problems with testing my starter kit on the Xbox 360, but most of these issues are resolved now. About 99% works the same on the Windows and Xbox 360 platforms, but if you hit that 1% it does still get you angry and pushing your head into the wall. For example a couple of the more advanced shadow mapping shaders work fine on the windows platform, but all kinds of crazy things happen on the Xbox 360, the game crashes, you see black bars all over the screen or the output is just not right.

If you are like me and have not worked with the Xbox 360 before, I can tell you that it is not easy getting used to the way the console uses render targets. You have to resolve them with a little helper method in XNA (or in the Xbox 360 SDK) to get the contents copied over to your texture. This is not required on windows. But even if you take care of that the shaders might behave a little different. For example most of my post screen shaders use the background buffer to mix results and sometimes mix them together several times. This works fine on the windows platform and behaves the same way as it does in DirectX.

But after some discussion with Tom Miller, Matt and Mitch Walker from the XNA Team and debugging a little, it was clear that the background buffer can have garbage data after rendering into render targets. This was very bad for one of the shaders because it requires 2 separate images over several passes and then blend them together at the last pass. I used the back buffer to hold one of them and a render target for the other, but that had to be changed in order to run correctly on the Xbox 360. Good thing this was just one shader, in my bigger game engine I have over 100 shaders and it would not be fun to rethink all of the post screen shaders ^^

Anyway, this was just one of the many things today, I will talk about all this stuff in the near future on my blog. Let's go to the pics ..

Traffic was especially bad today, it took over an hour to get from Seattle to the XNA Team Building (somewhere in that greater Microsoft Campus area, don't ask me, I'm glad still knowing where the sky and ground are). I took a few pictures of the building today, it is called Millennium Building or something ...

And this is the entrance for some of the Xbox teams and XNA. I'm not sure why this image is so wobbly. The building is straight. Maybe there is a post screen shader in my camera, that would also explain the extremly blurry pictures I get out of it most of the time. Btw: Really crazy street numbers, unimaginable in Germany where every street that is longer than a few meters is renamed 7 times.

Okay, this is how an office looks like at Microsoft. Usually everyone, no matter in what position, gets his own office. But the XNA team is pretty big and they had to put 2 people in some of the offices. I was staying in Matt's office most of the time and he was really nice to me answering all kinds of questions.

Still in the same office. Now thats how a bookshelf should look like. Lots of Game Programming Gems Books (yeah, all of them). Feels like at home in my office. Ok, my books are just piling up on my desk and it looks a bit more chaotic :-)

Later that day I checked out one of the malls and I was not very impressed. Well, I'm no big shopper anyways and the prices are too high for me, doesn't matter what I was looking at. But I saw the WII console from Nintendo in one of the game shops and played it for a bit, some fun racer. It looks really crazy holding the controller like a wheel and controlling it like a maniac in the air.

Hi there .. uh, not real?

And finally my little list of pro/cons of living in the USA (from my limited knowledge of course, and I rant a bit here):

  • People are very nice, last year in Los Angeles I also noticed that, but even here in Seattle cars break for people and bikes. It doesn't seem like everyone is cursing behind the wheel. And in general everyone was so nice to me and a pleasure to speak with.
  • Coffee makes you crazy, especially the amount in Seattle. Coffee everywhere ^^ Hey wait? Shouldn't that be on the cons list?
  • The cites look very bright and colorful at night. Like in the movies, just more real. We in Germany don't waste that much energy and the stars are too far away to be THAT bright.
  • Yeah, the democrats won the last election here. Dunno what this has to do with my blog, but yeah.
  • You can pay everything with credit cards and it really makes you life more easy. In Germany you can't pay with a credit card anywhere. And even our own sucky EC-Cards are not accepted if the price is too low. It is just stupid that we Germans have our own system, the rest of the world is using credit cards. Just for online transactions a better system than just credit cards should be invented (ok, there is paypal, but why should ebay become richer, banks themself should come up with something and compete).
  • Transportation really sucks here, trains were not invented here yet and the streets are so incredible overfilled with cars it is not funny. And even if there is a clear road ahead you can't drive faster than the speed limit of 55 mph (90 kmh) or similar. In germany there is no speed limit at most of the highways and it really seems slow, especially because the roads are usually filled to the max. And public transportation sucks even more, it is either non existent or so far away that you still need 3 times longer than driving slowly with a car.
  • Dunno, but everything seems more expensive here. Well, everyone earns more, so that could be ok.
  • TV is better here, a lot of good and funny shows. But it is hard for me to compare since I never watch TV in Germany anymore. Now why is this on the bad list? Well, commercials ever 5 minutes? Are you guys crazy? It is even too annoying every 15-20 minutes like in Germany ... Whatever, TV is boring anyway.
  • Some food tastes kinda boring. Most of this stuff was told me by other ppl who moved over from Europe and they miss the taste of good beer, chocolate, cheese, dark bread, etc. I would probably don't care and have forgotten about all of this in a short time.
  • So much to do, so few time.
Random things:
  • My freaking Simyo cell phone provider doesn't work at all here. I can receive some calls and call to Germany, but not call any number here, which is really stupid and it if it would work the prices are insane (costs like 30 times as much).
  • Console games are much more important here. In Germany maybe 30% of a game shop is used for console games, here it seem to be 70-80%.
  • Internet is slow, Wireless LAN sucks and "high speed internet" at hotels is a bad joke. At Microsoft most of the downloads I made were from Microsoft servers anyway and that was pretty fast, but the Americans live with good cable connections for a long time now and do not think the same way as we in Germany to go faster faster faster :) This is just on the cons list because of my bad WiFi experiences, even Microsoft can't figure this out for their internal network. Sorry guys, check out the Freifunk project to see how to do WiFi internet with more than 1 Kb per sec :) Man, how much longer until someone brings out useful wifi technology, all this bluetooth and wifi stuff just sucks and is too slow and error prone.
Link for me to not forget about, pretty cool new project to allow converting HLSL shaders to GLSL: