At long last, I will finally be able to say without any caveats that Axiom Verge is playable on your favorite console. I will soon be able to say that whether your primary platform is Steam, PS4, Wii U, or now Xbox One, Axiom Verge is available. When will I be able to say this? The final piece of the console puzzle, the Xbox One version, will launch on Friday, September 30 – a mere 2 weeks from now! Mark your calendars and tell your friends! Like with the other platforms, it will be $19.99, but it will have a 10% introductory discount through October 10.
There’s a certain irony that Xbox One is the last console to get Axiom Verge. When I started development almost 7 years ago, Xbox 360 (in particular, the Xbox Live Indie Games service) was my target platform. Like many indie developers, I vastly underestimated the scope of what the game would eventually become and the time needed to achieve my full vision, and by the time I was ready to launch, the development framework I was using (XNA) was no longer compatible with Xbox’s latest system.
For anyone interested in a history lesson, XNA was developed by Microsoft as a free set of APIs for independent developers to use to create games for consoles – without the need for expensive development hardware. At the time, this idea was revolutionary. Consoles were always the domain of large companies with big budgets. Development kits ran tens of thousands of dollars, so hobbyists, or even small studios, could never afford to develop games for consoles without a publisher who could provide the necessary hardware and software. XNA made it possible for anyone with access to a simple PC to develop games that could be released on a console.
But it was often more than that. Although consumers probably saw a lot of low quality shovelware clogging up XBLIG (opening the floodgates does let some sewage through), to XBLIG developers, it was about community and developers helping each other. A lot of talent cut their teeth on XBLIG. Ska Studios first achieved notoriety with their title I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1. Now you may know them better as the developer of Salt and Sanctuary.
In fact, James Silva, who was the sole member of Ska Studios until his wife Michelle joined him and turned it into a 2-person company, wrote a book about making games with XNA. James Petruzzi and Tim Dodd used that book to learn how to make games for XBLIG. In case you’re not familiar with James and Tim, they’re the people behind the upcoming metroidVANIA, Chasm. (Incidentally, Chasm and Axiom Verge share something else in common. Dan Adelman is handling the biz dev and marketing for both games, and we often show our titles together. This was our setup at PAX East – sorry for the potato quality.
XNA and XBLIG were part of Microsoft’s deep commitment to indie development during the Xbox 360 years, but unfortunately the decision was made to shut both of these down during the Xbox One years. The market had changed, and I suppose Microsoft concluded that there were plenty of reasonably priced tools for small developers to use to get access to consoles, so that tech no longer filled a vacuum.
Bringing Axiom Verge to Xbox One
Many XNA developers needed to make a change when Microsoft discontinued support. Fortunately, open source versions of XNA called MonoGame and FNA stepped into the void. I was able to convert Axiom Verge and continue development. Unfortunately, these weren’t supported on Xbox One… until now. Thanks to the popularity and quality of games using Monogame, Microsoft made the decision to have Monogame ported and officially supported on Xbox One!
Now, porting an entire development framework is a lot more complicated than just porting a game. There are few people who could tackle such a complex task, but Tom Spilman from Sickhead Games is kind of a wizard. He was able to port MonoGame to PS Vita and took up the challenge of porting it to Xbox One as well. Since he was already familiar with the code base of Axiom Verge, he decided to use it as the guinea pig for getting the framework up and running. Although the MonoGame port still has some rough edges to polish up before it’ll be trivially easy for all MonoGame games to move to Xbox One seamlessly, the Axiom Verge port is great. I’m proud that of all of the XNA games that originally targeted the Xbox family, Axiom Verge will be the first to have a native version running on Xbox One… with hopefully many more XNA games to follow!