Following on from the announcement of its new XNA development platform at GDC today, Microsoft has released a number of videos showcasing the potential of the system and hinting at the power of forthcoming game hardware.
Created by external developers Pseudo Interactive (Cel Damage) and High Voltage (Hunter: The Reckoning) as well as teams at Microsoft itself, the videos show off a variety of advanced graphics and dynamics features.
Although the videos - which are freely available for download from [Microsoft's XNA website] - are certainly meant to showcase the potential of next generation hardware, these are not the rumoured Xbox 2 tech demos - and in fact were allegedly running on a Windows XP PC with a sample of a next generation graphics card. Impressive as they are, the technology in these demos is quite a long way behind what we'd expect to see from next generation consoles.
In fact, the expected Xbox 2 announcement has simply failed to materialise, with Microsoft executing something of a characteristic volte face in this respect. Far from emerging blinking into the sunlight at the show, Xbox 2 has remained behind closed doors, with the only discussions about the console taking place in private meeting rooms.
Instead, the company is focusing entirely on the XNA platform - which, although interesting, is really only a banner under which the company is collecting its game-related technologies. The real purpose of the XNA exercise may well be all about Xbox 2, however, as the company will be hoping that familiarity with the XNA platform will help developers to get up to speed quickly on the radically different architecture of the next generation console.
XNA will almost certainly help in this respect - but for all the company's talk about making the development process easy, the fact remains that the multi-processor Xbox 2 architecture is going to be extremely difficult to develop for, and no tools and technologies layer like XNA will ever be able to completely eliminate the innate complexity of programming for such a system.