XAML and C# are great technologies for creating apps. However can you create games with them or must you take a dependency on MonoGame? While there are many reasons to use MonoGame I believe there are some compelling reasons to stick with XAML and C# when developing games for Windows 8. Based on my experiences developing Adlib, Petunk, and Scramble Legends, I’ve tried to provide a guide to help you make a more informed decision when developing a game for Windows 8.

Adlib, Petunk, and Scramble Legends: Three fun games free for Windows 8 by Spotted Zebra
Adlib, Petunk, and Scramble Legends: Three fun games free for Windows 8 by Spotted Zebra

To start off there are certain things that can only be done using MonoGame. If your game requires one of these features the decision is an easy one.

  • Are you developing a 3D game?
  • Does your game require shaders?
  • Do you plan to use thousands of animated sprites?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above then XAML and C# will not work for you. XAML does not support 3D or shaders and you will likely run into performance problems drawing that many sprites at once. If your game does not share these requirements you may still want to use MonoGame. Here are some questions to help you decide if MonoGame is still a good choice:

MonoGame is an open source implementaiton of XNA available for Windows 8
MonoGame is an open source implementaiton of XNA available for Windows 8
  • How important is it to support multiple screen resolutions and densities for your game? How much work are you willing to do to support them?
  • Does your game involve many user interface elements? How important is it for your user interface to feel native?
  • Do you expect to create a more complex interface with animations, lists, tables, etc.?
  • Is it important to avoid external dependencies?

If the above are important to you then stick with XAML and C#. Using the WinRT user interface toolkit will guarantee that your interface looks and feels like a Windows 8 application and enable you to create whatever you want. In addition, WinRT has its own system to support multiple screen resolutions and densities – all you have to do is create art assets at different scales and use the appropriate controls.

Have it Both Ways

With that being said there is a third option available to Windows 8 game developers. Use XNA to draw your game and XAML to render your user interface. With this approach you can have your cake and eat it, too. However it’s no silver bullet; you will still have to come up with a way to scale your game for different screen resolutions, and when porting your game you will have to rewrite the non-XNA user interfaces.

What option is best really depends on your game and your requirements. Speaking for myself, I originally created games for Windows 8 using MonoGame but have since shifted to using vanilla C# and XAML. In my case I wanted to leverage WinRT’s support for different resolution and reduce the overhead associated with managing MonoGame and XAML side by side. What will you choose?

Continue reading my series on making games for Windows 8:
  1. Writing a Windows 8 Game Loop: Explores three ways to create a game loop
  2. XAML or MonoGame?: Examines the pros and cons for each option
  3. Storing Game Data in the Cloud: Azure Mobile Services or Cloud Storage?
  4. Animating Sprites with XAML: Cover the basics of animation for Windows 8
  5. Animating Spritesheets with XAML: Learn how to render a spritesheet using XAML and C#
  6. Persisting Game Data in Practice: One way to do it and some common pitfalls
  7. Keeping Game Data Consistent: How to maintain consistency in a NoSQL world