Setting Up MonoGame

Setting Up MonoGame

We're ready to begin our adventure! Our first step will be to install the necessary software to start making games with MonoGame. Fortunately for us, this software is free! (All of the software I recommend is free, or I'll suggest a free alternative that could work almost as well.)

There will be two pieces to the installation process:

1. Install Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition (if you haven't already).
2. Install MonoGame.

Installing Visual Studio

Our first stop will be to install Visual Studio, if you don't have it already. (If you've gone through my C# tutorials, you've already got this, and you can skip ahead.) Visual Studio is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) provided by Microsoft that is used to make all sorts of software.

Choosing an Edition

Visual Studio comes in a number of variations, ranging from free to insanely expensive. The 2013 edition of Visual Studio has four options for you to choose from: Professional, Premium, Ultimate, and Community. There are a few other options (including some now-outdated Express options) but these four are the big four.

We'll start with Professional. This is sort of the main version of Visual Studio. It has the power to do every kind of project type (command line, web, desktop, cloud, game dev, etc.) and a ton of features to make it easy to get stuff done. It is really intended for real actual companies to purchase, and it's price of roughly $500 reflects that. It's a little too expensive for most students, hobbyists, and indie developers. Don't worry; we'll address this problem in a second.

Premium and Ultimate have a few more features, mostly related to software design (which I prefer to do on paper and in other programs anyway) for additional cost. They get quite pricey, and are definitely aimed at software development companies. If you're here learning C#, MonoGame, or XNA (which is a safe bet since you're reading this tutorial) these are definitely overkill. So I don't recommend these to people reading this tutorial.

But this brings us to the one I do recommend: the Community Edition.

The Community Edition is the exact same thing as Professional, just with a different licensing structure, and it's completely free!

To answer the first question you probably have with a Community Edition: Yes, you can create and sell things commercially with the Community Edition. The license specifically allows this.

Community vs. Pro is Microsoft's way of separating the businesses that have money to pay for Visual Studio out from the tiny companies and individuals who do not, and charging them appropriately.

If you feel like you might be on the border, you should read the license yourself to make sure you're clear to use Community, but basically, you're allowed to use Community if you do not fit into one of the following categories:

  • You have 5+ Visual Studio developers in your company. (If you're getting it for home, you don't count the place you work for. You have 1 developer.)
  • You have 250+ computers in your company.
  • You have a gross income of $1,000,000 or more.

If any of the above are true, you need to buy Professional. But I'm guessing you don't fit into any of those categories. (And if you do, the $500 for Visual Studio Professional is nothing.)

There are a couple of other loopholes as well. If you're doing strictly open source development or if you are using it for educational purposes (and not selling stuff) then you can still use Community even if you fit under one of those earlier categories.

At any rate, Community and Professional are essentially identical, with a different license, and so Community is the one to choose here.

I should briefly mention Express Editions. In the past, there have been stripped down versions of Visual Studio called the Express Edition. These were free to use, and had many features removed. In 2014, Microsoft announced the aforementioned Community edition, essentially retiring the various Express Editions.

The 2013 family of Visual Studio still has the Express Editions available for download, but because they have fewer features than Community, it's not the preferred option anymore. The 2015 family of Visual Studio will have no Express Editions at all.

Downloading Visual Studio

After reading the last couple of sections, there's a good bet that you've now selected Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition. You can download that here:

I'm sure you understand how to walk through the installation process, so I'll leave off the step-by-step details. Run the thing and get Visual Studio installed!


Microsoft does eventually seem to require you to register your copy of Visual Studio, which requires giving them an email address. I've never felt like they've spammed me with this. The emails seem to be rather rare, and notify me when a new version of Visual Studio is available, which is nice.

If you don't register, you'll only have about a 30 day free trial (yes, a free trial for free software, which is a little odd) before they block you.

For the free Community edition, this only requires an email address, not a credit card or anything like that.

Installing MonoGame

With Visual Studio installed, you're ready to install MonoGame. Currently, MonoGame is version 3.5.1, but I know that is bound to change eventually. Like with Visual Studio, if when you read this, you discover that there is a version newer than 3.5.1, please let me know so that I can fix it.

The place to download MonoGame is here:

(Follow the link to 3.5 and then click on MonoGame 3.5 for Visual Studio.)

Wrap Up

At this point, you should have everything you need to start making games with MonoGame! In the next tutorial, we'll do just that!

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