The creation of assets (textures, audio, models, etc) is a major aspect of game development. In fact, asset creators account for most of a game development team (often a 90/10 split between asset creators and programmers). So creating and using assets is a very important part of creating games!
To make this process manageable, most assets are created with other software tools - editors specific to the kind of asset we are dealing with. Asset creators become quite proficient with these tools, and provide their assets in a save file form specific to one of these tools.
We can load these files directly in our game, especially if our game targets Windows, where we have a lot of available supporting libraries. But those file formats are tailored towards the needs of the editor program - they often contain data we don’t need, or format it in a way that must be transformed to use in our games. And the processing involved in loading can be a lot more involved than we like, causing long load times.
One way around this is the use of a Content Pipeline which transforms assets from an editor-specific file format to one optimized for our games. This happens during the build process, so the transformed asset files are bundled with our executable, ready to be utilized.
This chapter will describe the content pipeline approach specific to XNA.