Last month I completed all the special effects in the game. Although I used both 2d and 3d particle effects in Ultimate Dodgeball and Kick'n It using the effects system provided by Microsoft in the XNA code samples, I quickly realized I would need something more. With three character classes and upgradable powers there are simply a LOT of special effects in the game. Rendering that many particles would simple slow the game down to a crawl.
In addition, there were types of effects I wanted to do that the Microsoft samples were not designed to handle. Luckily I discovered DPSF particle system. While this particle system doesn't run on the GPU like the Microsoft system, it enabled me to control the orientation of a particle instead of always having it face the camera. Therefore, I could make lightning, shimmers, walls of flame and portals. Best of all, it supports animated particles.
Now, instead of rendered hundreds or thousands of particles for a single effect, I could use another great tool - the TimelineFX Editor to create an awesome particle effect and export it as a sprite sheet. I could then display that animation in-game on a single animated particle, saving performance.
Discovering these resources and methods not only enabled me to complete a much larger number of particle effects, but to step up the quality at the same time. I'm excited to see what people think when I enter focus testing.