[EDITOR'S NOTE: This GameFest lecture is clearly aimed squarely at those who are already Xbox 360 approved developers and are submitting their game, but Gamasutra felt it would be interesting for the development community at large.]
At Microsoft's 2007 GameFest, the Quality Assurance and Certification track featured presentations and panels centered on technologies and testing techniques to improve game quality and reduce certification costs of games for both Xbox 360 and Windows.
To this end, Microsoft's Jay Blanton says 46 percent of Xbox 360 games have been rejected at least once before any testing happens at all. Thus, he presented 'Submission Pitfalls and How to Avoid the Crocodiles,' focusing on the top reasons for rejection from official Microsoft certification and how to avoid them - listing savvy review tools and techniques to identify problem areas and clear the path toward certification.
Game Submission Tips And Tricks
Firstly, Blanton said, game developers should prioritize protecting the security and integrity of the platform. Check submissions for issues, he advised, such as strings with problems or incongruous title IDs. Submissions should be well prepared -- for compliance and functional testing, for physical media replication and for XBLA distribution.
Blanton admits the complexity there - with the changing environments of Xbox Live and the XDK, knowledge and documentation requirements may change.
He stresses distribution regions must focus on the actual places where the game will be released. "Only the ones where it is going, nowhere else - this does affect how your game is prepared and how it will run on retail consoles."
Next comes required age ratings for Xbox 360 titles - ESRB and CERO, for example. Submissions must provide the actual ratings certificate -- not just email communication. "It's imperative that the rating you've submitted matches the certificate," Blanton added.
Title Update Sizes
Blanton noted that title updates (for when game patches are required) must be in CAB format only, and updates are cumulative. Interestingly, he noted that there's a hard file size limit of 4 megabytes in a title update over the game's lifespan. To that end, Blanton advised designers to make sure they leave enough room for future updates.
According to Blanton, the number one problem for all submission types is unapproved libraries. He also advised designers to make sure their game works in 1080p - it's a new addition. Blanton also says to get rid of extraneous files that aren't required for the game - Xbox 360 game files, windows files, debug files - "They need to be cleaned out," he said. "And we don't recommend unencrypted text, but it won't fail your game."
On Submission Validation
According to Blanton, the August 2007 XDK update for approved Xbox 360 developers includes a Submission Validator, which runs a lot of the checks on the game that it will receive in the certification process - but not yet all. "Use it to see what it turns up, but you're responsible for making sure that all of your ducks are in a row", Blanton said.
It does work, he says, on full titles, demos, marketplace demos and XBLA titles right now. A text window will come up listing things such as unapproved libraries, or TitleID not matching the game -- but there's no Title Update support just yet, and a number of other features are in the process of being refined.
Overall, though clearly aimed at the active Xbox 360 game developer, the lecture was useful in helping all developers understand the kind of effort that goes into title submission for Microsoft's console.