E3 Thoughts, and the Joys of Porting to Three Consoles at Once

E3 happened! E3, for those of you that don't know, is the Electronic Entertainment Expo. In other words, it's the time when all the bigwigs of the games industry flaunt their latest stuff and announce the launch dates of their biggest titles (all of which are in October and November it seems). It's not indie focused at all, which is why you see very few indies attend and even less indies get any stage time.

Nonetheless, there's still stuff to get excited about (and new dates to avoid launching indie games). A few highlights and trends stood out to us throughout the press conferences held by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, Bethesda, Ubisoft, EA, Devolver, and more:

- It seems that every large company is doing what they've always done, and are tacking on another next version of their already known IP: Assassin's Creed, God of War, Forza, FIFA, Call of Duty, a bunch of zombie things, and more. This isn't surprising, but some of these games really did show promise despite being very safe bets as far as innovation goes.

- A remake of Shadow of the Colossus is coming out for PS4. Although this is a remake, it seems that it might drive people (like Rich, the one writing this) to play a game that they never had a chance to play when they were younger, but have always wanted to play. 

- Bioware's Anthem looks like an amazing and huge world ripe for exploration with friends or alone. I think it's slated to release in fall 2018, so there's still a while to wait, but it looks awesome. Here's hoping it's like Breath of the Wild (new Zelda game) in that it surprises you with the plethora of things you can do and interact with in the world.

- Beyond Good and Evil 2 was announced, which was extremely exciting for many fans of the classic first one for PS2 and Xbox. No release date is set, but I think it's safe to say that it will be big news when updates on this one come out.

- Insomniac's Spiderman for PS4 looked essentially like a movie with quick-time events, but we're hoping that the bit of combat that they did show will be expanded in the game and will make the game into more of a playable experience than a movie (à la Tomb Raider). 

Nintendo had some weird things and interesting things to announce, and we've heard a few people saying that Nintendo was the most exciting of E3. They announced that they're working on a Pokemon RPG for Switch (without a release date), a Mario + Rabbids (this is a combination of those weird rabbit things that Ubisoft made with Mario characters) game which involves tactical combat... actually wait let's stop here for a second. What? No idea how this game will make sense or what audience it's targeting with its advanced mechanics and art style geared toward kids, but I guess we'll find out. They also announced Super Mario Odyssey, which has raised lots of questions about mind-control, the origin of Mario and hat ethics. See below (skip to 23:08 if it doesn't do so automatically):

One might conclude from this that the hat itself is really the soul of "Mario", and that the plumber body which it inhabits and mind-controls is just a medium for the hat to do its bidding. Maybe there never even really was a Mario, and this hat just moves from body to body trying to do its dirty work? We can let you speculate from here.

Personal excitement note (from Rich, the guy writing this): Ori and the Will of the Wisps was announced, and although Ori and the Blind Forest had some gameplay issues which made it not as good as it may have been, the art and music is still impressive enough that it'll be an instant buy for me (as soon as it's on PC).

And now, some updates on our own work. It's been a challenge working on all three at once but we're glad we're doing it.

As a quick reminder, the way launching on console works is basically as follows:

  1. Get development kits
  2. Make the game function on the development kits
  3. Get approval to launch the game on the platforms
  4. Fix all the things needed to pass certification on each console
  5. Send for certification (most games take 2-3 tries before passing)

This is obviously quite simplified, but we're at number 4 now. Each console has an exhaustive list of requirements that range from the very obvious to the incredibly unlikely; this can be something like making sure that the game doesn't show a static screen for more than X seconds (and appears to be frozen). It can also be something more complicated and specific like making sure that the game responds well if you unplug the internet connection, switch to Netflix, disconnect a controller, re-plug in the internet, and reconnect a different controller. Each console has hundreds of such requirements and we're making sure that (to the best of our knowledge) we fulfill all of them.

From there, we're moving on to sending the game to pre-certification testing, where another company who knows the details of the certification procedure and has the setup to test all of the requirements will take a look. They'll get back to us telling us why we passed or failed the requirements on the list, and explain what needs to be changed to fulfill the requirements and pass cert. This is to ensure that we can pass the real certification (that is, sending the builds to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) without needing to submit several times. Each time you send to cert, it takes a while before they get back to you and that can delay launch significantly. It also helps our relationship with the platform holders if we pass quickly, as it shows confidence and professionalism which will be highly regarded in future discussions with these companies.

That's all for now, let us know what you think by tweeting at us @ClevEndeavGames.

Gameplay Award Nomination and Continued Console Work

We've been nominated for Best Gameplay at the Brazil Indie Games Festival! You can find out more about the nominees here. The BIG festival is the largest international indie game festival in Latin America, and it's quite an honour to be nominated! Even coming from Canada, we know how important the indie game industry is to Brazil as we've seen a large representation of Brazilians at trade shows, conferences, and even met with trade commissioners from Brazil on several occasions.

What about console development? As you may know, we're working on console ports for PS4, XboxOne and Nintendo Switch at the same time, which isn't a simple task. Next month I'll include some information about what's involved in porting the game to these consoles, but for now I'll just update you on where we're at. 

Right now, the game is functional on all platforms but still missing some things. I'm not sure what we're allowed to say or not say, but basically we're working on some known issues / improvements that involve player displays, links to accounts like PSN or XboxLive, and we're waiting on some third-parties to update their software so that it works with the newest version of Unity (our game engine).

The next steps, once these things are sorted out, is to send to a company for pre-certification testing. What they'll do is look at all of the requirements that the platforms have (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) and make sure to test our game with those specific things in mind. They'll work closely with us to tell us what we need to fix to pass certification, and then we'll send to cert with the hopes of passing on the first try (most games take a few tries to pass).

As you might also know, we're working on new content which we'll announce when we announce our launch date but we need to pass certification first so that we don't end up in trouble with not enough time to do what we need to do. This is actually something that's important to note here... often times teams will get in trouble having promised launch dates and then they need to either delay their launch (which messed up their PR and press coverage) or they work 16 hour days for 2 weeks and burn out and quit games and hate their lives. We'd like to avoid either of those things, so this is why we're making sure not to announce too much too early.

More updates coming soon!

Console Work and Other Affairs

Hello friends!

We've decided to change these development blog posts from weekly to monthly, as we've realized we don't have that much to say when we're not allowed to talk about the new stuff being worked on.

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Console work is moving along, and we've recently taken a step away from the consoles to finish up the new feature that we're saving for console launch. What's left to do on consoles is to implement the social features (signing into PSN and other networks) and some console-specific features which we haven't created yet. Then, we go through the list of requirements for each console and make sure the game handles everything correctly before sending our game to official certification with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

As we work on the console ports and the new feature and as we continue to receive bug reports, we've been making smaller changes that should help the online stability and make for a smoother play experience. This includes a bug that we recently pinpointed that wouldn't allow players to join lobbies properly sometimes, and as we keep working we keep finding new things to fix (such is the life of game development).

There's also been some slightly more boring and slightly less game-related news. We've been preparing for localizing (translating) the new content into different languages, setting up for worldwide ratings (there are many different systems in different countries that require different application forms and documentation), and we've gotten a company insurance plan so that we can all be healthy and keep making great games forever (hence the picture of fruit, cause we eat that, cause we're healthy... or something).

Apart from that, everything is going great with our new artist Fabio, and despite the fact that it's been raining non-stop every day for the last month, our spirits are high and we're pushing forward toward console launch with confidence and with excitement about what's to come next for both PC and console users.