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Developing for consoles as an indie in 2019

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I gave this presentation during the 1Up gaming conference in Belgium. https://www.1up-conference.com/

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Developing for consoles as an indie in 2019

  1. 1. Developing for consoles as an indie in 2019 Dave Voyles, Microsoft Technical Evangelist (slides courtesy of Sarah Sexton)
  2. 2. Dave Voyles  @DaveVoyles  Comcast: Xbox & PlayStation Engineer  Microsoft: Xbox & HoloLens evangelism  Book: UnrealScript Gameplay Programming  Ported Night Trap to browser  Xbox Live Indie Games
  3. 3. Getting on Consoles as an Indie in 2019  Consoles are closed platforms. They demand quality over quantity. (Some platforms are more closed than others.)  To prove you are serious, you should:  Be a Registered Company or Sole Proprietor  Secure authentication  Have a “track record”  Have a VAT (value-added tax) or Tax number  “The Big Three”  Xbox One (Microsoft)  PS4 / PS Vita (Sony)  3DS / Switch (Nintendo)
  4. 4. What do you mean, “Track Record”?  “One shipped game, three years’ experience.”  …More like guidelines than actual rules.  More of a way to ward off people that aren’t serious.  Console-makers want a legal business entity.  Sole Proprietor (Single Individual)  Corporation (Group)  C corp  The corporation itself is a taxable entity  S corp  The individual is a taxable entity  Partnerships  LLP (Limited Liability Partnership)
  5. 5. Secure Authentication  Microsoft requires two-step (factor) authentication.  Nintendo requires a single username and password to look at documents on their website.  You have to encrypt uploaded files.  Previously required that dev kits be contained in a locked room
  6. 6. The Process begins with…  The Big 3 (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) expect simultaneous release across all consoles.  In the mind of the console-maker:  If the features are the same, the release date ought to be the same.  Otherwise, there should be unique features to the platform to justify a late arrival.  Another work-around is often renaming the game (example, “Gold Edition”).  Speak to your Dev Account Manager (DAM) for more information for negotiation. What is the “Parity Clause”?  Your Name  Address  Website  Games already released
  7. 7. Expensive Items  Errors & Omissions Insurance  Covers Intellectual Property & Copyright violations, etc.  Using an insurance broker, the cheapest E&O insurance you might find could be to the tune of around $2,000.  Rating boards  To release in foreign countries, your game must be rated by the official ratings boards, PEGI (Pan-European Game Information).  This can also cost roughly $2,000, depending on the country.  United States requires Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating, approx. $800
  8. 8. Start Up Costs  Expenses to get your studio up and running  Software  Adobe Premier, Photoshop, Unity/Unreal, etc.  Licenses  Windows Developer’s License is $19 individually, $99 for a company.  Maintaining your game’s domain name  Hardware  USB & video cables, HDMI capture, etc.  Video capture device for making a trailer ($60)  Production Team  Professional services  Bookkeeper, Lawyer  Legal fees to protect Intellectual Property  E+O Insurance  Work space / Utilities (Rent a desk at a co-op, etc.)
  9. 9. Console Development Environment  SDK is downloaded from each company and installed.  Dev Kits are connected over a local network.  Visual Studio integration allows deploying to consoles and loading files from PC over the network, without explicitly making and pushing builds.  Tools available for profiling bottlenecks on Xbox and PlayStation platforms.  PIX, Dev tuning & Debugger  Additional tools are included for final packaging, which can be cumbersome.
  10. 10. Technical Aspects  These are the most common approaches to developing games:  C and C++ work on every console  DirectX on Xbox  Open GL on all others  Unity or Unreal  You can barter for what you need.  Timing: When in the year does it launch?  Exclusivity length: How long does it need to be exclusive?  Marketing & funding
  11. 11. Console Design Considerations  Naming and branding guidelines must be adhered to for release. (Proper names for buttons, proper usage of capitalization.)  Important visual elements must be within TV-safe margins.  User management and controller assignment edge cases must be thoroughly tested.  Requirements must be met for load times, warnings, and other issues related to maintaining general consistency on each particular platform.  Additional items like achievements, saves, leaderboards, generally require a fair amount of implementation time.
  12. 12. Community – Gamer’s Outreach
  13. 13. Accessibility and inclusivity
  14. 14. Microsoft  Apply for the ID@XBOX program.  If accepted, you receive two (2) Xbox One Dev Kits and a Unity Pro license for free.  This process may take several weeks / months.  Overwhelmingly large number of applicants  People often do not fill out the form correctly, so Microsoft cannot contact them  If you know someone at ID@XBOX or Microsoft who is willing to stick their neck out…  Reach out on a monthly basis to Microsoft:  Send game-play videos! Screenshots!  Send a PC build! www.xbox.com/developers/ID
  15. 15. ID@Xbox Process Submit your application and receive regular updates from ID@Xbox Sign an NDA, submit your Game Information Form and then we’ll discuss whether you want to build for Windows 10, Xbox One, or both Get access to SDKs, dev forums, free middleware, and two free Xbox dev kits for approved Xbox One developers Publish, certify and update your game at no cost
  16. 16. Developer Road Map Universal Windows Platform development
  17. 17. Xbox Live Creators Program: Open to All  Any developer can build an Xbox Live-enabled UWP game for Xbox One & Windows 10.  Indie/Student/Small Game Developers can submit apps to the Xbox store with 4 steps.  If you know of a game that would be great to highlight on the platform… Tweet @Saelia! https://www.xbox.com/en-US/developers/creators-program
  18. 18. PlayStation  Pub Fund:  Sony doesn’t own your IP rights  You can get an advance on sales/royalties in exchange for limited platform exclusivity.  Static IP  Response time from Sony is fast – only 1-2 weeks.  Sony generously doles out Dev Kits. www.nohurdlesjustgames.com
  19. 19. Nintendo  As an indie, start focusing exclusively on Switch and 3DS.  Apply for Nintendo’s Self-Publishing Program.  They loan Dev Kits for 1 year  There is an opportunity to buy refurbished Dev Kits in addition to what you are loaned for about the cost of a PC ($800). www.developer.Nintendo.com
  20. 20. All console makers want something special  Farewell, Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) 2008 – 2017  All console makers will want something special.  Reach out to your Dev Account Manager (DAM) and ask them, “What are you trying to highlight right now?”  Xbox: Unique integration into Mixer for streamers/viewers  Cross-Play (ability to play between Xbox One and PC)  PlayStation Plus: Cross-device Multiplayer  Nintendo Switch: HD-Rumble pack, local-based social play
  21. 21. Community  If the console-makers don’t believe you have a good game, they will not be quick to get back to you.  If you show great promise as a developer, all three of these companies have opportunities to loan/give you their Dev Kit for free.  The Chicago games community is very supportive!!  Indie City Games  Chicago Unity 3D MeetUp  Indie City Co-Op + weekly Friday Indie Lunch  Voxelles: Chicago’s Women in Game Development  International Game Developers Association (IGDA)  Indie Video Game Developer Association
  22. 22. GDC 2017 Presentations  Meet the Converged Windows Store for Windows and Xbox  Reaching More Gamers Through Xbox Accessibility Features on Xbox One & PC  Windows Holographic Rendering – One SDK to target VR and AR ecosystems  Game Mode and the Evolution of Cross-Platform UWP Game Development  Xbox Live Creators Program  D3D12 Performance Tuning and Debugging with PIX and GPU Validation

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