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XBox (Games)

Rare Gambles On Dark Discs 87

Posted by Zonk
from the down-to-the-wire dept.
Next Generation reports on the risky choices Rare made with Perfect Dark Zero. They actually began stamping the discs before the game was certified so that they could make the Nov. 22nd launch date. From the article: "The certification process is the final stage a game goes through before manufacture. Microsoft's team picks through the game making sure there are no bugs, that menus all work correctly, and that there are no compatibility issues. Games that fail, even in the smallest detail, are sent back to publishers and developers for changes. The process can take days, or even weeks."
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Rare Gambles On Dark Discs

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  • Trickle-down QA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrazyClimber (469251) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @02:53PM (#14054857)
    I wonder how this would trickle down to development knowing the risks involved. What would happen to the developer who introduced the bug that caused X discs to be destroyed and the game re-certified. How about the tester who missed the developer's bug?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Did you see the scene in Conker where he crushes the boiler-boss' balls with two bricks? That is going to happen.
    • Re:Trickle-down QA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Castar (67188) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @05:40PM (#14056703)
      I don't think it would have much effect. I don't know Microsoft, but I used to work in Sony's "Format" QA department, the last line of testing before games got sent to Sony Disc Manufacturing for reproduction. Our job was basically "certifying" the games - not testing the gameplay, just making sure that it fit all the rules for games released on the platform, about a week-long test cycle.

      Frequently, developers would want to hurry the process along so they wouldn't miss their ship date. Mostly, this meant overtime for us to try and get the full test cycle completed in time, but occasionally developers would want to start the print run before we were finished (and this became much more noticable with titles that offered 'patching' functionality over the network, since the feeling was they could fix any serious issues that way. That might be why MS was willing to take the risk, I imagine that Live allows them to patch games to some degree.)

      Our attitude towards these requests was basically 'OK, but it's on your head!' If the producer chose to push the game through, we all knew that it wouldn't be on OUR heads if we missed something in the abbreviated test cycle. The producer (or whoever) made the decision and chose to take the risks. I imagine the development crew would feel much the same way, although they have a bit more of a personal stake in it.
  • by Edgewize (262271) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @02:54PM (#14054872)
    Holy crap, a Microsoft-owned developer released a key Microsoft XBox 360 launch title to manufacturing ... before Microsoft had a chance to give it the OK! I mean, this could have been a disaster.

    This kind of extreme guts is why I love Microsoft! They're so hardcore! In fact this makes me want to buy another XBox 360.
    • So do I!
      But there aren't any left, my country only got 2.
    • I've worked on 3rd party titles that have done this, through Sony at least. Our QA is set up to mirror the certification system at Sony/MS, so they will only sign off on the game for submission when they are very sure it will pass. There is also a pre-certification process which gives you a good idea of what certification issues you might have.
  • by tktk (540564)
    From the article: The certification process is the final stage a game goes through before manufacture. Microsoft's team picks through the game making sure there are no bugs, that menus all work correctly, and that there are no compatibility issues.

    So let me get this straight....Microsoft checking for bugs?

    • It's even more bizarre an idea than that: Microsoft checking for bugs, finding them, and refusing to ship the product because it's crappy and full of bugs.

      Yeah, like that would happen.
    • I used to be on the team that did complience testing for the original Xbox. I did it for a year. We would get roughly 3 hours to go through the test cases (with a lab of about 12 - 15 people) and if it failed any of the tests the game would go back. We would usually see the game again in a aday or two and go through all the tests again. Companies often negotiated over which bugs where truley important, and some bugs would be allowed to slide through. The really funny bit is that I later worked for MSG doing
    • OMG it's another recycling of the tired "MS Software is Buggy!" joke.

      Listen, people, it's not, "Microsoft software is buggy," it's, "Software is buggy."
  • Shouldn't be a problem. I mean, some of MS's biggest distributions are betas. Like, say, Windows '98 was the beta for Windows '98 SE. Same with '95. Same with NT, 2000, XP. Heck even the Office suites got service packs.

    In all seriousness, though, as long as the game runs on both SKU's and can be completed without too much frusteration and the multiplayer works. It'll be fine. If not, two things can happen.

    1) only those with the HDD will get to play the patched version.

    2) Rare gets screwed in a few

    • Shouldn't be a problem. I mean, some of MS's biggest distributions are betas. Like, say, Windows '98 was the beta for Windows '98 SE. Same with '95. Same with NT, 2000, XP. Heck even the Office suites got service packs.

      Apples and oranges. OS'es and office suites need to be patched to keep up with the changing hardware. How often does console hardware change? This is an erroneous observation in my opinoin, and just sets out to attack MS, something the /. community loves to do.
      • He knows it's erroneous. It's a joke, that's why he starts his actual post with "In all seriousness, though..."
      • OS'es and office suites need to be patched to keep up with the changing hardware.

        I can understand OSes needing to be patched, but why the hell would an Office suite need to be changed due to changing hardware? Don't say something like "to print, dumbass", either... all that needs to happen for printing is a call to the "print" function of the OS, which shouldn't change its name at all. Any specific tools such as a touchpad or something should be as a plugin or module, so really there is nothing that an
        • And how often have you written applications the size and scope of Office without it having any bug fixes? Why does OpenOffice have point releases? Are those not bug fixes? So its bad that Microsoft fixes the bugs, but its ok for OO to do so?
          • Why does OpenOffice have point releases? Are those not bug fixes? So its bad that Microsoft fixes the bugs, but its ok for OO to do so?

            You took my comment right out of context, thanks.

            The previous post said something along the lines of "OSes and Office Suites need service packs because of changing hardware", so I asked why in the world an Office Suite would need to be changed due to different hardware, because it should have nothing to do with it.
    • Rare gets screwed in a few orifaces.

      That word....I think you do not know what it means.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @03:14PM (#14055094)
    (posted anon to protect the NDAed individuals from whom this information comes)

    Xbox Technical Certification Requirements (TCRs) are no joke. They specify exactly what every Xbox game must and must not do. Some of my (least) favorite:
    * If a controler becomes unplugged during play, the game has to pause and accept a replacement controler on ANY port.
    * at the initial menu, if there is no interaction for some amount of time (between 15 and 30 second if I remember right) the game must play an "attract" video suitable for in-store display.
    * various in-game messages regarding system events (memory unit access, network connectivity, error states) must use a specific vocabulary (they're blocks, profiles and System Link, not kB, save games, and LAN) and in some cases specific wording of messages, particularily error messages.
    * The game must use a reasonably consistent menu selection look & feel that provides clear indication of the selected item in cases of a two-item menu.
    • You do know that none of that is particularly secret or covered by an NDA...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can anomymously confirm this.
    • "least" favorite? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jgoemat (565882)
      I think all of those are good ideas. Auto-pause if a controller is unplugged is a great idea. Consisten language in messages is a great idea. Why would you want users to see "LAN ERROR" in one game, "NETWORK PROBLEM" in another game, and "SYSTEM LINK DOWN" in yet another for the same problem? Most menus already abide by the last thing you mention, a menu that didn't would be stupid. I can't think of any reason one of those would be bad for someone playing games. The video might be annoying to some, bu
    • by Psykechan (255694) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:10PM (#14058699)
      * various in-game messages regarding system events (memory unit access...

      That's just downright silly. I bet Sony would never force developers to use the exact same message every time someone uses their Memory Card (8MB)(for PlayStation2) to save their game.
    • I'm sorry, but that IS a joke. None of those are showstoppers--only the first would significally impact average gameplay. The third is unit conversions and maybe saves some confusion, unless those "messages" are system-directed and not user-directed. The second is marketing--what if I _like_ the title music? The last is arbitrary: "reasonably consistent." You'd hope a competent developer would naturally put together a consistent interface--look at Metroid Prime, where the interface was _designed_ as a part
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @03:33PM (#14055319)
    There's a bigger piece of news here than the risk of Rare fabing a disk without certification, it's Rare fabing a disk before certification at all. The process with the Xbox was as follows:
    1 developer prepares disc image, sends to certification
    2 certification responds with TCR violations
    3 goto 1 unless no TCR violations
    4 certification sends image to Great Disc Signing Machine in the Sky
    5 Great Disc Signing Machine in the Sky sends signed image to developer and Xbox Disc Fabiration
    6 Profit, if you're lucky.

    This would indicate that Rare managed to get to step 4 without going through 2 and 3. And indicates that for the 360 each developer might have their own private key for signing. This could be excelent news for modders given that there may be private keys wafting around the world instead of being locked in a room in Redmond.
    • Or Rare being owned by Microsoft they decided to take a gamble and stamp disks so they could make the launch window. It would be nice is each developer had their own private keys, but I highly doubt it.
    • I'd imagine being owned (and the game being published) by Microsoft might help them bend the rules and get the code signed and manufactured on the assumption that the code will pass certification.

      I'd probably guess Microsoft probably signed the code themselves, having the keys floating around (even to 2nd parties) would increase the chance of a code leak quite a lot, as you say.
  • While delaying games a million bazillion years (duke nukem forever) is no good, rushing games out isn't good either. With all the pressure put on everyone you never know what kind of bad things will happen later on...
    • I'd imagine it's more to do with the rush to get as many games as possible out at launch, the big hitters like Perfect Dark Zero and Project Gotham 3 effectivley had a hard deadline that they pretty much had to hit. I'd imagine it'll be situation normal for other games.
  • Microsoft has manufactured 700,000 copies of Perfect Dark Zero for the U.S. market, with a target hardware tie-ratio of 1:1. Veevaert said that figure was based on the early launch period of the hardware, and that a further run is expected in the days ahead.

    Well, at least they're not making more copies of PD:Z than they are systems. Hello, E.T.

  • This doesn't sound like the Rare that we all know. As much as they wanted to get away from Nintendo, Microsoft's management methods are taking a toll on their quality output. In the past two years, look how many games they've released. When in their history have that many games ever been released? And look at the reviews for those games. Things are not as they once were.
    • Maybe the "Rare that we all know" is really Nintendo.

      I don't think we can blame MS for Rare's lackluster output since acquisition. Bungie seems to be doing fine under them. And Rare made nothing but quality games under Nintendo. The determining factor appears to be... Rare.

      One question would settle this: Whose idea was "Grabbed by the Ghoulies"?

    • Re:Rare? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Headcase88 (828620)
      One thing to note is quite a few people left when Rare was sold to Microsoft. The question is, did the good ones leave? The answer is... well sorta, maybe, partly, but Kameo packs quite a punch according to Gamespot.

      Of course it should pack a punch considering it's less than 10 hours long and was originally going to be made for (this is true) the Nintendo 64. I mean, they spent over 6 months of development for each hour of gameplay (assuming you do one quick playthrough and throw it away).

      Meanwhile, the
  • >Microsoft's team picks through the game making sure there are no bugs, that menus all work correctly, and that there are no compatibility issues.

    When are they going to start doing this for Office releases?
  • It should be noted that what Rare did was send the game off to manufacturing AND start the certification process simultaneously.

    According to the article, they passed, so it's not a big deal.

    All this article is saying is that if it hadn't passed certification, they would have just thrown out all the "bad" copies of the game and missed the launch date.

  • I don't think that the disc costs are that substantial, they probably aren't risking that much by printing them now, but they do have quite a lot to gain. If ubuntu and AOL can give away discs for free I'm sure that they aren't a huge chunk of the per game cost.
  • Microsoft's team picks through the game making sure there are no bugs, that menus all work correctly, and that there are no compatibility issues.

    I wish they put the same effort into securing Windows.

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