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Torpex's Fristrom: Xbox 360 TCRs Are Hard

Speaking as part of his in-depth Gamasutra postmortem of Torpex's Schizoid, Jamie Fristrom has been discussing the continued difficulties for indie teams
Speaking as part of his in-depth Gamasutra postmortem of Torpex's Schizoid, Jamie Fristrom has been discussing the continued difficulties for indie teams in passing console TCRs (technical certification requirements). Though he noted and appreciated extensive help from Microsoft in developing Schizoid, Fristrom, who has worked on major console titles such as Activision's Spider-Man 2, explained: "Having made many console games before, we thought we were old hands at getting through TCR. There were many reasons why TCR this time was Worse Than Ever: - Although J Allard claimed at the GDC Microsoft Keynote a few years ago that they'd "streamlined" the TCR list for the Xbox 360 to a short list of 130 items, and that TCR would be easier to pass than ever before, this was somewhat deceiving. The previous TCR for the original Xbox was long, but it was effectively a list of test cases. There's still a test case document for the Xbox 360 TCR, and it's HUGE. I suggest you skip the short list of 130 items and go straight to the big one. - All the console games we'd worked on before are single player. The number of TCR corner cases that crop up once you include local and online multiplayer in your game are huge. - Even though XBLA games are smaller than their disc-based counterparts, they get a whole extra set of TCR cases they have to pass. The biggest and least necessary of these is having to be able to display leaderboards while the game is paused. This means your front-end-shell leaderboard displaying code better be compatible with your playing-the-game code. Being able to play the game from a memory card while still having it load fast is another fun one. - When making a disc-based game you have a much larger budget and much more resources -- the end result is, for a low-budget game, TCR consumes a much more significant portion of your development. All in all, fixing and passing TCR issues took more than half of our programmer time over the life of the project. With future games, it won't be as much of a problem, because we already have an engine and know-how, and we'll be aware of the time investment required. For other starting studios, keeping your game single-player will cut away a huge number of corner cases." The co-op heavy action title was the first game release on Xbox Live Arcade using XNA -- the programming platform used for the upcoming Xbox Live Community Games endeavor. It appears that Xbox Live Community Games-developed titles may not require such strict TCRs - though it has different monetization specifics to XBLA. The full Gamasutra postmortem of Schizoid is now available for viewing, including lots more honest specifics from Fristrom on the creation of the title.

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