in the morning, you wake up in your tom of finland sheets, get up and brew yourself a cup of tom of finland coffee. you take a shower and then wrap your tom of finland towel around your waist. it is easy to pick clothes for today. your wardrobe consists entirely of black leather. once outside, tom of finland posters surround you. there are visibly gay people everywhere. chuckling, you book tickets to the premiere of the tom of finland movie. in the evening, you’re going to see the tom of finland musical. heterosexuality is outlawed. finland’s economy is thriving.
Can’t believe I’m up this early myself! Since university started, I’ve been prone to late nights and consequently late morning lie ins, however this morning I decided something needed to change. Since 7:30 I’ve been working on my lab report and managed to fit in a delicious cooked breakfast (see hot chocolate and orange juice on desk). Hope your mornings have all been equally as productive.
I think it'd be interesting if you shared some typical concerns and maybe funnier bits involved in passing the certification process. Thank you kindly.
Certification is a strange time for the AAA project. The process is very expensive - usually on the order of several hundred thousand dollars. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will inspect the project with an army of testers to ensure that it meets most of their requirements before granting us the license to actually sell the game with their blessing. This license is super important - no retail games for a console
without a license.
The actual submission process is quite opaque. The
final submission candidate (FC) is sent to Sony (or Microsoft or Nintendo), who will keep it for anywhere from a day to a few weeks. They will hammer it with testers whose job it is not to find bugs, but to make sure that it adheres to the list of cert requirements. These certification requirements get revised on a regular basis, meaning that a game might pass or fail based on the date of submission. After the submission is examined, Sony will send feedback to the publisher. The game will either pass, be given a contingent pass, or fail. If the game passes, no further changes need be made. A contingent pass means that the game passes if the issues listed are fixed in a day 1 patch (that must be submitted), and failure to do so will revoke the pass. A fail means the game must be submitted again for consideration.
The heavy submission cost and time requirement have pushed publishers to establish their own internal certification teams to prepare their games for the submission process and stay on top of changing cert requirements. This way they can get more immediate feedback to the dev teams rather than having to wait for weeks for a response. Some of the cert requirements can have nothing to do with bugs at all. For example, Sony requires all of the representations of the buttons in the game to use their official Playstation button glyphs (green triangle, pink square, red circle, blue X). Instances of a button examples without the official image and color will result in a fail. Back in the old days, you couldn’t use the generic term “memory card” on a PS2. You absolutely had to use the term “MEMORY CARD (PS2)” (including the caps and parentheses, word for word) for any instance of the text in your game. One missed memory card reference could also fail you. Loading screens need to have some sort of animated element on them (so that players know the game has not frozen). The original X-box required some demonstration of console-exclusive content. And so on and so forth.
For those of us in the trenches, the cert process is often extremely engineering-heavy. During the cert portion of the development schedule, most artists and designers have either been moved to other teams (like DLC or other projects), or given their post-crunch comp time. This is because the greatest fear of submission is introducing new bugs that could potentially cause the submission to fail. Changes to data or assets might cause knock-on bugs to happen in unknown areas of the game. This is why the final bugs and cert blockers are basically all handled via code, even if they are hacky special case laser-targeted fixes. It’s imperative to keep the build as stable as possible and minimize the introduction of new bugs at the end of the project, because new bugs could easily sink the submission ship.
However, most of what happens while waiting for submission feedback is… a whole lot of nothing. The engineers and handful of senior designers and artists must remain on deck in case something bad happens (e.g. we have to fix cert blockers
as they come up
), but… generally, we don’t get to do anything during that time. We have to wait until something happens, but they also can’t let us go until the submission passes. Generally during this time of the project, we play a lot of games in the office while waiting. It’s not uncommon for a small number of the engineers to be working on something feverishly while the rest just relax and continue to wait for the call to arms. It’s a very weird time for the team, especially because it comes right after the worst of crunch. There isn’t any immediate work to do (that you know of), but you still let your guard down.
PS. I didn’t have time (or space) to write about funny cert stories, but I felt it was more necessary to give an overview of what the cert process actually entails. In the future (and if I remember) I’ll try to write a post with some specific cert stories.
*overslept and had to teach a class without having had coffee or breakfast, but was somehow still more alive than the students
*had a pub lunch with some of my students from last year which was sweet seeing them all growed up
*set more experiments running in my lab
*cleaned the kitchen/did washing up
*cleaned the bathroom a bit
*hoovered the stairs
*took out all the bins
*changed and washed my bedding
*cleaned out, washed, and reassembled the fur babies cage
*frantically hid the fur babies as the letting agents turned up with an unannounced house viewing
*assured them rapidly around the house before going back and checking the fur babies hadn’t suffocated under my pile of old bedding
*made my bed
*ate a mince pie and finally had a cup of coffee
I might be ready to die now, but I think that sufficiently tells yesterday-me to suck it.
STUDY TIP!! CREATE AUDIO NOTES … and Listen to them all the time!
This is without a double my most favourite study strategy. Think about how much time you waste going to and from school while either sitting on public transport, driving or walking. If you counted the minutes and hours, it would probably add up to quite a few hours a week. Imagine if you could put this time to good use without having to be totally nerdy reading notes ‘on the go’. Normally while ‘on the go’ we would either be looking at social media or listening to music, so rather than waste time on that, get some study out of the way. I literally studied for a whole subject this way, and I was amazed at my results. It didn’t seem so hard studying with earphones in my ears either.
So how do you do this? It’s fairly obvious. Read your notes out loud and record your voice. You’ill feel rather ridiculous at first, but you soon get used to it. Break up recordings into topics, and change the filename to suit the topic, and then just listen to all your audio notes repeatedly and soon the info will just sink in.
You may even want to read your notes as you listen. But I prefer to just listen to them.
Now that the holidays are just around the corner, my to do lists have been less academic and more domestic. Both of my grandmas are coming to our house for the holidays, so I’m getting their rooms ready and finishing up Christmas shopping for them. What’s on your to do list during winter break? 🎄❄😊