Friday the 13th Dev Talks About the Difficulties of Console Certification Process

January 25, 2017Written by Alex Co


Announced in early 2015, Gun Media’s Friday the 13th: The Game still doesn’t have a firm release date. If you’re eagerly looking forward to the game and bummed out about it, you’re not the only one.

Over on Gun Media’s official forums, Wes Keltner posted a rather lengthy explanation as to why there’s still no firm release date announced. Short answer? The all-painful and plodding, console certification process. Want the super long reason? Read on below for Keltner’s message.

As we’ve done with each step of making Friday the 13th: The Game, we’ve tried to lift the veil on how games are designed, developed, marketed and released. So much of this industry is cloaked in secrecy, some of it for good reason (for PR) while others could be blamed for the amount of time it takes to explain to the fans why they are kept in the dark. But we want to change this trend. This entire project has shaken up the industry a little, and we want to keep pushing. The more you are informed, the better. When you start seeing and understanding the process, you will begin to discover the hows and whys certain decisions are made. 
The topic I want to demystify today; “Why haven’t you told us the release date?” I don’t want to get too far in the weeds, as it would make this post far too long to read. And in our TL:DR culture, I fear most would see a long post and move on. So I’ll try to keep this brief.
The only reason you haven’t seen a release date is because we have to pass console certification. Let me explain what that means. Once we have a candidate (feature and content complete) we have to send a build to Sony and Microsoft. Their internal teams test the game against a very intense checklist to make sure we pass. We have some details on how this process is “graded” but we don’t have everything they check against. Additionally, each territory has different guidelines. Let’s just look at Sony. There’s SCEA, SCEE, SCEJ and Sony Asia. Each of these territories has a different rule book and we don’t have access to all of these. So, to a certain degree, we go at this a little blind. What passes in North America, may not pass in Japan for example. 
There are several “levels” to passing certification. The first level is pretty basic; Does it boot and can you start a game? While other levels are far, far more intricate. For example; MS still requires that we support Kinect, yet they no longer sell/bundle this device for XB1. You, as the player, still need to be able to say “Xbox Record That.” You also need to be able to hot swap between apps, while the game is still running in the background. These console features actually use one of the CPU cores, thus taking one of those away from us, the developer. It’s like building a car, only to figure out that the Engine is a V8, but you can only use 7 of the cylinders. Bummer. 
Additionally, what happens if a player boots F13, but has a Rockband peripheral plugged in? Well, we have to support that to at least allow the player to navigate around to get back to the home screen so they can swap out for a proper controller. Then there’s the attenuated VOIP system we built. You know, the cool voice system that we integrated that allows you to talk within proximity of other players? Yeah, that’s an instant certification FAIL. So we have to work with Sony and MS to bypass this failure because it’s a cool feature that everyone loves. 
OK, I know what you’re thinking; “Yeah I get it, but AAA games like COD, Assassins Creed, etc, can give launch dates 6-9 months in advance, sometimes a full year.” You’re absolutely right. But here’s what they have, that we don’t. Mountains of money. They plan their milestones to account for potentially failing certification a few times. They “bake in” 4-5 months cushion just in case. We don’t have that luxury. You all know how much we raised on KS and Backerkit. I raised more money from investors to assure we could get singleplayer in for everyone…But we simply don’t have enough to create a large cushion like the big guys do. 
So all of this to say that we’re not withholding the launch date because we’re a-holes. We don’t think it’s funny to always say “Early 2017”. On the contrary, I wish we could say an exact date. But there are variables with the certification process that our out of our control. The last thing I want to do is give you guys a date, only to find out we failed certification and to actually pass cert, we need 3 more months. That would suck big time. Console players would have a date in mind only to hear it pushed 2-3 more months…that would be devastating, right?
There’s also the beta to consider. We learned a lot watching and playing with you guys during the beta. There were things that you struggled with, while other things you picked up naturally. We knew the VOIP feature was pretty cool, but we didn’t realize how much you guys would really love it. And you did, a lot. So much that we had to carve off some time to make that whole system tighter. But it was interesting watching HOW you actually played the beta. Everyone played it much faster than we predicted. This, in turn, pushed us to go back and look at the controls and interactions to make them function faster and smoother. Our biggest takeaway was how severely the game reacted to players with high ping. It’s been a number 1 priority here since the beta to assure there are no more players getting “stuck” while interacting with objects in the game. 
So here’s my promise to you. Once we pass certification we are considered “Gold”. The very second that happens, we can release a date. The moment we hit “Gold” it will roughly be 30 days after that when the game is available for sell. So why not go ahead and take pre-orders via PS4, XB1 and Steam? Well, because they don’t allow preorders until we are 30 days from launch. Bigger, AAA, games have some leverage here, which is why you see pre-orders months and months before target launch. They have a relationship with MS, Sony and Valve. We’re the little guys, so we’re treated a little differently. It’s the nature of the beast. Sony has been a little more open to this idea and we’re working with them now to see if we can get a larger pre-order window. 
Thanks guys for being patient. I just wanted to take the time to explain this whole process and hopefully assure each of you that we’re not being jerks about this. We just don’t want to let you down. 
-Wes Keltner

If you want to see how the game’s faring so far, check out the latest gameplay look right here.

When are you expecting Friday the 13th: The Game to be released? Are you surprised at all how convoluted and slow the console certification submission process is?

[Source: Gun Media (Forums) via ControllerCrusade]