Friday, March 06, 2009


Hey guys! I know I told I wouldn't post new articles until I had returned to Montevideo. The thing is that something popped up during one of the talks with the XNA Team in the summit that imvho really needs to be clarified once and for all: the proper way to use each available sumission features in the Creators site (the "main" features).

So this time I`ll be blogging about the guidelines you should follow when submitting a game to the creators club for both, peer review and play-testing. Consider them as part of a brief list of do`s and dont`s or kinda checklist to use before pressing the 'Submit' button.

But first, let`s see the reasons behind these "rules", ok?

First and foremost, act as a serious entrepreneur. In many cases, you deal inter-alia with finances, marketing and even human-resource management so get used to the best practices of entrepreneurship. Thus, even though the word "Community" is used to separate this channel from XBLA, this is still serious business. Period.

When you`re just about to submit a game for the XLCG, you`ll have to honestly answer a few general questions in order to properly assess whether you`re in the right path or not:

  • Is my game ready for commercialization?
  • If I weren`t the author, would I buy this game?
  • What price should I set?

The most difficult part is usually being objective enough. I know, it`s your baby. But you`ll have to make the effort and think over these questions seriously before going any further.

To help you answer those questions, let`s organize the topics a little bit as follows: (I) Type of Submission, (II) Game Description, and (III) Pricing.

I. Type of Submission

Let's go straight into the point: what's "Peer Review" for? I will clarify in what follows what is NOT for: playtesting!!!

Seriously, don't use peer review as means of testing your game in the final market. Not only you will make your peers unhappy about this but also you will lose credibility with your potential and current buyers. A game badly tested may end up in a reduced rate of conversion.

Peer review is meant for games thouroughly tested. The idea behind it is to check whether you self-rated it appropriately or not. It has nothing to do with peers like your game or not. If your game sucks but still, you comply with the rules of submission and rate it correctly according to the reviewers, it will be approved. Simple.

Avoid abusing peer review by testing your games through playtest option. Here`s a great opportunity to test your betas and RCs with the community of peers. Bear in mind that a game submitted for playtesting won`t make it to the XLCG market. One thing though: be reasonable and don`t submit a game for testing when there is nothing relevant to test; meaning, avoid submitting alpha versions. Don`t waste peers` time.

One important note as stated in the creators site: "To help insure the stability and seriousness of the Peer Review step of the Xbox LIVE Community Games process we’re instituting a seven day waiting period for rejected or cancelled games."

Finally, please do not reply/post things like "Who the heck do you think you are to review my game ... ?". Be respectful. Always listen carefully to what a peer has to say: maybe you really learn something helpful. There's no harm intended, believe me.

II. Game Description

There are currently three ways to describe your game: a text description, 4 screenshots and a video.

In order to get the most of these, try to use them all in a proper manner. Think like a pro in marketing. A perfect combo attracks more people to download the demo of your game.

Describe your game in a way that attracks gamers' attention. Tell them in a few words what the game is about. Avoid unnecesary lines like "Best game ever" or "This game will rock your world". Just write down useful info.

Once you get a description worth reading, then enter the screenshots. There's 4 of them, have you noticed that? Use them all. Don't be lame. Screenshots are a convinient way to support your text description, so pick 4 screenshots that really show-off (the most) interesting parts of your game.

Btw, be careful when you create screenshots with too much dark colors in it, since the thumbnails could turned out to lose details. I mean, try to make colors distiguishable for the key areas of the picture and you'll do good.

Don't waste the opportunity to show off how cool your game really is by adding a video. Deem is as a game trailer. Choose its content wisely. Be creative. Make the gamers say "Wow! I need to get this game! Let's buy it now!".

Think as a director creating a tv-spot or a film trailer. Be consice. Present what you're game is about in a way that captures the eyes of the viewer during the lenght of the video.

Just balance the timing. A 5-minute video: way too long; a 1-minute video: not even a news flash. And don't go off-topic. This is a promotional video. It's not interesting for a gamer to see how you created the videogame. Neither it is to show how to complete a whole level.

Finally, there is no way to record a video using XNA in the 360 right now, so in order to avoid using a video camera and center its focus on your screen, you may use programs like FRAPS and grab the action from your PC version of the game. It's a second best, but it could do the trick just fine.

III. Pricing

Tough one. Setting a price for a game is always tricky. Unfortunately, experience in this regard is something that you learn along the way. But there's a few thoughts that you can use:

  • Try set 800 points only if your game is really outstanding,
  • Set 200 points if you believe that is the only price customers will pay for your game, and
  • 400 points is usually ok for the rest of the cases.

One important thing to notice: once a price is stablished, you won`t be able to change it for the following 90 days! So, think twice before taking a final decision here. It could affect your results and figures.

To sum up, here`s a brief checklist for your consideration when submitting a game to XBCG:


  • Always use this feature thouroughly before submitting for peer review,
  • Debug and test alpha versions of your game, locally. Playtesting doesn`t release you from that responsibility/duty/task. Thus, try to submit versions of your game that you consider a beta or a release candidate,
  • Releasing new versions to the market even every 7 days could get into the nervs of your current and potential customers. That`s why testing is vital.

Peer Review

  • Don't abuse it!!! This feature is only for games that have been already fully tested and that are ready for commercialization. Otherwise, use playtesting,
  • Think Before Sumit: if your game is rejected or you cancel the sumission, you'll have to wait 7 days before being able to re-submit it. So be careful here,
  • Consider what peers say. Behave. Be respectful.

  • Don't be a lazybones: submit all of the 4 requested screenshots,
  • Watch the colors of each picture: if too dark, then its visibility gets compromised with auto-generated thumbnails,
  • Choose 4 screenshots that really show off your game -specially if you're not submitting a video- as well as complement your text description of it.
Game Trailer

  • Be smart. Think as if you were the director of a tv-commercial when creating your trailer,
  • Watch the lenght of the video: balance the timing,
  • Mind the content of the video: be concise and please don't go "off-topic".

Game Demo

  • Let gamers play a level that really shows off how great your game is,
  • Don`t fill the demo with "Buy-This-Game" screens; bear in mind that if a gamer really wants to buy your game, he/she will buy it, regardless the number of times you make that screen pop up,
  • Also remember that if a gamer has gone through the effort of reading the description of your game, watching the screenshots and your game trailer, and now downloading the demo, this is the crucial time to get a new customer. So give them the best demo they can get.

  • Choose the price of your game with care since once stablished it will last for 90 days,
  • Be cautious when considering a change in the price of your game,
  • Remember that this is serious business.

Well, this is it. I hope you`ll find this info useful. As usual comments and suggestions are welcome.

Watch this space!

-> Link to Spanish version.


Well guys, latest times have been really fun and useful.

The MVP summit was awesome: met a lot of people, had lots of fun and a big yes here: got relevant info of what`s comming next.

I cannot tell you what`s next in the XNA world but believe me when I tell you that interesting things lay ahead. Just stay tuned to Kathleen announcements.

In the meantime, you can watch some nice pictures taken during one of the days in the Summit and or the latest XNA Round-Up.

Till next time,

-> Link to Spanish version.