As the title of this particular blog might suggest, the game is now on its way to launch! So now feels like a perfect time to talk about what it took for the team to get the game into a state that is ready to be shipped out onto the Nintendo Eshop and high street stores.

We are just 2 weeks away from Tip Top Table Tennis releasing digitally and we are super excited, nervous and all other kinds of feelings as we get closer and closer.

This was a first experience for the team and it certainly came with a learning curve, but we also had the support of the publishing team and their producers to assist us in getting through the various steps and checks that were required. 

As with any game title, the Quality Assurance process as the game moves towards its gold master submission is where a lot of the development time was spent in the final month or so. Rightfully so as well, the QA process is the double door system that decontaminates your game from all those nasty bugs before letting it enter and mingle with all the other games on the stores.

During development we had been as mindful as possible to ensure that we weren’t creating edge cases and bugs whilst we implemented all the features of the game, but as is almost right of passage in the game dev cycle, you WILL be tormented by some strange game breaking issues that you can’t figure out, but ultimately end up being the simplest and silliest problems to solve.

An example of some of the funky foolery that we had to solve during the final stretch includes, finding that if the ball travelled over the net in a particular spot, it would hit something invisible, obviously ruining that rally. We spent about 3 days trying to sus this one out, there was nothing there in the scene, no hidden collisions, nothing. It ended up being the ball used for replays being teleported to the centre of the table, but remaining invisible. 

The QA process is never just about the bugs though! Having people external to the development team test your game gives a massive amount of insight into how readable your game is, where the fun is and what confuses the testers. Not only were we getting bug reports back from the QA team, but we also received heaps of quality of life suggestions that could improve the user experience. This assisted us in making the experience as seamless as possible and finding areas of confusion in the game that we could clear up.

Overall, we had a relatively smooth QA period and weren’t overwhelmed with too many bugs, which gave us some time to make improvements alongside them.

The Lotchecks

So, our gold submission milestone date was approaching, we had fixed all of the bugs (that we knew of), and the game was ready. Or so we thought! 

Unfortunately and ironically, you aren’t just required to develop the game when you create…your game. There is still quite the process to go through in order to get that game submitted and accepted onto any platform, the Nintendo Switch platform is no exception and is possibly one of the more stringent platforms to submit for. 

Luckily, we had the publisher to assist us with this and guide us through the process, but it started dauntingly with numerous spreadsheets each with at least 20 different specific items that needed consideration. 

As always, I am going to be very vague and nonspecific as to what these things were so as to not upset Nintendo, but these requirements ranged from things like hardware usage and save files all the way through to controller usage and warning screens. 

We had to take a good chunk of time towards the end of development to ensure we had gone through each item on these lists at least twice, checking that we had considered the requirements and implemented something for it if required. 

We had been really quite thorough with this process and we felt cautiously optimistic that we would pass submission. We were warned by Excalibur that the reality is likely to be that we don’t pass the first time. Steve, Excaliburs development director, had said in his experience very little games have passed the first time.

And of course, Steve was right. Submission number one came back about 3 days later having failed and a small list of changes needing to be made.

And of course we made those changes, which spawned more bugs that needed fixes in the second submission, and so the cycle continued until the game was stable and also fulfilled all the lotcheck guidelines.

It took us 4 submissions in the end, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the game was tested and returned by Nintendo. Having the responses back in less than a week made it much faster to find the problems and get changes made in the same week we submitted them.

The Final Build(s)
The final build(s) with the “s” in parentheses because there were multiple “Final” builds.

Very much in relation to the lotcheck process, we went through the cycle of creating a final build for the game a few times. Our process did improve each time we went through creating the build which was good to see. We created a detailed build check list that encompassed everything we needed to do before sending off the zip file. 

This included a long list of in-engine tasks to complete such as, building lighting, setting up the final build settings and setting the build version, among many other things.

On Top of that, something that caught us off guard initially, was that post-build, we then had to use an authoring tool in order to add the legal metadata, icons, and a few other platform related requirements to the final build that were needed for platform submission.

So after a few failed submissions and making all the required changes, we now had our NewFinalFinal_100%Final build that was sent off and after 4 days, it came back successful and we could celebrate the game going GOLD!!

Post-Submission Blues
While we did take stock of the moment as a team, and we will certainly be getting together for launch to celebrate more, the submission of the final build and it being accepted was actually a mixed bag of feelings.

The game we’d poured so much effort into over the last 6 months was now done and ready to be shipped, which was an amazing feeling! We were, and still are, really proud of the achievement, our first commercial release as a team and first Nintendo Switch game! 

At the same time, it felt like there was a bit of a void in our work lives, something was missing. It’s not to say we didn’t have anything else happening, because we certainly had other clients and bits of work to crack on with, but it felt almost like the festival or holiday blues when you are heading home or just getting back. 

We had massively enjoyed the journey this amazing little game took us on, from start to finish it has been a real experience of problem solving, first times, design problems to solve and so many other encounters that have lead to heaps and heaps of learning for the whole team. So to see it come to an end from the development perspective was actually bitter sweet. 

Looking forward to launch, however, is a completely different box of frogs! We are excited, anxious and all inbetween to see our game out in the wild and hear what people think of it. 

2 Weeks to go! 24th May. The Countdown begins!

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