June 27, 2006

[SiN] YAUSB (in English)

We finally received our USK rating last week (18+), and the retail version of “SiN Episodes: Emergence” is going to be available on July 20 at stores across Germany and on Steam.

Trying to get this game onto shelves in Germany has been quite the interesting experience. As most of you are aware, the original “SiN” was placed on the German Index shortly after its release back in 1998 due to the sheer amount of violence in the game.

So when we were developing “SiN Episodes,” we tried to make sure that we had enough time baked into the schedule to get the game through USK. We figured that three submissions would be enough, given that most games only have to go through two.

Our first submission was immediately rejected because we were trying to include “SiN” with “SiN Episodes.” Even though we had made content changes to “SiN,” it didn’t matter, as we were still on the German Index. (We’re still hoping to find a way to get “SiN” to people in Germany who have purchased “SiN Episodes,” but it’s not a trivial problem.)

Before I talk about our second submission, I should talk a little bit about how USK rates games. There are five members of the ratings board who sit down and play the game. Afterwards, all five sit down and vote whether or not to give the game a rating. If the majority decides against giving the game a rating, the game is “refused classification” and most retailers won’t carry it. If you resubmit, an entirely different group of raters get to rate the game.

So, we quickly submitted our second submission. Our second submission was the full uncensored version of the game. We had heard a lot about how far the German ratings system had come over the last five years, and seen that similar games to us were able to get through with minimal to no changes. Sure enough, we were refused classification on the uncensored version, but the requested changes were excessively minor and had no bearing whatsoever on gameplay. We quickly made the changes, tested them, and submitted our third submission.

Our third submission took a very long time, significantly longer than the first two. The morning that we were supposed to unlock, we got word back that the game had been refused classification by a 4-1 vote. Additional changes were requested, and while the additional requests were very minor, a couple of them really affected some items that we had slated to come down the pike.

Basically, the problems we needed to solve were how to make the changes in such a way that mods made for the rest of the world could still work on the USK version, how could we handle multiplayer across versions for when we release multiplayer, how could we get arena mode demos to play across versions, how can we keep bugfixes from having to be done in two separate codebases, and how could we solve these problems now and prevent them from being issues for Episode 2. I’ve been calling these changes YAUSB, for “Yet Another USK Submission Build.”

We found solutions to all of these problems in such a way that gameplay is not affected at all for the German release. There are minor visual differences between the two versions, but the stats are all there, the custom names are there, the enemies are all there, the same tactics work against the enemies, the weapons behave the same, there is no difference in gameplay between the two versions. In fact, it’s the same executable and DLL running both versions of the game, so bugfixes and features added to the rest of the world will automatically carry over to the USK version. One other nice thing is that I was able to hand off a near-complete version of Arena Mode in the build that was sent to USK, and USK had no issues with Arena mode.

For mod authors, we’ll be including instructions on how to make your mods work across both versions once we release the SDK.


Andrew Timson said...

Wow. That must have been... frustrating. I do have to say, though, that your solution sounds rather elegant. (And probably something that couldn't be done without Steam.)

I'd be interesting in knowing exactly what the differences between the two versions are, if you happen to have a list handy; if not, no big deal.

Congratulations on finally getting that trial behind you. Hopefully the Germans will have as much fun with Emergence as the rest of the world did. :)

Joel said...

Well, judging from what little I do know, the USK doesn't like things like gratuitous gore and gibbing, violence in general, etc. My understanding is that things such as that half severed corpse was taken out. (That is, sometimes, when a grenade blows up, you can see their spinal column sticking out of what's left of their remains.)

And it must be kind of annoying to have to roll out another version every time. Talk about customer service!