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I hear that the console game platforms have strict requirements for their games. For example I just read an answer that stated loading screens must have an animation on them so that the game doesn't appear to be frozen -- this makes sense, of course! I think a lot of the guidelines in these books would probably be great information.

Are these documents protected in some way or is there someplace on the internet where I can read them? I would love to read through all the guidelines for good design that the console manufacturers have put in place to give console players a good experience, and probably to adhere to them in my own games (at least those which are not console-specific, obviously).

So, where can I find these fabled console video game design guidebooks?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

While I can't link you to the actual documents used by "proper" published console games (and, really, unless that's what you're doing, you don't need them), but here are the two documents used for XNA games that go up on Xbox Live Indie Games:

Additionally here is the MSDN page on Xbox 360 Programming Considerations.

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Those are actually surprisingly clearer than the 360 TCRs themselves >_< Kind of wish the MS had sent us those instead. – coderanger Aug 6 '10 at 18:23
I'd rather see Sony's user experience documents than Microsoft's. MS has the money to push its opinion out to us via the web, and MS has the egomaniacal opinion that this is a good thing. But their product line's user experience is not the best. – Heath Hunnicutt Aug 6 '10 at 20:05
In general the 360 TCRs make sense, most are about maintaining basic interface guidelines so you know what you are getting. – coderanger Aug 6 '10 at 22:21

I highly doubt that you are going to find these documents unless they have been leaked out somewhere (torrents?). Unfortunately, I believe the only way you'll be able to (legitimately) get these documents is by purchasing the SDK for the specific platform you are interested in (Xbox, Playstation, Wii, etc.).

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If the ability to develop a console game - of course, excluding homebrew PS3 Linux/DS/Wii and XBLA with XNA - has a requirement of a well respected developer or company and money to even get a devkit for the platform, I doubt the requirements to create the game are available publicly.
You could, of course, try buying an SDK and seeing if there's any kind of idea there. But you need to be a well referenced developer.
Or, like people get most things nowadays, try the torrent/P2P/file sharing websites.

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Both the 360 TCRs and the PS3 cert lists are available on the developer networks. You need to be a registered studio to get access. I've read the Xbox ones enough times that I might be able to answer some suitably generic questions without being in breach of the NDA.

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Mind you, a lot of the requirements are fairly nitpicky whereas others are relatively pointless. A good example would be your example of 'a screen must be animating so the game doesn't appear hung' is one of them. Now you're in the situation where games animate the loading screen on their own thread while loading. If the loading thread crashes the screen keeps animating, leading to the false impression that the game didn't crash.

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The actual TCRs (what Microsoft calls their set of requirements) are protected under NDA, so you're not going to be able to find them unless you're a "certified" ("approved"? I'm not sure what terminology they use) developer. I personally always err on the side of caution when it comes to NDAs, so I'm even reluctant to provide non-specific information on the requirements. But like you said, while some of them might be nitpicky most of them are common sense rules that exist to provide a friendly and consistent experience to the end-user, and are guidelines you should be following even if you weren't developing a console title.

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