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What it's actually like to develop for Xbox One - Microsoft explains

A technical chat with Chad Gibson and Boyd Multerer

Microsoft has taken steps to make games development much, much easier and less time-consuming on Xbox One, OXM can reveal in the wake of last night's announcement that developers will be able to self-publish on Xbox Live.

Many independent developers consider the manufacturer's current publishing and certification procedures on Xbox 360 a headache - as Size Five Games' Dan Marshall put it to Edge just this morning, "when indie devs have meet-ups you could always tell who was going through certification because of this constant pained, drained look on their faces."

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Speaking to Xbox's director of development Boyd Multerer and Xbox Live's principal program manager Chad Gibson shortly before the console's announcement, we discussed how Microsoft has streamlined its approach for the new generation.

The chat included a hint as to another facet of last night's announcement - Microsoft's decision to make every Xbox One capable of playing work-in-progress games, given manufacturer permission. "It's kind of weird," Multerer told us. "There are debug Xboxes, absolutely, but it's the exact same hardware as a regular Xbox, it's just which keys and which certificates are on it, allowing it to see which version of the [Application Programming Interface] is in production."

According to Gibson, Microsoft operates fewer proprietary tools for Xbox One development and publication, which means more freedom for developers. "Is it easier to use your own services? Absolutely," he began. "We've used a lot more common protocols for this Xbox than the previous Xbox. In the previous Xbox, we had things like the proprietary security protocol, we had a much more locked-down way for applications or games to call services provided by the actual game developers, and all that stuff is a lot easier now."

There's more automation, too. "We have typically had requirements that involve a lot of games applications, evaluating how many times they call service "X" or "Y", and all that stuff is completely automated in the new Xbox. So we're on a path, absolutely, to allow a much larger array of developers to write applications and experiences."

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Unlike on Xbox 360, developers won't have to shuttle between "development environments" for game creation, testing and publication. Instead, everything happens in the "production environment", Xbox Live. "The other fundamental thing, the step that we took to make it much more open is that on Xbox 360, we have all these different environments. We ask application developers to go through what we call CertificationNet, PartnerNet where there's like, I guess, separate walled environments.

"In the new Xbox, it's all production. So the way a developer uses and uses all the new Xbox's capabilities is all just in production. We have a bunch of mechanisms to manage, you know, IP protection and things like that."

Multerer offered a bit of clarification on the specifics of how this will work. "A developer, who's writing a new game, can basically create a Sandbox, that is using all Production resources - like Production friends or Production profile - but they're only allowing a certain set of users to have access to this development Sandbox."

"So we're taking a lot of steps to make it so that a wider array of developers can develop things for this Xbox," Gibson concluded, "And to make it so our certification requirements and typical curation procedures are much easier and more streamlined."

He added, however, that Microsoft will continue certain of its existing practises for the moment on Xbox 360. "The way that we do tooling, the way that you actually build and use Xbox Live, I mean, it's worked, it's been great for us, we're just making it a lot easier for next generation.

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