Optimising and automating all those boring, mundane and time-consuming build, management and production processes will give you more time for the fun stuff, reckons Jon Jordan…
It would be going too far to say the technology we’ve brought together under the somewhat loose term ‘source, build, management and process tools’ is becoming sexy in the way that engines somehow effortlessly seem to be. What is certain is that really smart developers are spending more time ensuring they have a rock-solid framework in this area.
The reason is simple. The level of efficiency required if you hope to get your game project completed on time, on spec and on budget can only be met if you know what your dozens or hundreds (delete where appropriate) of developers are doing.
The problem with this, particularly from a management point of view, is akin to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Too often, the act of trying to observe what’s going in destroys what’s going on. To that degree at least, project status and project momentum cannot both be known.
And that’s where lightweight tools such as Perforce and Hansoft come into play. By allowing the common-or-garden developers to get on with their tasks in an as unencumbered way as possible, the more confidence managers can have in their higher level tracking. Yes, maybe it’s time to finally ditch the Post-It notes.
Technology: Alienbrain 8.2
Clients: Bizarre Creations, Blizzard, Codemasters, id, EA, Rockstar, Sega, Sony, THQ, Ubisoft
Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (clients)
Integration with: 3ds Max, Maya, Photoshop, Visual Studio, XSI
Cost: Starter pack from £12,000
Contact: +44 1404 831715
Designed as an asset management for artists, Alienbrain uses a central server to store assets and data. It handles version control and enables you to add non-destructive annotations, while tracking tools mean leads and managers can easily review a project’s progress.
Integration is provided with most 3D art packages, and the latest service pack adds supports for such 64-bit applications, as well as a 64-bit SDK.
Technology: Perforce 2008.1
Clients: Activision, BioWare, EA, Epic, Midway, Monolith, Remedy, Sony, THQ, Ubisoft, amongst others
Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris (clients)
Integration with: 3ds Max, Maya, Office, Photoshop, XSI
Cost: From $900 per user
Contact: +44 845 345 0116
The industry-standard package for source control (aka software configuration management), Perforce features a centralised repository for assets, which are accessed by client software, including users operating from remote locations or those with irregular internet access. It’s designed to operate as
seamlessly as possible, and is scalable in terms of being able to handle terabytes of data and thousands of users.
Technology: Mog Complete
Clients: Bioware, Glyphx Games, Sensory Sweep, Trilogy Studios, amongst others
Platforms: Windows (2000/XP, Vista)
Integration with: Unreal Engine 3, DAZ 3D
Cost: $799 Complete, $199 Library
Mog Complete is a suite of individual server-based
collaborative products designed to streamline data management and production workflow. Mog Pipeline provides the ability to automate data conversion processes; Mog Library is a lightweight version control system for artists; while MogBox is a processing chain that uses a visual flowchart-style
interface to enable you to handle and automate complex data conversion.
Technology: Hansoft v5.2
Clients: Blitz, CCP, Creative Assembly, EA, Eurocom, Ninja Theory, Red Mile, Starbreeze, Ubisoft
Platforms: Windows (2000/XP, Vista)
Integration with: Available through SDK
Cost: €25 per user per month, €33 server fee per month
Contact: +46 18 10 90 90
Swedish tools provider Hansoft continues to pick up high profile clients for its real-time production management tool. The latest version of Hansoft beefs up the QA functionality, with better integration for agile development a particular focus.
The tool supports different agile methodologies such as Scrum and eXtreme Programming, enables remote working with
256-bit encryption, and allows you to set up various hierarchical planning processes.
Technology: IncrediBuild v3.31
Clients: Over 300 including Big Huge Games, Codemasters, Crytek, DICE, id, Relic, Ubisoft
Integration with: Visual Studio 6.0, .NET and 2005 platforms
Cost: $349 per client license
Based around distributive or grid computing, IncrediBuild is a technology you can use to speed up heavy-duty processing tasks such as Microsoft Visual Studio builds, art and AI preprocesses, QA scripts and other data builds.
The Xoreax Grid Engine creates a virtualised, distributed parallel process across any PCs in your office. Xoreax claims build times can be decreased by up to 90 per cent using IncrediBuild.