Microsoft Spotlight: Cloud management

Microsoft Spotlight: Cloud management
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

June 25th 2014 at 11:45AM

A look at how Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online can help both indies and triple-A giants manage their projects

In a world where there’s no such thing as a typical games development studio, picking the right tool to manage your team, projects and assets can be daunting.

Can a tool suited for studios that share the same office also give teams spread across several locations the same power and flexibility? In the era of the cloud, where geography has become but a passing concern, the answer is now yes. And, founded as it is onthe Microsoft Azure cloud back-end, Visual Studio Online offers a tempting proposition for those pondering the right tool with which to manage their studio.

Simply put Visual Studio Online provides a portal through which to organise a project and assign tasks, share assets with robust source control, test and bug check. It is also a repository for anything team members have created, and a place to share ideas for studios that rarely enjoy face-to-face time with all their colleagues in one place.

AHEAD IN THE CLOUD

“Being cloud hosted means that you don’t need to install anything on a server or maintain and update the software,” says Giles Davies, Microsoft’s developer technology specialist, on the benefits of Visual Studio Online. “That in turn means that it is fast to get going, doesn’t require ongoing administration, and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. It’s also free for up to five users.”

The make-up of Visual Studio Online also makes welcoming new team members or contractors on board particularly simple, without any need for them to install or access any software, and does much to democratise access to agile planning, providing tools to manage product backlog, check velocity, set sprints, perform sprint planning, provide task boards, show burndown and more.

Visual Studio Online additionally includes a new technology called Application Insights, which furthers access to the power of Microsoft Azure and the cloud.

“It’s currently in preview and provides production telemetry that gives you runtime information on the use of your app or game,” offers Davies. “Examples include availability – so you can find out before your users tell you that the game isn’t available, and exception reporting, so you can be aware of the problems your users experience, as well as performance statistics and usage information such as device types, browsers, resolutions, operating systems and a lot more.”

ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

In addition, Visual Studio Online purports to be designed from the ground up to serve teams of any size. Indeed, it can even serve as a practical tool for solo developers looking to organise a project, but comes into its own serving teams from two members to almost any size one could imagine. Enterprise-type features even allow vast studios to use the tool to manage and support distinct sub-teams working together on a large-scale project.

And its cross-platform prowess certainly offers appeal for any team pondering adopting the solution.

“Visual Studio Online itself is in the cloud, and can be accessed via any modern browser, across platforms,” says Davies.

“It integrates into a range of local development and testing tools, including Visual Studio, Eclipse, XCode – via Git, Microsoft Test Manager, Excel and Project.

A CASE IN POINT

Visual Studio Online is yet another example of the power of the cloud not just to deliver games to the public, but to make games, and one such development team using it is UK indie Dlala Studios.

“Visual Studio Online has been the key tool for me to keep the studio and our projects organised, we’ve used it when there was two of us in separate locations and seven of us in one location,” explains studio co-founder AJ Grand-Scrutton. “And we still use it now with five separate locations and a further three outsourcers.”

With Dlala’s in-development manic multiplayer arcade action game Overruled! courting praise , Dlala is clearly getting something right. With Visual Studio Online serving as a foundation for the project, they can move forward confident they have a reliable, powerful foundation on which to continue that success.