Part of the process

Part of the process

By Develop

December 13th 2007 at 5:14PM

As projects get bigger, more complex and distributed around the globe, making sure your production and asset management tools are as sharp as possible is becoming critically important, says Jon Jordanâ?¦

When it comes to the development of video games there are plenty of contradictory trends. The one that should be worrying producers (and finance directors) is growing project complexity versus the need for total control over production entities such as assets, source code and builds, as well as post-production tasks such as bug-fixing and QA.

It’s the sort of problem you’d like to think could be solved with a monolithic system that tracks everything while providing transparent yet focused visual information for all the different people involved in the process. Sadly not. In fact, referring back to the last time Develop covered such tools (issue 66), the big gap in the running order we’ve listed here is Microsoft’s much vaunted XNA Build. Part of the XNA initiative in the form of XNA Game Studio Professional, it was quietly ditched.

Instead the landscape breaks down to some well-worn systems. Perforce’s code software configuration tools need little introduction, and despite a prolonged and somewhat rocky introduction into games, the art-focused Alienbrain can also now be described as tried-and-tested. The dark horse, however, is Hansoft. The production management tool is picking up momentum and clients, thanks to its flexibility. One to watch, or evaluate.


PERFORCE
Technology: Perforce 2007.3 (Beta)
Clients: Activision, BioWare, EA, Epic, Midway, Monolith, Remedy, Sony, THQ, Ubisoft, amongst others
Host Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris (clients)
Integration with: 3ds Max, Maya, Office, Photoshop, XSI
Cost: From $800 per user
Contact: +44 845 345 0116, info@perforce.com

The standard software configuration management tool, Perforce is a client/server-based technology that enables robust version control, source and defect tracking. Visual and command line clients are available for a wide range of platforms while the latest version offers improved concurrency, better server performance and optimised network usage. The Graphical Tool plug-in now supports the latest versions of Maya, 3ds Max and XSI.


SOFTIMAGE
Technology: Alienbrain 8.0
Clients: Bizarre Creations, Blizzard, Codemasters, id, EA, Rockstar, Sega, Sony, THQ, Ubisoft
Host Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (clients)
Integration with: 3ds Max, Maya, Photoshop, VisualStudio, XSI
Cost: Starter pack from £12,000
Contact: +44 (0) 1404 831715

Designed to streamline the production and organisation of art assets, one key new feature in Alienbrain 8 is the Central License Server. This improves management and performance when dealing with multiple Alienbrain servers, including load-balancing, back-ups and admin tasks. There’s also an enhanced remote solution, which is optimised for slow network connections, and the bucketing system has been speeded up.


HANSOFT
Technology: Hansoft v5.0
Clients: Ascaron, Creative Assembly, EA, Eurocom, Red Mile, Starbreeze, Ubisoft
Host Platforms: Windows (2000/XP)
Integration with: available through SDK
Cost: €25 per user per month
Contact: Patric Palm, solutions@hansoft.se, +46 18 10 90 90

Swedish production management company Hansoft is expanding the reach and flexibility of its eponymous software. A QA module and support for Agile methodologies are the most recent features added to a integrated suite handling collaborative scheduling, communications, task tracking, resource usage and document management. Remote access is controlled using AES 256-bit encryption, while custom integrations can be carried out via the SDK module.


XOREAX
Technology: IncrediBuild v3.1
Clients: over 300 including Big Huge Games, Codemasters, Crytek, id, Relic, Ubisoft
Host Platforms: Windows
Integration with: Visual Studio 6.0, .NET and 2005 platforms
Cost: $349 per client license
Contact: sales@xoreax.com

Xoreax has subtly changed its positioning. Known for its Windows distributed build technology, it’s venturing into wider distributed processing. For example, id used its rebranded Xoreax Grid Engine to pre-process AI for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. But whatever you’re using the system for, it works the same, with spare CPU cycles available on your office LAN (or dedicated server farm) used to speed up development.


VIEWTIER SYSTEMS
Technology: Parabuild 3.2
Clients: Creative Assembly, Linden Lab, Lionhead Studios, Torpex Games
Host Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris
Integration with: Perforce, Subversion, CVS, Surround SCM amongst others
Cost: from $950 per server
Contact: +01 650 223 3320

The company motto is ‘Build With Pleasure!’, so there’s little surprise that Parabuild is a build and release management system designed to help you improve you software development thanks to what Viewtier calls ‘Continuous Integration and delivering practically unbreakable scheduled builds’. It enables you to carry out multi-platform remote and parallel builds, uses a Web interface and supports a wide range of version control systems.