"Technical Issues in Tools Development" Roundtable Notes - Thursday
By Jeff Ward
Table of content
- Table of content
- Licensing / Selling your tools?
- Distributed / Parallel Builds
- UI Consistency
- Educational Resources
- In game tools vs. External
- Multi-team support
- What tools do you use to automate builds or common tasks?
- Check out from source control
- Time date stamping / comparison
- Deploy to multiple QA machines
- WPS (Windows Power Shell) was suggested as a potential, using comandlets to manage large systems
- For use testing on multiple machines, someone suggested making an easily deployable clean OS mirror and deploying that to all machines (Anyone know what tools can accomplish this?)
- Most people had problems with long build times, and wondered what tools were being used to mitigate that:
- Scons (sconstruct)
- This is a dependency manager, but some people seemed to be having some problems using it.
- No one really had any experience with MSBuild as a build system.
Licensing / Selling your tools?
- Think open source rather than sell, because you have to support your tools if you try to sell them.
- Insomniac is actually doing just that. They are releasing much of their internal tools set to open source (on a BSD-like license)
- More info here: http://nocturnal.insomniacgames.com
Somehow here we got onto source control usage, and the question was asked “Who is using Microsoft Team Suite?”
- Not many people for 3 reasons:
- Established process with current systems;
- Costs too much for people without current process;
- A few people that were using it complained that it did not offer the flexibility / scriptability / customizability they’ve come to expect from other products.
Distributed / Parallel Builds
- How do you handle data?
- Push data quickly on rebuilds.
- Most people have continuous watches / continuous integration on their assets watching for a rebuild.
- How can you distribute the data efficiently?
- Protocols (here we went a little off topic talking about using UDP over TCP, but it didn’t really go anywhere);
- BitTorrent for internal distribution was suggested, but no one had done it (I thought it was an awesome idea).
- Tracking Dependencies between assets:
- Use of versions and signatures;
- Metadata for a given asset stores version info and generates a signature based on that info;
- Signatures are compared to assess whether a base asset or its dependencies have changed (This was Insomniac’s system, so may be available as nocturne gets released).
- How do you create something that everyone can use and have a consistent UI
- Across all disciplines and
- Across all editors
- Break the system into reusable widgets;
- Have the tools have similar themes;
- Use an open source icon library to achieve consistent theme;
- Use perspectives for each person/role;
- WPF allows templates and data binding, which can make things easier when attempting to create perspectives;
- Basically perspectives are an implementation of the MVC (Model View Controller pattern);
- Consistency is key, more than a good UI (make sure the tool behaves in ways people understand and are comfortable with).
- Tools SIG
- Where do you find education for art tools?
- Look towards interface design.
- AskTog (blog)
- About Face
- Design of Everyday Things
- Don’t Make Me Think
- Look towards interface design.
In game tools vs. External
- Most people are using external with some hybrid
- By doing internal it immediately gives players the possibility of changing things;
- “Piping it over” stream to the engine from external tools is very common.
- How’s QA in tools:
- Not much QA, the users are QA;
- Co-location can help, since programmers will hear the actual frustrations of the people using their tools.
- As a tools programmer, look at yourself as being wrong, the users are always correct;
- Sometimes, users are unwilling to come forward w/ problems, so it’s up to use to find them and address them.
- How many people have an Engine & Tools team
- How many have an engine team that is separate from a tools team
- Found that separate tools teams are not starved for resources, whereas when they’re on a shared team they tend to be
- Do you have a manager lead or a non-manager lead?
- How do you convince management to have a separate tools team?
- Expense it. Show the benefit of having a separate tools team (examples of this would be great).
This was pulled from IGDA’s web archive :
And full credit goes to the author of that article.
–JeffWard Mar 2008