06 March 2009

A few weeks ago, I posted a survey on game middleware from Mark DeLoura . Well, the survey is done, and Mark has been nice enough to share the results and some analysis on Gamasutra. All of the analysis here is very interesting, but I find the concerns over rapid prototyping tools and asset turn-around time the most interesting. From the article:

Following up, what has been the impact of these rising development costs and a dwindling economy? What concerns have increased most for developers in recent years? […]Here we find interesting new news. Rapid prototyping enables a developer to more quickly draft and test game concepts for fun in the early stages of a project, and also use the prototype to acquire funding. Rapid iteration gives one the ability to quickly try out many ideas during development, improving the game through frequent experimentation and fine-tuning.

If rapid prototyping and rapid iteration are weighing heavily on people’s minds, what are they using now? And how many studios have live preview on the target platform in their current content pipelines?

It looks like they probably create one-off C++ applications, sketch things out on paper, or use Flash or Lua. I had suspected that more developers would be using C#/XNA due to the ease of quickly knocking out quick test applications with it, but only 5% of the responders said they are using this for prototype development. (However, 76% of developers are using C#/XNA for tool building.)

If rapid iteration is also a growing concern in game development, how many developers currently have the ability to do live preview on the target platform for their content developers (artists and designers)? According to the results, 62.5% currently have this capability. Several responders noted that they preview on a PC version of their engine and that this is good enough for most work. Certainly using the actual target platform would be even more valuable though!

This is one of many reasons why I think that increased effort in the Tools SIG will be important in the coming years. We should not only be helping people create prototyping systems (or building on those already available), but pushing for sharing of information that would allow things like live preview on all platforms, cutting turn-around time for all studios, and thus cutting costs.

As I said in the previous post, the Tools SIG will probably be running its own, similar survey soon, which will hopefully give us some ideas on where to focus our attention to make the biggest impact in tools development.