Notes by Victor Stepanov

@ GDC 2021

hosted by Geoff Evans

About the moderator

About this roundtable session:

Day 2: “Pipeline” focuses on processing assets through to the game in all its forms: build systems, caching, distribution, scalability, optimization, disc mastering and patching.

Topic #1: CI/CD in games

what are some differences between game dev and software dev?

Topic #2: When to optimize your pipeline? When to buy more hardware to run your pipeline?

  • Is it an IOPs problem (more cores, more memory)?
    • It always depends on the part of the pipeline that you have a bottleneck in.
      • Do you know where the bottleneck is?
      • is it in the image conversion?
      • is it in the data baking?
      • in is in the data compression?
      • is it a Perforce sync problem?
    • Think about how you would monitor perf
  • use Fastbuild or Incredibuild to parallelize your pipelines tasks and manage jobs

  • there will always be a bottleneck somewhere in your pipeline. The question is, do you know where it is? and if you do, are you “okay” with that bottleneck?

  • from the chat: It’s pretty obvious, but sometimes even throwing a threadripper on a pipeline won’t help if it runs on a single thread

  • more things to think about
    • Is it a problem of the scheduler program doing resource acquisitions?
      • How are your resources allotted?
    • Do you need to update/clean the local state of the resource?
    • profiling your build
      • checkout Prometheus for scraping performance data every minute off of workers, posting data to influxdb and showing that on a Grafana
    • how long are you uploading the results?
      • can your network infrastructure handle it?
      • do you have data deduplication?
  • was not mentioned on the roundtable Fast Iteration for Far Cry 4 - Optimizing Key Parts of the Dunia Pipeline

  • was not mentioned on the roundtable The Asset Build System of ‘Far Cry 5’

Topic #3: Sharing tools between projects

the tension between building your own vs using someone else

tools that almost fit what you need, but not quite

how do you write reusable software?

  • a part of this problem is a communication problem. Make sure the leads of the central tech team and the leads of game teams are talking regularly.

  • having a central tech team helps make a tool available and supported outside the environment that the tool was developed

  • sometimes this needs to be an executive decision about not wasting resources on tools that someone is already working on
    • making teams pick a single tool out of multiple tools and only invest time in the tool that was picked
      • cutting costs
  • remind people of the maintenance that will need to go into the tools. Are they ready to continue to support the tool?
    • maybe it is time to open-source the tool?
  • find a common problem get stakeholders from different teams/parts of the company involved, get buy-in, let them be part of the process of developing a new tool

Topic #4: Porting and supporting multiple platforms and OSs

  • use containers for propping up and testing platforms
    • might not work for perf tests
  • having a wrapper framework with a common API for testing the game

  • make sure you have a good cross-platform scripting language (like Python)

  • from the chat: Also coming from General software development, when you can’t containerize the platform, you would like to create a sandboxed environment (or at least as close as possible to it), load the dependencies, build and run the tests, etc.

Topic #5: Using Open-source in your pipeline/ Using GPL software in your pipeline

  • talk to a layer

  • see Embark Open Source projects

  • if you have code under the GPL and you send that to an outsourcer that is considered distribution
    • However, when the organization transfers copies to other organizations or individuals, that is distribution. In particular, providing copies to contractors for use off-site is distribution. from:

  • if you want to use GPL in your code you can use a bridge add-on similar to RenderMan for Blender render addon, Substance plugin for Blender

  • from the chat: Legal is adamant we note and have a way to display all licenses in About of ALL internal tool (not guest/user fronting!) ever… and no GPL for us.

  • object code along with LGPL is viable

  • watch out for using/distributing encryption libraries across country borders

Topic #6: What is the best way to handle multiple people solving the same problem

  • human communication is hard, try the iterative approach

  • get people into teams and make them work together on solving an issue

  • make sure to have design documents and design proposals to make sure everyone is on the same page

  • building a culture that makes you realize that everyone is biased to their own solutions

    • so you can objectively compare solutions
    • separate yourself from the solution