Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Tools of the Trade

Erin Hoffman | 6 Jun 2008 17:00
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Darkstar is a large and weighty example of a simpler principle: taking a tool used outside the workplace and bending it to a use in office communication. We do this with instant messaging, but rarely with anything else. Could blogging software be used as a reporting tool? Some studios do use blogs internally, but I would be interested in the potential of a community blogging software like LiveJournal for shared reporting. LiveJournal's community features could be used to organize reports based on project for multi-project studios, or to track development archives long after a project's completion. Using the 'friends' list of a system like LiveJournal could allow a production coordinator to instantaneously view the daily reports of a team, organized by date.

Custom Tools

Ultimately, the differentiating factors that separate game development from other forms of software development demand custom tools. The IGDA Tools SIG, started in 2006, exists primarily to discuss these developments, with the eventual goal of compiling lists of tools in a user-friendly Wiki (yet another transformative tool - this column could be a book). Such a resource would be a valuable industry meta-tool, particularly if it could be used to organize feedback on the use of various tools from studios across the world.

Increasingly, individual studios are noticing that the use of a separate Tools Programmer greatly enhances the productivity of their developers across the board. Tools Programmers are a relatively new development in mainstream game dev, indicative of a further maturing of the industry and streamlining of process.

It doesn't take a Tools Programmer to think of innovative ways to improve process, however. When we become fully invested not just in what we create but how we create it, we enjoy our jobs more, we feel more empowered about our careers - and we make better games. While we tend to think of development tools as limited to the specific hardware and software specifically designed for fulfilling our specialized development roles, considering outside-the-box tools as a way of potentially streamlining our daily tasks can improve production and quality of life on a comprehensive level. We should also be focusing on tools that help us organize and communicate, as well as code and create art.

If you have a Tools Programmer, give them a hug! Then tell them how you could be minimizing repetitive tasks with a nice new tool.

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