Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

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

Erin Hoffman | 20 Jun 2008 17:00
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Ron Toland, from Brainstem Games, formatted his design documents into XHTML and then inserted them into a directory structure as part of his company's Perforce repository for the project:

I basically decided to treat our design docs like a website. I came up with a directory structure for the "site" and added it to our Perforce repository, then populated it with web pages holding the design information (asset lists, level descriptions, etc.). Nothing fancy, but it made the docs a lot easier to update for me, and everyone else can always know they have the latest version just by syncing with Perforce.
-- Ron Toland, Writer, Brainstem Games

This kind of basic flexibility in process represents a simple but important principle in the application of tools toward game development; not only did Ron's solution make it easier for him to manage his own development, it impacted the team project-wide on the level of their reassurance of the current nature of the available design. It was one more thought loop that they didn't have to execute before acting.

Indie Tools

Indie developers often wind up being the quickest to pick up on new tools because their margins are narrower than mainstream development's; they need to make a little bit of developer power (and often no budget at all) go a long way.

Here is my take from an indie perspective:

- Version Control: Tortoise SVN + Subversion Server
- 2D Graphics: Adobe Suite
- 3D Graphics: Maya / ZBrush
- Terrain/Maps: L3DT/Leveler/Terragen
- Animation/Motion: Endorphin/Euphoria
- Programming/C++: MS Visual Studio
- Music/Audio: FL Studio (Fruity Loops)
- Game Engines: Torque Game Engine Advanced/Unity/etc..

Engine choice depends specifically on your game concept and game flow requirements, in addition to your budget.

The most valuable asset is going to be the developers working on the project. You'll need a Lead Producer, Lead Programmer and a Lead Designer/Writer as your team nuclei, with modeler, artists, writers, programmers, audio, graphic and system engineers under their direct supervision.
-- Max Taha, Founder, Lethal Concept

Freeware engines for specialized game niches also continue to improve:

In terms of a completely integrated IDE able to make a Windows EXE in no time flat and accessible to those new to programming and not only able to make its eponymous Adventure Games, but other types of game too, it's hard to beat Adventure Game Studio. There is great community support, too.
-- Andrew MacCormack, Module Builder, Wadget Eye Games

Valve, shaking up the scene as usual, made its Steamworks publishing and tracking suite available for free this past January. These news blips tend to pass quietly, but in the long run have tremendous impact on the gaming space. When major consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360 support low-budget indie games through their distribution systems, it becomes easier than ever for independent developers to reach a wide audience. Valve's addition with Steam breaks similar ground on the PC, while protecting developers from piracy, a critical consideration for the indie developer that runs close to the redline.

All of these shifting tool dynamics change the way the industry works on a deep level, opening streams of innovation and much-needed new approaches and thinking. Live the dream, guys.

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