Atlassian has been helping hundreds of game developers produce the top games of the day for years now. It seems like just yesterday when we had Steve Weibe, of ‘The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters’ fame, at our GDC booth trying to best his Donkey Kong world record. Alas, that was years ago, and so many games have been developed since then utilizing our tools.

This is a guest blog post by Gareth Wilson from Adaptavist who are an Atlassian Platinum Expert. Adaptavist provide services and best practice that help ensure customers’ success with JIRA, Confluence, GreenHopper and Dev Tools.

Games Development Problems

Game Dev Problems

Source: A survey of problems in Game Development, F. Trindade

At Adaptavist we’ve worked alongside a number of games development companies who use Atlassian software to assist with their development processes. Having gained a good understanding of the issues they had prior to using Atlassian software, we weren’t surprised when we saw a review of game development post-mortems that revealed the problems most commonly experienced when creating video games.

Managing Your Project

Working out a project’s scope and getting the story and features of a game just right is a difficult enough task as is. But looking in to the cause of some of these problems showed that scope could become overly ambitious or unrealistic when a tight deadline was introduced or when additional features were added to the project as it progressed. Deadlines often have to be moved up or features added because of commercial pressures such as the release of a competing game or a desire to be the first to market. However, we know that delays often aren’t possible due to commitments with publishers and a need to release prior to key sales periods. This results in either requirements for features get cut, or a need to work over time to meet the deadlines. This isn’t helped by design problems, when content is supplied late.

 

What underpins these issues is the importance of project tracking and management. Improving estimates to include new features, providing team members and management with a better understanding of the impact of project changes and enabling stakeholders to visualise project progress show what’s possible within a given time frame. Atlassian’s JIRA can help you achieve this as a project tracking tool that includes custom workflows, dashboards connecting your team with their work and feeds and notifications that provide updates on activity. This is especially powerful when combined with GreenHopper, which adds agile planning and visualisation to facilitate incremental improvement for game development teams.

 

Zynga, for example, use JIRA and GreenHopper amongst other Atlassian tools, not only to assist their development processes, but company-wide in some way.

Communicating Effectively

We already know that good communication can be key to the success of a project. However, the Game Development review above highlighted this as being a real problem for games development companies to get right and we understand why — what with the globalizing of games production and the difficulties inherent within the cross-functional and inter-disciplinary teams that games development demands. This problem can be tackled though with better communication fostered with Confluence. Confluence is a content collaboration tool that enables you to start discussions, gather feedback and break down the barriers that can exist between designers and developers, technical teams and publishing, or within teams and outsourced team-members or organisations. Sony PlayStation, for example, chose Atlassian’s Confluence to help product development teams collaborate with external partners such as video editors, technical writers, and musicians.
Confluence can also help to overcome another problem highlighted in the review – that of a lack of development documentation or poor quality documentation. It’s not unusual for hours to be wasted trying to work out how something had originally been meant to work. To avoid such problems, during Adaptavist’s London APE event, Michael Endres described how Playstation Home use Confluence to document their games SDK. The benefit they’ve seen has been an increase in the quality of their documentation as well as keeping it up to date. It also improved collaboration, facilitated peer review and has lead to greater accountability and improved communication.

Testing and Fixing Bugs

Another couple of problems highlighted in the review relate to testing. Testing can be time-consuming and many games developers will relate to the feeling described by Peter Molyneux that it can sometimes feel like a game just doesn’t want to be finished when additional bugs spring up after fixes are applied to the existing ones. Despite this, when delays do occur in projects, if it’s not the features that have to give then it can often be the time allowed for testing and QA. This can cause problems where either you don’t have enough time to test properly, meaning your game has to be shipped with an unknown number of defects, or whilst defects have been identified there isn’t time for them to be resolved prior to release.
One way to help reduce these problems occurring come crunch time is to engage in code review with Atlassian Crucible along the way. The importance of code review was a key learning point highlighted by Harmonix when initially developing Rock Band for example. However, whilst many know the benefits of code review, it is often eschewed as the practice can be painful. Crucible takes the pain out of code review and helps you ship better code, meaning you no longer have to find yourself unearthing new crash bugs just days away from going gold master! For those working with iOS on mobile games then Atlassian provide a free SDK, JIRA Mobile Connect, which enables you to gather feedback and application data from customers in-app, helping you to spot any defects in the games that you have shipped.

Tackling These Problems Using Atlassian Tools and Best Practices

Atlassian products are a great choice for games development, whether you are shipping the next big thing or just want to improve your development processes and stay on budget. Over 150 of the world’s most successful game development companies rely on JIRA, Confluence and Atlassian Dev Tools to manage their project, bugs and development. But regardless of the products you use, to maximise the benefits gained you need to understand how to use, plan, and configure them properly. Adaptavist have worked with hundreds of deployments, with many organisations in the games industry and beyond. Whether you’re just planning to deploy Atlassian products, or have been using them for some time, we have services and knowledge of the best practices that can help ensure your success with Atlassian products.