When your team is wrapping up a big project and going through its postmortem, you might not be thinking about your version control system (VCS), how it could serve your team better, or how it might be standing in your way.
So many teams struggle with communication gaps, which can lead to major delays in just about any project. Before your team starts writing code for the next big thing, take a look at your tools and ask yourself: What’s helping, and what’s hurting the work?
Rapid release cycles, large file sizes, and distributed teams collaborating on mission-critical applications can prove challenging in even the best-coordinated companies, regardless of size. A solid VCS can give your team a highly efficient workflow, so that programmers and artists can collaborate quickly without compromising on performance, iteration speed, or branching and merging capabilities.
Questions for your postmortem
Consider these questions in your next retrospective to diagnose whether an imperfect source code management (SCM) workflow could be the culprit slowing down your pipeline.
Are your workflows optimized or disruptive?
Not everyone’s workflow is the same.
Game developers benefit from distributed version control for branching and merging, whereas artists rely on simpler, centralized file-based version control. When everyone has to work together, something as basic as the tool used to manage these different use cases can cause issues with your build, resulting in everything from communication breakdowns to lost work. If your tool lacks the flexibility to serve both centralized and distributed uses, it can be a major performance and efficiency blocker.
Are team members able to focus on execution without having to worry about disrupting someone else’s work? Have an honest conversation to determine if that could be the issue behind missed deadlines, bugs, and other challenges you've encountered.
How much time do you spend learning how to use your VCS tool vs making the game?
Your team’s source of truth should be key.
Whether small or large, your team likely comprises of members with diverse experience and workflows. As such, your source code management could be slowing down the pipeline – especially if you’re using a DIY solution patched together from different tools like Git or BitBucket, or even a single tool that just isn't optimized for building a game. Many studios end up spending crucial time away from development to write their own internal documentation and SLAs around version control.
Gauge whether your teammates feel like the current VCS approach is accessible and intuitive; particularly those without the extensive technical know-how, like artists, for example.
Are you quickly adapting to feedback, or just putting out fires?
Feedback – both internal and external – can arrive rapidly.
Your speed when adapting to change is crucial to your game’s success. The failure to react quickly can clog your backlog and make everything feel urgent.
Version control should enable agility, not stand in its way. When changes are made, the source code should be your first consideration. This is particularly true when building a game with large files and huge repos. Speed is going to be a challenge – not just download and upload speed, but the speed at which you’re able to isolate changes. Is it taking minutes or seconds?
The ability to implement feedback and smoothly make changes can only improve the quality of your game, while minimizing headaches. Determine whether slow response time has been hampering your success during game development, and if so, consider a VCS designed with binary files and huge repository sizes in mind.
How prepared are you when something goes wrong?
It would be nice if things could go right 100% of the time, but unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.
What’s worth assessing, though, is how prepared your team is to deal with issues, and by extension, what kind of support they have when issues do arise. In terms of a VCS, this could mean anything from integration with other tools, platforms, and game engines, as well as how security is impacted.
Have an open conversation with your team about how they've handled these issues before. Did they feel they had strong support from the VCS through self-serve on forums or direct guidance via phone or email? How responsive was the vendor?
If a significant problem didn’t come up, you should still be able to assess how supported your team feels when implementing and maintaining something as crucial as source code. This can pay huge dividends for your next project.
Don’t let the tool stand in the way. Get started with Plastic SCM for free.
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