Once upon a time, the gaming industry decided it was fed up with rewriting code, so it did something about it. Leaders created game engines to streamline common workflows. In the process, they gifted other industries, such as manufacturing, automotive, and architecture, with the ability to quickly produce real-time 3D renderings.
Whatever the industry, 3D rendering projects require multiple people across various disciplines. A single 3D project could include artists; subject matter experts in engineering, architecture; as well as programmers, marketers and project managers. To address this, particular trends in game engine collaboration have emerged.
Game engines are prioritizing collaborative workspaces for users
At present, Unreal Engine offers easy integrations with version control tools like Perforce and SVN.
In addition, Unity offers a collaboration tool within its Unity Teams service so colleagues can work on projects, securely save them, and subsequently sync them with other team members. Users can also revert to earlier versions of projects, allowing them to confidently power ahead with creative changes.
Since it’s built directly into the Unity game engine, users don’t have to import files to another program or learn another tool. In addition, Unity’s collaboration platform is cloud-enabled, limiting the amount of processing power a user’s computer needs. Similarly, solutions like PureWeb’s Spaces platform provides a tech agnostic collaborative workspace, allowing creators to cast live interactive streams of their 3D CAD models and game projects. Version control systems are mostly useful to a tech team’s development work. On the other hand, Spaces also provides companies with remote training, demo capabilities for a work in progress (e.g. demos at the end of a sprint), and more.
Game engines are streamlining workflows for other industries like Hollywood
Green screens are a bizarre feature of Hollywood. Directors and cinematographers frame shots with scenes that don’t exist while actors engage emotionally with characters that aren’t really there. Adding these fantastical scenes in post-production can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but film makers may no longer have to wait that long.
Hollywood has embraced game engines for its real-time rendering capabilities. For instance, during the filming of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the cast navigated a virtual set produced by 4K laser projectors rather than playing an enhanced game of pretend in front of green screens. With this technology, effects are added during production rather than in post-production.
In addition to streamlining workflows, the game engines which make these projections possible allow directors to get a better idea of what the final product will look like while they’re on set.
These streamlined workflows are not confined to the film industry. CAD developers like Autodesk are rapidly acquiring construction companies that will deliver tools catered towards AEC users, making it easier for these industries to create tailored CAD models that are subsequently imported into game engines.
Non-programmers actively learning 3D tools
Creating real-time 3D projects is a collaborative effort. In a game design environment, a team can include game designers, visual artists, and various programmers.
In an automotive environment, the team may consist of graphic designers, marketers, and several programmers.
In an architectural firm, this team may consist of architects, project managers, and...you guessed it. Programmers.
While all the roles contribute to the final project, programmers are essential to getting the most out of a game engine. (Technically, you don’t need extensive programming knowledge to use a game engine, but in an enterprise environment, it’s needed.)
In the gaming world, technical artists and tools programmers exist to bridge the gap between the programmers and non-programmers. The technical artists communicate between the art team and the programming team to ensure designs are feasible while the tool programmers create tools to keep the entire team productive.
Increasingly, non-programmers are learning more technical 3D skills to narrow the gap. According to a report co-published by Burning Glass Technologies and Unreal Engine, Visualizing the Future: Demand for 3D Graphics and Real-time 3D Across the Economy, real-time 3D is fuelling hybridization, a phenomenon in which a skill found in one industry experiences demand in another. Demand for these skills is cropping up in fields like sales and marketing, suggesting non-technical talent will need to acquire this knowledge.
Furthermore, artists are enhancing their skillset to more readily integrate with game engine project teams. While Photoshop is a powerful tool for creating graphics and textures, learning how to use advanced 3D modelling tools like Maya and 3DS Max Design will keep artists competitive in an increasingly 3D graphics-informed role.
FBX dominates game engine projects for its high fidelity and cross-platform usage
There are hundreds of 3D file formats floating around the rapidly evolving universe of content creation, but a select few stand out from the pack. While there are a few proprietary file formats (AutoCAD users receive a DWG file while Blender users receive a BLEND file) these formats make interoperability difficult, and interoperability is a pre-condition for effective collaboration.
To facilitate collaboration, 3D creators use neutral file formats like STL and COLLADA. These formats act as an intermediary. You can convert your DWG file into COLLADA, send that COLLADA file to your friend, and that friend imports it to Blender where it’s converted into a BLEND file.
The wide world of file formats has been slowly condensed into a few favorites including COLLADA, OBJ, STL, 3DS, and FBX. FBX is noteworthy because it’s popular among game engine users thanks to its facilitation of high fidelity file transfers. It’s also an interchange format between AutoDesk’s suite of tools which includes AutoCAD, 3DS Max, and Maya.
Game engine users are embracing agile project management
Agile project management empowers cross-functional teams to develop games quickly while retaining quality through frequent cycles and constant iteration. By contrast, the waterfall method uses longer cycles and manages reviews in a linear fashion. The waterfall method receives criticism for its rigidity and tendency to cause delays when used for large, complex projects. It’s a methodology that struggles with uncertainty and uncertain requirements are an unavoidable part of software projects.
Kanban and scrum are two popular frameworks within the agile school of thought and while both frameworks prioritize continuous improvement, there are differences between the two approaches. At a high level, kanban focuses on controlling the amount of work at a given time while scrum has a firm focus on scheduling.
Teams using game engines tend to lean towards the scrum methodology. They work in 2 to 4 week sprints that end in the achievement of specific milestones. Each morning, all team members meet for a 15-minute scrum to discuss their progress and quickly address any obstacles hindering their work. They also conduct demos at the end of each sprint to validate their work in progress.
Perforce is the go-to version control tool for game engine projects
Currently, Perforce is the dominant version control tool, particularly among enterprises. While many consider Git strong competition in the wider world of software development, in the game development arena, users say Perforce offers a much more intuitive GUI that makes navigating different versions and working on large projects more manageable. Moreover, users say that Git experiences issues with binary files, an unacceptable shortcoming for many game engine users considering how graphic-rich their files are.
Debugging while iterating is being treated as a best practice
While the scrum methodology has increased in popularity for game engine projects, there are some criticisms. One criticism is that on many teams, debugging isn’t considered a condition of completing the sprint.
Instead, teams focus on getting all their features in and put off debugging until later, leading to a nightmarish debugging process down the road. In some cases, teams complete some or all of their sprints months before a QA tester comes onboard.
Best practice is to onboard a QA tester from the beginning and make debugging a condition of meeting a milestone. In terms of balancing dev tasks with debugging, one suggestion is to compare the list of defects to the list of dev tasks. If the defects list is longer, the developer should consider it a priority and work on cutting down that list first.
For larger development teams, an automated bug tracking system is recommended to avoid losing track of bugs reported via email.
Notably, both Unreal and Unity have introduced resources for reporting and tracking bugs within the game engines themselves. Unreal offers a public issues tracker where users can search for their specific bug, view its status, and see whether a solution is available. In addition, users can vote on which issues are most important to them so the Unreal Engine team spends time on the issues that impact the community the most.
Web deployment through cloud rendering is competing with WebGL
For several years, WebGL has been the dominant tool for sharing interactive 3D experiences online. Supported by popular web browsers and a cost effective solution, WebGL grew in popularity. Nevertheless, cloud rendering and streaming solutions like PureWeb’s Reality platform are quickly gaining speed.
More From the PureWeb Blog: Deploying real-time 3D - WebGL or cloud rendering
Previously, cloud-based solutions weren’t feasible due to bandwidth limitations. But today the cloud presents enormous potential in terms of data security and delivering high fidelity renderings as well as delivering 3D experiences to thin clients that don’t have the local GPU to manage 3D models.
Streamlining collaboration is the next stage of game engine usage
As game engines achieve widespread adoption across various industries, the next phase of 3D content creation will be simplifying collaboration. Scrum-based development needs frequent collaboration with stakeholders to deliver results, making tools like Spaces indispensable. Cross-functional teams will expect easy version control, file sharing, and communication with colleagues. And when all is said and done, our Reality application can get your game engine content across the finish line by streaming it to your website for publication.
Learn more about PureWeb Spaces and our integration with Unreal Engine