Amongst various things I had to sort out today, I was asked to write out a blurb for a potential client about improving build processes and automating/scripting things in the development pipe-line. It’s a subject I get quite passionate about, because unlike so many things in games development, it’s a nice task to do. There are clear, quantifiable goals (“make creating a build a one click process”, “speed up turn-around times for artists by 50%”), and usually plenty of options about how to get there. It is also a nice, self-contained task that you can just wade into and make progress on, unlike for example gameplay coding, where you can often get blocked on feedback from the creative team, having to rework things and so on.

I think that’s possibly why I like to spend time on improving our pipe-line at the weekends or in my off-time; even though I could spend more time on the big pile of client work that needs done, I find myself tackling little bits of our own pipe-line because I know it’s a task I can get done without any other input.

On that note, with some more collaboration with the developers on some little niggles, we finally switched our creaky old makefile based system over to using JamPlus properly. Both build processes still run side-by-side, but the JamPlus version has a fraction of the number of lines in the makefile, runs much faster doing dependency checking etc., and in general is much cleaner and will be more maintainable going forward. I’ll have to walk the guys through what’s there so they can maintain it too, but after that I should be able to scrap the makefiles altogether.

Next step is the art/audio asset to platform binary conversion process, and this is why I really wanted to switch over to JamPlus. Our previous art pipeline would always rebuild platform assets, even if the source assets hadn’t changed. That was fine early on, when all of our tools ran lightning fast and we had few source assets, but very quickly it grinds when you introduce slow tools (such as our font encoding tool that does smart packing of glyphs and colour conversion), or many assets. Also the build scripts which make those assets are all Lua based, and so we have different technology for building code than for building art and audio. I’m pretty hopeful that we can make JamPlus fulfill both functions, and in the process get fast dependency checking for our art assets so that only the assets that have changed get rebuilt. But for that I’ll need a free day, and those are few and far between right now.

One Response to “JamPlus”

  1. Black Company Studios » Blog Archive » Travelling Wilbury… Says:

    […] is indeed the tools gig I hinted about previously, but sadly that’s as far as I can go in terms of details; not because I’m working on […]

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