Whether you’re a AAA development shop or an indie programmer, building a game will surely take more than just a couple of weekends. Many things can happen between the inception of the game and the time it will be released. To track and manage these changes, developers use version (source) control. Let's talk about version control, branching, and how to select the best version control system.submitted by LocalizeDirectAB to u/LocalizeDirectAB [link] [comments]
The software development process is a long and arduous road. Changes might be introduced to the game mechanics, the admin part of the game, or practically anywhere, especially, if you develop a GaaS product.
These changes need to be tracked. Indeed, you don’t want to simply copy the entire folder of the game project and save it under a different name (like mycoolgame_v02). You will need version management. That’s what version control systems are for.
What is version control?Version control is the practice of tracking and managing changes to the code base. Version control systems provide a running history of how the code changes. Using version control tools also helps to resolve conflicts when merging contributions from multiple sources.
What is source control?Source control and version control are practically interchangeable, but to put a fine point to it, version control is a more general term. Source control systems typically manage mostly textual data — source control typically means source code or program code. On the other hand, version control refers not only to the source code but also to the other assets of the game app, like images, audio, and video resources.
BranchingWhen you think of a branch, you’d typically picture a fork-like structure. Initially, there’s only one path, but then the paths diverge. That’s essentially what a branch is in source control lingo.
As you build your game app and expose it to testers, QA, and other stakeholders, they will give input that may force you to introduce changes to the game’s source. Most of the time, the changes will be small, but the changes will sometimes be massive. These large changes are inflection points to the development process. This is typically where you decide to branch.
The purpose of branching in version control is to achieve code isolation. You’re branching probably because the new branch represents the next version of the game, or it could be something smaller, like “let’s fix bug number 12345”. Whatever branching method you choose, you’ll need a version control.
Why use version control in game projects?
#1 - Code backupSource control, especially a remote repository, is a backup for your code. Indeed, you don’t want your hard drive to be a single point of failure. Do you? What happens to 10 months of coding work if the drive gets fried? What if your server dies? Do you have an automated backup?
#2 - Better team collaborationShare the code with other contributors and still be in sync with each other. If you’re not using source control, how will you work with other developers? Do you really want to use Dropbox or Google Drive to share source codes? How will you track each other’s changes? Version control systems take care of synching and resolving conflicts or differences with codes from multiple contributors.
#3 - Roll back to the previous versionVersion control systems are a retreat strategy. Have you ever made breaking changes to the code and realized what a colossal mistake it was? If you ever want to go back, it’s a cinch to do that in a version control system.
#4 - Experiments with zero risksIt makes experimentation easy. Do you want to try something radical, but you don’t want to clutter or pollute your codebase? Branch. If the idea doesn’t pan out, just leave the branch and go back to the trunk
#5 - Full audit trailProvides an audit trail for the codebase. You can go back to previous versions of the code to find out when and where the bugs first crept in.
#6 - Better release managementMonitor the progress of the code. You can see how much work is being done, by who, where, and when.
#7 - Code comparison and analysisYou can compare versions of your code. When you learn how to use diffing techniques, you can compare versions of your code in a side-by-side fashion.
#8 - Manage different versions of the gameMaintain multiple versions of your product. Branching strategies should help you maintain different versions of your game/product. It is a common practice for the developers to have at least a production version (free from bugs, well-tested) and a work-in-progress development version.
#9 - Scaling the game projects and companiesAre you an indie developer? Or you are employed by one of the game giants - Ubisoft, Tencent or King? Whatever project you are involved into at the moment, you may come to the point when you’ll need to deal with more teammates, run more tests, and fix more bugs. Version control software is an indispensable part of your game growth.
#10 - Facilitate the continuous game updatesThinking about the previous point, how often do you plan to release your game updates? Do you plan to do it once a year, monthly or weekly?
The more frequently you update your game, the more likely you’ll need to do the feature branching or release branching to minimize bugs and achieve flawless user experience. Not to mention if you select the games-as-a-service model.
What to consider when selecting version control systemsIf you’re about to start a project and deciding which version control system to use, you might want to consider the following.
If you ask an application developer for recommendation, I’m almost sure they’ll tell you Git, Subversion, or CVS. These are heavy favorites of app devs. They’re open-source software and great at handling textual data, but they may be ill-suited for a game development project because of the way they handle BLOBS or binary files (which a game app has lots of).
If you ask a game developer, you’ll get a different recommendation; game development projects have very different version control needs than application development projects. Should it be an independent software or a built-in feature in your database or CMS platform?
How many people are involved in game development? How many databases? How are localization and content delivery done?
Gridly features the built-in version control, which enables branching of the content datasets, tweak them in isolation and merge back to the master branch. Sign up for free and make your first branch.
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