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Case Study: Krome Studios®
Building better quality games with FinalBuilder
 
Overview

As Australia’s largest game developer, Krome Studios produces some of the world’s premier gaming titles. To ensure the highest quality of their releases, Krome implement a range of best practice software development techniques, including an automated build process.

The FinalBuilder team spoke with Steve ‘Sly’ Williams to learn more about how Krome Studios use FinalBuilder to effectively automate their builds. What they discovered is that by helping to simplify the automation process for building games, FinalBuilder provides significant competitive advantages for Krome Studios.

In the beginning

Sly spearheaded the introduction of FinalBuilder into Krome’s development environment with the purchase of the first license in 2005. Since then, FinalBuilder has become widely used through-out Krome as more licenses have been purchased.

Sly explained, “I was a Delphi programmer from way back and I knew of FinalBuilder. I convinced the tech guys to buy me a license for it, and then the other project teams saw how useful it was, so they bought extra licenses.

“We used to write long, complex DOS batch files to automate our build process. If something went wrong, which it quite often did, finding the cause of the error could be a long process. FinalBuilder allows quick and easy debugging of build processes in a robust environment which has saved many hours of development time.

“All it takes to create a build process in FinalBuilder is one person. The action-oriented process makes it a breeze to move build steps, insert, delete, duplicate or any other changes that may be required. It is also easy for someone else to step in because the build process is displayed in such an easy-to-understand way.”

Building better quality games

Krome Studios build a variety of games for different platforms, including the Wii, Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 2, 3 and PSP. Console games for these platforms ship with limited opportunities to provide bug fixes after release; consequently, Krome employ extensive Quality Assurance procedures.

An automated build process is the foundation for many of these QA processes. It allows Krome to start building and testing early and then continue to do so at regular intervals through-out a project’s life-cycle.

“Krome use FinalBuilder in a number of different ways - for milestone builds, for daily builds and for continuous integration. It is sometimes used on a developer's machine, or more often on a dedicated build machine.

“FinalBuilder has enabled us to regularly test our games and begin testing at the earliest possible stage. This ultimately leads to fewer bugs in final shipped version and better overall quality of our games. In fact, Electronic Arts once commented that the bug count in one of our titles was the lowest they'd ever seen.”

A Game Developer’s Build Tool

FinalBuilder was developed as a desktop software developers’ build tool; however, as the software development world has evolved, so has FinalBuilder. It is now used by desktop developers, web developers, game developers and many other types of software developer.

In discussing FinalBuilder’s suitability for a Game Developer, the FinalBuilder team were happy to learn from Sly that with its 600+ built-in actions, FinalBuilder already supported many of the tasks and tools involved in building Krome’s blockbuster games. Sly also explained that when he did find a product not supported, he was able to take advantage of FinalBuilder’s extensible plug-in architecture to integrate it.

“About the only thing missing [from FinalBuilder] is support for the Metrowerks CodeWarrior IDE.  I have made a custom action for CodeWarrior which we have used extensively for the past few years for Playstation 2, GameCube and now Wii builds. Xbox and Xbox 360 builds simply use the built-in Visual Studio actions.

“The only other thing I would like is a way of automating tools that only supply a GUI and no command-line or automation abilities. All of the major console manufacturers have some tools like this, some more so than others.”

In response to this feedback from Sly and other FinalBuilder users, VSoft included GUI automation actions in FinalBuilder 6. Krome’s build process can now automate interaction with dialog boxes and GUI only tools during their builds. VSoft are also working to integrate CodeWarrior support into FinalBuilder to provide better built-in support for Krome and other game developers.

Support

FinalBuilder as a tool continues to help Krome use a sophisticated build process to improve the quality of their final releases. However, VSoft believe software can only ever be as good as the support behind it, which is why the FinalBuilder Team provide outstanding free support for every FinalBuilder license. Something Sly let us know he appreciated last time he encountered an issue.

“It was one hour forty-three minutes from my first post to a successful fix.I wish all vendors were that responsive.” 

Final Word

FinalBuilder provides an effective solution for Krome to automate game builds and in the process, it helps improve the quality of their final releases.

So would Sly recommend FinalBuilder to other game developers?

“I would definitely recommend FinalBuilder as an easy-to-use build tool to simplify the automation process and to provide extensive feedback on the progress of builds.”

About Krome Studios®

Krome Studios is Australia’s largest video game developer and a leading independent development studio in the worldwide game development community. Krome’s vision is to cultivate technological and artistic achievement, creating proprietary technologies that facilitate superior game development for both original and licensed properties. The company has proven expertise in developing games for the current generation of platforms and is already engaged in working on next gen platforms as well as all handheld platforms.

About Krome Studios’ Games

Krome have produced a number of highly successful games including:

-          The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night & A New Beginning
-          Viva Pinata: Party Animals
-          Hellboy: The Science of Evil
 
Krome are also currently working on Lucas Arts latest blockbuster - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
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