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Bonus Feature: 'Collaborative Game Editing'

In an in-depth new technical feature, Neversoft co-founder Mick West discusses how collaborative editing may be the future for high-end game development.
In an in-depth article originally published in Game Developer magazine, Mick West discusses how collaborative editing may be the future. But with some development teams numbering more than one hundred individuals, and the scope of games increasing, there are inherent challenges in becoming more collaborative in the content creation process. West explained, “When multiple people are working on overlapping aspects of a game, there are two problems that arise: edit conflicts and edit bottlenecks. These problems are two sides of the same coin. Fixing edit conflicts can create edit bottlenecks, and vice versa.” “An edit conflict happens when two people edit the same thing at the same time and their changes create two conflicting versions,” he said. “…An edit bottleneck occurs when two people want to edit the same thing at the same time, yet person B cannot edit it because person A is editing it.” But how do you get around those conflicts, and freely collaborate? West presents possible solutions such as splitting data into smaller chunks for individuals to work on in order to avoid technical conflicts. That solution isn’t quite surefire, however, as that process “adds complication in how the level is split up and subsequently pieced together. Implementing high-level changes to large sections of a level also becomes difficult.” West looked to virtual world Second Life as an example of how a collaborative editing environment could operate, in general. “Players in the game exist in a large continuous world, which they can edit in real time. Multiple people can edit in the same area of the world at the same time, and their changes are visible instantly, both to themselves and to others.” He added, “Edit conflicts, bottlenecks, file distribution, and backups are, to some degree, historical problems, forced upon us by the constraints of a simple file-based editing system. Files are large, which means you get edit conflicts or bottlenecks, and that it's expensive to back up every single change.” “But if we transition to a game editing process more like that found in Second Life, we are no longer editing files, but are editing much smaller objects within the world, which are stored on a shared database which needs no distribution.” You can read West’s full commentary in the complete Gamasutra bonus feature.

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