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Feature: Saber Interactive's TimeShift Postmortem

PC/console shooter TimeShift debuted late last year after a "strange and convoluted" - but fascinating - development cycle, and in this exclusive Gamasutra postmortem,
April 04, 2008
TimeShift began as a small proof-of-concept demo in 2003, which Atari picked up a year later with plans to publish the game on the PC and Xbox. But early promise for the title led Atari to move it to Xbox 360 -- and that's when the property was acquired by Sierra. The title didn't actually hit shelves until holiday 2007, thanks to refinement for extensions. The reasoning behind these extensions is explained in the postmortem: "While extensions are common, they are less so when a game is essentially ready to ship. This was not only a vote of confidence in the title, but also one in Saber's ability to turn the game into a AAA franchise. The thought behind the extension was that TimeShift was built on a very solid concept, but one that could use additional refinement. It was also decided to add another SKU to the game -- the PS3. This meant that Saber had about 10 months to make vast improvements to the game on all levels -- visuals, gameplay and polish -- and also to write a PS3 engine and port the game to that console. While this was a tall task, we ultimately proved up to the challenge." The migration into next-gen territory is often difficult, but fortunately for the team, it was part of "what went right": "As part of our move into next-gen territory we needed to improve our production pipelines and supporting infrastructure. During normal development, we used to make one build a month that was sent to our publisher. That was enough to demonstrate the progress we were making. By the end of the project we were pushing 15 builds a day, every day (this includes two or three regional builds on each of three SKUs, for the full and demo versions of the game). We had to establish a special Build Department which worked closely with our QA team to ensure that builds were made and tested daily so that the problems were immediately communicated back to the team. We built a number of server racks with "hardware farms" to help us churn all this data on a daily basis, compiling code for all three SKUs, re-exporting art assets and assembling builds, compiling the shader database, and doing the uploads of the final assets back to the publisher. The process was working around the clock, and sometimes we were already working and testing the new builds while the ones from the day before were still uploading." Of course, no process is perfect. In addition to further depth on the project's successes, the full Gamasutra feature contains details on the snags along the way -- including the challenges of a dev cycle prolonged to this extent (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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