For today's Gamasutra feature
, we present 'Swiss Army Chainsaw: A Common Sense Approach to Tool Development,' with programming veteran Ben Campbell (Heavenly Sword, Creatures
series) boiling his tool development experience down to snippets of wisdom.
Amongst the helpful hints Campbell passes on to developers of all levels:
"Smiles Help to Fend Off Voodoo
Smile when you get bug reports! Encourage them! If people are reluctant to come to you with bugs, a culture of voodoo workaround is likely to develop. Rather than telling you that there is a problem, your users will just come up with crackpot workarounds that seem to work but are more likely than not to cause massive problems elsewhere.
But it gets worse. These workarounds will propagate around the team until they are accepted as the official way to do things. And nobody will question them any more. In extreme cases, this voodoo can infect new projects, even ones using completely different tools.
For example, on a project I once worked on, artists got into the habit of routinely using the "Freeze Transforms" tool in Maya to work around a particular unsolved issue in the exporter. The next project used a different export pipeline, but the practice persisted. And we ended up with silly, silly geometry, such as 1-metre-square objects offset from their origin by 2 kilometres. That made for some big bounding spheres and culling that was... umm... non-optimal. And the worst thing was that it wasn't visually obvious, so nobody would immediately realise why things were running slower than they should be.
So make sure you bite your tongue, grit your teeth and smile when people come to you with bug reports. You'll save yourself pain in the long run."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the topic
, including what to do when it all goes pear-shaped, and the harsh reality about documentation (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).