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Ultimate Game Development Environment

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by prometh3us, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. prometh3us

    prometh3us

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    OK, money aside (as we all know that is never an issue :D ) what would people here use as their ultimate game development environment? I would include:
    • Hardware - such as platform, tablets, 3d motion controllers, video cards, mice, backup solutions, whatever floats your boat
      Development Tools - text editors, source control, project management tools, design documentation tools, IDE's
      Components - This would include things like speedtree, AI libraries, network libraries, etc...
      Graphics Tools - Texture editors, Ubiquitous 3D Tools, Texturing, Modeling, Animation, what have you...
      Reference Materials - Books, training DVD's, Websites, etc...
    It can be overwhelming to assess the immense range, variety and relative quality of tools that can be had and that pertain directly to making even a simple game. Sure there are a ton of free tools so that you can explore the world of game development, cheap tools to stay on a budget and insanely expensive suites of tools; but somewhere in there is a balance and an (currently) ideal tool set that reduces the workload and would allow a small development team to take the best shot possible at success regardless of whether they are free tools or cost you your first born. Unity is a great step in the right direction enabling indies to produce high quality professional games with a small team but what else would you have, if you could, to ease the process?

    Certainly this list would vary by the type of game developer. Someone who is more of a programmer may want simple powerful 3D tools that reduce the knowledge and skill required to produce adequate game objects and the artistic type might want the most user friendly UI dev tools with powerful code completion. But I think it would be interesting to see how different people might tackle that problem.

    ---
    Best regards,

    Doc
     
  2. David-Helgason

    David-Helgason

    Moderator

    Joined:
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    Posts:
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    For GooBall I think we had something like:

    Hardware:
    * Various underpowered iBooks and PowerBooks
    * Just one dual G5 for the artist
    * One old-hat Dell with an ancient Linux installation serving files and a Wiki

    Software:
    * Unity Pro (which didn't support Windows publishing back then)
    * Maya
    * Photoshop
    * A little Blender
    * A little 3DMax
    * SubEthaEdit for editing
    * Home-rolled version control software based on a patched PostgreSQL
    * TikiWiki for sharing ideas and TODO-lists
    * A big home-made Excel-sheet for project management
    * No other external libraries

    Books etc.:
    * Several copies of most Game Programming Gems books (and GPU Gems, ...)
    * Whatever we had lying around

    Also:
    * Coffee, tea, sugar, sometimes milk
    * Patiense
    * Painkillers
     
  3. aaronsullivan

    aaronsullivan

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    Nov 10, 2005
    Posts:
    986
    You know, thinking ultimate is not always very easy.

    I think Maya is great, for instance, but at the same time I think it's wretchedly horrible. Interface so often seems like an after thought in 3D programs when really it's the primary problem that remains. Some programs have made inroads, like zbrush, but it still thinks it's a paint program and utilizing it is often like traversing a mine field.

    So, what's ultimate? It is completely flexible based on the users.

    Frankly, you should go with what each contributer is comfortable with unless there is some hardcoded issue like no .fbx export or no $$$ prevents you.

    Depending on the game, cheap tools could be perfect.

    For a feature film special FX analogy, take ILM. Whatever you think of the recent Star Wars movies, you know they have the money and resources to throw at every specific problem. Yet, there is a department that makes pre-viz scenes and they often use cheap off-the-shelf 3D software to get the job done more quickly.

    So, depending on the game, the cheaper tools may be exactly what is needed and something like Maya could be a huge sinkhole of unneeded complexity.

    I'd ask each team member what they are already good at and if there is money to throw at it, I'd ask them what would immediately increase their productivity or quality of work. Remember the immediate part. When starting games out, you want as little research and development going on into new tools as possible. Take what you and your team members know and make the best possible game with that. Then you may acquire more resources to push yourselves, and then it will probably be much more clear exactly what tools would be beneficial and whether it is worth the cost.

    Me?
    Unity, obviously
    SubEthaEdit for coding
    Maya for 3D (fortunate enough to also be doing some work on film fx so I have access)
    GarageBand for music and some sound fx
    Old Photoshop
    Painter IX
    9x12 Intuos 3 Wacom Tablet (Art and animation background)
    and the ultimate tool: Pencil and Paper.

    That's way beyond my budget, but it's what I have and it feels close to Ultimate for me. I'm probably never going to have the time and resources to become a Logic expert, so GarageBand will be enough for me.

    I'd like a better(less pain inducing) 3D program than Maya (It's way to expensive and I don't personally own it) and I'm always on the lookout, but I fear Apple would have to make it for me to ever be happy. I actually liked the direction of Ray Dream Studio back in the day.

    For script coding, I hit a financial barrier and I'm pretty sure that X-Develop would be a huge improvement over SubEthaEdit alone and would probably increase my productivity immensely. Depending on future collaborations, I think SubEthaEdit would still be a tool I used regularly.

    iTunes for constant music is a must, too. :)
     
  4. NicholasFrancis

    NicholasFrancis

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    1,587
    I would disagree with the 'immediate' part. It is a large advantage to have artists using the same tools across a production. Sometimes someone gets sick, and if different artists are locked in to their own different programs, keeping the production running gets very hard.

    Also, if people use the same tools, they train each other in what they do over meals.
     
  5. Guest

    Clearly, a great point. :D

    I guess I was looking at it from the perspective of someone getting started with a small team as many Unity users may be doing. I imagine that with a smaller first attempt project there's usually exactly one artist/modeler, for instance, but since Unity seems to attract artists, I could be wrong here.

    Frankly, my experience is limited on this subject as I haven't worked on a project like this with any more than two or three people, so that's about as far as you can trust me on this. :D

    Most of my thought in the last post was rooted in avoiding the constant search for the "perfect" tool without getting deep experience in one tool first. I often find myself trying out programs when I really have no need. Good or bad, I'm that classic "jack of all trades, master of none" guy, and this is one of the reasons for it.

    So, what is the ultimate toolset for others?
     
  6. prometh3us

    prometh3us

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2005
    Posts:
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    davidhelgason -
    LOL I can't beleive that I forgot this category.

    Thanks for the insight on the rest of the stuff. I was curious, do you find it beneficial to develop on a sorta least common denominator system so that you can easily see what the game will run like on most peoples system. Or would you rather have a nice G5 with a 7800GT card and tons of ram and test on an iBook or something?

    aaronsullivan -

    Ultimate may have been a bad choice of words, perhaps 'well balanced' is a better description of what I am really after. It just seems that there are so many possible tools and it is hard to figure out the relative value. So for example, while having thing X helps it just doesn't have much bang for the buck...whereas thing Y proved to be indespensible; that sort of thing. And Y might just be a good iTunes library and some headphones. :wink:

    So one thing that jumps out for me, not being all that artistic, is that I need a toolset that really helps me be creative and produce acceptable results (i.e. does a lot of work for me and holds my hand) even if it doesn't give me the full range of a complex toolset like Maya perhaps. And one that has a lot of support out there to help me learn. I do agree that if Apple produced a 3D tool it would probably be a great benefit as they seem to do incredible things in making the complex accessible (Motion for example).

    You know I have seen that tool mentioned more than once now and think I may have to spend some time looking into it. They are running a special on a single license for $150 until the EOM January. So maybe you need a Christmas present? :)

    ---
    Best regards,

    Doc
     
  7. Randy-Edmonds

    Randy-Edmonds

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    Yeah, I just last night noticed that x-develop was on sale for $150... so I jumped on that deal. My trial version had expired and I had been using SubEthaEdit, which is a great text editor, but not the best C# IDE.

    Anyway, if you are looking for easy to use 3D tools I suggest downloading the trial version of SketchUp 3D. I have found it to be incredibly easy to use. It workd best for creating structures and terrains... not a good choice for modeling characters. But if you aren't artistic modeling people and other characters are probably out of grasp anyway. For detailed objects SketchUp comes with a huge library of models (from kitchen sinks to plants, etc.) or you can buy 3D models online ( http://www.exchange3d.com and http://www.turbosquid.com/ )

    So my ideal set of tools/resources include....
    Unity - $249 or $999
    SketchUp 3D - $495
    (www.turbosquid.com and www.exchange3d.com)
    GIMP - free
    InkScape - free
    X-develop - $150
    Garageband - free
    Audacity - free

    Total price: $894 or $1644(w/ unity pro)
     
  8. Guest

    I just came on here to mention that X-Develop $150 right now. :D I'm a little late to the party, though, I see. It's mighty, mighty tempting...

    Another downside to SketchUp 3D is there is no animation support last I knew. I did love the workflow for constructing non-organic objects when I tried the demo a year or so ago. Really, really accessible and fun to model with, actually. Exporting/Importing goes smoothly?

    I don't know why I forgot to mention Audacity, but I use that, too.

    Trying out Inkscape after seeing it there. I didn't know about it.
     
  9. aaronsullivan

    aaronsullivan

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    <--^

    That was me. :oops:
     
  10. Thomas-Pasieka

    Thomas-Pasieka

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    2,174
    Well to add my two cents. I think CINEMA 4D is the way to go when it comes to creating content for your game. It's flexible and easy to learn but very powerful. In combination with Body Paint it's perfect (for texturing your models) and you can then bake your lighting and textures in C4D. The core of C4D is $695 and Bodypaint of course has to be bought seperately.

    I am not a programmer so I can only speak as a content/graphic artist here. The coding is done by a friend of mine and partner. He uses Code Warrior since we also produce cross platform plugins.

    All of our project folks use CINEMA 4D and Bodypaint to create the content for a game. So that makes it easy for all of us since we all know what we do. I guess it makes sense that all work with the same tools to avoid conflicts or irritations. Just my opinion though.


    Thomas
     
  11. boxy

    boxy

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    Agreed. The user interface is an absolute joy to use too.
    Boxy
     
  12. prometh3us

    prometh3us

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2005
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    OK...I'm tipping my hand here but I've been wondering about Bodypaint. It seems like a great tool and mentally just the idea of painting directly on a 3D model versus trying to UV wrap from photoshop seems like it would be worth the price. However, I happen to have fallen for ZBrush (oddness aside) and wonder how much Bodypaint has to offer above what I could do with ZBrush.

    ---
    Best regards,

    Doc
     
  13. boxy

    boxy

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    I have both and I love both. Unfortunately for me I can't get ZAppLink to work in ZBrush (allows seamless swapping between ZB and image editor for texturing) so not quite as handy as it could be here. ZBrush is currently very limited with UV creation, whereas Bodypaint has almost all the UV creation tools you could want (I believe there's a 'pelt unwrap' option missing which sounds handy). What UV tools it does provide work very well, but the best options are not editable to the human eye as they are randomly placed UV tiles. However if you have another way of creating UV maps then ZB will read those on import. I suppose ZB has many other 2D/3D related functions whereas Bodypaint is a dedicated texture/material painter.
    Cinema 4D and Bodypaint obviously work together brillliantly for me, but if you don't have many other 3D tools in your arsenal I would possibly lean toward ZBrush first.
    Boxy