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Beyond The Code: Game Development in the Tech Age

In this episode of Beyond the Code, host Oz delves into the complex world of game developers and the role technology plays in their lives. Joined by an expert panel featuring Keith Adair from Unity, Konrad Dysput from Sauce Labs, and Phil Williams from King, they discuss the potential for technology to alleviate the stress and challenges faced by game developers on a daily basis. The conversation tackles the impact of technology on game quality, productivity, and performance, as well as its ability to expedite the release of top-notch games. As our guests share their insights from leading industry companies, they consider whether harnessing the power of technology can ultimately enhance the quality of life for game developers, making it a true ally in their work. Don't miss this engaging discussion on the evolving landscape of game development in the age of technology.

Discover practical advice on managing workload and maintaining mental and physical wellbeing in the demanding field of game development. Learn about the importance of establishing efficient systems and processes for art production and leveraging automated error reporting to identify and address issues before they negatively impact users.

In addition to these essential tips, the panelists discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by the ever-evolving world of mobile gaming. They urge game developers to stay current with the latest technology trends, continuously learn and improve their skills, and foster collaboration within the industry.

Don't miss this exciting episode of the Beyond the Code podcast to gain a deeper understanding of the mobile gaming industry's future and the role of technology in making the life of a game developer easier. Listen now and be inspired to create amazing games that engage and delight players around the globe, ultimately contributing to a thriving gaming industry.

You can also read a written summary of the podcast below:

Crucial Factors to Keep in Mind When Embracing New Technology

In the ever-evolving world of mobile gaming, new tools and solutions significantly impact both player experience and developers' lives. In an engaging panel discussion, Oz asks panelists about the essential factors to consider when adopting new technology for a mobile game project.

Keith, a Senior Client Partner at Unity Gaming Services (UGS), emphasizes that developers should adopt technology that improves the player experience while making the developer's life easier. He cites analytics and data as prime examples of technology that enhances the player experience and eases developers' workload. He also mentions cloud content delivery tools, which, when used effectively, can update content regularly and boost player engagement.

Phil, an Art Director at King (makers of Candy Crush Saga), explains that developers should first identify the problem they aim to solve when considering new technology. He stresses the importance of finding the simplest solution to a problem and avoiding overcomplication. Phil suggests exploring digital asset management tools that can automate processes and simplify file sharing between stakeholders.

Konrad, a Staff Engineer at Backtrace, highlights that developers need to weigh multiple factors when deciding on new technology, such as its necessity for the product and team. They also need to understand the consequences of implementing new technology and ensure the team can use it effectively. Additionally, developers should be aware of the technology's impact on customers and potential breakages upon deployment.
Balancing Stakeholder Pressures and Quality Concerns in Game Development

Next, Oz highlighted the conflict that exists between stakeholders' demands to meet deadlines and game developers' reluctance to release a game when it has critical bugs or issues. While stakeholders prioritize timely releases, developers prioritize quality to avoid associating their name with a poorly made game. However, timely releases are still essential for success in the gaming industry.

Keith was asked by Oz about the ways in which Unity Gaming Services (UGS) assists game developers in ensuring that they release their games on schedule. Keith explained that Unity Gaming Services provides robust and scalable technology that helps game developers manage a live game when it's out in the marketplace. The platform brings together different features and functionality under one modular platform, allowing developers to efficiently test and optimize games through the early phases, ensuring the best player experience and positively impacting KPIs. Unity Gaming Services also offers tools like Cloud Diagnostic Services built into the platform that provides benefits like Backtrace and ease of accessibility available through the Unity dashboard.

On the other hand, Phil explained that at King, the teams focus on building a roadmap that includes estimates from both artists and developers. They aim to be team-led and try to think about the robustness and confidence of the release rather than just meeting a deadline. Phil believes that the focus should be on the quality and robustness of the game, rather than just releasing it within a certain timeframe.

In response to the Oz's question about how Backtrace helps mobile game developers in shipping quality games faster, Conrad begins by stating that there is a contract between stakeholders and engineers when it comes to development plans. He goes on to explain that one of the biggest challenges game developers face is identifying, reproducing, and fixing bugs quickly. Backtrace's platform helps to streamline the process by providing real-time visibility into production issues and identifying the root cause of crashes and errors.

Guidance for Game Developers on Achieving Work-Life Balance and Preserving Wellbeing

Transitioning to the next topic, Oz seeks advice from the panelists on how game developers, whether new or experienced, can achieve work-life balance and maintain their mental and physical wellbeing, considering the often stressful and demanding nature of the job.

Addressing Oz's inquiry about work-life balance and wellbeing for game developers, Keith recognizes the question's relevance, noting that the issue transcends the gaming industry and affects professionals across various sectors, especially during the COVID and lockdown periods. Drawing from his experience working remotely for years, Keith emphasizes the need for discipline in taking time away from the desk to maintain a healthy work-life balance. He encourages game developers to engage in activities like socializing, working out, or going for walks to stay motivated and focused.

Phil and Keith agree that this challenge is common across all industries, not just game development. Phil discusses the impact of technology on work-from-home situations, emphasizing the importance of being mindful of the increased effort required to participate in virtual meetings and the need to be gentle with oneself and take breaks. He also highlights the need to be aware of presenteeism and the desire to prove that one is working, which can lead to difficulties in switching off. Overall, Phil stresses the importance of maintaining a work-life balance and looking after oneself while embracing the opportunities offered by hybrid working.

Konrad's response focuses on the perspective of development and the pressure to release software quickly, often leading to frustration and stress among developers. He emphasizes the importance of asking questions about how the software will be used by users and how to counter any potential issues before release. This approach helps to reduce stress and allows for quick action in the event of failure, while also emphasizing the need to be aware of potential issues and failures.

Strategies for Speeding Up Game Development While Ensuring High Quality

When it comes to game development, delivering a high-quality game within a shorter timeframe poses a significant challenge. In response to Oz's question, the experts on the panel offer insights into the best practices and learnings for accelerating game development while maintaining quality.

Keith suggests that the best practices for releasing a quality game faster involve using technology to personalize or customize the game further down the line. He recommends designing the game to interact well with the technology, enabling real-time changes that positively impact KPIs and game performance. Additionally, Keith advises testing and iterating during the early phases of game development, making adjustments and changes while analyzing data per segment to ensure the game reaches the best possible state before global release. Lastly, he proposes that developers not be too proud to ask for help and reach out to teams like Unity Gaming Services, who have experience in game development and can share best practices for different game genres and platforms.

Moreover, Phil emphasizes the importance of establishing systems and processes for art production to release content in a timely manner and meet player expectations. He believes that using available technology can make the creative process easier, but it's crucial to remember the original systems and processes that allow for creativity to flourish. Whether from a development, art, or production perspective, the same concepts apply: use tools to work smart and unlock creativity.

Next, Oz asks Conrad a similar question from the perspective of automated error and crash reporting. He inquires about Conrad's thoughts on how automated error reporting can be useful in detecting and fixing issues before they become a problem for users. Conrad agrees with the importance of testing to ensure everything works as expected, but he also questions whether developers are testing enough or on the right devices. He suggests exploring available technologies in the market to capture exceptions before customers report them. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the context of the problem and focusing on issues that could seriously impact customers. Conrad recommends analyzing trends in the data to make informed decisions about whether to move forward with new features or adjust the technology to fix problems. He also stresses the importance of capturing errors before customers report them and using context questions to help understand the problem.

Listen to the episode now!

Don't miss this exciting episode of the Beyond the Code podcast to gain a deeper understanding of the mobile gaming industry's future and the role of technology in making the life of a game developer easier. Listen now and be inspired to create amazing games that engage and delight players around the globe, ultimately contributing to a thriving gaming industry.


Oz Syed

Game Developer Evangelist, Backtrace, Sauce Labs

Oz Syed is a Game Developer Evangelist at Sauce Labs, with over 15 years of experience in various senior technical roles. His extensive knowledge and expertise in game and software engineering make him a sought-after speaker and mentor. Oz has served as a professor in various Game and Software Engineering programs at Canadian post-secondary institutions, where he has inspired the next generation of game developers. As a subject matter expert in Unity Game engine and emerging technologies, Oz has a keen interest in using generative AI tools to create innovative tech products involving gaming and gamified applications. Oz is also the host of the upcoming podcast, Beyond the Code, where he shares his insights on the intersection of technology and creativity.

Keith Adair

Senior Client Partner, Unity Gaming Services, Unity

Keith Adair is the senior client partner for Unity Gaming Services with extensive experience in the gaming industry. He has been in the industry since the early days of Java group development in mobile gaming and has more recently focused on data analytics. Keith was part of Delta DNA, a company that developed a data and player management platform for the games industry and was acquired by Unity in 2019. Since then, he has been part of the gaming services team at Unity, which provides a modular platform that offers all the necessary tools for running a live game at a marketplace. These tools include multiplayer tools, game back end, analytics, A/B testing, content delivery tools, and a new cloud diagnostic advanced service developed by Backtrace.

Phil Williams

Art Director, King

Phil Williams is the Art Director at King, a game development company known for popular games such as Candy Crush Saga. Phil has been in the gaming industry for over 20 years and has worked on many successful game titles.

Konrad Dysput

Staff Engineer, Backtrace, Sauce Labs

Konrad Dysput is a Staff Engineer at Backtrace, where he has been working for five years. He is responsible for client-side integrations and service layer integrations at Backtrace. Konrad has designed several SDKs for Backtrace's customers to use and is also responsible for integrations with Backtrace's UI.

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