324 THE GAME PRODUCTION HANDBOOK, 2/E
19.2 BUILD PROCESS
Define the build process in pre-production and implement it as early as possible
in the development cycle (usually when assets and code are available and can be
used to create a build). The sooner a build can be compiled, the sooner you can
start fixing bugs and making improvements to the game. If it takes too long to
establish the process, development delays will occur during critical milestones,
because the engineers will spend precious time trying to compile a milestone
build instead of coding features and fixing bugs.
A flexible process allows special builds to be created upon request. For ex-
ample, marketing might request a demo build for a conference which only has
certain levels and characters available to play. Or QA may need a special build
for a 16 player multiplayer test with an external testing house that limits access
to the single-player part of the game.
Put a system in place to track when something new is added to the build.
This is helpful if an artist is waiting for a certain tool to be finished or if a de-
signer is waiting on a level to be checked-in so he can begin scripting it. One
simple way to do this is to set up a “New in Build” mailing list for what’s been
added to the build. For example, when an engineer checks in updated vehicle AI
code, he sends an email to this list stating what he just checked in. Artists send a
“New in Build” email every time an art asset is checked into the build, and so on.
Doing this gives QA a better idea of what to expect in each build that is delivered
for testing, and makes it much easier for the team to track what’s added to the
build. The “New in Build” emails also provide a good foundation for creating
build notes, which are discussed later in this chapter.
Hiring a data manager to manage the process is very useful. The data manager
is able to focus the necessary time and attention needed to automate the build
process, fix build errors, and test builds before they are delivered to marketing,
QA, or senior management. He will work with QA to set the delivery schedule
for new builds, and can work with the team to determine which processes can
be automated in order to streamline the build process. Ideally, he will set up a
process to compile a new build every day that is then stored in an archive. While
you may not need a new build every day, it is good to have daily build system
in place so you always have a working build with the latest features. While the
data manager will be the primary person to oversee the process, several people
need to know how the process works in case the data manager is unavailable for
After production starts, the initial build must be made as soon as possible—
well before a first playable build. This provides a benchmark for measuring the