November 17, 2016

Helix How-To: Building a Whole Universe

“We have developers all over the world, including many contractors. Perforce [Helix] allows us to define very granular access to the game, resulting in faster turnaround and better control.”

Paul Vaden, Network Services Manager, Cloud Imperium Games


Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) is a young, innovative gaming studio whose personnel’s bona fides date all the way back through the iconic Wing Commander series. Today the Los Angeles-based firm is working to deliver the goods on the largest crowdfunding campaign in history. With more than $125 million collected, CIG is building Star Citizen with distributed teams of hundreds of developers working 24/7 around the world.


Star Citizen is set to become a once-in-a-generation release, and a whole community of backers can’t wait to see their dreams realized. That’s because CIG, led by gaming wunderkind Chris Roberts, is building a massive environment for players to explore together in real time. We recently connected with their team to understand how Perforce Helix is helping them daily to build an entire universe from the ground up—or perhaps that should be “from space down”?


Core Pain Points


Multiple CIG teams have been developing Star Citizen, iterating on the game’s systems and content ever since the original Kickstarter success. And backers have long been able to enter the virtual universe and give their feedback, which presents unique problems and opportunities. Thankfully, Helix has helped address many of their challenges by:


·             Securing content across distributed teams to protect their IP

·             Offering unparalleled scalability: horizontal, vertical, and geographical

·             Empowering a variety of contributor workflows and DevOps tasks


Keeping assets safe is an essential component of everything CIG does. When you have multiple internal and external teams, it’s important to keep your critical IP locked down. Helix offers the kind of granular access control essential to make sure that teams can access only what they should see. “I can see in one place who has access to which files,” says Vaden, noting the secure and traceable Helix environment.  “I don’t have to jump around looking for them.”


And a highly performant system is critical for delivering bug fixes, maintaining operational speed, and managing versioned files in a fast and efficient way around the world. Working at such highly distributed scale can easily run into painful costs and long delays without a proven system like Helix upon which to rely to manage changes.


These issues loom especially large with Star Citizen’s continuous growth, a bigger project already than most gaming studios could ever imagine. CIG uses Helix to manage terabytes of content approaching half a million files, which are available around the world for 24/7 operations. And should the Helix server ever go down, they have multiple spares on standby for a rock-solid HA/DR solution.


Perhaps best of all, artists and similar contributors can work as they like, locking their large, binary files to avoid loss of work, and focus on their tasks rather than the underlying versioning system. Yet developers get the advanced features they need for their very different tools and workflows. Helix stream technology makes it simple to on-board new talent in little time. In short, Helix serves as the crucial single source of truth that unites all contributors.



If Helix is capable enough to empower the creation of an entire universe for CIG and Star Citizen, it can surely help address your challenges as well. It’s free for small teams and is easy to try. So why not give it a spin in the real world while we’re waiting for the virtual one to be finished? And in the meantime, I’ll see you around the ‘verse!


Check out the complete case study here.