Illustration of Perforce Streams with Unreal Engine logo.
December 14, 2021

UE5 Update: How Top Studios Manage Unreal Upgrades With Perforce Streams

Game Development
Branching

Unreal Engine 5 is coming. Well, it is already here! Leading studios are making the switch. This means upgrading their toolsets, retesting their codebase, and figuring out how to manage changes to the engine moving forward.

For leading game studios, a UE5 update (and customizations) can be safely managed with Helix Core — the game development standard for version control. It’s the tool trusted by 95% of top AAA studios. Sure, it handles the large files associated with Unreal Engine development. It can also scale to manage millions of daily transactions and thousands of developers. But we are here to talk about the game engine itself.

Managing upgrades to a game engine — like the UE5 update — are vital to a studio’s success. Discover how leading studios do it with Perforce Streams.

Why Perforce Streams for UE5 Update?

Perforce Streams is the branching mechanism in Helix Core. It guides changes and helps teams visualize how code should flow. Studios can set up parameters for team members inside the tool rather than some forgotten wiki page or dusty white board. This eases collaboration by ensuring everyone knows what to work on, how and where to merge, and where to find it.

Streams makes it easy for team members to switch between tasks. Developers can work on multiple areas without slowing down. But that’s not all…

How to Manage Unreal Engine Upgrades with Perforce Streams

When studios want to work with a game engine — like Unreal Engine or Unity — they need to download the source code. For builds and releases, it is compiled with other assets. As updates come out, studios can upgrade to take advantage of new features. But just like any upgrade, this can take time and potentially slow down development.  

Using Streams to manage this integration allows studios to test their codebase with new changes, like a UE5 update, and keep things moving.

Top Game Studio Uses Perforce Streams

Top studios — like Sumo Games — use Streams to manage their integration with Unreal Engine.

Perforce experts sat down with Sumo Games to dive into their development model. At the time, they had finished up development on Hitman 2.

Development Process for Sumo Games

Sumo Games uses Helix Core to map out their development process from concept and prototyping to their alpha and beta releases. Streams keeps work organized, whether the project is 6 - 8 months for a minor title or 4-6 years for a major console release.

Like many other studios, Sumo Games works in milestones. They usually have three 6-week milestones, which they break up into sprints. Milestones allow stakeholders to review and suggest changes.

At Sumo Games, the teams work in development streams, which are integrated into the mainline stream. Milestone streams are treated like a release. Sumo also has an integration stream to manage changes to their Unreal Engine. Let’s dive into how this works.

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Integrate Unreal Updates Safely with Perforce Streams

Let’s say you’re a developer at Sumo Games. You just finished working on a feature. So, you merge down any new changes available in the mainline stream and then copy up your changes.  What’s great about Streams is you cannot copy up changes if there are updates available in the mainline stream. And you can visually see when changes are available.

Note: Forcing team members to merge down changes saves inevitable merge conflicts down the line and keeps velocity high.

The integration stream contains the latest version of Unreal and tested code from the mainline. That’s the point of this stream. Once your change passes initial testing in mainline, it gets moved over to the integration stream to test with the latest version of Unreal Engine. Everything is good to go! At the end of the milestone, a release stream is created from the mainline essentially freezing the code.

While producers are showing off the latest milestone, you and your teams can keep working. According to Sumo Games, “Streams allows us to work in parallel on a project.” Everyone can keep developing without impacting the milestone! This development structure keeps immature code separate from mature code — improving the overall quality of your game!

When a new version of the Unreal is released, it can be tested against the codebase. When moving to UE5 testing is critical. You do not want to break your codebase over a new tool! You can keep integration work separate from development.

Here’s a Tip From Sumo Games

Streams is an incredibly powerful feature. As projects get larger, potentially TBs of data, it is important to keep streams light. This allows teams to work faster. For example, use a “select add” verses “add all” when moving between streams.

When you remove what you do not want, it does not impact the client. But on the server side, if you selectively add files into a stream, it makes sync times faster. In our previous example, you can add just the most recent files to the integration stream.

Merging between streams can be a time-consuming process. For a major game, it come include 60,000+ files. One of the benefits of doing it with Helix Core is the tool remembers how you have managed merges in the past. So, it might be slow in the beginning, but can accelerate over time.

Customize Unreal Engine with Perforce Streams

To use a game engine like Unity or Unreal, you have to download the source code. This means you can also customize it! This is where Streams comes in.

Using Perforce Streams to version changes to Unreal Engine allows you to test these changes with upgrades to the engine. Of course, this is pretty advanced. But for larger AAA game studios, it is critical to getting the most of the engine.

With Helix Core, you can truly version everything. If you are doing it with Streams, it even simplifies your build pipeline. You can support previous releases and previous versions of your engine. So now when you need to go back in time and release a patch, you can compile it with the exact version of the engine. Or test it against new versions.

Perforce Helix Core + UE5 Update = Success

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