CIG Controls the Growing Universe with Perforce Helix

Perforce Helix and Cloud Imperium Games are working in tandem to deliver a hotly-anticipated gaming experience so impressive that gamers are putting their financial resources behind the game even before its full commercial release.

The Perforce Value to Cloud Imperium Games

Fine-grained asset security and quality version control

Support scalable, distributed DevOps

Development efficiency

Optimized server architecture

Helix is eminently easier to administer, to setup.

It supports the DevOps workflows required for us to deliver a better product."

Company Profile

  • Game design innovator, creator of "Wing Commander III"
  • HQ in Los Angeles, California; offices in Austin Texas; Cheshire, England; Frankfurt, Germany
  • Perforce customer since: 2012
  • Repository size: 90 TB
  • Number of files: 23 million

Overview

Game developer/publisher Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) is operating through a work pipeline larger and more ambitious than many gaming studios have ever seen. That's because the nearly 400 employees, (two-thirds of whom are developers), are interacting with Perforce Helix every day, scaling a monumental project among their distributed teams with continuous delivery development cycles, fine-grained asset security and quality version control built in. The goal: delivering the long-awaited brain child of game design maven Chris Roberts, titled "Star Citizen."

Roberts has been a gaming industry stalwart for a generation, and Perforce has been an integral part of his vision ever since the critically-acclaimed release of Wing Commander III in 1994. The Perforce-powered game was among PC Gamer's ranking of the 100 greatest games of all time. Now, with Star Citizen, Roberts and CIG are trying to surpass that success with a sprawling gaming experience aimed at revolutionizing the space-simulator game genre.

Star Citizen is the single largest crowdfunding success to date, garnering $125+ million in crowd-funded capital, 60 times greater than the initial fundraising goal. And with donations still coming in each day, the coffers are growing along with the product. The sheer scope of the proposed final project has kept development teams operating ever since 2012, with more work to be done.

"We do things different than normal game publishing," says CIG Director of IT, Mike Jones, noting the wave of end-user monetary support, "Our backers come first, they are as essential in the development process as we are."

That freedom has allotted CIG the chance to tackle larger questions. Mainly, how to best manage the distributed teams and data of their project, both of which have consistently grown. The choice was clear. Helix is the best solution for CIG to manage their sprawling universe.

Global Scaling of High-Performance Development

The distributed development team of Star Citizen operates from a main repository stream that manages 338,000 files and comprises nearly six terabytes of data, with a sync total of all Helix Ops streams totaling 23 million files and 90 terabytes of data.

Normally, this degree of interaction and workflow would overload server specifications, creating development interruptions. But the Helix servers continue to feed the CIG network at an exceptional data rate.

So well, in fact, that CIG upgraded to gigabit fiber between the studios to accommodate the amount of data being moved. "We have a lot of changes coming in. The amount of activity on [the Helix] server is impressive," says Jones.

That's just one reason why the Helix Versioning Engine continues to expertly support the gaming workflows that CIG's DevOps teams rely on, allowing them to manage and operate their highly distributed, yet collaborative teams.

"You used to be in a box — and you didn't tell anybody what you're working on," says CIG's Network Services Manager, Paul Vaden, adding "We're very open in our development effort," citing waves of outreach, including multimedia demos and playable content of Star Citizen that has been continuously delivered to gaming fans throughout development.

"A lot of companies will wait; we put ours out as soon as it is ready," says Vaden, with CIG revealing their latest demo at Gamescom 2016 in August. "We tend to expose our work sooner than others."

Crowd-funders and curious gamers alike have been able to play elements of Star Citizen's immersive space sim game since 2013. The game, which takes place on a persistent server environment, supports ALL concurrent users and, as a final launch goal, 100 unique star systems. The game combines multiple gameplay genres, including elements of first-person shooters (FPS), massive multiplayer online games (MMO), space trading, flight and combat simulations.

Fine Grained Access Controls Retain Security and Quality

With a final launch vision so bold (and stakes so high) for CIG, Helix offers peace-of-mind during development cycles. Especially with Helix fine-grained security, which controls access to data down to the file level. As a result, projects are protected against late-term glitches or bugs that could slow or derail a development cycle.

"We have developers all over the world, including many contractors. Helix allows us to define very granular access to the game, resulting in faster turnaround and better control," says Vaden. "We limit a great deal of what developers have access to, otherwise copies of your game get out before it's ready."

What's more, this access control is never more critical then when projects approach deployment milestones; for example, "Star Citizen had a Gamescom stream and we limited access to that stream because we couldn't afford to break our build stream last minute."

Perforce gives administrators the comfort of a single source of truth for who has what and where they have it. "I can see in one place who has access to which files — I don't have to jump around looking for them."

Robust Branching Delivers Independence and Efficiency to Distributed Teams

On top of asset clarity, Helix can also bolster the operational efficiency of DevOps teams from day one with Helix's streams technology.

Sometimes called "branches with brains," the Helix streams technology helps synchronize contributions from multiple offices yet allows different stakeholders to pare down the overall working set as needed via virtual streams.

Helix allows design artists to lock their non-mergeable binary files. This feature prevents artists from editing files already in use by another artist, ensuring all teams avoid time/productivity loss.

These advantages truly set Perforce apart as a version control partner.

"Helix is eminently easier to administer, to setup," says Jones. "It supports the DevOps workflows required for us to deliver a better product."

System Architecture Confidence

With optimal server architecture from Helix, CIG teams can execute day-to-day operations with exceeding confidence, relying on built-in backup components, ready at a moment's notice, to replace primary components without shutting the system down.

A variety of hot spares and cold standbys allow admins to safeguard against system failures, integrate vital components, and push scheduled data backups without service interruptions.

Feature-rich capabilities, development efficiencies, and project scalability are a few reasons Helix is growing along with CIG. "It's pretty obvious why Perforce is so prevalent in the gaming industry," says Vaden.

The full ambitions of CIG's development teams are supported by Perforce Helix and its single source of truth, according to Jones. "If Perforce wasn't around, we'd be hard-pressed to find a better version control solution.

About Perforce

Perforce Helix is a version control and content collaboration platform that enables users to store any type of assets for any number of users. It puts no limit on file size. The platform includes industry-leading version control capabilities, built-in code collaboration facilities and a complete Git management solution for the enterprise. With its support for a wide variety of workflows, it enables all members of a product development team to be productive and efficient.