Crytek Relies on Helix Core to Maintain Code Quality for Its Virtual Reality Game Development
Crytek, a German video game and software developer, has witnessed vast improvements in their development pipeline since implementing Helix Core. The version control and collaboration platform has helped Crytek achieve rapid release cycles, complete traceability, and a single source of truth.
Why Crytek Relies on Helix Core
Single Source of Truth
Rapid Release Cycles
Traceability and Quality Gates
Integration with Jenkins for Continuous Delivery
Streamlined Binary Management
“Before, it used to take me four or five hours, maybe a bit longer. I had to download a copy of the source code, get all of the relevant test SDKs, strip out a hardcoded list of files, and then start the whole process over again. [Now] I can do the final source code release in about half an hour."
As your chalked hands move up and over the jagged cliffs that overlook the pristine beach, frothy waves crash against the limestone formations that jut out, and the lush vegetation rustles as you brush against it. Beetles skitter away as you leap from one ledge to another, gaining points with every lean, crouch, or physical jump. One false move, and you’ll plummet to certain death.
It’s this attention to detail that rivets the fans of Crytek Studio’s second virtual reality (VR) title, “The Climb.”
But it’s also what makes the task so daunting for the developers and designers pioneering the next wave in gaming technology.
To create a seamless virtual world, developers and designers have to create heavily-detailed virtual objects that display at frame rates three times faster than average video with images that run once per eye.
Venturing into the world of VR may be inevitable, but it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart.
Taking Gaming to New Heights
Based out of Frankfurt, Germany, Crytek has spent nearly two decades perfecting software product development for gaming. CRYENGINE, their third-party AAA game engine, has been used to develop games on the most popular platforms including PlayStation, Windows, and Xbox.
Known for pushing the limits of both gameplay and technology, Crytek’s evolution has turned to VR, with the company developing award-winning titles “The Climb” and “Robinson: The Journey.”
Maintaining the quality — and quantity — of their product code has never been more crucial to the global studio. To accomplish this, the studio uses Helix Core, the Perforce enterprise-class version control platform. With the help of his team, David Kaye, Lead System Engineer at Crytek, has achieved efficient version control organization, faster release cycles, support for testing, and a single source of truth that stays aligned with Crytek’s product development roadmap.
Better Stability With Helix Core Allows for Faster Release Cycles
Crytek began using Helix Core to fill a gap in their development pipeline. At one time, version control was an afterthought for Crytek.
“We used to just store the final copy of a data file, and we only had one copy of any digital asset, which was quite risky, of course,” says Kaye.
But, as their product grew, along with demand and the number of users collaborating, an enterprise-grade versioning tool was essential to keep their workflows organized. Helix Core, with its proven industry success, was the perfect solution.
“We’ve been able to version digital assets and store them more efficiently. It’s meant we can be a lot more experimental, we can move a lot faster with the work that we’re doing, and we can branch things up and test them. If they don’t work at first, we know it’s not a problem because of Perforce [Helix Core].”
Better stability has kept Crytek churning out game engine revisions at a blistering pace.
“Stable development doesn’t sound exciting, but it just makes everyone’s work better. Development has become a lot more convenient with Perforce. It’s less hassle and less stress to branch and merge.”
Helix Core Branching Features Help Enforce Stricter Quality Processes
Crytek relies on Helix Core to maintain total control over its testing environment, ensuring only the highest quality code makes its way into the release branch. “When anybody wants to submit changes to our main development branch, they have to run it through our trial system to compile and test it.”
“We have fairly strict requirements on submitting code to branches,” says Kaye. “Some organizations will let you submit code instantly, but we place a number of barriers in between to maintain quality.”
That’s because a single change to the engine can block entire game development teams — sometimes 80 people or more. With so much at stake, and many developers, managers, and admins to keep track of, it’s imperative they streamline process and change management so no errors make their way into a release branch.
Streamlining the Build Process With Helix Core and Swarm
Crytek streamlines their build pipeline by using Helix Swarm, a collaborative code review tool included with their Helix Core license. With it, they are able to trigger tests in Jenkins as soon as a user initiates a new review, eliminating the need for custom tooling and multiple continuous integration (CI) services.
“We make fairly extensive use of pre-submit triggers. Even for simple things like ensuring the code review has passed or users aren’t submitting identical files,” said Kaye.
Large binaries play by the same rules without causing performance issues for QA. Game teams submit binaries to a separate area in Helix Core where QA accesses the binaries to run full tests on them, report bugs, send them back to developers to fix, and close the feedback loop long before changes wreak chaos across the studio.
Release Timelines Reduced by up to 90 Percent With Helix Core
The release process itself has never been faster for Crytek.
“Before, it used to take me four or five hours, maybe a bit longer,” he says. “I had to download a copy of the source code, get all of the relevant test SDKs, strip out a hardcoded list of files, and then start the whole process over again.”
Crytek uses Helix Core to feed an accelerated, automated continuous delivery release workflow that is supported by two separate build farms. They have also implemented an automated system for real-time testing of their main development branch.
“I can do the final source code release in about half an hour,” says Kaye, adding that he suspects in time he could even get it down to as few as five minutes.
VR Reality and 4K
Crytek is uniquely positioned to compete in the VR market. That’s because the trend toward augmented reality in product development carries a significant data burden to support. Studios must manage four- to eight-fold increases in asset file size within a given VR system, relative to traditional console products.
No version control solution is better equipped to scale to support this vast quantity of data better than Helix Core. With preferred asset management features and performant WAN speed, there’s simply no platform solution better in gaming than Helix Core.
It’s a competitive edge that is paying off. Both of the studio’s VR titles have garnered accolades for their innovations, including Best Presentation for “Robinson: The Journey” and Best VR Experience for “The Climb” at the German Computer Game Awards (Deutscher Comuterspielpreis, DCP) in 2016.
Crytek is a big believer in the transformative potential of VR/AR in gaming. That is why CRYENGINE actively supports all hardware technologies, including Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, Open-Source VR, and PlayStation VR. Helix Core and Crytek together empower development studios to bring their unique visions to life, regardless of evolving hardware requirements and evolving file sizes and types.