Systematic Gaming

July 23, 2009

Asset Management Checklist

Filed under: asset management — Tags: , — systematicgaming @ 5:45 am

Now that we’ve looked at the layers of asset management, let’s reflect upon the key points and see how we can improve our existing engine and pipelines.

Each of these questions targets a specific part of the asset pipeline that deserve consideration.  By reflecting on these points you can see ways to improve your own asset pipeline and workflow.

Runtime

Are shared assets duplicated unnecessarily?

Are instanced assets handled efficiently?  With minimal overhead and waste?

Do you support generated (procedural) assets seamlessly?

Are you wasting memory on strings or filenames?

Do you avoid unnecessary loading or reloading between levels?

Processing

Are you processing data to make runtime asset management more efficient?

Do you pack referenced assets together for faster loading?

Do you optimize disc layout based on asset usage?  (Duplicate data, sort of dependency graph, etc)

Content & Workflow

Is your source data versioned?

Can you re-create a previous version of your data?

Can you identify who last changed an asset? And why?

Are your tools integrated with your asset management system?

How many steps are required by a user to add a new asset?  How many to update or tweak an asset?

How long does it take to view a data change in game?

July 16, 2009

Asset Management – Content

Filed under: asset management, workflow — Tags: , , — systematicgaming @ 6:14 am

We’ve already looked at the runtime and processing layers of asset management, now we’re ready to look at the most involved and complex layer – the content layer.

This is the layer where the content producers – artists, level designers, sound artists,  anyone who creates game content truly interfaces with the game engine. At this level we’re not just dealing with runtime data – we need to manage digital content creation (DCC) tool data, such as PhotoShop PSD files, Maya files, etc.  In addition to custom data types produced from in-house tools or game engines.

This layer is all about how content creators use and interact with data and the game engine.  The key components of this layer are:

  • Asset tracking and versioning
  • Tool integration and workflow

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July 2, 2009

Asset Management – Processing

Filed under: asset management, game programming — Tags: , , — systematicgaming @ 4:21 am

Last time we looked into the lowest levels of asset management, which can be handled by referencing counting and intelligent loading.  With the next level, the processing layer, we look at how we prepare assets for our runtime.  This is an important step and where a lot of optimization occurs.  We can break the processing layer down into a few distinct stages:

  • Asset referencing
  • Building (or baking)
  • Packing

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June 25, 2009

Asset Management – Runtime

Filed under: asset management — Tags: , , — systematicgaming @ 1:00 am

The runtime layer is the lowest level of asset management encompassing:  file loading, reference counting, instancing and even procedural asset generation.  To meaningfully discuss handling assets at runtime we’ll need to define the different types of assets.  Here’s a few basic types of assets:

  1. Raw data
  2. Instanced data
  3. Procedural assets
  4. Composite data

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June 24, 2009

Asset Management

Filed under: asset management — Tags: , , — systematicgaming @ 2:25 am

Modern games have gigabytes of data, and thousands of individual assets.  Managing all this data well can be a very complex task, and impacts game development at all levels, from concept artist to low level bit-pushing coder.  The next few articles will look at the issues of asset management in games.  First we must clarify our goals with some simple definitions.

What exactly is an asset?

For the purpose of this series we’ll define an asset as a set of piece of data used by the game.  This is very inclusive, and should help illustrate the scope of the problem.  A texture, a model, an sound, an AI script, really just about any data used can be considered an asset.

What is asset management?

Its the process of tracking data used by the game: when it is used, how it is used and how individual pieces of data relate to each other.  For example, to load a character we need to need: a model, the material and shaders, the textures, the animation data, and possibly more (such as AI or motion graphs).  Asset management is an integral part of workflow, data processing and runtime optimizations.

Proper asset management is a major issue in game development.  Solid asset management is required to handle the amount of content modern games use.

In this series we’ll take a closer look at the major layers of asset management:

  • Runtime Layer – Where the game engine deals with assets
  • Processing Layer – Where assets are processed for the engine
  • Content Layer – Where assets are created and used by designers

Each layer has its own issues to handle, and we’ll investigate these issues and look into possible management solutions.

Part 1: The Runtime Layer

Part 2: The Processing Layer

Part 3: The Content Layer

Finally we have a checklist of important points to consider when building and maintaining your asset management system.

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