Stress-Free Game Development: Powering Up Your Studio With DevOps

In this 2020 GDC Virtual Talk, Butterscotch Shenanigans’ Seth Coster walks through how his team learned to use DevOps to get more done while working less.

Update: A previous version of this video unfortunately had unsynced audio and video. That has been corrected with this version.

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  • Don't forget that you also need experience, skill and discipline to use those principles. The rules and good will alone are not enough.

    Johanna Janiszewski June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • What an incredible talk! I love this guy, I want him to be my boss 😭

    daniel taffe June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This man is speaking nothing but the truth. If you’re someone looking to start up a team or studio I would not hesitate to watch this video. Do not skip a single second.

    Brandon H. June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • whoa: Mathematical truth here!

    32:05 "The only way to increase team output is to increase the capacity of the bottleneck" its extremely similar to methods that algorithms use to maximize flow over a network or to modify networks to maximize flow over investment. (max flow problem)

    Francisco Aliaga June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • As far as I know, a heavily automated workflow is extremely common in software development industry nowadays. If this is not common on game dev industry, then the industry is far left behind and it will make me sad

    also, I want to call 'Gamepipe' as 'Pipeline' instead

    Paul Coronia June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • It's good that you guys found a way to work through a process. Companies usually use SCRUM or KANBAN to regularize features into small "pills" of development, instead of putting a huge effort on something that is also huge. Although i haven't learned anything new on this video, i'm happy that this information is here! Keep up with the good work!

    Paulo Correa June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This fantastic talk made me look at my own game development workflow and how I could improve it.
    I wrote an article about it as it inspired like very few other talks:
    Let me know what you think!

    Nesh June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Pure gold! Thanks you. That's the best explanation of what DevOps is.

    Evgen Konyshock June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Good talk, something every game development team should really consider and rethink

    David R. B. June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • honestly… importing 100s of assets at once sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen 😛

    Honestly i think the biggest problem MOST game developers have is lack of testing. Especially AA games. they charge ahead.. trying to keep people with business degrees and no clue happy… and shove out a pile of garbage , scream at their customers for daring to want a working game then spend 4 years fixing it. At which point they shut down

    Unfortunately youve become a ceo and have been seduced by the business/marketing majors and forgot why you started this. You'll probably end up being a good ceo.. and a shit game creator. That makes me sad. Good luck at your EA job though

    charles reid June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Just what my team needed to hear!! Well done, Thank you

    Frederick Baker June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • 02:24 The talk layout.

    12:38 Life after DevOps (the main content start).

    13:52 What is DevOps.

    14:41 The first way: Managing the flow of work.

    15:58 The circle of waste.

    23:21 Heroics – The most dangerous kind of waste causes.

    26:06 Trello board – Making the work visible.

    30:00 The bottleneck of a game studio.

    32:38 Deployment problem.

    35:42 The GamePipe – Deployment tool.

    41:01 The GamePipe – Concluded.

    45:51 The second way: Amplify feedback loops.

    50:50 The third way: Continuous Learning.

    59:27 Some resources for learning.

    To Recap

    The three ways

    – Managing the flow of work.

    – Amplifying feedback loops.

    – Continuous learning.

    Big takeaways

    – Make the work visible.

    – Waste is worse than you think.

    – Focus efforts on bottlenecks.

    – Focus on small-batch delivery.

    – Use continuous deployment to improve quality.

    The types of waste

    – Motion.

    – Task switching.

    – Defects.

    – Waitings.

    – Manual processes.

    – Extra processes.

    – Extra features.

    – Unfinished projects.

    – Heroics.
    We are #yolostudiogame – an indie game studio with two members. We are seriously learning about the game industry. So we tweet a GDC video summary every Tuesday.

    Happy making game, everyone!

    Yolo Studio June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This was amazing, thanks for the great presentation!

    Medhead June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This is a great talk. I love that circle of waste! It's all horribly familiar.

    Jake Birkett June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Surprised you recommended the Phoenix Project and not the Unicorn Project. But great talk!!

    Robert French June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Great talk, thanks!

    Mariusz Macieja June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This story is relatable at every moment. 8 Minutes in and this is the exact same thing I've gone through just recently

    Joshua McManus June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • The faliure stories are always the most interesting ones, he did a really good job of explaining everything that can go wrong in game development and how to fix it

    Just some guy with piercings June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • NOTES::
    — Managing Flow —

    >Work should flow in one direction

    >Eliminate waste

    >Make work visible

    >Deliver work in small batches

    >Prevent defects moving downstream

    >Align everything towards the global goals

    — Eliminating waste —

    >Anything that does not add value

    >Tends to be self-perpetuating


    [1] Motion: movement of materials/info [FIX] self-service systems {2,3}

    [2] Task Switching: expense of context change [FIX] batch work types {3,9}

    [3] Waiting: Something not happening that should [FIX] Deliver in small batches {2}

    [4] Heroics: Unreasonable workload for required result [FIX] Avoid through good process {All}

    [5] Manual Processes: Repeated actions [FIX] Automate {1,2,3,9}

    [6] Extra Processes: Wasteful action [FIX] Stop {1,2,3,9}

    [7] Unfinished Projects: Work stopped for extended period [FIX] Small functioning deliveries {4,9}

    [8] Extra Features: Features that don't add to experience [FIX] Cut {9}

    [9] Defects: Not usable downstream [FIX] Fix problems at source {1,2,4,7}

    — Heroics —

    >Signals failure of effective processes

    [FIX] Stop, rebuild processes, involve entire team

    >Making work visible = Meetings(set goals), Visual task tools (Trello)

    — Trello —

    >columns => Inbox(always first), To-Do, doing, testing, done

    >Avoid unplanned work

    >Time as constraint, not a flexible resource (refuse crunch/burnout)

    >All items pass through flow

    >Helps spot problems and align to goals

    — Bottleneck —

    >Every production line has one

    >Team output can only be increased by increased bottleneck capacity

    — General Rules —

    >Continuous Deployment: Detect problems quickly, reduced catastrophic failures, easier problem identification, quicker fix

    >Painful processes need more attention, so can be confronted & fixed

    >Automated deployment: reduces [5] Manual Processes, [9] Defects

    >Tooling : start basic, keep improving, get feedback from downstream,

    >Continuously improve: Routine evaluation structures

    Aron Edwards June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Outstanding.

    Mark Videon June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Does anyone have any advice on how to go about converting git commits to patch notes? what is used to make that tool? and how to interact with Trello API, is that done with POSTMAN? Thank you. Great video x

    Valorware June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Great video -thanks!

    Kyle Ward June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Easily my favorite talk. Watched it like 3 times on Twitch to put together some notes based on what is talked about. Was great seeing the Phoenix Project as a recommendation too.

    PaulPrograms June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • I'm a fan of how earnest the talk is(the references and summary at the end speak volumes for that) and the example scenarios are spot on. My biggest takeaway from this is that no one at Butterscotch Shenanigans had any professional experience in the software field before making the company(something I'm suspicious of whenever an individual introduces them self with 4+ titles), as the processes implemented are very much devops 101. Which may sound harsh but it's refreshing to hear the experiences and story of an indie success. No one can take away what your team/family has accomplished and the game dev community is better with the feedback your studio has provided over the years.

    Herb Lewis June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • One of the best GDC talk of these past years, and maybe the best this year. Good grounded explained advice, through a good production value (with better audio than some irl GDC Talks).

    Lirae June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Great presentation, thank you Seth. I love the way you've presented lean management without mentioning it even once. Maybe that is the right form of spreading it through the industry as talks about Kanban or Lean in general don't seem to work well.

    Jan Kleszczyński June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • If you enjoyed this talk, you should read The Phoenix Project, it's what the talk is based on and is super useful

    Robin Clower June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Such an amazing talk, thank you for the knowledge and wisdom

    imGekko June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Best introduction ever.

    Efecik June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Great talk!
    This is relevant for much more that just the game industry!

    Marcus Rognes June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • 49:41 Technically, some of the Testing could also be done automatically, but building this out is a more complicated and involved programmer task. Factorio has been on the blunt, hastily macguyvered-together edge of this since 2014. (Automated testing is basically STANDARD for most enterprise programming, and only the self-styled cowboys of the video games industry have ignored this trend for this long.) Automated Testing is mostly useful for making sure that your new changes didn't break a thing that used to work. You still need manual testing, of course, but it catches some defects with zero increase in motion/task switching/extra processes etc. Check out for some details.

    Warp Zone June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Content begins at 13:43

    I talked to one of these guys online way back in the Freeway Mutant days. Can confirm that life was stressful prior to DevOps!

    Warp Zone June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Brilliant, absolutely brilliant talk. Thank you for sharing!

    Hugo Sieiro June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Good talk!
    Can you share with us the tooling you use, other than Trello?
    I find that in DevOps the actual tool practices have more value than the process. Because process is different in each organisation and situation but a simple tool or part of a tool can be beneficial in many other situations. It is these tools that enable you to take control…

    Erik de Roos June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This is brilliant! Very good content, very good visual presentation, very practical advice.

    Alex Razor June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This was very useful!

    Frud June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • I didn't know if this was drawing inspiration from the same sources as The Phoenix Project or if it was in fact inspired by it directly. Happy to see it was the latter. Great talk!

    Uli Troyo June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Amazing. Thanks for the video.

    JanPaul Bergeson June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This is live changing! Thanks for the great talk!

    UAknight June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • You made a very good presentation. I like the pictures and your explanations

    John Doe, Jr. June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Nah, none of this matters if you have Bioware Magic.

    Your Mom's Tits June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • Incredible. Thank you.

    FFIXDagger June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply
  • This is a beautiful and amazing presentation! The industry needs it and you've given me a gift of interest in DevOps that I didn't have before. Thank you!

    Всеволод Рычков June 24, 2020 1:06 am Reply

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