Tools are at the core of game development, not only do we use tools extensively but it’s common practice to construct new tools as and when necessary. I could argue that some have a tendency to build a brand new hammer every time they need a nail in the wall but that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Instead I thought it would be interesting to take a peek inside one of my development toolboxes. I say boxes because as an engineer I actually have two boxes, my physical toolbox is what I carry around in my backpack on a daily basis, the second is virtual and I might talk about that in another post.
The Physical Toolbox
I really wish that my toolbox oozed as much style and sophistication as this…
Everything about it says this toolbox belongs to a master craftsman, alas the modern era engineers toolbox isn’t quite as impressive. This is my current toolbox…
I find it very difficult to keep everything in my head and so I tend to write lots of notes, I draw diagrams, I scribble, I doodle and sometimes I start writing code on paper before moving to the computer. I sticky tape print outs into the notebook and I slap in post-it notes when necessarily. I use this form of working because it works for me, as simple as that.
I generally go through two or three notepads on each project which are then archived into a storage box when the game is finished and shipped.
Here is where I write up what I have done each day and it has proven very useful in gathering historical data such as actual task durations. An added bonus comes at the end of each year when I feel like I haven’t achieved much, a quick look through and I can see exactly what I have done and it’s always more than I remember.
Writing in the diary actually has a couple of psychological benefits that you wouldn’t necessarily get if you didn’t keep the diary. The first is it brings a sense of closure to the day, if you don’t know what I mean by that or think I’m being silly I recommend you try it for a month. The second benefit is that it makes you focus on the calendar and schedule, notice the use of “focus on” rather than “look at”.
I use this tool to pretty much keep myself organised.
How I use the apps:
Calendar – Schedule with lots of alarms.
Taptodo – Maintains my to do lists with the added bonus that it connects to my gmail account.
Notes – Most of my blog posts start life here.
WordPress – Blog post tools while I’m away from my computers.
SimpleMind – One of the best mind mapping tools I’ve found. Excellent for quick fire brain storming.
Idea Sketch – Very similar to SimpleMind except I use this more for planning and solving more complex problems.
Doodle Buddy – A tool for drawing diagrams.
ScrumBoard – My scrum board for personal projects and experiments.
Dropbox – A recent addition, I haven’t quite got round to exploring what this can do yet.
MyPad+ – Facebook.
GoodReader – Used to read pdf’s and text files while having a quite moment in the coffee house.
Post-its & Pens
Lots of uses post-it notes, always keep a good supply of these handy.
Okay, so I need glasses when looking at a computer screen.
Everyone that works in game development should have a small pocket camera in their toolbox.
There is so much truth in the famous phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” except in our case it should be “A picture can save a lot of time”. When something goes wrong in game or doesn’t quite look right, take a picture (or a film) of it to show the relevant people. The added bonus is that you also end up with a collection of blooper style images for the end of project party.
There is another reason to always keep a camera nearby and that is the historical aspect of game development. Use the camera to capture the team, the major events, the milestones, your office, your set-up, all the things that happen during the building of your awesome game. The games industry is continuously evolving at an incredible rate, if we don’t capture what goes on during the development of our games then it will be consigned to a memory that fades and eventually forgets.
So what’s in your toolbox?
Many thanks to “Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library” for the use of their awesome toolbox image.