With every game development project, there are milestones to achieve and targets that the team need to deliver. For efficient tracking, game companies need software so that project deliveries are not missed and everything runs on schedule. Autodesk’s Shotgun Software is one such tool that assures game developers are able to track and review their schedules and digital assets.
GamingBolt caught up with Brandon Foster who is the Games Industry Expert at Shotgun Software to know about the tool. Check out his response below.
Rashid Sayed: To begin with can you please tell us a bit about yourself and the company you work for?
Brandon Foster: My name is Brandon Foster and I’m a Pipeline Producer for Shotgun Software. I’ve worked in both production and technical artist capacities in game production, feature animation and VFX. Shotgun has been around for nine years and provides production tracking, review and approval, and pipeline tools for those industries, and more.
Rashid Sayed: What are the kinds of questions or considerations game developers put forward when they approach you for solutions?
Brandon Foster: Development, especially on larger titles, is all distributed now, whether it’s in a studio with multiple locations, or a collaboration with external vendors. Studios often want to know how they can manage those efforts all in one place, without needing separate systems and production pipelines for each location. Shotgun helps to unify that process so everyone is working and communicating together in the same ecosystem.
"When communicating through Shotgun, your conversations are always within the context of what you’re working on. That back and forth discussion between an artist and his/her supervisor about a particular asset will be associated with the asset in Shotgun so it’s always easy to find."
Rashid Sayed: Can you tell us how your solution is different from some of the other competitors in the market?
Brandon Foster: At Shotgun we recognize that each discipline within the studio needs a different set of tools to do their work. For example, when you try to force artists to use the same tools producers use to do their jobs, it causes frustration and does the artists a disservice.
We’ve been developing features and views within Shotgun with the needs and preferences of these different disciplines in mind. Artists have very visual ways to browse and manage their assignments and feedback. Producers have more data-centric tools that allow them track progress and manage the overall schedule. Since all of this information lives in the same database, everyone is always looking at the same, up-to-date data, in a way that’s relevant to them.
Rashid Sayed: How is Shotgun more effective and faster than using email to communicate among project teams?
Brandon Foster: In two words, context and organization. When communicating through Shotgun, your conversations are always within the context of what you’re working on. That back and forth discussion between an artist and his/her supervisor about a particular asset will be associated with the asset in Shotgun so it’s always easy to find.
This is true for all communication such as reviews, task updates, or check in data. I can look at any given thing I’m tracking within Shotgun (like an asset) and quickly see its entire history — every conversation or review note ever submitted, all in one place. There’s no need to go digging through countless, contextless emails.
Rashid Sayed: How does using Shotgun help track deadlines and avoid missing them?
Brandon Foster: Shotgun does this in a couple of different ways, depending on your role at the studio. Content producers like artists and developers have a clear set of assignments in their My Tasks app, which shows them an up-to-date list of what work they need to complete, by when. With the Shotgun Inbox, it’s also easy to stay on top of work being done by collaborators, so they’re always abreast of new checkins and changes.
Producers and managers who are more concerned with the big picture have additional tools at their disposal. They can create filter-based views of the schedule to easily display information like: What is overdue? What needs to be finished this week? Who on my team is overloaded? With live and up-to-date information in Shotgun, producers can spend more time managing their teams, and less time gathering all the intel they need to make key decisions.
"Shotgun accelerates game development by providing tools to make everyone at the studio more efficient with their time. Even small things here and there add up to a huge savings over an entire development lifecycle."
Rashid Sayed: There are so many considerations clients may have when they’re looking for production management solutions. Should they be locally hosted or online etc.? How do you work together to give them an optimum solution?
Brandon Foster: While our preferred, and most widely used service is hosted, we’re more than happy to work with our clients to ensure we’re meeting all their needs.
Rashid Sayed: How does your tool help accelerate game development?
Brandon Foster: Shotgun accelerates game development by providing tools to make everyone at the studio more efficient with their time. Even small things here and there add up to a huge savings over an entire development lifecycle.
Features like Screening Room (Shotgun’s web based media player) allow artists and supervisors to review work quickly and effectively. The Inbox makes sure important information doesn’t go unnoticed so blocked artists can quickly get back to work when they see the checkin they’re waiting for arrive.
With the Pipeline Toolkit, Technical Artists have a framework to streamline much of the repetitive operations artists have to do within their DCC apps like Maya or Photoshop. Checking out the right file, doing their work, and checking it in for review can be done with a couple of button presses. We’re working on productizing a full set of these general-use applications to help studios avoid having to reinvent the wheel.
When you spend less time keeping the production organized, you’re spending more time where it really matters: producing the creative and technical content that goes into the game.
"Shotgun is committed to solving the problems studios face in production every day. Our company comprises professionals who have worked in a wide range of positions across multiple industries."
Rashid Sayed: Can you describe the various filtering, organizing, and UI tools that are most useful to game development pipelines?
Brandon Foster: One of the features our clients have been most happy with is Shotgun’s high degree of customization. The software comes predefined with a number of default entities for tracking (Assets, Levels, or Shots for cutscenes), however the schema is flexible enough to let you define just about anything.
For example we’ve had clients define a weapon entity so they could track all the unique specifics for all the weapons going into their game (weapon class, ammo types, and a bevy of mods like different compatible sights, stocks, and magazines). They could then quickly search and filter on that data, e.g. “Show me all weapons which can use this type of sight, but aren’t unlocked until character level 5.”
Also, many of the pages within Shotgun can be customized to show the data, which is most important, so views and reports aren’t cluttered with unnecessary information. Clients have enjoyed this flexibility, as they can define how they want to work, and how they want to digest all the information they need.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us about Shotgun Software?
Brandon Foster: Shotgun is committed to solving the problems studios face in production every day. Our company comprises professionals who have worked in a wide range of positions across multiple industries (Games, Animation, VFX). We’ve all been there, and have experienced the same production pains that our clients do firsthand.
Since Shotgun’s inception we’ve built our tools collaboratively with our clients to ensure they are production ready, right out of the gate. We are committed to continuing that ethos, so our clients can focus on what they do best — creating inspiring entertainment.