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eelke_folmer

need for flexibility

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With an average game project lasting between 18-24 months how "high" is the need for flexibility concerning COTS development? e.g. How likely is it for game projects to replace a COTS component such as a game/physics/sound/AI engine halfway during development? I read the postmortems book and in the past it has happened occasionaly, but is flexibility really a prime requirement for modern game development? I can imagine flexibility is only an issue when you are planning for sequels (only if the first game is successful). After the game is shipped no code development is done as opposed to non game software. [Edited by - eelke_folmer on March 28, 2006 11:12:30 PM]

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In my (limited) experience such a replacement is fairly rare. Normally it is standard procedure to do very careful evaluations and prototyping of third-party components and core components before massive integration into the final engine. Every now and then something will be ripped out and fully replaced, but this is rarely a serious issue; it is also common to build insulation layers between components and the implementation (e.g. a thin wrapper over a netcode library) so that other implementations can be swapped in with relatively small changes. Usually, though, great care is taken to make sure that components are designed/selected appropriately from the beginning.

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Maybe we should distinguish two kinds of flexibility:

e.g.
Runtime/devopment flexibility - being able to switch COTS components during development or even runtime. Which may not happen that often.

evolutionary flexibility - switching COTS components during a product's evolution. Evolution has a somewhat different meaning for games; e.g. sequels. If your game is succesful; a sequel is developed. Switching COTS components is more typical, however as most of the game content is different this may not have a big impact on the existing architecture.

From a Cost benefit perspective the need to design a flexible architecture depends on the likelihood of success of your game.

anyone have any ideas on this?

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I would posit that any well-factored system will, by nature, exhibit a reasonable degree of evolutionary flexibility. In my mind at least that isn't so much a goal of design per se as a very nice side-effect of a good design.

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I agree with that, although one must not overengineer. i.e. a good engineer knows when additional complexity adds value over simplicity in design.

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