Mozilla Foundation (Open Source)
Bugzilla isn't the sexiest product in the world -- after all, it's bug-tracking software. But it's one of those required tools in our development arsenal, one of those tools that we all rely on during the most critical moments of the development process.
For me, Bugzilla was particularly convenient while I was working with a bilingual team in China. In this situation, we had a group of about 20 developers of all disciplines working on building a free-to-play online PC game. In our case, Bugzilla was efficient, quick, and easy to learn and use.
Bugzilla has some key features that I found essential in our development process. The ability to mark or update multiple bugs simultaneously was a workflow convenience I could not live without.
I also appreciated the tracking reports, which gave me an up-to-date chart that showed how quickly we were closing bugs off our list, which users were behind in closing their issues, and how many bugs of each priority category were remaining. This was useful for feature tracking as well, because we could earmark requests with their own category, which could then serve to roll up new features for the team to implement.
Bugzilla's tracking features are complemented by a whole host of other features that contribute to its utility and usability. Its email notifications allowed me to immediately react to updates and communicate build-testing results back to the team within shorter timeframes. Its automatic duplicate detection feature (a form of autofill) lets the user find potential bug duplications before they are committed to the database. Time tracking allows the team to set deadlines and test against user time estimate accuracy.
Perhaps the most useful part about Bugzilla, though, is that it's a free, open-source product. This cannot be understated. In an industry that is now party to an enormous host of smaller developers working with lower budgets to make their products, Bugzilla is a welcome respite to the incoming tool costs associated with new cloud subscription models that have become the norm for many development toolsets. Because of my positive experience working with Bugzilla, I now automatically look toward open source solutions to our tool problems before I consider the licensed per-seat solutions that are currently on the market.
To that end, I salute the Bugzilla team, as well as everyone else who is offering their time to make the product even better, and hope that we in the game industry do our part to keep it alive well into the future.
Carey Chico is a game industry veteran and a member of the Game Developer advisory board.
The Blender Foundation (Open Source)
Blender is a free, open-source 3D art suite with a combination of powerful modeling, unwrapping, and rendering tools that is growing in notoriety as its user community demonstrates that you can still make professional-quality movies and game art with free tools.
I first started working with Blender six years ago, while working toward my classical art degree, and felt an affinity with computer graphics that led me to spend the rest of my university years learning to use Softimage XSI and 3D Studio Max. Blender's accessibility remains one of its strong points and is helping artists around the globe to express themselves in new ways.
Our development studio (Nine Dots) was founded on a small budget, so we opted to use Blender instead of paying $5,000 per head for commercial 3D software. As the studio's founder started gathering a team, my previous experience with that software was a strong asset and I was hired. I've used Blender ever since, and new Nine Dots artists are taught to use it when they start out in our company.
After a few weeks of adaptation -- getting used to the interface and customizing our keyboard shortcuts -- the 3D artists at Nine Dots were able to reach the same production speed they had on the software they were used to. In my experience, I have actually found Blender to be far faster than any of Autodesk's products in terms of modeling and unwrapping, at least for the low-poly models required for video games.
I also made good use of my graphics tablet in Blender while working on our first game, Brand. Using the Poly Paint mode, I drew the lights and shadows on the 3D mesh itself before baking the result in the diffuse texture. That single feature I found while exploring the software has helped us obtain a painterly look for our game. Other features use the tablet, such as the newly implemented sculpt mode, which lets the artist manipulate the geometry in a manner similar to ZBrush.
After we released Brand on Xbox 360 and PC, we started work on a more ambitious project with fully detailed characters. Once again, Blender has proven to be a great tool for creating an elegant facial geometry and for animating the bodies and faces of our human (and nonhuman!) characters. We also used Blender to edit some of our trailers and gameplay videos; since the video editing tool is integrated with the rendering software, the production pipeline is streamlined, saving us some precious time!
In short, Blender is an accessible and customizable tool that can be optimized to greatly increase production speed. For video game creation, I can speak from experience that Blender's modeling and unwrapping tools are on par with those of its costly competitors. I'm eager to see it grow as it refines its strengths and irons out its last kinks!
Etienne Vanier is the lead artist at Nine Dots Studio.