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Big Games, Big Files, Bigger Challenges  

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Introduction 

The Perforce 2023 State of Game Development and Design survey revealed that 49% of AAA game participants identified time-related issues as the primary obstacles to development speed. Moreover, 28% of respondents, the highest proportion, indicated that transferring large game assets, often exceeding 100 GB, is not just slow and challenging but their largest hurdle in collaboration. This issue is compounded as game companies are increasingly dependent on creators and studios dispersed globally, necessitating efficient handling of ever-growing file sizes. 

Game developers recognize that traditional file transfer methods, such as FTP and hard drives, as well as non-specialized tools like WeTransfer, are no longer viable for their rapid and complex developer needs. Here’s a look at the market drivers behind the game industry’s growing demand for secure, sophisticated collaboration across companies, partners and locations. Plus, you’ll get a look at today’s options for sending large files and some key requirements to look for when choosing an intelligent file transfer solution that makes it easy to transfer any size file with speed and security over standard IP networks, no matter how far across the globe they need to go. 

“When we produce a game, it typically involves hundreds of people, programmers, artists, game designers and testers, from multiple studios around the world working on the same games, including a lead studio and several co-development studios.”

~ Ubisoft Service Manager

Market Drivers 

The gaming industry is currently experiencing a convergence of market factors, emphasizing the urgent need for accelerated and intelligent global access and data sharing. The rising demand for more complex, immersive, and realistic games has significantly increased the creative and technical resources required to stay competitive in today’s market. 

Here’s a look at the impact of market trends on the production pipeline, collaboration and data exchange. 

1. Increased Build Size and Complexity 

Today, the game builds across new platforms, and new game paradigms can be hundreds of gigabytes large, exponentially larger than even games of the past half-decade. Games that are this enormous in their final form produce a massive amount of data moving throughout the development pipeline. 

While factors like higher image resolution, advanced audio, and an increase in various files like executables, geometry, redistributables, and motion capture data contribute to larger game build sizes, the primary factor is the enhanced resolution and complexity of textures. These textures, crucial for every visual component in the game, cannot be significantly compressed without losing quality or creating visual artifacts. This high-resolution texturing is central to modern game aesthetics but also substantially increases file sizes. 

2. Complex and Remote Global Workflows  

Efficient collaboration in game development is increasingly challenged by the demands of a globally dispersed workforce. These teams require immediate and constant access to a wide array of files integral to game builds, both large and small. The task of transmitting substantial gaming files over vast distances is further complicated by factors like network latency, the need for precise version control, secure chain of custody, and straightforward accessibility. These elements are key in an industry where swift access and fluid collaboration are not just desired but essential, yet they are frequently constrained by the technical limitations inherent in file transfer and management systems.  

Additionally, the rise of home-based remote work introduces further complexities, including the vulnerabilities of less secure home networks and inconsistent network conditions, which can significantly impact both productivity and the security of sensitive data.  

3. Ongoing Security Concerns 

As these game assets traverse through intricate workflows, they are exposed to numerous risks. It is crucial for asset managers to ensure that the technologies used for file movement are secure. Protecting this data involves implementing stringent security measures and controlling access to these assets. By doing so, they safeguard the heart of their business against potential threats and unauthorized access, maintaining the integrity and value of their creative work. Ensuring robust security for game files is not just a technical necessity but a fundamental aspect of preserving and nurturing a game company’s most precious resource: its intellectual property.  

4. Localization Opportunities 

For developers aiming to penetrate new markets, investing in localization is essential to customize the gaming experience for their target audience. Most gaming companies prefer to outsource this task to firms within the target region, ensuring authenticity and cultural relevance. The process goes beyond the initial translation of language and content; it also includes rigorous quality control and assurance to maintain the integrity and appeal of the game in different cultural contexts. This comprehensive approach to localization is crucial for successful market expansion and resonating with new audiences in a meaningful way. 

The expansion of global gaming markets, advancements in platform versioning, increasing localization demands, and the development of more visually compelling and immersive games have greatly enlarged the size of game builds and assets. This growth is resulting in a consistent exchange of these elements across a multitude of global locations.

File Movement Options 

There are various options for collaboration and file sharing in use today, from older technology like FTP to more consumer-oriented cloud-based solutions like WeTransfer. Here’s a breakdown of commonly used options, and their risks and benefits. 

1. File Transfer Protocol (FTP):

One of the original Internet protocols, FTP has long been a standard for transferring files. It is outdated and difficult to use. At its core, FTP’s design isn’t adequate for moving today’s game assets. 

  • Difficult to Use: FTP tools are notoriously difficult to use, particularly for non-technical creatives who are core to game operations. 
  • Slow: FTP lacks file acceleration and doesn’t automatically pick up interrupted transfers. Large file transfers take much longer with FTP, leaving room for Internet failures and other disruptions, requiring files to be manually restarted from the beginning. 
  • Bandwidth Immune: No matter how much bandwidth you purchase, FTP will still be too slow to practically move anything over about 500MB.
  • IT Managed: FTP tools require IT to deploy, manage and administer, increasing resource investment and often causing delays.
  • Not Secure: FTP poses known security risks and has been the culprit behind some of the biggest security breaches in the industry over the last few years. 

2. Common Online File-Sharing Tools and Utilities 

The options for online file-sharing tools are robust — including WeTransfer, Dropbox, and Google Drive. And while most of these services have powerful, effective business offerings, they weren’t developed with professional game workflows in mind.

  • No Acceleration: Like FTP, standard online file-sharing solutions rely on basic IP technology and do not have acceleration technology built in. 
  • Controlled Storage: Standard online file-sharing tools often don’t support the varied storage systems used by game companies, including on-premises and cloud options, and typically fail to meet IT security standards. These tools usually bundle cloud storage, leading to uncertainty about file locations and access control, posing significant data security challenges.
  • File Size Limits: Without acceleration and because storage is bundled, the size of files that these solutions move is limited, making them unusable for large game file workflows. 
  • Workflow Support: Online file-sharing tools must be easily integrated with MAM systems, handle metadata, recognize new file formats, provide relevant analytics, and more. 

3. Common IT-built Solutions 

DIY solutions for file transfer, syncing, and access are common across the game industry due to the many unique challenges and requirements. It often means a cobbled-together amalgam of virtual private network (VPN) connections, rysnc, synchronized servers and peer-to-peer sync, which may vary across offices or between companies. These solutions are commonly available and can be built in-house, but they have costly limitations in productivity and management. 

  • Speed and Efficiency: Traditional methods may not match transfer speeds, especially over long distances or unreliable networks. Cloud-based services could face bandwidth limitations and can be slower for very large file transfers.
  • Scalability: Solutions like rsync and basic server synchronization might struggle with scalability issues as the size and complexity of game development projects increase. 
  • Reliability and Error Handling: Traditional file transfer methods may not offer the same level of reliability and robust error recovery. Common IT tools require more manual intervention to resume transfers in case of a failed transfer.
  • User Experience: Basic IT solutions can be less user-friendly than built-for-purpose solutions, especially for those without technical expertise. 

4. Large File Transfer Software 

While other data-intensive industries also use these solutions, large file transfer software was developed by companies like Signiant specifically to address the needs of the media and interactive entertainment industries’ use cases. Based on a core acceleration protocol that moves data over public and private IP networks, these solutions improve on standard FTP/TCP and are increasingly impactful with longer distances, higher bandwidth, and more congested networks.

“Now that we have Media Shuttle, we are finally able to replace FTP, which is something our security team has been wanting to do for years.”
 

~ Ubisoft Service Manager

Key Requirements for Choosing a Solution 

Whether you’re a Triple-A studio or a lean indie, fast, efficient and secure large file access and transfers are the lifeblood of game development collaboration. If large file transfer software seems like a necessity to your gaming business, there are a few key requirements that are must-haves.  

1. Unrestricted Speed

When discussing file transfer issues in the gaming industry, the main concern is usually speed. If a file transfer solution isn’t quick enough to deliver files promptly, without causing delays or missing crucial deadlines, it can disrupt the entire process and dramatically reduce productivity. 

2. Security 

In the competitive gaming industry, your chosen file transfer provider must be a frontrunner in security. Assess your partner’s security protocols, both past and present. Ideally, their software would be designed with security as a foundational element from the start, instead of adding it as a secondary feature in response to industry breaches. 

Your vendors should follow defense-in-depth security practices, as well as get regular third-party audits of their software and services. Look for key security protocols such as SOC2 Type 2 or industry initiatives like the Trusted Partner Network (TPN)

Vendors focusing on developing software for game workflows must prioritize security across all aspects of their product, from DevOps to user experience. Look for signs that security has been considered even at the individual user level. For instance, the solution should relieve end users from concerns about file storage locations; such considerations should be the responsibility of game asset managers and IT, not the end user. 

3. API Integration 

Software integration is a key element in modern game development, driving efficiency, innovation, and quality in an increasingly complex and competitive industry. File transfer solutions should seamlessly integrate into existing gaming workflows and systems with straightforward APIs, accompanied by brief testing and validation phases, and supported by comprehensive, clear documentation. 

4. Storage Independence 

Game developers typically utilize several storage spaces, which might be spread over various networks or across different physical locations. Additionally, developers often vary in their storage preferences. A popular choice is object storage, where data is organized as unique objects instead of traditional file or block formats. This approach is especially prevalent in public cloud storage services like Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, which are increasingly favored by developers for cloud computing, rendering, and archiving purposes 

Your ideal solution should be storage-agnostic and capable of working with various storage options, including on-premises and cloud-based systems. This flexibility gives you control over your assets, which is crucial for both security and strategic workflow planning. It enables you to determine the most suitable storage locations for your files, catering to the specific needs of different projects and teams at various stages of the game development cycle. 

5. Ease of Use 

Today, user-friendliness is essential, not only for boosting employee productivity and satisfaction but also to guarantee that everyone, including freelancers, partners, and others needing access to your files, can easily use your processes and tools with little to no training. The system should be straightforward, featuring an intuitive browser-based interface that anyone with a laptop can navigate and utilize effortlessly, rather than dealing with a complicated file transfer process. 

6. Ease of Deployment and Management 

Your chosen solution should be simple to implement and oversee. Opting for SaaS-based file acceleration software is often the most effective approach, as it removes the burden of software management and maintenance. But make sure the SaaS vendor you choose is committed to the services aspect of SaaS, not just selling you software. Having a dedicated customer success manager for your company, along with top-tier customer support and DevOps teams, is crucial for the successful operation of your solution.  

7. Customization 

Your file acceleration system should be flexible and adaptable to your specific needs. Choose a solution that enables administrators to create as many web-based portals as needed, tailored for various teams, clients, projects, partners, and freelancers. The system should support custom branding, automation, user management, and language settings for each portal or user. This versatility ensures that the same solution can cater to all your content sending, sharing, and submission requirements, regardless of your company’s size. 

The Signiant Platform has all the Features that the Gaming Industry Needs 

Signiant Platform Comparison Chart

The Signiant Platform is an integrated set of SaaS-based products designed to enhance the efficiency of the gaming pipeline, ensuring a more streamlined and accelerated workflow. Combining the simplicity of online file sharing with enterprise-class acceleration, security and control, the Signiant Platform has no file size limits and can be accessed from any web browser.  

Signiant patented architecture lets game developers, publishers, and bespoke services — large and small — maintain complete control of their high-value content while simultaneously deriving the classic SaaS benefits of easy API integration, scalability, and global availability. In plain terms, there is no better way to move large files fast, reliably, and securely than using the Signiant Platform.  

To learn more about the solution trusted by Epic Games, Ubisoft, Activision | Blizzard, and more, contact us now. Find out how the Signiant Platform can accelerate your gaming pipeline.

The easiest and most reliable way for people to send any size file anywhere, fast

Powerfully simple unattended content exchange, within and between companies

Advanced system-to-system automation for complex networks and workflows

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