(A talk given at PIPELINE Conference – March 2018 – Adopting Continuous Delivery in AAA Video Games – https://pipelineconf.info/speakers/)

My talk is about how Rare changed its culture and approach for developing ‘A Sea Of Thieves’ by adopting Continuous Delivery.

As the result of this change, we’ve minimized crunch and have been sustainably delivering new features to players for the past 2 years. We’ve had over 120 releases so far, which means we can get feedback from players, evolve and improve the game. Our bug count has been very low (less than 50 high priority bugs) throughout the project. As we have invested heavily in automated tests, we’ve had a very small manual test team which has reduced cost significantly.

Adopting Continuous Delivery practices isn’t trivial and whilst we are several years into the journey, we are continuously working to improve our capabilities. I’ll discuss the challenges we’ve faced and the principles behind the techniques and practices we’ve used, such as:

– Changing culture so that everyone including Developers, Artists, Production and Test teams are responsible for the quality of the game.
– Changing culture to adopt extensive automated testing.
– Working in small batches.
– Adopting Continuous Integration practices such as Trunk based development, Feature Toggles and locking the depot when the Commit stage fails.
– Continuously improving the Commit stage to ensure we get fast and reliable feedback. I will cover the challenges in building AAA games in C++, transferring large game packages between agents, running 40,000 automated tests, identifying the most relevant and valuable tests to run as part of the Commit stage and dealing with flaky tests.
– Ensuring the game is always shippable. I’ll discuss prioritising fixing bugs and broken tests over developing new features. I will describe how we release regularly and how we’ve been releasing at least once a week over the last two years.
– Applying a continuous improvement culture, where we’ve been collecting telemetry from players and how we’ve used the data to help us better design the game. 

Jafar joined Rare in January 2008. During his time at Rare, Jafar has worked on Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, Kinect Sports Series, Rare Replay. He’s most recently been leading the deployment pipeline team working on Sea of Thieves helping Rare adopting Continuous Delivery.