Sync Hacks: How Sync Helps Game Developers Collaborate Globally

Sync Hacks is a column dedicated to exploring new applications for Sync, as built by users like you. BitTorrent Sync is a free, unlimited, secure file-syncing app. (And now, it’s 2X faster.) If you’ve got an epic Sync idea, use-case or how-to, shoot us an email at sync[at]bittorrent.com.

In this week’s Sync Hacks: Jon Jones on how game development companies can use BitTorrent Sync to simplify global collaboration with a fast, private and encrypted file-syncing solution.

From Jon Jones:

I’m an Art Outsourcing Manager in the video game industry, and I run a company called smArtist, an international art production management agency specializing in outsourcing for a wide variety of clients, big and small. When dealing with remote collaborators all around the world, having a reliable file transfer and storage solution is paramount when you have deadlines to hit. In video games, this can be as little as a few hundreds megabytes in total, or as massive as hundreds of gigabytes a day.

After extensively testing and evaluating countless other file transfer and storage products across dozens of projects – including FTP, Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, various frontends for Amazon S3, Rsync, and so on – I’ve concluded that BitTorrent Sync is the best all-around solution I’ve yet found that can cope with any scale of file transfer needs. The two traditionally “easy” methods of doing this are FTP (slow and unreliable, and transfers have to be manually triggered) and Dropbox (simple enough, but it can get expensive very fast), and frankly, BitTorrent Sync crushes them.

BitTorrent Sync for sharing files with vendors in India and China

I’ve essentially used BitTorrent Sync to create global, private, encrypted clouds for my various file transfer needs. And I’ve thrown every difficult problem at it that I can, and it keeps working. I’ll explain how it can work for a game development company of any scale, and what problems it solves that you may not have guessed. BitTorrent Sync is especially well-suited to the odd particulars of dealing with overseas vendors in India and China, which is one of my specialties. I’m excited to spread what I’ve learned to help make transferring files back and forth not only painless, but faster and more efficiently than even very expensive, specialized high-end software and hardware.

The first and best thing it does is simply syncing files at an incredibly high rate of speed with a minimum of headaches. With FTP, I have to manually trigger a file transfer when I get to work in the morning, wait several hours for it to transfer, then hope it’ll be done by the end of my day so I can review it. When I send updated files back to the vendors (usually in India or China, thus a half-day plus ahead of my time zone), I initiate another transfer before I leave work, hope nothing weird happens, check email during the middle of the night to make sure it transferred, then go to work in the morning and start the process again. With BitTorrent Sync, the files start transferring the instant they’re copied into the folder, and it’s always waiting for me or the vendor without having to do anything special. If I’m out of the office, I don’t have to worry about contingency plans or someone having to be there to manually check on and initiate the transfer… it’s already done.

BitTorrent Sync in the studio

The way I see it working in a studio environment is pretty simple. When you’re outsourcing art, you’re often working with multiple vendors. It’s standard practice to silo each vendor off from one another so they don’t know the others exist, so the way I’ve handled that is creating separate Sync Folders to share with separate vendors:

/Vendor_A/
/Vendor_B/
/Vendor_C/

Each of these would be a subdirectory of a master “Outsourcing” folder located on the game developer’s local network server. Using Windows Symlinks, you can even map that folder to a local drive letter of choice. In game development, art assets generally contain a reference to a texture file located in a specific path, so having that mapped to the same drive letter and folder structure as your project can make opening files work much more efficiently so you don’t have to manually find and re-target the links to those texture files. Time saved!

Now, each artist that works in-house at the studio would be set up to Sync to these same folders, because the more people that Sync to these folders, the faster the transfers are. And the setup would be the same for external outsourced artists, speeding up the process even further. This leads me to one truly brilliant aspect of BitTorrent Sync. At Chinese and Indian art studios, it’s common for the individual artist not to have internet access at his computer for security reasons. Often, only the Art Lead will have internet access, or there’s a shared computer with internet access that people use as needed. That adds an extra step for the outsource artists to submit their files to the Art Lead, who then manually packages the files together and submits them to me for review. With BitTorrent Sync, however, it can sync seamlessly over a LAN. All that needs to happen is for the Art Lead to be connected to the internet, and all the files he receives sync instantly over the LAN to all the artists’ computers without any extra steps involved. Magic.

BitTorrent Sync works with vendor’s IT policies, local and country-wide firewalls

Even better than that is that I’ve had success with BitTorrent Sync simply working with a wide variety of vendors’ IT policies, local firewalls, country-wide firewalls, and every other impediment you can imagine an internet-enabled application having. I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with IT departments of game developers and art studios around the world trying to troubleshoot and fix problems with various software packages and collaboration tools for deployment and training. I specialize in that, and I routinely jump through every type of logistical, technical, legal, and political hoop one could imagine, and then some. It’s weird out there, and everyone does everything differently. BitTorrent Sync is the only file transfer and storage solution that has, so far, worked with all of them with little to no effort. When deadlines are tied up in files being delivered on time and in full, this is colossally important. And when you’re dealing with studios overseas, one mistake today is an entire day’s work wasted, multiplied by the number of artists on the project.

And that’s just one possible way of setting up BitTorrent Sync in a global, distributed work environment. The possibilities are endless, and I’m constantly thinking of new ways to use it. There is nothing else on the market that can touch it in terms simplicity, usability, and scalability — at any price point. I highly recommend it.

Jon Jones (@jonjones) is an Art Outsourcing Manager in the video game industry. He manages legions of artists from every corner of the world, and constantly evaluates and adopts cutting edge tools and technology to make it work!

Lou
Written by: Lou

Lou is a product marketing manager at BitTorrent, Inc., where he works on BitTorrent Sync, a free app that allows you to sync and share large files with anybody via secure, distributed technology.

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  • Gavin

    1.How to set version control in BT sync with the same file name,I sync docx/c/php… files or photo files may need to roll back when something wrong.
    2.How to set visual folder with some Hidden directory or files to let other person view and download only.

    Many Thanks ^__^

    • Lou

      Hi Gavin, Sync isn’t set up currently for version control currently. As far as your second question, you can set a read-only secret so they can sync that (as opposed to read-write).

  • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Neat, but a Synology app package for it would be neater! :)

    • Lou

      Hi Doc. There is a Synology app package out there (not our creation) on the interwebs. :)