Using Docker to drive cultural change in gaming

Written by: Codeship
3 min read
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Codeship was at DockerCon 2015! This wraps up our summaries of some of the talks we attended at this two-day conference in San Francisco. PS: If you are interested in Docker support from Codeship, click here.

Last Tuesday, Thomas Shaw spoke at DockerCon about using Docker as an agent for cultural change in the gaming industry.

As a build engineer at Demonware, Shaw talked with his audience about the repercussions of introducing a disruptive tool like Docker into the highly traditional development culture of gaming. Much of the games industry is driven by making costly, risky innovations, so best practices develop quickly and become law.

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Thomas Shaw at DockerCon 2015[/caption]

But market challenges make such disruption necessary. Gamers, Shaw explained, want more content, more frequently. The number of players and platforms have increased, and matchmaking services have scaled up. That means shorter dev cycles for increasingly complex services -- all while still providing the 10 years of support required by law in some countries.

Given these pressures, a very particular type of culture has arisen in the industry. Using a mix of open- and closed-source tools, developers strive to “fail fast.” Missed deadlines are not an option, which can make developer burn-out all too common. In the midst of that, Shaw recognized the need to maintain a respectful work environment while building a culture of learning and improvement.

Shaw gradually introduced Docker to Demonware through a mix of meetups and tutorials. The team decided to work with Docker because it was easy to use, had a low barrier to entry, and solved a lot of their issues. It also encouraged collaboration within the company.

Thanks to its gradual introduction, Docker didn’t disrupt any ongoing development. Rather than push out the change company wide, Demonware introduced it in isolated areas of the company to build momentum and vet the technology. Shaw said that Demonware also worked upfront to lower the barrier to entry even further by providing devs with pre-baked VMS, as well as containerizing developer tools.

Shaw stated that, for Demonware, Docker solved dependency hell. Demonware has a wide range of products from the last ten years, with different languages and different dependency versions within any language. Manually managing all of these environments, both for development and CI purposes, was putting a considerable strain on the developer.

Now, they utilize Docker to build CI pipelines and share tooling and customer facing services. Their CI moved from a highly coupled chain of projects to isolated pipelines. Shaw reported that Demonware’s build throughput increased around 260 percent just by using Docker.

While Shaw admitted that introducing Docker to such an ingrained industry is a difficult task, it’s not impossible. And the benefits of solved problems and faster output to production for a demanding consumer outweigh the disruption.


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