Today I am going to talk to you about project management in video games. For some people, project management for an indie game team might sound a bit superficial. If you’re one of them, you might be wondering: “Why would we even need a plan to make a game?”.
Well, if you think back on your personal projects, you might have lot of unfinished projects, game or not. You have published a few, or none of them. If you didn’t manage to finish your game on time, it can be for several reasons : because of the scale, the motivation, time, and so forth… It’s the same thing here.
In a big company, video game production is a full time job, but as an indie game dev, you need to be able to manage the team while having a hand in other tasks such as programming, art, etc…
How to manage a video game project?
At Million Victories, we have a dedicated Game Producer working on project planning and scheduling.
To keep everything on track and going smoothly, we use the Scrum framework, with some customization (yes I know it’s not recommended according to Scrum best practices).
In a nutshell :
Everyday, we organize our status update during a Stand Up meeting. Every team member talks about what they’ve worked on the previous day, what they are going to do today, and if there was any impediments. We keep this meeting very short (less than 15mn), and always at the same place and hour. (the same hour is the most difficult part to keep, as we have a flexible office hour)
We work with a 2 weeks long iteration (sprint). At the end of each iteration we have a half day meeting. This meeting is divided in 3 different parts:
- A sprint review meeting: Here, we explain what we went over during our last sprint. We validate or reject each task that was marked as “done” during the past 2 weeks. Tasks that are rejected might either be checked as “in progress” again and will be to do for the next sprint, or it can be discarded. This meeting is done with every member of the studio. For all the features and the creative part of the game, the validation is done by the Creative Director. For all the technical aspects, and other tasks like marketing and such, those are validated by the Producer, or some other relevant team member.
- A sprint retrospective meeting: We inspect and adapt our process. During this meeting we are focusing on our process rather than on the product. Each team member talk in front of everyone about 1 thing that they liked during the last print, and 1 thing they would like to be improved for the next sprint. It could be anything related to the process or even the life at the studio: the noise, desk organization, etc. At the end of this meeting we take 1 key action among these things to improve and we commit ourselves to work on it before the next Sprint Retrospective meeting.
- And last but not least a sprint planning meeting: We plan a new Sprint of 2 weeks, with a new focus. We are not necessarily taking unfinished tasks from last sprint, as some of them became obsolete, since we plan a new sprint according to our new priority. Every task is estimated using Points not hours, as hours will not take into account the complexity of the task to do.
That’s for the process, but what about the tools?
We rely on Jira for all of our project management job. Jira was used a lot for bug tracking, and it became a very efficient project management tool as well. It includes a nice Scrum board (a Trello like board).
It’s very flexible tool, although you have to configure everything by yourself.
Atlassian, who made this tool, has a nice price tier for startups (under 10 team members) for 10$/month.
There are other parts of the video game production pipeline to be discussed, but this blog post is quite long already, so we will divide them among several parts and publish them later 🙂
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