The Importance of Project Management: What went wrong with Steel Seal

When undergoing a large project, like the one recently completed by my team this trimester, it is important to have a strict project plan and project management processes. Unfortunately for our team, we didn't stick with our project management and it caused some trouble within the project.

Ideally in a large scale project like this, you need a project manager, or someone who keeps track of things such as updating schedules, keeping team members in order and to generally keep the project running smoothly. Unfortunately for our team, a project manager or team leader was never assigned to anyone, so these tasks were looked over and at some stages through the trimester, completely ignored. Occasionally throughout the trimester, we started using the schedules again, but every time we did, within a week they were forgotten about again. This caused confusion and frustration for all team members and I believe hurt the final product of the game for release date.

When you are working in a team on a project, there are a few different things that are a necessity to keep the project on track. The first thing the team needs to do is sit down and plan out the project. This is usually in the form of a GDD (Game Design Document). It is super important to plan out as much stuff as possible in this document so that scheduling and task assigning is done correctly. The next important thing is to try and create a full feature list, including scripts and assets. With this full list, we can then break them down even further into separate tasks. Once everything is broken down into tasks, you can start assigning tasks to different people in your team. This is where scheduling comes in. Scheduling has a few important parts to it that are important and cannot be forgotten. When you are scheduling tasks for people to do, it is important to be aware of dependencies, which is something that requires something else to be done before it. For example, you can't start creating texturing models, if the models don't exist. This is where a gantt chart is useful, or more commonly in recent years, a third party management software is used.

There are a lot of choices for third party management software these days. The common ones are Microsoft project and Excel, but there are a lot more available now that offer new and helpful features. HacknPlan is a good example of this. HacknPlan is a project management tool that is made specifically for game design. By using "cards" you enter in all of your features and tasks that need to be completed. Then with these cards, you can assign dependencies and assign people to these tasks. This visual interface is good for seeing exactly what tasks you have assigned, when they are due, what stage in the process they are currently in, and what dependencies they have.

 An example of HacknPlan's interface for a different project.

An example of HacknPlan's interface for a different project.

 The schedule our team used.

The schedule our team used.

So what went wrong with Steel Seal. From the beginning, we started off strong with our GDD and task assigning. We each communicated well and we assigned tasks to each other and set ourselves goals on when we wanted them completed. After the first week of production though, things dropped off. Instead of using a project management tool such as HacknPlan, we decided on using a basic Google Sheets document, but as you can see above, it left much to be desired. This document only really contained key milestones in the project, and didn't outline all the tasks that needed to be completed and their dependencies. As the project progressed, this document became more and more outdated and useless to us, so it was neglected even more. 

This lack of management caused us to miss some of our key milestones, as well as our final product missing some of its features for release day. The lack of any sort of asset or feature list, other than the small bit in our GDD meant that we were always not sure on what needed to be done, and the lack of gantt chart or schedule meant we didn't know who was working on what and when. This meant things were left to the last minute and some features such as the fishing boat power-up being left out of the first release. I believe that most, if not all of these problems could have been avoided if a proper schedule was used.

 

Resources

Maxwell, H. (2007). Production Values: The Value of Project Management. Gamasutra.com. Retrieved 16 December 2016, from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130303/production_values_the_value_of_.php

Schultz, W. (2016). 9 Steps to Planning a Game Development Project. About.com Money. Retrieved 16 December 2016, from http://gameindustry.about.com/od/game-development/a/How-To-Plan-A-Game-Development-Project.htm