Being in the games industry for a few years will teach you that no two game productions are the same – even between different studios of mainstream games, work methods can be very different. Subsequent projects from a single studio might be even more so; as projects span several years new trends in design, project planning and technology affect your plans and daily work. Today, we are going to go into some detail about how we are working with Backworlds.
During the last 5-10 years, coming up with different work methods has been a trend in the games industry – this has come from necessity as teams have grown larger and making sure everyone has the information they need to contribute to the unified goal has become a nontrivial effort. In a sense this has rubbed off on smaller teams as well but we have tried to minimize time spent in discussion – our aim has been to establish direction and work independently in order to focus on development.
Though we do not have clearly defined milestones, we tend to work with a current set of goals in mind. To start with, we usually have a meeting – in the beginning this was in person but as we moved to different parts of the world we are now using Skype. During this time we establish what we are going for, divide the workload between us and make sure we are agreed on what we are going to do. Most of our communication after that is by email – this has been the case since the projects inception and we still have the initial ideas logged.
As an example, our last goal was to finish up the demo, after that we made plans for the scope of the game and discussed different classes of gameplay mechanics we wanted. We made a rough estimate of how we wanted to separate our levels and divided the work between us, since then we have been working on creating these levels. How this usually goes is that one of us creates a group of levels with bare-bones graphics but fully functional mechanics and send it over to the other for review. This functions both as a preliminary focus test and an assessment of how the new levels fit into the concept as a whole, we tend to point out issues and suggest solutions to each other. This method causes a lot of things get thrown out or reworked, but as Backworlds is a very experimental project this is normal.
In terms of tools, most of our organization needs are filled by Github. Like TRAC it is a very convenient way of arranging plans, track bugs and keep the source in one place – it also has the advantage of not requiring anything more complex than a webbrowser for smaller changes. On a personal level I can feel that managing a git repository is needlessly complex compared to using a traditional SCM with a centralized repository, especially since there are only two of us, but I suspect it is mostly about availability of tools and me being set in my ways.
Next time, we will go into more detail about how we are creating the game content, so stick around!