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Greg Rice

Production Update #2: What's a Producer?

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Interesting update- thanks, Greg! We experimented with Scrum teams for work with varying effect, but it seems like you guys have it mastered.

Three cheers to Gabe for creating Scrumtious! Artist, programmer, producer- You da man, Gabe!

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Great info, thanks! It would be great to hear also about more about problems of used methods and how you deal with them. It cannot be problem free? Any big negative surprises?

We are running small game project in our local University and we are using (very light version) Scurm also and it's great for us. We did not find any good sofware for it so we use Google docs spreadsheets. Great idea to mix (cursed) waterfall model to some parts of project. They say here in Finland that agile development is to blame for all the mess and delays in many big development projects nowdays (like new electric prescription system) so it seems that agile dev does not suite well for bigger projects.

These posts are already totally worth of my money!

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This was an interesting read, went into it not really having any clue what a producer does, and bam, info!

I would like you to elaborate on:

• Keeping the team motivated (i.e. buying ice cream as much as possible)

What have you tried other than ice cream? Do you offer face painting booths, or cat parades, or dance offs? Piggyback rides? Motivational diorama making?

This is important, I would appreciate it if you got back to me on this asap. Thx.

I'll jump in to say motivational beers work as well as ice cream at Double Fine.

I am liking that cat parade idea though.

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Bad work organisation is my weakest point so I was trying to get some information on how to do it better. Now I know, I need Greg to tell me what to do :D

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What kind of ice cream works best for motivation?

Do different flavours of ice cream have different effects on motivation?

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Great post. I work with software development in a different field, so it´s very interesting to see examples of scrum being applied in game development.

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i work for a company that uses a waterfall model (aka SDLC) and for some project a model similar to SCRUM, its called AGILE.

But SCRUMTIOUS' GUI is awesome and i like the idea of 15mins stand up meetings done daily. For highly viewable, critical projects, i think this is a good step to take for good visibility to the PM or producer. However, hard to implement when the team is across continents.

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I'm kinda surprised nobody has addressed the glaring issue revealed in Greg's detailed description.

20 hours? 20 hours behind, Brandon. Really?

THE COMMUNITY is watching you, Brandon...pick it up, buddy.

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Choco Tacos have been strangely effective at motivating the Cave team. For beer, the local IPAs seem to be the most popular.

I also keep a candy bucket on my desk to lure people over to get updates on their tasks.

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Choco Tacos have been strangely effective at motivating the Cave team. For beer, the local IPAs seem to be the most popular.

I also keep a candy bucket on my desk to lure people over to get updates on their tasks.

Nice, so it appears all the backers' money went for beer and candy!

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Well, in my case on The Cave it is Sega's money.

I worked a beer / ice cream / candy clause into the development contract

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Thanks for posting this, Greg! I was already thinking of opening a thread about 'producing adventure', because I didn't have a clue what the job involved, aside from modeling t-shirts. ;-)

I believe I see a really interesting forum post from Lee coming up by June 15. Could the mysterious Peter he has to do research with, possibly be the great maestro McConnell?

I was also wondering, to what extent is the production of this Kickstarter-adventure different than for the other DF-games? I guess you normally would already have a concept and a demo in order to pitch a game to publishers, which maybe might already change a lot when most of them throw the door in your face. Is the pre-production-period much longer this time? Or is this process normally also calculated into the budget you ask from publishers?

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Super awesome to get some contextualization on what a producer can do for game development. Thanks Greg!

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These updates are incredibly fascinating. I am a visual artist primarily, and never received any training in any of this kind of stuff (team management, etc). Recently some friends and I engaged in some indie development, but we basically didn't know what we were doing (at an organizational level) and the project floundered. I wish I had read this stuff back then! Your posts are giving me all kinds of insights and ideas! I mean this is useful stuff for any collaborative creative project. I have a couple of books on the game dev. process and this is more helpful and interesting than either of them (probably because it is a real world example). When this project is completely finished, you should consider taking all these updates and compiling them into a book. I think it would be very helpful to students and beginners everywhere.

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I worked a beer / ice cream / candy clause into the development contract

This is a sentence I want to hear at my next budget meeting. xD

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This seems to me like a really strange management model in the context of video game development. Everything is so strict and detailed up to the minute. How are you supposed to maintain creativity and keep a critical eye on your work and the team's when your own schedule for the month is so tight and rigid? Seems to me like this would cause major overhead and slow down the entire development process. In fact, this is exactly what I witnessed during my own professional career in the video games industry.

Besides, it's pretty much impossible to make a reliable time estimate for something as complex as software. This adds a lot of constant pressure on the entire team, burning them down in the long term and forcing them to rush through late tasks in a way that will either downgrade the quality of the product or extensively delay the product's completion later on. And then in the end, everybody is supposed to do overtime to make the schedule work somehow, causing even more wasted resources and an exhausted team that is even less productive than before.

I'm not saying that it's not OK to have a set of goals in advance or that time management isn't important, but rather that excessive planning can be as bad as no planning at all.

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Great post. I'm studying soft engineering, and coincidentally last week we learnt about the waterfall model and agile development techniques, including scrum. It's amazing to see your take on them.

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SmashManiac, even in a regular development process you'd still want developers to be creative and notice the fine details. However, when you have a team, there's a need to sync each other.

It's not that Scrum is the only option, but it is considered a much looser form of project management. You don't plan the timing of all the tasks as you would in other types of management and the team have a lot more say and influence on the process. Actually, shorter cycles make a lot of sense in game development since you'll be able to review results rather quickly and change direction early if that doesn't seem to reflect the vision.

I don't think having a time goal means downgrading the quality, it's a question of the goals. It's not considered bad for the developer to say he/she didn't make it, there's usually a good reason for it. In most cases I have seen, quality was degraded because of lack of project management with no clearly defined goals requirements tend to change in mid process and the team doesn't really work in sync.

And yes, there is pressure when developing a game, or anything that has a budget for that matter. However, I don't think the people here are dissatisfied, at least as long as they get beer, ice cream and candy.

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So, who is this Brad guy, and why is he doing all the work? ;)

Thanks for the update!

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So... telling people to work faster?

This.

So many words in the OP when DarthBo summed it up nicely in 6.

Zep--

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What kind of ice cream works best for motivation?
It doesn't matter, as long as it's...*sunglasses*...scrumptious!

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SmashManiac, even in a regular development process you'd still want developers to be creative and notice the fine details. However, when you have a team, there's a need to sync each other.

I agree with that.

It's not that Scrum is the only option, but it is considered a much looser form of project management. You don't plan the timing of all the tasks as you would in other types of management and the team have a lot more say and influence on the process. Actually, shorter cycles make a lot of sense in game development since you'll be able to review results rather quickly and change direction early if that doesn't seem to reflect the vision.

What you're saying makes a lot of sense, although it doesn't quite seem to match the information contained in the original post in terms of time flexibility for individual tasks, at least in how the data is displayed to the team.

But in any case, it seems odd to me that the concept of a fixed development cycle is present, even if it's just a monthly one. It doesn't seem to be a system that is flexible enough in my opinion. Sure, you're going to waste a lot less time than if the entire project was planned in advance, but you're still going to lose all the time until the next monthly review for the tiniest of details. Not to mention, making any kind of daily report takes a lot of time on the long run and most of it is wasted on the obvious or the pointless. The whole revision process needs to be continuous and event-based in my opinion to be fully effective.

I don't think having a time goal means downgrading the quality, it's a question of the goals. It's not considered bad for the developer to say he/she didn't make it, there's usually a good reason for it. In most cases I have seen, quality was degraded because of lack of project management with no clearly defined goals requirements tend to change in mid process and the team doesn't really work in sync.

As I said earlier, having goals is usually a good thing, and I agree that they need to be clearly defined. In the context of video games however, they also need to be mutable. Clearly the job of the project manager is to make sure that the team follow the same set of goals and change them based on the team's feedback. My point however is that the project manager should not define individual schedules to synchronize the team, only priorities.

And yes, there is pressure when developing a game, or anything that has a budget for that matter. However, I don't think the people here are dissatisfied, at least as long as they get beer, ice cream and candy.

I might have been unclear, but my point was to avoid unnecessary pressure, not completely remove the pressure. Oh, and if anybody is motivated for their job simply because of free food or drinks, there's something seriously wrong somewhere.

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Oh wow. I can't believe I nearly missed this.

Thanks for sharing, Greg.

Scrumtious looks pretty cool! Having built some internal resource/job tracking software in the past, I can see that it would have had a profound impact on helping you guys feel that you could get through Scrums without worrying about losing track of where resources are going and how things are progressing from a bigger picture perspective (which I imagine is a concern when standups replace meetings and thorough reporting gets in the way of the scrum approach).

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Found your response very interesting, I'll only address some, because otherwise it will become too cluttered (and way too boring for others).

...it seems odd to me that the concept of a fixed development cycle is present, even if it's just a monthly one. It doesn't seem to be a system that is flexible enough in my opinion. Sure, you're going to waste a lot less time than if the entire project was planned in advance, but you're still going to lose all the time until the next monthly review for the tiniest of details. Not to mention, making any kind of daily report takes a lot of time on the long run and most of it is wasted on the obvious or the pointless. The whole revision process needs to be continuous and event-based in my opinion to be fully effective.

The cycles are said to be between a week and a month so there is that flexibility. I believe most of the status data comes from the standup meeting. From what I have seen managing this meeting effectively is an art of its own and this skill is not easy to find.

I don't think having a time goal means downgrading the quality, it's a question of the goals. It's not considered bad for the developer to say he/she didn't make it, there's usually a good reason for it. In most cases I have seen, quality was degraded because of lack of project management with no clearly defined goals requirements tend to change in mid process and the team doesn't really work in sync.

As I said earlier, having goals is usually a good thing, and I agree that they need to be clearly defined. In the context of video games however, they also need to be mutable. Clearly the job of the project manager is to make sure that the team follow the same set of goals and change them based on the team's feedback. My point however is that the project manager should not define individual schedules to synchronize the team, only priorities.

I recently had a similar discussion with someone else (not here, in real life) so it's nice to see another view. I think management by priorities alone is tough to implement. In my experience priorities do not exist totally independent of effort estimates. Smaller effort tasks usually provide greater value, but only the implementer can provide the real estimate. In some projects however, it's possible to let each person write their own user stories breakdown and then have the project manager sync them.

Actually the main factor is that different people need different management techniques. Some individuals prefer something looser, some prefer it more hands on. In that aspect, a smart project manager, (or actually a smart manager) should know when to apply each case. What I'm saying is that whether or not this management becomes something useful or annoying part of the work depends more on the person who runs it, than the method.

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Hey! I work with scrum too and it is nice to know that you use it as well. In my humble opinion, it is a great methodology :)

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So you go waterfall near the end of development for most games, and scrum for the rest? Oooh.

We do a waterfall schedule for the project up front, but just a very high level one for the milestones. There are no tasks, just things like "pre-production ends here, alpha begins here, etc." We then have multiple sprints between milestones and those sprints are fairly scrum-y. However, as you say everything gets more waterfall near the end. Also, not all disciplines are the same. We've found that scrum works really well for programming and design through much of development, but that much of art production actually is more efficient as a waterfall.

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