Oh boy, okay this topic may sound boring, but damn is it important. No there is no way around doing a project well without doing proper project management. Hell, even if you do proper project management, the project may still be a failure and that’s a conclusion I feel I’ve come closest to with my most recent project “Joust!”.
Now that I am nearing the deadline for the game, I feel I can now comment on what game development is like when you have to manage a large team.
When I began this project I knew I wanted the level to look good, it’s a VR game after all. So, what I ended up doing was walking into an animation class at uni and gave them a short pitch about my game I’m making, and asked if anyone was interested. The reception to the idea was well praised and followed with a lot of interest. I jotted down the email addresses of 11 animators that wanted to work on my game. I was honestly only expecting 3 or 4 but this was welcomed, the more the better I thought.
Then came the part where I assigned tasks to people, being students, I wasn’t sure what their strengths were or who were the most reliable workers so I decided to take an approach that was more self-directed for the animators. I had written up an asset list of all the models, textures and animation I needed in order to make this game to the fullest extent of my design. This started of well I got a lot of people writing their names down for things, except the horses… Apparently nobody in the class was confident with modelling and animating animals so nobody wanted to do it. This is a moment where I had to turn to the Unity asset store as a backup, and that works out fine as a temporary solution until you get the game working the way you want it to. As long as everything else was getting done, it was no biggy.
A week went by and I see nobody has uploaded any work to the Google Drive folders I set up for each collaborator. A little bit of worry sets into why nothing was done but thought maybe I wasn’t clear enough about what I needed. Which after talking to some of them was exactly the issue. After this a Slack channel was made in order for them to ask at anytime what references I can give and feedback on progress etc. This is a very efficient tool for such things. But then… its only really efficient if your animators would actually join the channel. 1 week passes and only 4 of your animators join, what do you do? Well in my case, I decided to go into their class and reminded them to please join it. Another week goes by, 1 more is added to the channel and those that joined have sent no less than 5 messages on the channel, and still no work on Google Drive. So we are 3 weeks into the project after adding them. I’ve seen some of them just begin starting their tasks. But where’s the others? Do they remember what they had to do? Time for another plan to remind them.
I then begin to use the task planner “Hack n Plan” for the animators as well. This is a very robust but simple online task planner specifically made for game development.
I figured having a place where the animators can see what things they need to be doing, whats left, and the ability to see the broader scale of thing would be helpful to the cause. But in the end, this was also a mission to achieve, as it took a long time to even get the animators to even sign up and join this almost as difficult it was to get them to join the Slack channel.
There were a select few animators that stuck with it and did absolutely everything to follow the project, and if it weren’t for them I’d be pretty lost right now. So here’s another little thank-you for that if you’re reading!
Getting Things to Run More Smoothly Next Time…
Learning from this project management experience, I’ve come to realize that I can just accept everybody on board because they say they want to work on it on day 1. Asking for references by others was a good way to filter out who will work diligently for you when you need them. This did actually occur when I asked an animation student “who’s the best animator?” and the girl he mentioned was indeed the best worker I had making assets for me in the end. Sometimes it pays off to be blunt.
Secondly, get those to sign up and join all the channels you need them to from the get go. In person. This needs to be done THE day you sign them on. Otherwise they’ve already fallen behind and probably wont feel like working on it. (Extreme case right here)
Finally, oh god, I need to learn to under-scope a little more the size of this project was already big as soon as I mentioned VR. Having to deal with all these animators was also a hassle I did not for-see.
TL;DR: Make people do things by being blunt and pick good people to begin with!