Why Project Management is Valuable in Game Design and Production
May 28, 2013
•Game Design and Production, IADT General
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Many designers and producers in the gaming industry tend to shy away from traditional project management because they feel it stifles the creative environment. However, by implementing these easy management tips into your Game Design and Production process, you can increase productivity, meet deadlines and avoid conflict.
Work Breakdown Structures
Because of specialization, designers and producers typically work independently or on small teams to complete a segment of the game design process. Introducing Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) to everyone involved in the design and production of a game can allow you to see how the completion of each task impacts the work of the other designers and producers who are involved.
WBS is a project definition technique. When you are working independently, it may be hard for you to understand how your work and your deadlines impact the larger picture – creating a game is only possible through the work of many individuals collaborating as a team. Introducing project definition techniques allow individuals to come together as a group. Deadlines become more valuable when an individual realizes how their delays might impact the work of the entire team.
WBS techniques can also be used to define each person’s roles on the team. Bring your team together to share each person’s role. This can educate the entire team, so that each person on your team is aware of what their teammates are responsible for and who they may need to talk to if there is something wrong.
Game design and production can be a chaotic process. Because of this nature, many designers and producers reject conventional schedules.
Heather Maxwell Chandler, founder of Media Sunshine, Inc., argues that “the basic components of a useful schedule are tasks, estimates on how long each task will take, who is doing the task, and dependencies between tasks. While a specific deadline may be set in stone (i.e. the game must ship by Thanksgiving 2013), the schedule components usually offer a lot of flexibility so that this ultimate deadline can actually be met.” This allows you to determine what needs to be prioritized. Being aware of where you energy – and your resources – need to be focused can improve your productivity.
Using a task-oriented schedule is also more flexible, allowing you to quickly plug in different scenarios and adjust the timeline accordingly.
However, remember that most games do have a hard-deadline: a production date that must be met. The schedule is flexible, but the deadline is not. Make sure everyone involved in the process knows the timeline and how you plan to meet the deadline. Sharing the schedule with everyone involved unites the team and allows you to all work together to achieve this goal.
David Holston, author of The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, also recommends constructing your design process to include:
- The Design Brief: A document outlining the game concept, the direction you plan to take to create this game and all other relevant aspects of the design and production process. The Brief creates accountability for all individuals involved in the project. Also, if clients or other outside stakeholders are involved in the design process, having a brief may prevent them from interjecting costly or time-consuming changes.
- The Sign-Off: Specific times throughout the design and production process that allow clients, stakeholders and team members to check progress. Holston recommends doing sign offs before and after the concept phases, which allows designers to confirm the general direction before investing time and resources into the concept.
Holston’s design process can reduce stress and make time management easier. Incorporate these elements into your schedule to increase productivity and reduce designer-client relationship frustrations.
Make Meetings More Valuable
Chandler also recommends establishing weekly team meetings that bring together all the designers and producers. Agendas should be created before these meetings. Take notes and make sure that everyone on the team understands their assignments. Assignments should be clearly defined with follow up actions planned.
Meetings can serve a forum for distributing information and answering questions about the game design and production process. Bringing everyone together can allow for discussions, which may generate new ideas and allow individuals to receive feedback.
Most importantly, a weekly meeting ensures that at least once a week every member of your team is thinking about the game as a whole – rather than their individual parts.
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