Do you have any overarching tips for how to successfully schedule a game so that it finishes on time and on budget?
Robbie Edwards: As mentioned previously, knowing where you are and where you want to go are critical in making sure you get there. Have a good vision for your game. Be able to identify what features are critical to your game. Then, as production moves forward, constantly evaluate your progress against your vision. Know where to focus your efforts and be willing to cut your losses. I think many people get attached to particular ideas or features and lose sight of the bigger picture. This attachment leads them to make costly choices that ultimate damage their product as a whole.
Frank Rogan: About the best overarching advice is to take a page from Peter Drucker and recognize “they’re not employees, they’re people.” Analog world, not digital. Make your plans with that in mind. But at the risk of sounding even more glib, there’s no magic bullet here. You will always make mistakes. The project will be a constant compare-and-contrast effort with where you are and where you want to be, and what you’re doing with that others have found to be useful.
Adrian Crook: Yes. My tips are:
A) Identify the core vision of your game early, so your team knows what 3-5 features/game areas must be finished to 100%. If you're using Scrum, give these items high priority and work on them first so they get done as awesomely as humanly possible.
B) Be ruthless about cutting non-core features whenever you need to keep the team on track. Cut these features before any effort is applied to them so you can redirect efforts to higher ROI areas.
C) Have a hard ship date. An immovable ship date provides great clarity and efficiency for the creative decision makers on the team. As a result, issues that might normally get discussed for weeks are often solved in a day.
Peter O'Brien: Plan without your team, plan with your team. Project a realistic spec against your time line. Respect your team’s knowledge but don’t fail to question them if estimates or definitions are ‘woolly’. No one project is the same, no one process if perfect … change and adapt your project plans – be ready at any stage to do this. Develop a priority system and make the schedule visible in as many ways as you can – a wiki, a forum, calendar reminders, paper lists, white boards, wall planners; reinforce the importance of targets. Prepare to lose features. Be objective when it counts.
Try not to forget to remind the team they are a team and they are making a game; a good way to do this is to provide a platform where the team can share and/or discuss their work in various ways. Finally, don’t ever forget that a team is made up of individuals.
Harvard Bonin: Too many developers try to throw in the kitchen sink when creating a game. It's important to scope accordingly. A focused, polished game is far better than a sprawling, half done game. Put the features under the micoscope. Is everything really required? If you drop a feature can you spend time polishing and focusing on the important stuff? Is the feature you really want ever going to get the care and feeding it deserves? Better to cut things and improve the overall quality.
The opinions expressed by these producers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, plans or positions of the companies where they work at. If you are interested in being added to the interviewees for Producer Of The Round Table, please contact GameProducer.net.