In a new Gamasutra postmortem, Zack Zero developers Carlos Abril and Alberto Moreno write that they cycled through a lot of tools for keeping a remote team working together until hitting just the right one.
"Not having offices has always been a problem while developing the game, although it did make us improve our pipeline, looking constantly for better ways to manage communication and task organization," the pair write.
"The biggest communication and organization challenge was amongst the art team. During the main production year, the team had two concept artists, one animator and two 3D artists, while some assets were outsourced."
Unfortunately, the game's small team didn't have a producer, which meant that nobody was organizing information and making sure it flowed smoothly.
Monthly meetings set tasks and direction, but they weren't enough on a day-to-day basis.
"The goal was to give 3D artists and animators enough information about what to do and how to do it before returning home; this way we would avoid daily task revision and tedious telephone, instant messenger, or Skype explanations," the pair write.
The first tool chosen was not up to the task, Abril and Moreno write. "When we started the project, the software we used for task management was MS Project, using email to communicate tasks to the people scattered in different places. That did not work. Communication is crucial."
"Later, we made a macro of the list of tasks, organized by user and priority, to upload to the wiki, with colors and comments to improve visibility. Wrong. We got neither feedback nor comments. We did have regular staff meetings with the task lists and work layout, but on a day-to-day basis it was impossible because of the overlap."
The team moved to Google Docs, but organization became a problem.
The team experimented with Basecamp, but didn't like its iPad version. Abril and Moreno finally settled on Teamwork. "It really is much more productive, more participatory and does not require a dedicated producer," they write.
"Each person could put in their own tasks, everyone saw everything and could make comments, view them and reply, so people could see the changes and feel more involved. When you finish a task or make a change, it appears in the general list of changes sorted by date, so arriving early in the morning you could see what people had done, comment, see the result and see if anyone needed anything."
The full feature, in which the ups and downs of the PlayStation Network downloadable game are fully detailed, is live now on Gamasutra.