3. Contractor Management.
We underestimated just how much time was required to manage contractor submissions. We knew it would be time consuming, but even with that expectation, the combination of art directing and art production was more work than we had time to do. We were short on producers and our artists were scheduled to produce content on their own. We didn’t have enough bandwidth available for reviewing submissions in a timely manner. We realized too late that our production phase requires an intense focus on the work coming in from the contractors. Focusing our internal efforts on the contractor feedback loop should have been a higher priority for our art direction team.
4. Not enough producers, falling through the cracks.
Our project director doubled as our producer. This was bad. We let a few aspects of production fall through the cracks and as a result ended up dealing with our scenery object build and the game shell during post-production. It’s hard to believe we didn’t have the foresight for this, but our model requires serious production management. There are tons of assets to track and multiple parties contributing to the process. To think we shipped this game without a full-time producer is nuts.
5. Crunch Avoidance System—Failed.
I had this crazy idea that since the bulk of the work was being done by contractors, we would be managing them to deadline and we at Wideload wouldn’t have to work crazy long hours. This logic was used to form the basis of our “crunch avoidance system,” and it was an abject failure.
We crunched for a solid three months, which isn’t too bad relative to past experiences, but is way worse than zero. Because we let some major components slip into post-production and were four months behind schedule, and we let ourselves get behind on contractor approvals, we ended up with more than post-production tasks during our post-production phase. Quality of life is a big issue for game developers. It certainly is for me, having young kids at home. I still hope to create a better work/life balance using this model.
On future projects, we will endeavor to keep production phase deliverables comfortably within our production phase. For us, the key to this is good production management and timely feedback to our contractors. If we can focus on post-production during the last three months, we can avoid working double duty through the end of the project.