Game Development during Covid 19 situation

By March 28, 2020Games

Hel­lo my friends!

Giv­en the times ahead of all of us, we’ve decid­ed to write a blog post about remote game devel­op­ment, some­thing that in the next months (or years?) will be nec­es­sary for all stu­dios. Our team has always worked suc­ces­ful­ly in remote dur­ing the last 10 years, so prob­a­bly we have a tip or 2 for you.

We hope that this post will be use­ful for all the teams that are approach­ing this new kind of inter­nal reor­ga­ni­za­tion. our team is rather small (com­posed by 7 devel­op­ers: 2 pro­gram­mers, 1 game design­er, 1 sound design­er, 1 2D artist and 2 3D mod­ellers), but I think this method can be applied even to larg­er teams of 20 or more.

Here are the 10 sug­ges­tions for Smart Work­ing in game devel­op­ment:

1) PERIODIC REMOTE MEETINGS:

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is obvi­ous­ly a must, and it’s some­thing that has to be done in all forms: Email, Chat, Voice Chat and Video Chat are all essen­tials.
Here some of the best soft­wares that we use for this:

Skype (main­ly for chat­ting and voice)
Dis­cord (for chat­ting)
Zoom (for video con­fer­ences)
Slack (for chat with the whole team and team groups)

The project man­ag­er must ensure that every­one is updat­ed on the game: is the key fig­ure that must com­mu­ni­cate con­tin­u­ous­ly with every­one.

It’s impor­tant to com­mu­ni­cate only the essen­tials dur­ing work­ing hours in order not to make time wast­ed for every team mem­ber.
1 Voice chat with the whole team every 1 or 2 days is the right choice in order to keep every­one updat­ed on the game project.

Teamwork Online: The ultimate guide to high performance remote teams

2) TASK TRACKING

the sec­ond most impor­tant thing is to keep track of every­thing that has been done by every team mem­ber. Depend­ing on the team size I would sug­gest the fol­low­ing soft­wares:

Trel­lo (for small­er teams from 2 to 10)
Jira (for larg­er teams from 10 to 50)
Mon­day (for large teams from 50 to 100)

The most impor­tant thing is to add dead­lines oth­er that tasks for every team mem­ber.
Also I would sug­gest to add depen­den­cies in order to keep track of what is best to give pri­or­i­ty to: you have to avoid the case in which a team mem­ber has to wait for anoth­er to com­plete his task.

Create A Board | Getting Started with Trello

3) USE OF REPOSITORY

The use of repos­i­to­ry is some­thing that needs to be done always and is use­ful so that every team mem­ber can access the project and add his assets.
Here some of the best soft­wares for this:

Source­Tree

GitHub

Bit­buck­et

Per­force

We main­ly use Source­Tree, but since it’s not meant for game devel­op­ment, it some­time has prob­lems due to con­flict­ing branch­es and files size.
Prob­a­bly with larg­er teams and projects, the best soft­ware to use is Per­force.

If a team mem­ber does not know how to use it well enough, or does not know the game engine, is always bet­ter to make him send his asset files to a spe­cial­ized team mem­ber: he’ll be able to inte­grate with more effi­cien­cy the assets, with­out the risk to break the whole project.

Sourcetree | Free Git GUI for Mac and Windows

4) FREQUENT FEEDBACK

Fre­quent and clear feed­back from team mem­ber super­vi­sors are indeed impor­tant, and must con­tin­ue through­out the whole day.
When work­ing remote­ly, you do tend to work in a bit of a vac­u­um and it can feel like you have no idea whether you are doing a good job or not, unless you get lots of feed­back.

Feed­back can be pro­vid­ed direct­ly with screens or mini videos that can help to under­stand what is the actu­al feed­back refer­ring to.

A use­ful soft­ware is Teamview­er, used to con­trol direct­ly a com­put­er from anoth­er: we use it inter­nal­ly even when two pro­gram­mers need to work on the same script file.

Bridging the Gap with Remote Team Collaboration | Cheesecake Labs

5) ORGANIZED DOCUMENTATION

Doc­u­men­ta­tion is impor­tant to be clear and pre­cise, you can’t afford to have docs that are not under­stand­able by the whole team.
If this occurs, the project man­ag­er should improve the doc­u­men­ta­tion or even rewrite it com­plete­ly.

This includes both tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion, game design doc­u­men­ta­tion and assets doc­u­men­ta­tion.

The real­i­ty is that the sin­gle devel­op­er is going to make a lot of deci­sions in a vac­u­um with­out feed­back most of the time, so hav­ing as much back­ground as they can is nec­es­sary so that the deci­sions he takes are fair­ly good.
Be sure that every­one is using the same soft­ware for writ­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion (Word and OpenOf­fice are the most com­mon ones) since pass­ing files from one user to anoth­er could cre­ate prob­lems.

Writ­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion through cloud ser­vices is prob­a­bly the best way to avoid any kind of prob­lem: we usu­al­ly use Google Docs since it includes even sheets and files for pre­sen­ta­tions. Every­one can edit the same file online in real time.

HR Documentation: A Step-By-Step Guide - Insperity

6) RESPECT THE WORKING HOURS

It’s easy to be dis­tract­ed when you work at home, but is fun­da­men­tal not to lose time or even work out­side work­ing hours.

Since you have your lap­top at every hour of the day, it’s pos­si­ble that you’ll some­times work extra hours, but we would rec­om­mend not to do this: a lot of sci­en­tif­ic papers found out that work­ing too much hours with­out the right bal­ance will inevitably cause a long-term low­er­ing of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

At the same time is easy to lose con­cen­tra­tion due to the house­hold chores you have to do: you have to find a room in your house that is suf­fi­cient­ly iso­lat­ed in order to avoid this.

Typing jobs! Work at home and get paid - create a side job and ...

7) KEEP MORALE HIGH

Be dis­tract­ed is as easy as los­ing the morale for a team mem­ber.
Work­ing remote­ly is nev­er easy, so try not to be too pre­ten­tious with your team mem­bers: since you’re always dis­tant, is easy to be offend­ed or mis­un­der­stood.

You can try to use extra hours for exter­nal team activ­i­ties like play­ing an online videogame! This can def­i­nite­ly improve team bond­ing.

Motivating Your Team: How to keep morale high | Udemy

8) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT

You prob­a­bly have a Game Design Doc­u­ment for your game, and every­one needs to fol­low it as much as pos­si­ble.

One sug­ges­tion we have, is to write more than one GDD: in addi­tion to the in-depth and long main doc­u­ment, oth­er short­er and more con­cise docs needs to be writ­ten in order for every team mem­ber to eas­i­ly access it.

The short­er docs could even be ad hoc for every team group (one for sound design­ers, one for 3D mod­el­ers etc).

Use always Google Docs so that every­one can eas­i­ly access them with­out the need to down­load large files.

Professional Game Design Document by lhodgesdesign - issuu

9) MARKETING YOUR GAME

Don’t for­get to con­tin­ue to mar­ket your game!
Even if you can’t attend any­more to gam­ing events and con­fer­ences, this does­n’t mean that you can’t con­tin­ue to reach mil­lions of gamers.

Online social mar­ket­ing is today prob­a­bly the most effi­cient way to present your game to the pub­lic in rela­tion to vis­i­bil­i­ty and earn­ings.

Social media cam­paigns on Face­book, Insta­gram, Twit­ter, Google Ads, Red­dit and Linkedin are prob­a­bly the most effi­cient ones.
So keep­ing your gamers updat­ed and engaged on your games even in these dif­fi­cult times is the key.

5 Tips for DIY Mobile Game Marketers - Chartboost

10) PERIODIC REAL LIFE MEETINGS

This is some­thing that I would sug­gest in nor­mal times, but of course is start­ing to be almost impos­si­ble to meet your team in real life dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

The real life meet­ings are essen­tial and we think needs to be done at least one every two weeks:
This helps to focus on the game direc­tion and even to strength­en team union.

If real life reunions are impos­si­ble, we would sug­gest to at least make a video con­fer­ence call using Skype or Zoom.

Illustration Meeting by ziunnnlai on Dribbble

11) FIND THE BEST WORKPLACE

It would­n’t be a game devel­op­ment guide if it did­n’t have some extra con­tent :)

One last sug­ges­tion is to find your best work­place at home: if you have a note­book, you can work almost every­where and will be tempt­ed to work in the most unimag­in­able places (on your sofa or the toi­let for exam­ple), but we would sug­gest to find the place where you will have in the most cor­rect pos­ture.

Your back will thank!

work from home illustration by Sanket on Dribbble

Here you can find oth­er use­ful arti­cles about remote devel­op­ment:

Writ­ten by Jake Simp­son:
Work­ing Remote­ly: Yes, It Sounds Good, But How Do You Actu­al­ly Do It?

Writ­ten by Robert Del­laFave:
Work­ing Remote­ly: Man­ag­ing an Inde­pen­dent Game Devel­op­ment Team

Writte by Daniel Doan:
GameDev Thoughts: How To Man­age A Remote Game Devel­op­ment Team