Avoid The Video Game Time Crunch
Crunch situations are a part of any project, and with so many working parts in video game creation, all teams from art, audio, programmers, etc must have a clear understanding of what needs to be completed for each milestone, and for when.
The video game composer and sound designer are no different. A close tie to the entire production team is a must for a freelancer, as sometimes the composer is the last to know of any project changes or milestone dates.
A good producer will be the captain of the ship, and if that person is effective, crunches may not occur. Producers juggle all aspects of the project, so if you happen to work with one that is inexperienced or is not a good communicator, issues may arise. No one enjoys working, working, and working during a crunch, but it has to be done.
Here’s a few things that I do to avoid being overwhelmed at certain stages of a project.
* Have a plan – Sounds simple right? As a freelancer you may be working on more than one project at a time, and possibly for different companies. Having a detailed timeline of all projects and their various milestones is an imperative. Map it out, list all calendar dates and keep going back to it to check things off as they are completed.
*Read Your GDD – Review all game development document regularly and make sure that you receive any revisions. I’ve worked on some projects where the Dev Docs have changes 5 to 6 times during the project. Always make sure you have the up to date copies of all.
* Asset List Creation – Design detailed asset lists for each and all projects. This is your roadmap to timely completion of the project. I use Google Docs to create all asset lists and share them with the various game company people and clients in order for them to see my progress. As I complete certain tasks like music, loops, sound effects, etc. I update that list by highlighting the task, adding the date that I uploaded the music or effect, why I created the asset in this particular way, the decibel level it is mixed at, file type, and if there are multiple versions.
Each asset is coded based on my naming convention. The aforementioned shared asset list is the key to this. For example if there are more than one variation for an effect, it may be labelled EV_1_1, EV_1_2, and so on. I like to create versions of particular effects, as it gives the production team a choice upon implementation.
*Communicate With The Team – Upon the start of each project, I have the producer introduce me to the heads of each team. I’ll meet the art lead, I’ll meet the programmers for the project, and most important the implementation team. I always offer my services to help with the project implementation when that point comes. Implementation is something that I want to be apart of, as there could be various versions of music and effects, and I want my thoughts to be heard on why I may want certain things here or there. I usually take a hard drive and my computer with all of the sound effects and musical assets that I created for the project and sit down with the programmers and implementation crew as they add things. It’s also a neat learning experience as well.
* Don’t Miss Meetings – You sit in the studio all day working on the sound for a game, it’s quiet and sometimes a little disconnecting. Make sure you ask to attend meetings in order to see the other team members vision on the evolution of the project. Things always change, so it is best to know the changes as they occur. You won’t be caught short on time if you know what’s coming around the corner.
* Be Organized in the Studio – Make sure that you have a all of your effects, sample libraries, etc. organized efficiently in the studio. There’s nothing worse than hunting around for something on all of your hard drives. It’s just a waste of time. Also have backups of everything you create for the project and ensure proper labelling. Last year we recorded over 6,000 lines of dialogue alone for a children’s game project. Because we spent the time up front to file things with proper naming conventions and organized storage, it was easy to go back numerous times and pull things out and move things around on the client’s instructions.
*Be Prepared For Change – video game creation is an artistic endeavour, and in all things artistic, changes will occur. We always want to create the best product and that sometimes includes a revision of the basic plan. Being aware of this is important. Being able to react in a positive way is even more important. At the end of the day, no projects seems to run like clockwork, but this is what makes working on video games fun. Stay positive, and stay ready!