So this has been a fun week.
For the first time in the last three months I've been given the opportunity to really focus on doing production work. This work has taken the form of creating a schedule for a team of about 15 people, projecting about three months ahead. In the past we've been working a heavily modified agile process which, while mostly functional, wasn't all that organized and led to some longish nights at the office.
So now, after establishing some project requirements ahead of time - about three months worth - we're in a position to do some serious scheduling. We started by collecting requirements, doing some design work, breaking the work down into tasks that can be handled by individuals, and collecting estimates. Based upon the availability of our team members and our work schedule, I've been able to come up with a schedule baseline for the next couple of weeks. I'll be able to tighten it up tomorrow once I've had the opportunity to talk to the artists and to see where they're at with their work. The design and tech schedules still need some work. I should be able to get estimates and to knock out the tech schedule pretty soon, but it's going to be tough scheduling the design team simply because design is difficult to schedule. The reason that a lalrge number of prominent industry studios are switching to more agile project methods is because game design is really, really hard to timebox and its probabilistically impossible to build accurate design documents for fun games at the beginning of a long-term project.
I keep thinking that maybe I can try to find some correlation between game production and film production, to see how time lines and dates are built out in other creative media and see if there's any carryover, but the problem, at least insofar as film is concerned, is that the majority of the really expensive, time-consuming creative stuff is planned out beforehand in the form of a script. Yeah run-on sentences. Anyway, I've been looking into more agile stuff lately, but I'm still not at a point in my knowledge of the methodology where I can make a strong case for it to the bosses. The REAL problem with running things agile is that in most cases making the switch requires a pretty huge change in the cultural mindset.
Hey... that sounds like an excellent topic fora blog post. Next week?