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Using SCRUM in indie game development

In game development there is not any magic formula for success; the whole process is trial -> result -> learn. SCRUM methodology fosters the learning and improve the responsibility of each member of the team.

Introduction

For Hover Cabs we choose to use the Scrum-ban methodology to manage the game development. This post is not to explain you how SCRUM actually works, since there are a lot of free sources on the Internet that will explain it better than us.This post is to share the way we implement it since there is not so much information for small teams. From our point of view the best of this methodology at the very end is:

 

1. each team member is responsible of the project

 

2. you will foster learning more than the game itself

 

those principles, as you can easily notice if gamedev, are criticals for every team. We all know that a good game can be successful, a bad one will surely not. At the end of the day, the team is what remains in a company, and it grows up with its experiences. In every case the team should learn a lot, to take the maximum advantage independently from results. Responsibility and learning should be strongly encouraged, and SCRUM marries this philosophy perfectly. The kanban is an enhance which gives a clear visualization of the work stages.

Personas

Our workflow starts with Personas which are descriptions of possible players. We have to start with some assumption, since we do not have any player yet. Write down imaginary profiles for our future players helps us to drive the design toward them: that means to play better with engagement and retention, design side. An example of Persona:

 

John, 28 years old car mechanic from U.S.A.
He wants to have the time to play games, but he hasn’t. Anyway he owns a Nokia Lumia 520 and loves to download free games to play while at job. He cannot spend too much time and he is more likely to play during pauses at work. He has friends on Facebook and doesn’t use to pay a cent to play freemium games.
Goal:
  • clear goals
  • few controls
  • social game
  • short game sessions (average)

 

Personas will become Play Personas once the game is released and we will get a clear idea of their behavior through tracking and direct feedback.

Stories

Basing on Personas we wrote down the concept document generating player’s stories: those are a great way to divide the problem into subproblems in order to conceive all the tasks each member of the team should satisfy to solve it. Here it is some example of story:

 

As a/an

I want to...

so that...

KPI

newbie

see the taxi going alone

I can focus on dodge and take passengers

engagement

casual

see my winnings in the summary: rewards, kilometers

I will have the sensation of my mastery

engagement

casual

encounter obstacles during my trip

I will have a clear challenge

engagement

newbie

use gestures to control my taxi cab

I can get the feeling of move it with my fingers

engagement

newbie

have a new track from the second time I play

I can have the feeling of variety in the game

quality

casual

have a vertical layout

I can use my phone with a single hand

engagement

newbie

choose whenever to carry a passenger or not

I can choose to run for money or for km

engagement

we use to distinguish the players in 3 categories:

1. newbie: the players in the first day
2. casual: the players with normal retention and low engagement
3. advanced: the players with high retention and engagement

Every Sprint has the goal to solve a set of stories which are chosen from the product backlog and considered to satisfy the basic Sprint goal: to develop a potentially shippable game. Each story is enriched with a class of metric that will be tracked and we use the categories suggested in this post.

The Kanban

Four our kanban we use the typical  four columns:

  • To Do: tasks which are not taken from anyone

  • Doing:

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