Video games may be fun and exciting, but that doesn’t mean they materialize out of candy and rainbows. Putting together a game is very rough work. Failure or financial ruin is always hovering over a project, not to mention worker burnout and frustration.
On the other hand, nothing ventured, nothing gained–and working through a project doesn’t have to be as perilous as navigating a minefield. A bit of preparation, foresight, and common sense goes a long way. Here are five ways to better manage your own game projects.
Put the right person on the right job — Marc Mencher, industry veteran and president of GameRecruiter.com, suggests that good management starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each individual on a team. From there, you can assign roles accordingly.
“The four main behavioral styles are Directors, Socializers, Thinkers and Relaters,” says Mencher. “Identifying styles is important when you are considering what work functions to assign or delegate.”
Putting team members on the jobs they’re best suited for helps make for efficient–and happier–workers.
Assemble a proper project structure — In 2009, Bruce Everiss, another games industry veteran, wrote an extensive piece about what companies can do to better manage their projects. Step one: listen to the folks who know what they’re doing.
“I have been asked how I would manage the process of making a game, something I have never done,” Everiss admits, “but it is an area that is notoriously inefficient. Obviously [were] I in such a position I would take a lot of advice.”
Beyond that, Everiss says, it’s vital to have a strong “boss”–a leader who acts as a “mini CEO.”
“[The Boss] would be responsible for street date and budget and would have absolute right of hire and fire. To a large degree he would be autonomous of the development/publishing company that employed him. [H]is knowledge of games would be secondary to his knowledge of management.”
Be a leader who listens and studies — Is it advisable for a Boss to head a project if he or she doesn’t have absolute knowledge of video games? Both Everiss and Mencher believe it’s possible for a business-minded leader to put together a killer game–as long as he or she puts full trust into his or her artists, designers, and programmers.
Moreover, Mencher says that it’s important for a project leader to acquire knowledge of games in some manner, as doing so will help steer the project away from big design mistakes that have been made by past games. “If [you’re] running a project, [even] playing or watching several YouTube or GameTrailers videos’ related to the game being created will assist the Project Manager in knowing what the competition did right or wrong and not make the same mistake.”
Incorporate “Agile” methodology — Mencher advises project leaders to utilize Agile methodology. But what does that mean, exactly?
“Agile involves team members in the game’s creation and development by giving them an accurate representation of the workload,” Mencher explains. “[It] is a method for developing products using short iterations. Each iteration is like a short game project in itself. This technique uses inspect and adapt practices to adjust the game development project plan.”
Learn publishing practices — Finally, Mencher reminds future project leaders that it helps to know how to navigate the red tape that winds around each game platform, and stands between the finished game and publication. In other words, a project leader who familiarizes him or herself with the approval practices of Apple, Sony, Nintendo, etc as soon as possible will avoid a headache later on.
“While this is not a hard process to learn again, having some prior [publishing] experience does make the job easier to perform,” says Mencher. “But it’s not essential.”