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  • Choosing A Project Management Tool For Game Development

    - Meredith Hall


    Devices Supported: 
    Web, iOS
    Pricing Tiers: 
    Starts at $10 per user, per month

    Assembla has been described by some devs as a nice middle ground - good utility, without being over complicated, all the features you could need with each project being able to be assigned its own feature set. The ability to integrate other features and programs and managing version control can be helpful.

    If you're engaging in a large number of commits, it also has a lot of support. Assembla claims to offer the fastest commit performance with 99.99% uptime, so if reliability is a focus, Assembla could be a good bet. With automated backups, optional managed offsite backups, and per commit snapshots Assembla is highly focused on security and asset protection. Assembla allows you to either focus on this cloud-hosted source control approach (with a limit on the content you can host) or the PM side.

    However, it seems recently Assembla has gone through some pricing changes that make it slightly less accessible to your average team considering the functionality it provides. It also contains a lot of features that aren't necessarily useful for most teams. You might be able to get more bang for your buck elsewhere if you are using a paid program, or even get the functionality you need with a free option. It also behaves a lot like Trello visually, so you may find paying for the same sort of layout doesn't gel well for your team if you're less worried about managing version control to such an extent.

    Good For:

    • Small to large teams working across multiple assets or projects
    • A middle ground option of utility and difficulty of use
    • You have concerns about your version control
    • Protecting assets with backups and cloud hosting being managed for you
    • You want a more technical approach to your PM or have lots of data to manage

    Probably Not Worth It If:

    • You want a clean easy to use UX design
    • You don't want to spend too much on your PM
    • You are far more design focused than data focused in your projects


    Devices Supported: 
    Web, Desktop, iOS, Android
    Pricing Tiers: 
    $10 for 1-10 users, $2,000 for 11-25 and increases per users

    I have a big personal unfair bugbear with JIRA, because I was forced into using it at a previous job where it had been grandfathered in and not improved upon in years. However, I am aware that this isn't directly JIRA's fault - it is an incredibly powerful tool, so it warrants a spot here. I reached out to Jason Imms who swears by it and gave a lot of information as to why for me to frame this section. Jason Imms runs a quality assurance firm called The Machine QA, and has a huge wealth of experience in helping game developers set up and track their project management.

    JIRA is capable of working across a huge number of different methodologies, so you can tailor it to both your team and your workflow. It is indeed complex, but this complexity lends to its capability, allowing teams to set up per-issue-type custom workflows to fit those more specific needs. You can also create public-facing forms to let external users log bugs directly into your system, rather than manually adding information from emails or threads, reducing time across your team.

    JIRA provides editable issue creation forms and field integration, making either simple, straightforward forms to highly complex and nuanced fields. This can improve reporting, searching, and reduce user error leading to issues getting lost (something that was a huge problem in a previous role for myself.) It has a mature plugin marketplace, meaning again, you can extend it to fit your needs.

    However (and here is where personal opinion comes in!), it does require a fair amount of set up. It's not a get up and go program, but if you customize it as needed, you could set up your game approach with a powerful, all-encompassing management system with as many ways to view, report, log and check in on your project health as you could ever dream of. It's also not particularly pretty to look at or interpret, especially if you don't have a strong understanding of other people's roles and issues.

    If you're a large studio, or working across multiple projects and countries, JIRA might be exactly what you need. If you can find the right plug-ins to present it in a way your team will respond to (e.g. visually appealing) then you can also circumnavigate some of the issues JIRA presents. This all takes time however, which for small teams or teams without dedicated producers, could be a big ask.

    Good For:

    • Much larger established teams working across multiple assets or projects who need to be able to customize every facet of their project tracking
    • Very small teams working on projects that need clear tracking
    • Teams who are well-versed in what they want to track within their game
    • Projects that will have a large online or multiplayer community that will need extensive, detailed issue and bug tracking or receive a large amount of community feedback

    Probably Not Worth It If:

    • Your team is highly visual and responds better to more appealing UI/UX design
    • You want to add more real-time communication without resorting to plug-ins
    • You don't have a lot of time or resources to manage a complex system/set it up
    • You don't have a lot of money to use for your project management but have over 10 people on board

    In Conclusion

    There really is no one program fits all and with the speed of project management tool improvements, methodologies, and new software coming to market, it is always going to be difficult to find the right one.

    What every studio needs to do is determine what is important to them in their project management - pricing, reporting, bug tracking and so on and so forth and find the closest fit within the myriad of options. It is all too easy to become grandfathered into a system that isn't efficient, so I highly encourage those working on new small projects (or even just during rapid prototyping!) to dip their toes into trying different tools.

    Personally, I lean towards high customization visual boards focused purely on general project management that let me flex out into both the games side of PM and business - like Monday and Asana. These seem to work better for my team (maybe due to having more designers than developers, or just because we seem to gravitate towards knowing at a glance without too much reading)- but YMMV.

    No matter your team size, project size, or approach - frequently, consistently, and critically examine how the way you work and what you use is improving or impeding your project delivery.

    I welcome all criticism, addition of pros and cons, recognition of mistakes, concerns, nitpicks - anything. I am by no means well versed in all of these tools, but I believe we need to examine more closely the tools we are relying on to deliver our games both internally and externally, and encourage ongoing discussion.

    A big shout out to Chris Bam HarrisonDean L LongmoreJair McBain and Saf (@Wanderlustin on Twitter) for proof-reading and feedback and to Jason Imms for being utterly patient and wonderful when it comes to sharing his wonderful knowledge with someone who grumps at JIRA.

    With massive thanks in no particular order to the following contributors, who gave their feedback and wonderful experience with using different tools either directly or indirectly via Twitter and in person. This would not exist without you!

    Jordan CarrollSean D.AsatiirBashar AbdullahLucy MorrisRobin Vilain, @qorquiq, @hookkshot, @JessMWoodward @gigahorsedeluxe @princeofjunes @oldloths @thestorysinger @danoli3 @reelax1 @turbosteve_ @tonywalsh @chiefraconteur @emre_c_deniz @wanderlustin @denverskyline @karabaos @tacolamp @catherinecel @mahatmandie @furansishu @knight666 @critterdust @craigtimpany @philnelson @like100bears @shikaboom @lightford @disisdaadam @totallyleggit @timesntroubles @oh_cripes @nadershamma @ericmcquiggan


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