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  • Productivity Tools That Will Keep Your Team Organized

    - Ryan Sumo

  • From Google Sheets to (Sometimes) Airtable

    Google Sheets is a great all around spreadsheet app that you can access from almost anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. It doesn't do anything special, but in the hands of an expert like our designer Tristan, you can make magic with it.

    Airtable is an app that lets you do some of that magic and much more without a lot of effort. It feels a little like Spreadsheets 3.0 (with Spreadsheet 1.0 being the actual paper spreadsheets), adding functionality to spreadsheets that can make them much more easier to parse at a glance. For example, while designing our research items, we decided that they would be arranged like a tree, with some items being unlocked by research a "parent" item. Noting down the parent of a research item in a spreadsheet is easy enough, but hunting down items with the same parent can be a chore, even if you take the time to color coordinate the cells properly (which can be time consuming in itself).

    With Airtable, it only takes a couple of clicks to instantly rearrange and group the data by "parent", which is a godsend when we are doing internal QA to make sure that everything is working properly in the game. Even better, you can parse this data by grouping it according to two different fields. So for example I could organize the data by way of parent and research cost, allowing me to know which research items that have the same parent cost the same amount.

    Airtable's complexity is also what makes it annoying to use sometimes. For example, coloring a cell is something that anyone who has used a spreadsheet does on a regular basis. I often do this when I want to indicate that a specific task is done, by highlighting it in green. Airtable's free version doesn't let you do this seemingly simple task, meaning if I want to do the same thing, I would have to create a new column, assign it as a "checkmark" type of field, and us this to check off items as I finish them. So while I highly recommend that studios use Airtable and its immense capabilities (of which I feel like I have only scratched the surface), sometimes good old Google Sheets is more practical to use. Luckily Airtable lets you import CVS files so if you start out using Sheets and deciding to move to Airtable, the process is painless.

    Bonus Tools : Bug Reports with Google Forms

    We currently use Google Forms as a bug reporting mechanism. While it's great and importantly, free, I have been wishing we could switch to a different service that was better at parsing the data we receive. It's great that Forms links seamlessly with Sheets, but all that data can be overwhelming to comprehend.

    I've done a little research into alternatives like Surveymonkey, but I've yet to see anything that would be exactly what we need, which is an affordable bug report website or app that parses out the bug report data in more understandable chunks. If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

    Bonus Tool 2 : Rescuetime

    We are a small team and we don't do the typical time tracking expected in a virtual team. This probably won't scale to a much larger team, but in general we've noticed that we tend to work longer hours than usual anyway, so asking people to time in and out just seems insulting.

    Instead, we suggest that people download Rescuetime and track their productivity on their own. It's a great free tool that helps you keep track of your computer time. We've found that most people are usually shocked at how little productive time they actually use during the day, and this helps give them an incentive to do better. The free tool lets you set goals (mine are to have at least 4 productive hours a day and to spend less than 30 minutes on social media during work hours) and is more than enough for the average person.


    I hope this will be useful for other devs and studios out there to give them an idea of the tools that they can use to help make the process of making games a little bit easier. It's important to note that these are the tools that work for Squeaky Wheel specifically. The best thing to do is to always try it out for yourself and see what works best for you and your team!

    Thanks for reading, and hope you found this useful! If you're interested in Academia: School Simulator, you can buy the game now! If you're not ready to buy, please sign up for our mailing list, join the Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our Youtube channel and help us spread the word!


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