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  • Lessons In Making A Serious Game During A Crisis

    [06.30.20]
    - Kim Kupiainen

  • The Artists made a huge amount of beautiful art. The tasks on behalf both programmers and artists were super heroic at times. The team didn't exactly understand the concept of Scrumban, or retrospectives, even as I had done my best to explain to them how they should be done and why.

    I had given a course on how Hacknplan works, and how it is used in the beginning of the project, and said that there should never be a task that's over 8 hours long. If it's past that, then we should divide it into multiple tasks.

    In hindsight, I think that I should not have given a spoken course about project management, but instead let the team learn together with me and practice logging tasks and building plans beforehand. If I want to build an environment that's beneficial for learning, play has to be a part of work. And such it should be especially in the beginning.

    I was thinking that you can't do and learn at the same time. Which in a way is true, but doing creates routines. So by "playing" that we're doing something would've been more beneficial, than this 1 hour course of hacknplan project management features, guides and pipelines.

    The biggest task in the backlog is currently around 63 hours. It's done, but it hasn't helped me do my project management part of my job well. However we were surviving to my knowledge until the finish line. And we went through this same problematic theme in 3 different retrospectives. This makes me think that maybe it didn't help to talk about this, because the "wrong pipeline" had been learned already. The only way I could correct it is to have people unlearn it and relearn a better way.

    I was sick for two weeks in the half point of February. At that point our asset prioritizing mainly consisted of singular objects that didn't linearly add value to the gameplay.When I asked our art lead about them being finished he said they're done. We didn't exactly share the train of thought about what "done" stands for. I thought that done means that the art assets are made, and implemented to the engine for programmers to use. However all the assets were sitting for some time in dropbox, waiting to be implemented instead of getting implemented and then calling them done. So that was the first misunderstanding with our Art lead.

    Cue Covid-19 rising up in Finland. At first it was just minor news. But it grew pretty fast, I said to my team that I'm pretty sure that in around in a week, we wouldn't be returning to the school for some time, and we should start mentally preparing for that. Unfortunately enough I was right. We started to learn to work from home. I built our team guidelines for working from home.

    1. Our official work times are from 08:00-16:00. However everyone's required to be present from 09:00-14:00 unless medical issues or some other major reason
    2. It's very easy to misunderstand people when communicating only through text. Rather use voice chat to elaborate and go through things in detail. but write it down.
    3. Keep all documentation related to our project in as few places as possible. Onedrive + Repo + Dropbox. Do not keep files in 38 different places and remember to always back up to a cloud! Never store on your C drive.
    4. Have a good firewall and antivirus, and even a VPN, on your computer. Don't let the kids play on the same machine that you use for work.
    5. Wash your hands. Keep the air in your room clean. Eat and sleep in a different room than you work in if possible.
    6. It can get lonely at home. Taking regular 5-minute breaks to stretch, grab some water, or talking quickly to a friend really helps. Try making your own lunch every day, or do meal prep on Sundays. Eating well will make you feel better. Also try to go for walks if possible.
    7. Turn off your communication channels once your workday has ended. You have a life outside of your role at work and it can be very easy for that idea to be lost when working from home. Remember to love yourself and to not over-work.
    8. We're a team and we're all in this together. There will be mistakes and growing pains. This is normal. Ask questions, be supportive, listen, and be patient.

    After the second half of the project. I became also the audio guy. I started learning FMOD, and after a 2 week intensive course I held to myself, I could successfully use FMOD pretty fluently, because I have studied Audio-engineering and graduated as a media-assistant. It took me around 2 more weeks to make around 135 sounds to our game, in addition to the soundtrack with 8 songs, of which I made 6 of while doing project management to the best of my ability.

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