The Development of a Dev: Prototyping
Over the past few weeks I have been rapidly prototyping games on multiple different teams. For three weeks we changed teams each week and developed one or more prototypes to present to our studio (class section) head and members. The prototypes needed to demonstrate the game concept, game loop, and what makes it fun in some form, whether physical or electronic. We essentially needed to show that our prototype had the essence, or potential to be a successful game. After those three weeks we chose a prototype to develop further in our current teams in preparation for greenlight; but more on that later. I am going to first talk about what went well in the prototyping process and what I would have done differently
The strongest week of prototyping that my teams had occurred during the third and last week of this process. For this week our team landed on a concept that we wanted to develop in VR. This choice led to a lot of learning that needed to be done in the space of a week and my team handled it very well. Each team member was very aware of their own capabilities and worked hard to identify what they needed to do to deliver a satisfying product. For myself personally, I had never worked in VR or played any current VR titles so I was fairly lost when it came to the marketplace for VR games. I acknowledged this at the beginning of the project to my teammates and then immediately began to research all aspects of the market as much as I could without actually being hands on with a VR headset. This mindset, which was shared by the team, also benefited our creative process. We communicated well and everyone had ideas for the team to consider, however the most important part of this process was the team member's willingness to accept that their idea wasn't the best for the game or even that it wasn't the best period. This combination of communication, acceptance, and iteration helped us develop a really unique concept with a lot of room to grow. A bonus of this successful prototyping week is that we finished with real gameplay that simulated our first level.
Improvements to be Made
However, not everything was perfect. There are two major things that I would like to improve about my development practices and one thing I would like to change about the process that we went through. The first issue I'd like to improve on involved the team I was on that I described above. While we quickly molded well together and ended with a quality product, we started the project in a very rough way. To put it simply, our sprint planing sucked and that was on me as the ScrumMaster, the most organized team member, and as the member most experienced in scrum. Something could be said for having to plan our sprint directly after we developed our game idea because we only had a week to work with, however, I should have had a concrete plan for how the team should organize themselves as they plan the sprint. After that meeting, I developed a set order of topics for the next week (sprint goal, team member goals, user stories, tasks) which worked very well for us, but I anticipate will only work best for small teams like ours (5 people). As our team grows I will adapt this methodology ahead of time or scrap it and start anew if it isn't working. The second topic of improvement for myself is my usage of feedback; particularly feedback that was given to a team that I am no longer on. By this I mean that I need to work on applying feedback my previous teams have gotten to the situation and team that I am currently on. I am good at using personal feedback, but translating and adapting team wide feedback from one team to another is something I need to work on. Lastly, I would change the process of changing teams each week to only developing new prototypes each week and staying on the same teams. I like the idea of working with as many people as possible to gain experience; however with one week turnarounds it is nearly impossible to maintain quality development practices and produce an interesting and provoking prototype while also learning to work with all new people. I believe that working with the same people for three sprints (weeks) will allow teams to focus on improving their prototyping skills and providing more quality options for the teams to go forward with in regards to greenlight.
Speaking of greenlight, as I hinted at before, my team went though cuts and we will be on-boarding new members this week! We have been working on this project for two weeks as five people and will be doubling our team size as we continue production. If you are interested, take a look at our current gameplay demo!