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  • Choosing A Project Management Tool For Game Development

    [08.09.18]
    - Meredith Hall

    HacknPlan

    Devices Supported: 
    Web
    Pricing Tiers: 
    Free personal account with unlimited members
    Personal Plus $4EUR / month 
    Studio Plan $6EUR per seat /month

    HackNPlan is a PM tool made specifically for game development. The dream, right? Lots of people swear by HackNPlan purely based on the fact that it has been made specifically with game development in mind. It allows you to split your cards specifically by technical categories and milestones, making it easy to see who is responsible for what at a glance. Granted, this could be done in other PM software but HnP having it inbuilt is a great feature. When you finish a task, you can then log how long it took you to finish, making for solid tracking of dev time. It has the option to view tasks from all streams together, or individually, automatically creating teams as needed.

    It also provides integrated game design documentation, saving the need for Google Drive links or longer meetings. Unlike Trello, it adds the ability to look at a wide range of reporting tools to keep track of project health. If you're wanting a quick and easy way to get involved in PM for games in a way that streamlines the process for you, HackNPlan is worth checking out. Apparently, some of the features are locked behind the more premium plans, the interface can take some time to load, and it lacks some integration that are built in to other PM tools. The notification system can be either frustrating and nondescript, or doesn't give notifications on overdue tasks.

    Granted, I haven't used it myself - so I can't comment on its efficiency, only on the information I've been able to gather from others - but I'd love to know what people's experiences have been like with it.

    Good For:

    • Small to medium teams who want an easy way to categorize their tasks (by technical category etc.)
    • Teams who like to work iteratively across specific timelines
    • Teams who want integrated GDD and a focus on using this GDD
    • You don't have a lot to spend but want to work across a full team
    • You need more information for reporting purposes

    Probably Not Worth It If:

    • You want to set smaller milestones or more frequent sprints
    • You want to see the overview of the entire project
    • You want a consistently fast server connection and load time
    • You need a lot of specific features and customization
    • You need to integrate multiple other programs
    • Your project is huge in scale and requires a lot of high level approval and direct engagement
    • You want a more traditional PM tool to customize
    • You have a lot of team members and need to pay per seat

    Google Drive

    Devices Supported: 
    Web, Desktop, Android, iOS
    Pricing Tiers: 
    Free with 15gb of storage 
    Varies in pricing above this by size, up to 30TB for 299.99 per month

    A classic staple of game development, I don't know of a team that doesn't work at least somewhat within Google Drive. I find it's fantastic as a personal hub for my own documentation, created material, and so forth, as well as an easy to update shared Press Kit folder (never lose a logo again, and easily update screenshots!) and for shared lengthy documentation/spreadsheets that don't otherwise fit within a PM tool.

    For me, needing to put together a lot of pitches and external material means realistically, I couldn't live without Google Drive. This however isn't really the case for most teams. Many, if they find the right tool and are using it from the start (teehee, does that ever happen?) could integrate many of the needs they have into the tool itself. With many third-party apps, lots of in-app collaborations, flexible costs and easy sign-up and access, it can be a no brainer - especially with 15GB of free storage. Being able to collaborate in real time, leave questions to resolve later in meetings and work on the fly has improved our design doc processes and meeting efficiency by a lot. Sometimes you really do just need a blank document to work everything out and refine, and the version control is a bonus.

    However, Google Drive is limited in security features - while Google themselves are pretty reliable, there's no setting passwords for file sharing so security can be low if the link is passed into the wrong hands, and there is no native option for private encryption. I was curious how much some of the AAA studios would be using GD for high-level confidential information, but a developer advised me they used to scrape actual game data using GD at a AAA with no two-factor authorization activated. They used GD for publisher communications, internal or external spreadsheets, and the game data included things like 5m+ players information, troop stats, movement, events etc. Google admits freely in its terms of service that it scans your data, both in Gmail and Google Drive to market to you directly. Some may not be too concerned by this, but it could be a problem for others.

    It also is very easy for it to become messy - to the point that I have to manage and update a "master link document" that has a table with links to all of our Google Docs/Sheets/Slides. I can also say, with firm absolution, that it has not been updated with the most recent probably ten new documents we've created. However, because it's part of my role to know where everything is, it's pretty easy for me to find what I need and pass it on to the team member requesting.

    Good For:

    • Small to large teams working on projects regardless of project size
    • Teams who have a lot of narrative material, text, VO and more to keep track of
    • You don't have any money to spend but want to work across a full team
    • You want ease of sharing information across individuals and facilities
    • You want to see when people make changes and work collaboratively in real time

    Probably Not Worth It If:

    • You want to use more of the traditional PM methodologies (doesn't really stand alone as a PM tool)
    • You want efficient reporting about the status of the project as a whole
    • You want high level security for your project
    • You want to keep track of an entire project in one file/place
    • You want something more advanced for your tracking

    Basecamp

    Devices Supported: 
    Web, Desktop, Android, iOS
    Pricing Tiers: 
    $99USD per month - unlimited projects, unlimited team size

    Basecamp is a great all-in option in that for $99USD per month you can create as many projects with as many team members as you might require. Once you hit 8 or so people, this makes it quite cost-effective for a team at around $12 a piece. If you've been using Basecamp for some time, this figure might confuse you -it looks like they recently moved to a paid service and those who got in when the first project was free are staying on free plans, so lucky you!

    This $99 includes 500GB of storage, setting you up immediately to manage the information. With task management, chat, storage, checklists and more all in one place, it can be really useful for larger teams and projects as this baked in functionality isn't necessarily included in some of the other tools we've discussed, and the cost is spread more easily than some per seat options when you get above eight or so people. It's easy to set up, even providing suggestions for teams to add events, projects or other information to your planning. However, for a seasoned producer or project manager these could be distracting when planning out timelines with milestones and start/end dates.

    One thing Basecamp does that could be great if you do have a larger team is the set up of automatic check-ins. These essentially request team members to submit a report answering specific questions on a recurring basis. Highly customizable, if you're across a business that doesn't do daily meet-ups with the team or you just have a large amount of people to manage, this could be a great way to reduce some of the stress and pressure around checking in on progress or priorities.

    One game dev advised that when working with Basecamp, they needed to write a suite of spreadsheets (using google docs) to ensure their team had all the information required. Apparently, the inclusion of all this information in Basecamp wasn't made easy in comparison to some other PM tools. This is a gripe other devs have mentioned - that it needs some outside tools or spreadsheets to help manage the volume of information for larger teams.

    While great for communications between your team, reminders and checklists, the project format can be mostly useful on the side of PM burn down charts and sprint tracking, rather than overall PM. There are complaints that the reporting option isn't necessarily always useful, the program lacks some functionality in comparison (especially for the price) which for many start-ups can be a difficult to justify investment decision.

    Good For:

    • Medium to large indie teams working across multiple assets or projects who want a central hub with inclusive storage space for assets
    • You want a way to check in directly with team members throughout the process, without too much time investment
    • Teams unsure about the PM process but wanting to learn about creating a structure

    Probably Not Worth It If:

    • You want advanced functionalities that some of the other programs provide
    • Can easily become clunky due to the central hub design without proper management
    • Don't have much to spend on your PM, or have a smaller team

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