Another update of HacknPlan is finally here, the last one before the release of version 1.0 at the end of March. I wanted to clarify, since many people asked about it, that our premium tiers will have a trial mode after beta phase is over, allowing you to test the advanced features on your existing projects and coming back to the Personal plan after the trial is over if you don’t want to subscribe, simple and transparent. But, of course, you won’t enjoy the early adopter discount you will get if you subscribe now 🙂
We have added some awaited features for premium users, like Slack notifications, a role scheme and a Gantt chart (Studio only) or an advanced task filter system that allows you to save different filters and active them easily from the board. We also added improvements for everyone, like an optional comment when logging work (suggested by some of you, thanks!), task filters for the game design element section and some others. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to deliver one of the features we tweeted about a few weeks ago, the GDD export for the GDM. We had some issues trying to generate a well-formatted PDF outcome from our Markdown, so you’ll have to wait a little longer for this one.
Let’s take a look at the new functionality!
Features and improvements
Slack integration (Studio and Personal Plus)
It’s no secret Slack has become one of the most popular communication tools among work teams, and probably one of the keys to that success is how easy it is to integrate with other applications and services. We have implemented the first version of our Slack app, which allows you to connect your projects with one or more teams and channels for notification purposes. The integration supports many configuration parameters to adapt it to your needs. For each Slack team and channel, the following options are available:
- Category: You can notify about all categories or a specific one. This way you can create specific channels for things like art, design… This is especially useful for big teams.
- General notifications: Notifies about general project activity, like users entering or leaving the team, configuration changes, etc. You can disable it or choose between Normal or Verbose modes, depending on the number of notifications you want to receive.
- Development notifications: Notifies about activity from tasks in the currently active milestone. It’s the best way to know what the rest of the team is building and will deliver in the next iteration. You can disable it or choose between Normal or Verbose modes.
- Planning notifications: Notifies about activity from tasks in the backlog or future milestones. You can create a channel for your designers and producers to be up to date regarding the roadmap and future work. You can disable it or choose between Normal or Verbose modes.
- Game Design Model notifications: Notifies about GDM activity, like creation or edition of design elements. Like the previous one, ideal for notifying producers and designers about the updates on your GDD.
Important: The Verbose mode notifies almost everything that happens in HacknPlan, so it’s not recommended to activate it unless you want to use a Slack channel as a log. The Normal mode notifies about the most relevant events and it’s enough for most use cases.
After 1.0, we plan to keep working on this integration and explore the many possibilities Slack offers, like using commands to perform HacknPlan actions from Slack or even creating a bot to assist you.
Role-based permissions (Studio):
Dealing with the set of permissions assigned to each user can be tedious and confusing as your team grows. In order to make this more manageable, we have created a role permission system which allows you to create and save different permissions schemes and assign them to users easily. New projects will also come with a predefined set of roles, the most common ones in the game industry, ready to be used.
Roles defined for a project are also copied when using our templating functionality for HacknPlan Studio, so you can define a set of roles common to your studio in a base project and use it as a template for the rest, so you only have to set them once.
Advanced filters (Studio and Personal Plus):
Premium users are now able to define and store different complex board filters and activate them just selecting from a list without leaving the board. With this improvement, viewing only your assigned tasks, what’s urgent or a specific feature from your GDM, will be as simple as selecting it from a dropdown.
Comment with work logs:
Due to popular request, we added the possibility of writing comments when logging work, as a way of giving more context to the time/effort reported. Comments are added to the existing comment section of the task editor with one difference: they display the logged work on top of the comment.
Regarding work logs, Studio users will also enjoy a new tab for the task editor which contains the list of work logs, grouped by user, so you can see how many time someone reported and a detailed list of the logs for better tracking.
Gantt chart (Studio)
Although I consider myself a convinced agile practitioner and this may sound contradictory, I understand it’s always useful to have a roadmap and schedule if front of you, especially in games where you may have to deal with a publishing deadline. In order to help with this, we have implemented the first version of a Gantt chart, which will display your milestones on a timeline and will give you a good overview of how the future looks like.
But, of course, looking at your milestones on the timeline is nice but it’s not the best this chart can do. We will add the possibility of setting dates (start and finish) for game design elements, so you will be able to put your hierarchy of design concepts and features on the timeline. This will be available for 1.0.
- We have added the Status of the task as a field in the task editor, so you can change it without having to go to the board and dragging and dropping the task card.
- We added the Game Design Model to our permission scheme, so you can now decide if your team members will have read-only, writing or no access to the GDM. This is very important in order to give designers access to the GDM, where they will work regularly, without the need of making them administrators of the project. If you block access to the GDM to a user, they won’t be able to open the GDM section (so can’t see the content of the elements), but still will be able to see their names assigned to the tasks they have access too.
- Your @username can now be modified from the settings page.
- When inviting a new user to an organization (Studio), you can now select a list of projects the user will be also added to, so you don’t have to wait for them to join to do so.
- We have replaced the existing switch to hide completed tasks from the list shown in the GDM section, with two filters selectable from a dropdown. You can now filter design element tasks by a specific status of the task or show pending ones (not completed), and also filter by milestone or the backlog.
- We added formatting to the user mentions in markdown description and comments. Before they were displayed as they were defined (@username), but now they are beautifully styled in blue with a user icon next to them.
- We made the application a bit more usable with the keyboard, properly marking the focus on buttons, inputs and other elements.
- The time tracker was not very responsive and didn’t look well on mobile and small browser windows.
- We have improved how code pasted into markdown was displayed, preventing lines to be split and adding horizontal scroll when necessary.
- We added a cool feature last update that allowed to choose what to do with pending tasks when closing a milestone. However, that feature was working only when finishing the milestone using the bottom on the board header but not when doing so from the milestone list.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is the last update before the official release of HacknPlan 1.0, scheduled for March 27th. We may hotfix some bug if something pops up, but we won’t deliver new features in a while. The reason is we need some time for finishing the pending features on the roadmap, doing an exhaustive work on QA to guarantee the stability and performance of the system, and complete an extensive and useful documentation. We also have, as you can imagine, a lot of marketing and PR work to do, including recording some videos that show all the potential of the different tiers we are offering. We decided to free ourselves from the overhead that comes with the 2-week delivery cycle and focus on this big milestone for the next month, hoping to finish everything on time and be up to your expectations. Although we won’t deliver anything new, stay tuned to social media; we will post pics and gifs of the new features and will give more details about the release.
One last thing. We have had feedback and comments from people thinking that the delivery of our full release means we will stop working actively on the application. That’s completely wrong. We are not offering just software, we offer a service. When you subscribe, or even when you decide to use our free tier, we are committing to the mission of providing you with a tool that is always up, ready to use, and in constant improvement. We are committing to help you out with any issue or doubt you have. Although changes may happen to our workflow or schedule, we will keep iterating and adding new features and improvements to all tiers. Our goal is not building the most perfect and pretty software out there, our goal is building what you need as fast as we can, and we will keep working hard on that.