What is HacknPlan?

HacknPlan is a project management tool for game development. It combines game design and project management to create a more streamlined workflow and better organization for game development teams.

Although it doesn’t adhere to a specific methodology, our tool is heavily inspired by agile methodologies. This is the reason why the application revolves around the kanban board as the main tool to track the progress of your tasks. By defining small, meaningful, and well-defined tasks or user stories from your functional requirements and adding them to the kanban board, you can easily monitor the project’s status and maintain control.

When it comes to game development, having all the tasks on one board can be overwhelming and difficult to manage. To avoid confusion and mistakes, we recommend limiting the number of tasks on each board for improved clarity. That’s why HacknPlan uses incremental development and divides the work into different boards, allowing you to accomplish a set amount of work within a specific period of time. Ideally, completing each board should lead to a playable version of your game. You can also group boards into milestones that represent larger goals in your game’s development roadmap. For example, you could group boards Sprint 1, Sprint 2, and Sprint 3 under the Alpha milestone.

So, basically, our project is divided into small work items (tasks or user stories )and those items are grouped into boards to be accomplished iteratively over time. At the same time, those items can be assigned to members of the team, so you can easily see who is working on what.

What about game development?

The information provided above is applicable to any type of project. However, you may be wondering how HacknPlan specifically caters to game development. So far, we have discussed how to effectively manage work based on its scope (dividing it into smaller tasks and assigning them to team members) and timeline (using boards to track progress). This covers the “how” (work items, resources) and “when” (milestones, deadlines) aspects of project management, but there is still an important component left: the “what“.

So, what is the “what” in a game? Simplifying a lot, we could say the “what” refers to the game design, which is essentially the plan for what we want to create. In game development, this plan is typically documented in a Game Design Document (GDD).  However, traditional project management tools have always been more focused on the “how” and the “when”: tasks, milestones, deadlines, users, time tracking… keeping the “what” a bit outside of the picture, as something that’s normally assumed to be there. This approach may be a holdover from the days of waterfall project management, when specification documents were signed before a project began.

Agile methodologies like Scrum have made progress in this regard, having the backlog and user stories as a way of knowing your roadmap and having a definition of the features to implement. However, they are designed as lists and don’t have the depth and context a GDD should have. So our mission, as a tool that is for game developers only, is to bridge the gap between game design and project management, creating a streamlined workflow that simplifies the process of updating information, while also providing clarity to producers and the development team.

How do we manage to do that? We provide several tools:

  • Game design model.  The game design model is a tree structure of elements that can be used to build a hierarchy of concepts and features to which work items can be assigned. Why a tree? Because it allows you to define interesting structures like worlds with levels inside, towns with other locations inside, menu structures, characters, mechanics… The possibilities are endless. This tool allows you to build a lightweight and dynamic version of your GDD that is attached to your work items as epics are, closing the gap between both worlds.
  • Discipline-based categorization. Game development is very multidisciplinary, more than any other software development field, being closer to others like cinema (art, music, writing, sound design…). We have designed a categorization system for tasks, where we assign tasks to these disciplines and then we automatically create a board per each one under the same milestone. This way people working on these categories can focus on their work, but also navigate through all the other categories with a single click, including a global one to take a look at the big picture. We provide a default set of game development categories ready to use that can be customized by adding new ones to better suit your needs.