What is HacknPlan?
HacknPlan is a project management tool for game development, that brings game design and project management together to provide a better workflow and more intuitive organization for game development teams.
Although it does not follow a specific one, the tool 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. Defining meaningful, small and well-defined tasks/user stories from your functional requirements, and then putting them on a kanban board, will help you easily check the status of the project and keep everything under control.
However, if we think of a project with the scope of a game, having everything in just one board would become a mess to manage. We believe the board should contain a limited amount of tasks in order to provide clarity, otherwise, the excess of information could make you lose sight of what is important and, even worse, commit mistakes. HacknPlan is designed to encourage incremental development as a solution to this problem: we divide the work into different Boards you can use as sprints or iterations that contain a limited amount of work to be accomplished within a period of time. Ideally, the outcome of completing every board would be a playable version of your game. Additionally, you can wrap Boards in what we called Milestones, representing bigger goals in the development roadmap of your game. For instance, you could create boards Sprint 1, Sprint 2 and Sprint 3, and put them 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?
As you can see, everything explained above is pretty generic and can be applied to any kind of project. How is HacknPlan oriented to game development then? Up to now, we have covered how to organize your work in terms of size (work divided into items and different team members) and time (items assigned to boards). So we could say we are defining the how (work items, resources) and the when (milestones, deadlines) but we still lack another big part of a project: the what.
So, what is “the what” in a game? Simplifying a lot, we could say “the what” is the game design, the definition of what we want to build. And how is this definition normally specified and documented in game development? Yes, as 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. That’s probably a reminiscence from waterfall times, where these kind of specification documents were some kind of contract written before starting the project. Agile methodologies like Scrum go a bit further, 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 close the gap between the game design and the project management, creating a streamlined workflow that makes the process of keeping this information updated easier and gives clarity to the 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 which work items can be assigned to. 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, and you can enrich those adding your own ones.