This article is a collaboration with Mauricio García, CEO and Producer at The Game Kitchen (The Last Door, Blasphemous). You can find his original article in Spanish here.
Read the first part: Scrum and videogames 1: Introduction
Preparation of the meeting
Our team is partially in the office and partially remote. The music composer works on his studio at home, but since he is in the same city, he is present during the meetings. Raúl (pixel animator) and José (programmer), who are physically in Córdoba and Granada respectively, they attend the meeting through Skype.
In order to have smooth Skype meetings, is good to have a microphone array where the physical team is, so there is always a normalized speaking volume no matter how far from the microphone the person is. Many laptops have this function, but you can also use Microsoft Kinect for this. The people who are working remotely should use headphones with microphone, otherwise is easier to have noise and bad sound which could be an impediment for good communication.
When the infrastructure is ready, we start by commenting on the part of the increment which is out of the build (art, concept, narrative…) and then we play it. We share the screen through Skype so people attending remotely can see it too. While we play, I’m in charge of writing down on a post-it note any bug, issue or missing feature being mentioned. I stick them to the wall or a table. We finish the entire game (while it’s small, as it grows we do it zone by zone), trying to use all the new features added to the game.
This is the perfect moment for a coffee break, stretch the legs and take a breath, because the interesting part starts now.
Verbalize the next desired increment
With the help of the producer and his high-level vision, the team expresses out loud what is their desired state of the game at the end of the next sprint:
- What new features will be implemented?
- What content will be added?
- Which uncertainties will be removed?
- Which problems of the current increment will be fixed?
Before the next step, it is very important the team is on the same page. From all the ideas that come up, which ones are we committing to deliver for the next increment?
Planning the execution of the increment
The next step is dissecting that vision and turn it into the necessary tasks needed to make it a reality. We add new post-it notes to the pile (where the ones from the previous stage already are) until they all represent the steps needed to achieve the objective the team has proposed.
When writing the tasks on the post it is important to ask some questions:
- Is the task atomic enough? Could I divide it into smaller tasks?
- Are all the pre-requirements for this task available already? If they are not, we need to add post-it notes for those pre-requirements, and then ask ourselves if we have room for the pre-requirements and the task; if we don’t, then we leave the task for a future sprint.
Once the tasks have been created, we start one of the most important phases: the prioritization. We put the post-it notes on the wall or board sorted by priority, based on criteria like:
- Strategic importance: would it be very bad if the task remained unfinished if there is not enough time?
- Dependencies with other tasks: does anybody need this task to be finished as soon as possible?
Another job done in this phase is the distribution of work. It is important seeing who is in charge of which tasks, so we can distribute it efficiently among the people in the same department.
When everything is planned and prioritized on the wall, we consider the Sprint Meeting finished.
In our case, since part of the team is working remotely, we can’t rely on post-it notes on a wall entirely. So, after the meeting is finished, I pick up all the post-it notes and I create them in HacknPlan.
First of all, I create a board using our internal naming convention, which would be something like 2018-1-A. After that, I create a work item for each note and assign it to the team member that will take care of it. We also use the Game Design Model of HacknPlan to keep our Game Design Document (GDD) updated, this way I can connect each design element with the tasks needed to implement it.
Once everything is in HacknPlan, I recycle the post-it notes and I notify the team everything is ready to crush one task after another!
In my experience, using post-it notes for any part of a process excludes remote team members from the process. Even if you have a high enough quality camera to view the small form notes, the remote people are reliant on those in the room pointing the camera at them whenever they need.
Using something like Trello as a quick board for this stage can definitely help keep everyone inclusive.
I agree Chris Hoyle. Having software like Trello, Jira, Asana, etc, for me the post-its is not the most efficient nor ecologic method to track tasks.
From the article I get they use the post-its to take quick notes during the meeting, they say the put everything in hack n plan at the end.