Little Soul is an emotional cleaning simulator where the player must clean enough of the level in order to prevent the fragile old mother from being evicted to a nursing home. During play the player must decide whether to focus on nothing but cleaning or to find sentimental items that remind old mother of happier days improving the quality of her life. Development of Little Soul had a timeframe of four weeks in which we had to present the final product to a panel at Defiant Studios. This post-mortem will highlight what went right and what went wrong throughout the development cycle to improve future project cycles.
What Went Right?
Team Chemistry – The people that worked on Little Soul’s development came together to provide some of the best chemistry I’ve experienced thus far in any group project. Everybody involved was professional, courteous, respectful and most importantly open. Everybody’s input was valued and respected with numerous lengthy conversations that explored ideas deeper, there was even a few debates when ideas clashed. These debates always allowed everyone as a whole to learn more about design or game development in general. The best thing about the team chemistry is that everyone listened to another’s input and I mean really listened. Not just paused until somebody else was finished saying what they had to say, but actually listened and explored further what they had to say with questions and improvement ideas of their own. This team chemistry not only added to Little Soul’s overall quality but also enabled it to exist in the first place. No way would we have ended up developing an emotional days of our lives cleaning simulator unless everybody was truly open to the idea.
Documentation and Communication – Learning from previous projects, it’s vital to have in-depth design documents that all team members can look at when they need to. Little Souls documentation was communicated so effectively that questions regarding Little Souls development specifics was minimal at best. Added to this communication between team members was even better because when issues were raised or clarification was needed there were multiple avenues that members would communicate with. Not only did we have a group page that everyone used when updating their work statuses, but we would communicate directly to one another via txt if we weren’t face to face when needed. Skype was also used and became critical in the end when the Friday supercell storm hit Brisbane and none of us could make it in to college to organize our final presentation to Defiant studios. The effectiveness of the team’s documentation and communication enabled the development process to retain its momentum when hiccups occurred.
Repositry – Unlike my last project, the Github repository was setup properly with this project from the first day. This prevented all the headaches and heartburns that occurred during my last project where numerous team members lost countless hours’ worth of work that had to be redone. Instead, development of Little Soul went along smoothly and Github instead of causing headaches, prevented them. There were two occasions where the project became corrupted and we had to revert and we did so easily and in the final days of the project when the crunch time always happens, Github performed as intended and caused no excess work hours to occur. In the end Github being properly setup without a doubt saved us time instead of costing us time.
What Went Wrong?
Scheduling/Meetings – This is a bit of an interesting point as it wasn’t so much the Gantt Charts that failed. It was mainly team members not being transparent with their task progress and also the failure of the producer to follow up on all workloads and make sure we were on track. By the time I noticed a problem it was on the day the MVP was due and we didn’t have a game at all. I was pretty surprised when this happened, because up until this point I assumed everything was on-track and going smooth. Nobody had alerted me to any problems, any failed tasks or that they couldn’t keep up. One possibility that could have caused this problem is that team members were trying to hit learning outcomes (LO’s) so they left tasks to the last minute underestimating their workload perhaps. Even though it’s part of the producer’s job to ensure everything is on track, every team member should ensure they are kept up to date and transparent during the morning meetings so that everyone is well aware of the project’s status. The morning meetings is where we failed to find out the status of the project because we were too focused on if what we had was right for design intent instead of actually finding out what the status of the project was. This is also in part because we didn’t assign roles during the morning meetings to keep things on track. For future projects ensure the morning meetings have both a leader and a manager. The leader will find out what all team member’s statuses are and the manager should ensure that the meeting is on track and schedule.
After a great development cycle I’m happy to say that Little Soul is largely a success. This was one of the best group projects I’ve worked on so far with everyone coming together to produce a game that achieved much more than it probably would have otherwise with all the alterations that had to be made. My only regret is that we didn’t stay on top of our meetings otherwise we would’ve spent the final one and a half weeks polishing our game instead of building it which would’ve added a lot more quality into the finished product. Regardless of what Little Soul is today I’m glad to have been involved in this project working with some great guys and overall I’m very proud of what we managed to achieve.