Vendorbus – Bringing it to Life

Bringing an idea to life is never an easy task especially in the creative industry.  Unlike other fields like construction or manufacturing who rely on ‘rigid’ project planning methodologies, creative projects are almost always paving a new path and as such can’t strictly follow a set of proven rules.  Sure they borrow bits here and there from earlier works but holistically they are creating a brand new product to satisfy the ever evolving tastes and desires of their customers.  A creative project can’t simply copy and paste an earlier product, slap on a new look and call it new otherwise it could jeopardize the commercial success of not just the product itself but also that of the brand making it.  So, how are we bringing Vendorbus to life you might be wondering.

ChristineWell firstly, like any project it begins with an idea.  This idea is of a homicidal vending machine trying to make enough money by selling its foods in order to upgrade itself, all while avoiding being seen by humans as you move around the map.  Pretty unique idea right?  Well it’s not without a sibling, Christine anyone?  Who can forget the hyper jealous car named Christine killing it’s young lovebirds on their romantic night outs.  With the idea sorted it’s now time to create a plan of action in order to make it a reality, otherwise known as project planning.

Personally when it comes to projects I prefer using a mix of the Agile and Scrum methods which combines a highly iterative methodology that focuses on prioritizing value instead of resources with short sprint cycles.  In essence what this means is that features of high value to the project are prioritized instead of focusing on features that can be economically delivered and these development cycles will be short sprints of 1-2 weeks.  At the end of each sprint the product is reviewed and iterated upon for improvement.

So the first sprint consisted of getting all the documentation down, having a quick revise Docsof said documentation with everyone involved and then finalizing it.  This included the High Concept document which is a short summary about the product and what it hopes to achieve, the Game Design document which is every nut and bolt of the game, it’s mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics.  Last of the main development documents is the Gantt chart which is simply an in-depth scheduler detailing every members job list and chain dependencies.  After these comes the role specific documents like the Technical Design document (for programmers), the Art Bible and Asset List(for the artists), the Audio document (for Audio Technicians) and the Level Design document (for level designers).

With the first iteration of documentation done I had to clarify with the team about various details of the level and also advise them on the scope of areas they originally planned to have.  It was simply unfeasible to have the school and extra urban area that was originally planned within the time constraints.  The rule of the “Triple Constraints” always wins out, meaning you can only ever have two out of the three constraints which are Time/Cost/Quality.  If you make a product that is ‘good’ in a ‘short time period’ it won’t be ‘cheap’.  Another example is you can’t make a product ‘fast’ and ‘cheap’ and expect it to be ‘good’.  After iterating upon the documentation we finalized it and got to work.

Now that the documentation was done, it simply came down to making everything a reality. Slack In terms of project management this mean’t keeping in communication and holding regular meetings.  We used Slack for online communication which works great as we can upload images and videos to further communicate our designs which is really important in a creative project.  It’s one thing to talk about a idea it’s another to show it visually.  On top of Slack communications we also used class on Wednesday which is the only period when all the disciplines are at school at the same time to have a face to face.  To me, face to face meetings are the best as you can see the project really coming to life or withering away into nothing.  You get a much more informed perspective of how the project is going and what is needed and you can iterate in real time as you discuss and explore the development sprint.

I’ve found that as long as everyone has a clear idea of their role within a project, what the project is trying to achieve and everyone is proactive in communication then the project benefits greatly.  My part in Vendorbus is largely done having completed my task list but even so, i’m still involved in the project offering my help where its needed.  Now all that is left is to iterate at the end of this sprint and add finishing touches.


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