this development diary is the 3rd in the series. In the first we spoke a bit about factions and the second was dedicated to our take on the Space Shooter genre. The team is hugely dedicated to the task ahead and I would like to talk a bit about management of an international team and Virtual Development Offices.
We have adopted this style of team management because it does not limit us to only local talent. Also it allows us for a seamless development cycle. We have team members all over the world. Many of the team members are from USA spread from the west coast to east coast. Some team members are from EU countries and some are from Asia.
There is a few factors that come into play when managing a virtual international team. First and foremost the biggest challenge is overcoming the communication barrier. This is why we decided that only people with an excellent command of english will be able to work with us. The other factor is the cultural differences. Well basically we overcame this one fairly well since this is a really dedicated bunch and everybody understands this idea.
So how do we manage the team? Well we use all the latest communication devices possible. We have an internal forum to speak about basic development issues and we also have skype for chatting where we permanently leave one channel open for general chat, art chat, community management and programming. We also have to meet somewhere too right? Well for that we use Team Speak. We have our own Team Speak server setup where we conduct all the voice meetings that the team has. It really helps because people can get to know each other, we throw some jokes around and can get really quickly around a problem that were solving.
We use some open source tools for tasking. Best one we found was Mantis. The other thing we adopted to task management is task feedback. When you get a task from your superior you have to explain how you understand the task. This helps us much and improves the understanding of the task ahead. It also saves a lot of time that would otherwise might get wasted on redoing your work. Mantis is also good because we can discuss all the issues on any given ticket. This basically breaks the time difference barrier.
Is all of this any good? Well we like to think that its actually our biggest added value :). The flow of ideas is very steady and even though we dont meet face to face we already learned how to get around the feelings of all the team members when they speak or write text. I have never seen many of the team members face to face. I also think that I will actually never see some of them. This does not prevent me however from getting to like them and understand what they are trying to say.
The actual idea of our internal forum for development is very good. This way we can post our work on the forums and let other people comment on it. We allow total freedom in that and everybody is entitled to comment others work. Usually we mostly support each other and the atmosphere is fantastic. I actually think that most of the team members are really looking forward to posting their work on the forums so that all the team members can see it. There is really some huge support from everyone on that part.
The biggest joy usually comes when one of our artists posts their concept work. You can then watch the development of the current model as each member posts work in progress pictures and you see your work slowly coming alive. The other very interesting part is when we get new sounds, music or functionality. The sheer joy of seeing a programmer post his work in progress video on Artificial intelligence is really something that has to be experienced. Most of us actually get a real kick out of seeing the parts of the Game Design Document coming alive :)
All in all its a really challenging job but we all love it. The pluses of such a work environment really outweight the minuses and were all having the time of our lives here.
We are still on a good way to release something playable before the summer break. Our team grew to about 35 people strong. We have currently implemented some new AI elements to the game. We have finished the sector travel. We just recently began to import many of the graphical assets to the game. Our graphics got so much better in comparison to previous versions and we have implemented most of the music and sounds for the pre-alpha version.
Currently we are working on some voice acting for the game and writing the script for ingame character chat. That is really fun :). Our characters are just becoming alive and let me tell you that they are really interesting. I love the way our script people are working with the characters and breathing life into them.
As promised here is a snippet from one of our documents on faction design:
The Miner's Union and the Beginning of the ISF
The Miner's Union is what many researchers today consider the original faction (as we know them today), because of its deeper roots than other factions, though it was not considered a faction until their separation from the UNPE mandate that formed them well after the wars. They have a somewhat more complex history than other factions. (Along the way, the very beginnings of the ISF are covered here.)
Some time ago, the extent of the damage and the toll of war on materials needed to make war, prompted many of the territories who could afford it, to begin a proactive search for additional resources. The wars were so devastating it was theorized that whoever had the most resources would be the ones left standing, or perhaps with the most resources they would be enabled to end the war quickly.
With larger governments all adopting this strategy, smaller, and less economically endowed countries began making peace with each other, spawning all sorts of deals with survival in mind, though at their roughest times they were forced to strip their own buildings for materials to build mining equipment, in order to stay competitive.
At first every side simply mined deeper and deeper into Earth, but there were very few places on Earth any side could search for materials undisturbed, with most of the inhabitable areas of the planet being fought over so fiercely, and only a certain amount of materials could be gathered from one's own region alone, and in an efficient manner.
The two most powerful sides were having difficulties as well, wishing to end the war swiftly and unequivocally in their favor. So they invented an even better way to come out on top. With more and more advanced weaponry being developed one could win the war simply by controlling space.
Thank you guys for reading this wall of text and please stay tuned.
Tomas "Darghan" Psenicka
Keen Software House ltd.