While in between project planning for our third project, periodic observations of our great competitive community and testing Blade Symphony, I figure now is just as good time as any to share our project management tool with those interested.
This year marked our first, since the start of Dystopia development, for switching from the well-built Mantis Bug Tracker to the even better, robust Redmine Project Management Tool. The reasoning was simple; at that time the team had an internal wiki, a repository browser, technical support achieved through way of forums and project management conducted by verbal and text communication through e-mail, HTML and IRC conversations.
Having a full-on project management solution that incorporated these technologies, making them redundant, was a great move for us in terms of effectively getting work done. After a workflow was developed and streamlined (which I hope to go into detail about it's inception at a later date,) we began using Redmine and helping it assimilate our other technologies that were made redundant.
Before I go any further, let me first explain the reasoning and the process behind making Redmine our project management tool of choice. At first, we knew that we wanted to begin down a long road of creating a more transparent and truthful development studio, for the benefit of future consumers and fans, as well as for our own. Groups like Unknown Worlds and the Minecraft development team, just to name a few, apply more of an open development model. This open development model is one of a number of great methods that independent and smaller development teams can use to ensure a quality product that is very efficient to develop, due to help from it's community and fans -- but more on that later.
Along with the desire for our development to be more exposed to the public, we wanted to:
- Nullify the usage of our various other tools
- Have a greater depth of features offered by Mantis integrated with a Project Management program
- Have the ability to configure more specifics regarding our workflow, permissions, project standards and definitions
- Offer a medium for consumers and fans to communicate more efficiently about technical support problems and to offer suggestions.
We began evaluating exhaustive lists and after reading countless forum threads, losing ourselves in project management software reviews and test-running multiple solutions such as Trac, Pivotol Tracker, dotproject and openProj, we decided on Redmine because of a multitude of factors:
- Free, open source, widely used and regularly updated: Allowing us to configure every bit of information on our install, receiving bug fixes and new features with tons of documentation for it's usage, all at a low cost.
- Self-hosted, self-maintained: Some more popular project management tools are hosted proprietorially and as a result, their regulations regarding content-rights and ownership sometimes lie within a gray area. Your project and team are also subject to their downtime, problems and maintenance staff. With the downside of having to maintain your own solution, comes the upswing of being able to access and observe parts of the tool that you you wouldn't otherwise be able to, choosing the best and most efficient programs and tools to compliment it.
- Plugins & Themes: Having more customization options available at an end-user level enables us to make changes to the design of the tracker, enabling better visualization or efficiency. Additionally, the ability to change your project management methodology or add an overlooked feature through the use of plugins particularly interested us.
- Winner of many back-of-the-box features: Along with the above features, Redmine also had many capacities on a project manager, developer, test lead or test side to benefit the project, including integration of a task/time tracker and a defect tracker, hearty methods of visualization such as a dynamically-generated roadmap and Gantt chart, a file storage and sharing system, revision software linking and control, customizable workflow, group and member hierarchical management, robust custom field organization and much.. much more.
After it's creation, integrating an item workflow, setting up custom fields, permissions and item standards, we migrated all defects from Mantis over to Redmine using a migration script. The major goals in learning this project management software is to effectively plan and schedule future projects, as well as coordinate a better teamwork dynamic among the developers.
That being said, we have been utilizing Redmine as much as we could in the last 10 months, and will start to make changes to the way we conduct development in the future. We intend to field technical support tickets through Redmine, take development suggestions for features and changes, and give the public an outside view of our development methodologies and strategies on top of already allowing defect authoring by the community.
With that in mind, I wanted to invite everyone interested, to travel over to our Redmine page if so desired, register an account, browse around and feel free to report previously un-documented defects for Dystopia, and in the future, Blade Symphony. Seeing as we're taking a gamble in allowing the community to take part in the development of Dystopia, we're asking that it not be abused and that people do their best to remain a positive contribution to it's activity.
I might give more information about how we've used Redmine and how we intend to use Redmine in the future in another post or in a post about workflow, but for right now, I think I've explained some things. Look for more later.