GAME DEVELOPMENT PROJECT MANAGEMENT USING SPREADSHEETS
It's the only way I know how to organize
- 07/31/2017 10:46 PM
- 193 views
I noticed a while back that you have a handy spreadsheet for your Hero's Realm remake that looks its super useful for tracking assets. Would you mind if you sent a template of that my way?
As a bit of background, I am a hobbyist game developer who has recently embarked on a project to remaster and commercialize a popular hobby game of mine: Hero's Realm. I have mentioned in my blog that I am using a spreadsheet to track (nearly) everything for this project, and a few fellow devs were interested in my haphazard methodology. Caveat: I am figuring this out as I go! I have not taken a course in project management. This was developed from experience and my own expectations.
I guess I can start with the various tabs I have in my spreadsheet that I use to manage the project. I have:
- Resource Tasklist
- Project Tracking
- GameDev Tasks
- Promotional Material
RESOURCE TASKLIST ::..
I have a massive tab called Resource Tasklist, that lists every single asset I need produced for the project. They are grouped into their general categories: Monsters, Charsets, Battle Charsets, Tilesets, Panoramas, Battle Backgrounds, Battle Weapons, Battle Animations, Music, Sound Effects, and Miscellaneous (title screen, game over, system). For each category I track: ID (for sorting!), Name, Description, Who (I requested to do it, even if it is me), When (I requested it), Received, Cost (Estimated), Cost (Actual) (and then two more columns for the CAD estimated and actual costs), Paid? (did I pay them for this y/n?), and finally a Notes field (for comments I might have on it).
Compiling this massive list was the hardest part. Hero's Realm generously used a lot of rips and edits, and I never did filter out resources I didn't use.
As things get sent to me (or as I complete them), I diligently record them in here within 24 hours.
I have a tab called Contacts, and it is a simple spreadsheet with my team's username, role, real name (if known!), company, email, and Paypal account.
I have a Budget tab that I use for two purposes: to track estimated and actual costs (Budget), and to track money coming and going (Income). 99% of my budget is going to assets, so in the Budget section I have a list of Assets, Number (I've requested), Max Cost (Estimated), Min Cost (Estimated), Cost (Actual), and Tip (for tipping! ...if the project actually succeeds enough to make back its costs). I sum the columns to track total costs and estimates.
In the Income section, I track money coming and going. Donations, loans, gifts, payments to my asset creators, Patreon - it all goes in here, when the transactions happen. What it is, Who did it (or who it's going to), and Money In, Money Out, When, Done?, Conversion rate (to CAD!), and Notes. I have a nagging feeling that I am not tracking enough information here. I should ask my wife about standard accounting practices... Again, I have totals for each columns to track how much has come in and paid out.
I should probably start a third section for Pending Transactions - to track things I owe but haven't yet paid.
PROJECT TRACKING ::..
The next tab for Project Tracking is also an extensive spreadsheet. I am using this to track the major tasks I need to complete to take this game from a hobbyist project to a full-fledged commercial endeavour. I start with a Milestones section, which I will share here along with each milestone's major deliverable:
Contracts: Contracts and agreements with stakeholders
Assessment: A ranked and evaluated list of game issues/ideas/bugs/enhancement
Funding: Alternative funding methods (Patreon, Donations)
Custom Assets: Sprites, artwork, Music, Sound Effects
Game Development: Implementations of bug fixes and enhancements
Testable Game: A bugfixed and enhanced game
Placeholders: For each anticipated requested resource, create a quick placeholder asset
Game with placeholders: Game with placeholder graphics
Game with custom assets: Game with custom assets
Testing: Tested and polished game > Publishable Game
Marketing: A web prescence: RMN, itch.io, Twitter, Facebook (?), Website, Promo Vids
Promotion: Launch preparation
Publishing: A purchaseable complete game
I track each milestone's current status, an estimate on how many hours it will take, estimated completion date, actual hours, actual completion date, Next Steps (a quick note of what I need to do to progress that milestone), and a Note section. (I almost always have a Notes section - I find it handy to jot down thoughts in context so I don't forget something). Again, I have totals for the hours estimated and actual, which I use for project planning. The hours I estimating are my own hours put towards the project. I am not tracking the time spent my people who are creating assets or assisting me in other ways. I am not paying people by the hour, but by the assets they deliver.
To come up with those estimated hours, I created sections for: Contracts/Funding, Game Development, Game Development Phase 2, Resource Creation, Testing, Marketing and Publishing. I will list the items I anticipated spending time on, to maybe help you out with your project planning.
-a list of people I am contracting out services, or obtaining money from.
-assessments, bug fixes, enhancements, balancing
-the main deliverable here is a fully testable game, at which point I plan on bringing in volunteer testers.
GAME DEVELOPMENT PHASE 2
Replace RTP with placeholders
Replace Placeholders with Assets
-"phase 2" is more of a way to track the replacement of ripped assets with custom assets. It can happen independently of Phase 1.
-this is more specific to what I have to do, personally. My Resource Tasklist is the spot where I track what others are making. Since there are several things that (at this time) I need to be prepared to do myself, I needed a place to track that and estimate the time for each.
QA on testable game
QA on placeholder game
QA on custom game
Smoketest after EasyRPG
Bug Fixes from Testers
MARKETING AND PUBLISHING
-places I want to promote the game, like Twitter and Patreon, and the amount of time commitment for each.
-As I get closer to testing and publishing, I will flesh out these sections. For now they provide me with high level estimates to my time commitments and current status.
Remember, for every single entry I've added deliverables, status, hours estimate, hours actual, next steps, and notes.
My Timelines tab is a personal tab I use to track my time. The first section is a brief thought experiment about when during a typical week would I find time to work on this project (between raising my family, working my job, managing RMN, coaching floor hockey, and other activities). I broke it down into Early Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Late Night, and for each day of the week I marked whether that was free, potentially free, or otherwise committed. (For those interested, I guessed a maximum of 33 hours a week to be devoted to this, with a more typical estimate of 8 to 13 hours).
Using my 13 hour per week estimate, and the total amount of hours estimate from the Project Tracking tab, I am able to project an goal release date for my game. I am already about a week behind, so my projections were too ambitious.
Next up in my Timelines is a Week By Week Summary, where I've listed out the next 24 weeks (when I made this, it was 24 weeks from Christmas). I listed the week number, the start date (Mondays for me! Sunday is part of the weekend imho), hours estimated, hours actual, and high level goals for that week. I also made note of notable things that are happening that week, like my kid's birthdays, Thanksgiving, camping trip, etc... Anything that might impact a typical week.
Lastly, I have a Time Tracking section. Basically, a timecard. For each day of the week, I have hours worked and what I did. Each week has a subtotal, and that subtotal is linked to my Week by Week summary.
YOUR TIME IS IMPORTANT. Track it.
I have a straightfoward TODO tab. It is exactly what it sounds like - a list of things I have to remember to do! I further expand on each item with a type (contracts, showcasing, management, assets, game dev, testing, etc), a priority, and level of effort (and notes, of course!). As I complete items, I move them to the DONEZO! section below and add a completion date.
GAMEDEV TASKS ::..
In my GameDev Tasks tab I have created 3 lists: Enhancements, Bugs, and Rebalancing. For each one have a task name, description, importance/priority, effort, hours estimate, and 'Done?' (and notes!). By ranking how important I think each enhancement is, and how much effort it might take, I am able to make a prioritization list. Critical items are things I have to get done. Important items are things I really ought to get done. Nice-to-haves are, well, things that would be nice to have done. Shelved items are things I can consider again, maybe for a patch? Rejected items are things I decided I won't do. Effort is simply a broad 'High, Moderate, Low' scale.
PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL ::..
My final tab, Promotional Material, is also my newest, and it is a list of marketing and promotional ideas. It is a hastily assembled list and will no doubt be expanded as I glean knowledge and experience from those who have already gone through this process. I have a quick list of items, the type of item it is, and the timing when it should be done (pre-launch, post-launch, while in development, and ASAP).
How-To GameDev articles (hey! this is THIS article!)
As a gift to you, I have created a blank template spreadsheet. This was created in Microsoft Office 2013.
Thanks for reading! I hope you managed to glean something from my ramblings on game development project management.