Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reading Time!

These last days I've taken a brief moment to enjoy the pleasures of reading. First, I've been reading Agile Game Development with Scrum, by Clinton Keith. This is a great book for those interested in how to apply Scrum and other agile practices to your game development methodology in order to make better games in less time (isn't that what we all want?). Most indie developers however, and especially those being a one man orchestra like myself, typically think: "since I'm a standalone developer I don't need any of those complex methodologies". But nothing is farther from the truth. Being an indie developer means that you have a very limited set of resources (no money, no time, no team) which also means that you have to focus a lot more into making each effort counts. Even though you can develop freely as lots of other indies do, why not try at least some of these agile good practices? They are solid, well documented and they can be adapted to what works best for you and your team (if you have one, of course).
I'm not going to analyze each Scrum technique and how to apply it in an indie environment since it would end up being a long essay or research paper. However, I can share how I'm applying Scrum to my indie game: Bloodhunt.
Agile methodologies typically mean that you work iteratively (in small sprints of 2 to 4 weeks) in order to release a game version of increasing value (each sprint your game grows and gets better). However, being a one-person team working on my spare time, I can't commit myself to such restrictive schedules so I've adapted Scrum times to fit my indie requirements. A Bloodhunt sprint is a 4 week timebox where I commit myself to add, test, debug and refine some features to the game.
These features are defined as a set of user stories where I write down the requirements of what have to be done, why it has to be done, and when I consider it is good enough to be finished. These user stories are typically laid out in a taks board where there's a column for each state of the task. Moving the user story post-it note from left to right in the columns, it starts in the product back log (which contains all things that will be done in future sprints), then it moves to the current sprint to-do list of tasks not yet started, currently under development and finally completed.
Instead of a traditional task board with post-it cards, I'm using Trello, an online task board tool, for managing sprints and user stories. You can check Bloodhunt task board here. Also, here's a screenshot of all Bloodhunt user stories.

Note that there are a ton of user stories in the first column, the product backlog. These are the desired game features for the whole project. Since these tasks will be developed in the future, there's no need to go into details now, so they are described very briefly. Most of them are just a reminder of what should I be doing in the following months. I will break them into smaller user stories when the time comes, as I gain more knowledge about Bloodhunt (what is fun and what's not in my prototype, for instance). Also note that the user stories are priorized in the backlog. This means that the most important features are above least important features. Disciplines, Dialog and Quests, for instance, are above the Tutorial, meaning that I have to add them all before the tutorial.
But there're more important details in the task board. Each user story contains additional information about the task, such as a complete checklist of all my requirements (the famous conditions of satistfaction). In the screenshot I've defined that my tactical combat prototype needs 11 sub-tasks to be done before I consider it fully functional. Also, the user story has some color tags indicating which hats I'm going to wear to complete the task (in this case, green indicates programming and yellow indicates pixelart). I've used a special red color tag for epic stories (those tasks that are so big that can't be performed in a single sprint).

All in all, using a Scrum task board helps me priorizing my work, staying right on focus and sharing my progress in a totally transparent way (in case I do have a team working on Bloodhunt some day).
. . .
Also, I've been reading Los Angeles by Night (it's unbelievable I didn't read it before). The theme and story of the supplement are great, focusing on the state of L.A. after the Second Anarch Revolt. The Anarch Free States period has helped me to locate Bloodlines and Bloodhunt in the overall Vampire: the Masquerade timeline.

1944: Salvador Garcia raid Prince Don Sebastian ranch, but he’s already dead (only one Malkavian remains, speaking of a golden haired demon). Only Jeremy McNeil and Salvador Garcia know the true story. The other Anarchs think Salvador defeated him. 
1948: The Status Perfectus is written by Jeremy McNeil and Salvador Garcia. 
1998: The Kuei-jin incursion begins, establishing the New Promise Mandarinate. 
2004: Prince Lacroix becomes the Camarilla Prince of Los Angeles. 
Somewhere after 2004: Bloodhunt and Bloodlines story lines unfold.

Reading L.A. by Night I also found a pretty familiar face: Smiling Jack. It comes with a complete description and stats. Whoa! He's a 10th generation Cainite, with so many Disciplines I can't even remember which ones were originally Brujah: Auspex, Celerity, Fortitude, Potence, Presence and Thaumaturgy.


  1. Has empezado a usar Trello? Es una herramienta de gestión de trabajo muy sencilla! Hay muchas otras en el mercado, pero esta es muy directa. Hay otras mejores para trabajar ne grupo, pero en tu caso por ahora no te hace falta. Es gestión de trabajo propio.

  2. Sí, en el curro también usamos JIRA pero a mi me parece más ágil Trello (aunque es verdad que no tiene tanta fama ni tantos plugins). Al final lo importante es cómo trabaje el equipo, y como yo de eso no tengo xD