&t Phil on Games: August 2009 <$BlogMetaData$;

Monday, August 31, 2009

Family Fun Football

It’s been a crazy year, to put it lightly, and I’m extremely proud of the hard work my team has put into our first studio project, Family Fun Football on the Nintendo Wii. Given some fairly tight constraints to work around, everyone delivered the best work they could. The end result is a fantastic football video game that perfectly hits the target demographic, while wisely avoiding direct competition with Madden ’10. I’m confident when I say that we beat the pants off of all other competing football titles currently available on the Wii.

As with all projects, we wish we could have had more time to add additional features, tweak the occasional polygon or texture, and add that little extra “oomph” that ultimately gets dropped once the schedule noose begins to tighten. This feeling is especially prevalent with Artists on EVERY project; it is a discussion that I’ve had with every Art Director I’ve worked with. I have to reassure them that they’ve accomplished their goals of creating a visually compelling product, while sympathizing with the little things here and there that we all wish we had more time to tweak on. Truly, an Artist’s work is never done.

As I reflect back on all that has occurred from the start of this project (which was a totally different game at first), to the satisfying end result, I try to identify what lessons I’ve learned from the experience. It’s important to do this with every project in order to improve one’s self. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned, or I knew of and have been re-confirmed, from this project:

1. It’s always best to have your team leads hired, on-site, and contributing to the pre-production process. Never bring in a team lead at the end of, or after, the pre-production process if it can be avoided.

2. A person is smart, people are stupid, and groups are ingenious.

3. How someone’s personality jives with the group is sometimes more important than the experience on their resume. You can have a Barry Bonds on your team, but you’ll never win the World Series.

4. Solid, experienced Quality Assurance testers are vital for a smooth finish to a project. For a sports game, especially football, you need a minimum of 8 weeks of QA testing with at least 8 testers after hitting the Beta milestone (Beta = code and content complete with no known major “showstopper” progression bugs). This is on top of the 6 weeks of QA testing that should happen between Alpha and Beta milestones.

5. When it comes to conflict, people do not emotionally advance beyond the mentality of a four year old child, and should be treated as such until the issue is resolved.

6. Donuts are important for team moral, but coffee is vital to avoid mutiny.

7. It’s always best to worry about your own work, and ignore what others are doing with their time. That’s for the managers to worry about.

8. Project Tracking systems work well if the team actually updates it properly… and you should NEVER switch systems mid-project, no matter how “easy” it looks to transition.

9. With proper planning, it’s possible to predict and minimize crunch time (overtime beyond 40 hour work weeks) while still creating a high quality video game. A rested employee is a productive employee.

10. Having a kick-ass Producer on the Publisher end is just as important as having one on the Developer end; and it’s even better if the two get along well enough to send each other disturbing monkey pictures (Thanks Mike! You were FANTASTIC to work with!).

Check out the updated game video on the official website, and put down money for a pre-order at your favorite video game retailer. We’d love to get a chance to build upon this solid foundation to create an incredible sequel, but we need you to “holla’ with ya’ dolla’” at Tecmo to let them know you want more!