Prototype Post-Mortem: GC:SO

Introduction

Gunmetal Crusader: Star Overdrive is one of the first long-form projects that I’m spending my time on. As one of the first Virtual Reality projects for both myself and my team, there is a certain dread and excitement we can’t help but feel as the game progresses. We’ve proven that we can we have the ability to make this vision come to life, though if we want to, reflecting on what’s happened over the past six weeks or so is a must.


The Bad

Of course nothing is always rainbows and sunshine, there’s a lot of ups and downs when it comes to working with a team of human beings, especially when you have to wrangle them up like I do in my role as Project Manager. Some of the most major things I noticed going wrong with the project were partially my fault.

In the early stages of the project, there was a period of time wherein a lot of people did a lot of work, and unfortunately, not all of it got logged. There were some aspects of Project Management that some members of the team had misconceptions about, and therefore expected me to personally log all hours of work they had completed, even if I assigned those hours to be working on something else. Productivity is great, but I’m a busy person, I can’t be doing that on top of my own work. Everything was sorted quickly, and the members of the team were forced to learn how to use HackNPlan to log their extra hours. Though this could have been avoided, in the future I, as Project Manager, should let all members of the team know that they are able to log their own hours should they find something that needs attention. Conversely I could ensure that everyone has access to log tasks individually with my Project Manager.

There was also a point in time where tensions rose within the team, where I, as Project Manager, decided to test the team to ensure they were regularly checking the HackNPlan. This was done by going through and assigning tasks according to importance as normal, but not telling the team that it had been done. Needless to say this fell flat on it’s face, with the team rising in anger come Saturday when nothing had been done, and I had hinted that tasks were assigned the entire time. I’m obviously not entirely at fault here, of the four other people in my team, none of them decided to nonchalantly check the HackNPlan for that week. This was something that was addressed quickly, I would let people know that tasks had been updated, and give a quick rundown rather than the paragraphs I was writing beforehand. While checking tasks should be a regular thing for everyone on the team, a little reminder never hurts, and in the future, I’ll be sure to send them.

Workflow within the team could have been much better. Upon surveying the logged hours spreadsheet, it was immediately obvious that workflow was not consistent for everyone in the team. There isn’t a ton that I can do to force people to do more work, particularly if they’re going through personal issues as members of the team experienced. I also hate pushing people to do work if they aren’t in the right head space, I know that I would hate it if someone did that to me.  Therefore I find it difficult to assert myself, and tell people to do work. Hell, even I experienced some demotivation at points within the past few months, though it never stopped me from tending to my duties. As a long-form goal, I’d like to be more assertive as a project manager. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of being a Project Manager right now. I’ve come to believe this is because of the lack of work I saw at point throughout the pre-production phase. Though if in the future I can assert myself, or raise morale in the team somehow, I think that it would just make me that much better.  


The Good

But nothing is always so dark and dreary either. There is green grass on the other side, I promise. It never ceases to amaze me how far I’ve come, both as a Programmer and a person. After completing their first VR project, I hope that rings true for the rest of the team as well. We can ride the wave of completing the prototype rather far into the true project, I feel, and we can make it even better.

Like I said previously, there were some ups and downs in work flow for the prototype, and that might come down to clarity or understanding of tools. However, things can run so much more smoothly when people follow a set of guidelines. Things like Git Flow, coding standards and accurate documentation really helped out a lot, particularly when there were members of the team who hadn’t worked with VRTK previously. As a Project Manager, having an established set of guidelines to refer back to can only be a good thing as long as they’re actively being used and enforced. The most obvious of these is simple code standards, as a lot of issues could be solved if that one line were commented, or that function didn’t look like a variable.

I feel that I’ve progressed a lot as a programmer in the past year, I’ve said before that it never ceases to amaze me, but it really never ceases to amaze me. In the past I’ve taken steps towards learning new languages, but recently I’ve switched over to learning better game development practices, particularly in Programming. Commenting my code, summarising classes, looking for a better solution to code I’ve already written is something I’ve been actively pushing myself to do, and it feels really good to do. Even better when someone else can easily understand what to do with it. Taking tools like Git commits, comments and documentation seriously and written concisely can help everyone in the group understand what is going on. I’d like to challenge myself to uphold these practices actively, and challenge my team to do the same.


Conclusion

Overall, the prototype was a success, given its ups and downs like every other project. I thoroughly enjoy working on Virtual Reality games, and I might even be tempted to work in the industry as a VR developer in time. There’s a lot left to do on this project, and I’m confident that this team can get that work done. We’re a lot more comfortable now, and I want to see a solid workflow coming from everyone in the coming weeks. We are exhibiting the prototype build, and I can’t wait to see how people react to it. This project is something I’d like to see on Steam one day, and I think we can do that.

 

Tylah Kapa