Thursday, November 5, 2009

The dull side of it - Part 1.

"Jens, I really need to read an email, but the email queue is taking forever to download! It's some guy named Brian that has sent a huge file as an attachment, probably 1MB. If not more!"

The other day I came to think of the above situation, when my dear father was in the need to read some email on the family computer back in 1997/1998. A few days earlier I had come in contact with a fellow named Brian Greenstone who was working on a freeware game and had asked on a game news site if anyone was interested in helping him. I volunteered to try and make some music. I was 18 and studying music during my final year of high school, with a life-long interest in games I thought this was a good opportunity to combine the two interest of mine. We discussed over email and he sent me the test builds of the game as simple attachments and I in turn sent my attempts at writing music back. My family had a 14.4 Kbps or maybe a 28.8 Kbps modem and sending and downloading those attachments took a little while... But that was how Brian worked with his game (and the following games too!), all content, as far as I know, was passed back and forth between the people working on the game using nothing but email.

As I thought about it I figured that maybe some interesting blog material could be found here. So, a couple of blog posts will take a look at how we have organized it here at Frictional and hopefully give a tip or two to those in a similar situation. To kick it all off I'm going to quickly go through how the company deals with daily communication among its members.

Frictional consist of five people, four live in Sweden, one in Spain and we do not have an office or place where we regular meet. We do all the work on our games from our homes and by using typical programs and technologies, all which are free. Much like other companies our work hours are from 8 in the morning to 5 in the evening and it is required that you are online on MSN during that period so that it is easy to get in touch with each other. While we also talk over the phone and through email, MSN is our main tool for daily communication. The exception is on Fridays when we meet up over Skype for our weekly meetings. The general idea is that news regarding the company (perhaps we have had a successful weekend sale) is shared to all the members and that all members do a quick "This I have done lately" presentation.

We split up our work in three week periods, where two weeks are the main period to work on a certain task and the third week is an extra week. The extra week is used to make sure there is time to compensate, should a task have had some problem or taken longer than two weeks. If anyone managed to finish within two weeks, the third week is used to work on some special assignment, usually something that is a bit more interesting and fun than the normal tasks. Should it be me, perhaps I spent two weeks making footstep sounds for 5 types of surfaces and on the third week I can instead work on making the sounds for a monster (which should be more interesting than walking on surfaces). On the Monday and the end of every three week period we have a "Show and tell" meeting on Skype where everyone has documented what they have done during the week and everyone can test it out (some gameplay, a new editor feature, new level etc). We spend 1-2 hours testing each others work, write down feedback and pass it to the creator, followed by the voice meeting where we give the most important feedback and discuss it.

That's pretty much it, only put on repeat! There is more work with the actual organisation and project planning, all the work that relates to who does what when and so on, but that would make this darn long. For next post I'll talk about the system we use for file sharing, we have used the same system since 2006 and have had some different solutions on where it has been hosted.