Don’t worry, you didn’t miss any blog posts, despite the fact that my posts have jumped from week 7 to week 11, missing a solid month’s worth of posts. My team and I have entered into the polish phase at this point, which means there are going to be no notable changes to our game at this point, and everyone is going to be focusing on polish, balancing, and bug fixing.
While this is an absolutely essential part of the development process, it’s also less than interesting to describe in a blog post. Instead, I’m going to take this week to reflect on what exactly happened to jump my blog posts straight from week 7 to week 11.
Of the past four weeks, I would only consider this last week to have constituted the category of “constructive work”. The three weeks before that were riddled with interruptions, including travel, spring break, team members being away, the Game Developers Conference (GDC, in abbreviation, because I have no desire to type that out every time) in San Francisco, and severe illness. Up until this point, our team has always been quite strong on getting work done. We have group work sessions twice a week, where the entire team (as much as possible) gets together, and we all sit down for two to three hours to do work together. However, starting on March 10th, our school began Spring Break. Almost half of our team members left the area for the break, to spend time with family. When this is combined with the fact that Spring Break is supposed to be, you know, a break, it was fairly obvious that a lot of work wouldn’t get done. Those of us who remained behind did our best to maintain our work sessions, but almost all of our work crosses over into another discipline in some regard.
Personally, I was working on trying to add feel to the narrative interactions in our game, and my first step on that was visual feedback. This meant I was working closely with Robin, our tech artist. However, he had gone home for Spring Break, which gave us almost no ability to work together. It would end up taking almost two weeks for us to complete something that likely should have taken only 4 hours of focused, collaborative work.
My own personal schedule, however, would not have been thrown off so much if the week immediately after Spring Break, two thirds of our team hadn’t flown to San Francisco to participate in GDC. This was a massive and wonderful experience, which you can read a reflection on if you should be interested, but I very intentionally didn’t bring my laptop with me to the city. Between networking, events, parties, and jet lag, I was crashing into bed most nights as soon as I got home, and waking up late enough the next morning that I had time for little more than a quick shower and grabbing some toast before I was heading back off to the Conference. Even if I had brought my laptop, I would not have had the time or energy to complete any work.
However, perhaps unsurprisingly considering my general lack of regard for germs and the levels of stress I had over this week, I came down with a serious case of the conflu as soon as I got back. This laid me in bed for a solid three days, and, combined with the other classwork I had been neglecting and an internship opportunity I received while at the Conference, which I had to complete a design test for, left me with no time but to just finish the work I had scoped out for almost two weeks ago.
In many ways I’m lucky, because my team had partially prepared for the slump that we all knew was going to occur with spring break, and GDC following the week later. However, that doesn’t mean we planned perfectly, either. I would say the biggest problem with the follow-up to these two weeks was how we handled the third week, after the two weeks people would be gone. It isn’t exactly unexpected, because our sprint cycle resets on Fridays, which means we missed our usual slot to reflect on the previous week and plan for the work that was to come. However, this lack of planning left a lot of wiggle room for people, myself included, to not get work done, because the deliverables we needed to hand in for that week were fairly unclear.
Ultimately we still had a very solid showing last Friday, but it had also been almost three weeks since we’d last delivered a notable update. I think the main takeaway I got form this slip-up is that it is important to plan in advance, not only of the time we know people are going to be gone, but the sprint after it as well. Unfortunately, it is simply a fact of life that it takes time to settle back into a good work flow after a break, and if that time isn’t taken into account in the planning process, it is going to cause problems later on down the line.
I’ll try and keep that in mind the next time a situation like this comes up.