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Larger Projects

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Artistic Director: responsible for all of the art work ... art group works on artistic content: graphics, animation, sound, etc ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Larger Projects


1
Larger Projects
  • Mark Green
  • School of Creative Media

2
Introduction
  • Larger projects differ in several ways from
    smaller projects
  • More opportunity for failure
  • Need for funding
  • Larger teams
  • Management issues
  • Communications
  • politics

3
Introduction
  • For projects that last longer than 6 months, and
    require a team of more than 6 people we need to
    use a different production process
  • If all the team members cant go to lunch
    together and sit at the same table, then we need
    to have good design documents

4
Projects
  • To set the context, what types of projects are we
    thinking about
  • Computer games
  • Educational software
  • Both require teams with a range of skills and an
    extended development period, varying from 6
    months to several years

5
Context
  • More organized development process
  • Better design documentation
  • Well defined team structure
  • For large projects need to have the major
    components well defined
  • Will be developed by different people, must to
    fit together at the end of the project

6
Context
  • Without clear documentation project could lack
    consistency
  • Different parts have different visual styles
  • Characters behave differently in different parts
    of the games
  • Rules change as the player moves through the game

7
Context
  • Many different skills required, and many people
  • Need an effective organizational structure, both
    to organize the work flow and organize the people
  • Need to know who is in charge for the various
    parts of the project

8
Team Structure
  • Project Manager person at the top, responsible
    for entire project, also called producer or
    director
  • Artistic Director responsible for all of the art
    work
  • Technical Director responsible for the
    programmer and other technical issues

9
Team Structure
  • Chief Designer responsible for the design of the
    product
  • RD usually not directly associated with a
    project, explore technology and techniques that
    are new to the company

10
Team Structure
Project Manager
RD
Artistic Director
Technical Director
Chief Designer
Artists
Programmers
11
Concept Formation
  • You have a great idea, but you need
  • Money
  • Team members
  • Need to get people excited about your project,
    want to participate
  • Treatment a short document, 5 pages or less,
    that describes the project, gets peoples interest

12
Treatment
  • First paragraph should catch their interest, how
    the game starts
  • Explain the basic idea of the game
  • Why will it be fun
  • Similar games on the market
  • Target audience
  • Whats new and interesting

13
Treatment
  • Financial side
  • How much will it cost
  • How long will it take
  • Who will buy it
  • Team
  • What skills do you need
  • Who is already involved

14
Treatment
  • The treatment gets the ball rolling, use it to
    sell the project
  • Publishers get a publishing contract, source of
    funds
  • Potential team members get good people to join
    your team
  • Financial people arrange funding for the project
    if publisher doesnt cover all of it

15
Preliminary Design
  • Starts once treatment has been successful
  • Done by the chief designer with some input from
    the artistic director and technical director
  • Around 50 pages in length and takes several week
    to produce
  • First relatively complete description of the
    product

16
Preliminary Design
  • The preliminary design should cover
  • The story behind the game, the players
    motivation, the story line
  • Basic game play, reward structure
  • Structure of the game number of levels,
    movement through levels, etc
  • Characters and objects in the game

17
Preliminary Design
  • A very fluid document, be prepared to change it
    frequently
  • This is where you think out the basic design
  • Dont worry about writing quality, just get the
    ideas down in a clear form
  • If you cant describe it, you need to spend more
    time on its design

18
Preliminary Design
  • There should be enough information for
  • Artist Director estimate the skills required,
    team size, software required, and time to produce
    the art work
  • Technical Director estimate the team size,
    critical components, time required
  • RD identify special requirements, skills
    required, time to produce solutions

19
Refinement
  • The preliminary design document (PDD) is the
    first rough cut at the design
  • the next stage is to refine this document with
    the aim of producing the final design
  • there are several ways of doing this
  • produce a sequence of documents each with more
    detail
  • evolve the existing document towards the final
    design document

20
Refinement
  • Different companies will work in different ways,
    but the end is the same
  • the PDD is initially reviewed by the chief
    designer, project manager, artistic director, and
    technical director
  • evaluate will this work, what needs to be
    changed
  • refine fill in the details

21
Refinement
  • PDD usually produced by the chief designer
    working alone
  • the refinement process is more team based, will
    involve all of the designers - each working on an
    individual part, plus other team members
  • chief designer in charge of the overall design,
    but doesnt do all of the work

22
Refinement - FDD
  • The result of the refinement process will be a
    final design document (FDD)
  • large and detailed document, may be many hundred
    pages long, could be web based
  • covers all of the details of the design, from
    game play, through art and programming
  • used as a reference by team during the
    development stage

23
Refinement
  • Refinement process can last from several weeks to
    more than 6 months, depends on size and
    difficulty of project
  • some refinement will occur during development
  • problems encountered during development
  • start development while finishing design

24
Refinement
  • How do we refine the PDD?
  • Just a lot more writing?
  • Partially, but need to evaluate design as you
    proceed
  • sometimes just writing down ideas helps to
    clarify the design, can see problems when you try
    to describe the details

25
Refinement
  • Most of the time you actually need to test the
    design, see if it really works
  • how do we do this?
  • Play testing try out the rules in a paper
    version of the game
  • do the rules make sense, is it fun to play, is
    there something missing?

26
Refinement
  • Play testing can often find problems in the game
    mechanics
  • rules that arent clear
  • rules that arent needed
  • missing or incomplete rules
  • parts of the game that are boring
  • places that are too easy or too hard

27
Refinement
  • Another part of refinement is the technology
  • how do we know if that cool feature is going to
    work?
  • If our game depends on it, we better know if it
    will work, and as soon as possible
  • cant wait until the end of development to
    discover it wont work

28
Refinement
  • Solution produce a prototype
  • an implementation of the effect or feature, but
    not the whole game
  • see if its possible to program it, see if it
    really works
  • quite often RD has a test game engine that can
    be used for this

29
Refinement
  • RD can produce the prototype during the
    refinement phase, or in the early parts of the
    development phase
  • The prototype code might be usable in the final
    game, but that may not be possible
  • different game engine
  • not a complete implementation

30
Final Design Document
  • The final reference for the design
  • covers all of the objects in the design, all of
    the game play, etc
  • also assigns a priority to each object and
    feature in the game
  • priority used to allocate resources, determine
    what can be cut when we run out of time

31
Final Design Document
  • Both a written and graphical document
  • should have reference models for all the objects
    in the game, drawings of all of the characters,
    weapons, levels, backgrounds, etc
  • ensures the consistency of art work, makes sure
    everything fits together visually

32
Development
  • A lot of the same techniques as small projects,
    but some major differences
  • more people, different backgrounds
  • longer time, larger project
  • interaction between art and technical skills
  • need for communications
  • harder to test work

33
Team Structure
  • Typically split along art/technical line
  • art group works on artistic content graphics,
    animation, sound, etc
  • technical group works on the programming
  • not as clean a division as it first looks, more
    on this later
  • each group may be further divided depending upon
    team size

34
Team Structure
  • Art Group
  • modelling produce geometrical models of objects
    in product
  • animation behaviour of objects that move
  • level design produce the individual levels or
    scenes in the product
  • background produce static images
  • sound produce sound effects, speech, etc

35
Team Structure
  • Technical group
  • game engine the actual software that runs the
    game
  • tools the software tools used to produce and
    transfer the content
  • special effects special animations or visual
    effects needed for one part of the game,
    sometimes combined with the game engine

36
Tools
  • Artists produce content, but how does it get into
    the product?
  • Game engine unlikely to directly read the files
    produced by the design tools
  • quite often need to process the output in some
    way
  • programmers produce these tools, sometimes on a
    project basis

37
Tools
  • What type of processing is required?
  • Convert file formats design tool formats often
    too complex and general, want a simpler format
  • pre-process produce a more efficient format,
    extra information that makes the product faster
  • combine the output from several design tools,
    combine several files

38
Tools
  • Animator uses 3D Max to produce standard
    animations for a character
  • short animations, only a few seconds, each in a
    separate file, easier for the animator to work
    with
  • game engine expects all the animations for a
    character to be in the same file, need tool for
    this

39
Tools
  • Quake based games use Radiant, or some variation
    for level design
  • levels are well defined and relatively static,
    some motion but over a limited range
  • file format used for level editing not the same
    as used in the game, need conversion programs
  • programmers produce a version of Radiant for each
    game

40
Tools
  • Conversion tools also do a considerable amount of
    work
  • convert levels into a very efficient format
  • solve some of the hidden surface problem, quicker
    to display
  • perform most of the lighting calculations, more
    sophisticated visual effects
  • many hours to process each level

41
Tools
  • Tools produced by programmers, but they need to
    work with the artists
  • need to know what the artists need
  • need to explain to the artist how the tools work
  • may need to evolve the tools as the project
    evolves, new features or new solutions to
    problems
  • need good communications and patience

42
Production Pipeline
  • The production of the final game content is a
    pipeline, one step after another
  • start with modelling, produce models of main
    characters and objects
  • animators then produce standard animations for
    each of the characters
  • level designers combine characters and other
    objects to produce levels

43
Production Pipeline
  • Levels are then processed to produce input for
    game engine
  • may need to convert file formats from one stage
    in the pipeline to the next
  • file conversion programs are typically custom
    programmed for each project, depends on type of
    content

44
Production Pipeline
  • Problem if we change something at the start of
    the pipeline it may take several days to get into
    the final product!
  • If we change a character model may need to change
    its animations
  • then need to reprocess all the levels it appears
    in
  • then repackage the files for the game engine

45
Production Pipeline
  • We need to carefully manage the pipeline
  • changes in early stages mean a lot of work
  • must remember to send all changes through the
    pipeline
  • must remember to run all the programs
  • there are ways of automating all of this, there
    are programs that can help with this, recognise
    out of date files and process them

46
Build Manager
  • Person who is responsible for building the
    product
  • combining all the most recent files, both art and
    programs, to produce the most recent version of
    the product
  • makes sure that there is an up to date version of
    everything
  • could be a dedicated person

47
Build Manager
  • After the project gets started will start doing a
    nightly build
  • build starts after most people have done home,
    files arent changing
  • may take all night!
  • Gives an up to date version of the product every
    day, finds build problems as soon as possible

48
Testing
  • Production pipeline has implications for routine
    testing
  • make a change, want to see the result now so we
    know whether its right
  • if we run through the complete pipeline it make
    take hours or days to see the final result, not
    good enough

49
Testing
  • Need to have a test environment where you can
    easily test something
  • a simple one level game, or use smaller levels,
    so its easy to test
  • could get something running in a matter of
    minutes instead of waiting for days

50
Management
  • Management becomes more of an issue with larger
    teams
  • each person sees a small part of the project, may
    not see how everything fits together
  • need to have good communications, so everyone
    moves in the same direction
  • dont want people pulling the project in opposite
    directions

51
Management
  • One approach is to use small teams, maximum of
    6-7 people
  • each team has well defined goal, owns one part of
    the project
  • animation team
  • modelling team
  • tools team

52
Management
  • Small teams have good communications
  • share an office, work close together
  • can meet informally over lunch
  • team manager can meet with other teams, get an
    overall picture of the project
  • can then communicate with team members, goals and
    directions of the project

53
Management
  • With long projects hard to stay motivated
  • may not have visible progress for several months,
    hard to stay motivated with feedback
  • near end of the project may need to work long
    hours, 80-100 hour weeks, can easily get sick of
    the project
  • need to have ways of keeping people interested
    and motivated

54
Management
  • Set sub-goals for each team, something that can
    be reached in a few weeks of a month
  • get more of a feeling of progress
  • have a public board showing things to be done and
    progress that has been made
  • can easily see that things are happening, know
    when more work is required

55
Management
  • Want to build a team at the start of the project,
    or keep the same team for a sequence of projects
  • dont hire new people part way through a project,
    too much learning and need time to fit into the
    team
  • want people who work well together and know how
    to get job done

56
Testing
  • More important for larger projects
  • can take much longer to fix a problem
  • many more things can go wrong
  • start testing as soon as there is something to
    test, want to find bugs early, so they can be
    fixed early
  • usually a separate testing team, dont work on
    development

57
Testing
  • New version of product given to testing team each
    day
  • result of previous nightly build
  • each day the testing manager will produce a list
    of known bugs
  • this list will be given to the development team
    at the end of the day

58
Testing
  • For each new build, first check all the known
    bugs to see if they have been fixed
  • then start looking for new bugs
  • it will usually take several days before a bug
    fix will occur, so the test manager needs to keep
    good records
  • there are software tools for bug tracking

59
Testing
  • There should be no contract between the testers
    and the developers
  • the test manager is the only contact with the
    development team
  • developers cant influence how the product is
    tested
  • testers have similar experience to testers

60
Maintenance
  • Once product is finished everyone takes a rest
  • with good testing there should be little need for
    standard maintenance
  • good games get few bug reports, bad ones just
    dont sell
  • there may be a few maintenance releases

61
Maintenance
  • We would we have a maintenance release if there
    are few bugs?
  • Add features
  • add support for new devices
  • add support for expansion packs
  • a game that stands still sells for about 6
    months, a maintenance release can keep sales
    going for a few more months

62
Maintenance
  • Expansion packs are like maintenance
  • they use basically the same game engine, sometime
    it might be upgraded
  • expansion packs add more content, new characters,
    new levels, new weapons, etc
  • its much easier to produce an expansion pack than
    a new game, a good source of income

63
Maintenance
  • At least some expansion packs are planned before
    the initial produce is released
  • need to do some planning so the expansion packs
    are easy to produce
  • other expansion packs are used to extend the life
    of the game, fairly easy to produce and can keep
    sales going for months
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