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Sunday, March 29, 2009

GDC Wrapup

GDC was good this year. Although attendance was down, you couldn't tell it from the sessions. They were packed. The expo floor and especially the career pavilion, were a little more sparse.

All the sessions I wanted to attend were good. I added some comments on a few:

Failure is NOT an Option - Basic Survival Techniques for any Producer/Designer
This was one of the best sessions of GDC. Rich Vogel talked about true, hard-won leadership and PM wisdom. He "told it like it was" and his one-liners had us laughing. Get the slides and audio.

Building Your Airplane While Flying: Production at Bungie

I met Allen Murray and Patrick O'Kelley earlier in the week and was interested to hear how they were adopting a very Scrum-like process to production. It sounds like Bungie is applying a lot of common sense to production following some heavy crunch on the Halo titles. Sadly, I had to dash to a meeting halfway through this presentation, so I'll be downloading the slides and audio for this one as well.

Bend Microsoft Project To Your Will - Again
Good session! I almost wish I was using MS Project 2007 after suffering all those years ago using its predecessors. Almost. Although Mike says he has some issues with Scrum, he professes a lot of wisdom that is in line with the principles of agile development:
- "If you are spending more than 30 minutes a day using Project and not working with the team, you are doing it wrong. Your real job is getting out of your chair and looking at the game".
- "Don't get caught up in tracking the past".
- "Game development is agile whether you like it or not."

Mike suggests that daily work be tracked and that a Project database be limited to 1500 tasks. However a console project team using Scrum can easily generate over 1500 tasks every four week Sprint. Tracking to the level of detail that Scrum teams can do themselves doesn't sound like an effective use of time and tracking to a higher level of team is less accurate.

It's a better tool these days, but I think it's best used for production.

The Iterative Level Design Process of Bioware's MASS EFFECT 2

I had to skip this one for my flight back. However I had a great chat with Corey the day before. Bioware continues to be a very progressive development house that is discovering great things. I'll be grabbing the slides/audio for this one as well.

I can't recall attending a more enjoyable GDC. I'm looking forward to GDC Canda in May!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

GDC Week

Another GDC! I'll be presenting my session on Thursday at 9 AM called Advanced Scrum and Agile Development. This has probably been the most challenging presentation I've had to come up with. Over the past year as I've visited a lot of studios, I've seen some very common challenges that Scrum teams has been struggling with. As we addressed these challenges I started to see some common patterns emerge about how studios see Scrum. For example, many studios new to Scrum see it as a way to slice and dice a push system of task management -- and it does give some improvements to the way they managed tasks in the past. The challenge is to transition to a pull system of creating value every iteration; tasks are critical, but achieving "done" is more important. Changing this state of mind is a challenge that most Scrum teams will face.

Issues like this have been the most valuable to address over the past year, so that's why I'm addressing them in the session. We'll see if it translates to a 45 minute talk.

There are plenty of interesting sessions again. Some of the ones I'm looking forward to are:

Failure is NOT an Option - Basic Survival Techniques for any Producer/Designer
I attend any talk that Rich Vogel gives at GDC.

Building Your Airplane While Flying: Production at Bungie
Production case studies from Halo3. Enough said.

Bend Microsoft Project To Your Will - Again
Have I gone mad? Microsoft Project? Mike McShaffry always has something interesting to say, but when the session description includes statements like "...even how to track agile development (even SCRUM!) using Microsoft Project", attendance is a must.

The Iterative Level Design Process of Bioware's MASS EFFECT 2
C'mon GDC organizers! This talk at 4 PM Friday?! Unfortunately I'll be waiting for my plane. Bioware is pushing the boundaries of Scrum and Lean for level production. If you are around, this should be interesting.

There are plenty of other great sounding sessions as well.

See you at GDC!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Certified Scrum Master for Game Developers in Boston

Mike Cohn and I will be providing a Certified Scrum Master for Game Development course in Boston (Cambridge) on May 5th and 6th. Details are here. Mike is the author of User Stories Applied and Agile Estimating and Planning and was our agile coach at High Moon Studios.

Also, there are just five seats remaining for the Certified Scrum Master for Video Game workshop at GDC.

Friday, March 06, 2009