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Friday, April 09, 2010

Free Realms and Scrum

From a postmortem on Gamasutra:
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There are many different opinions about the best way to organize a team. Even with a significant organizational change in the middle of development, the Free Realms team found Scrum a great tool:

"Traditional wisdom states that you should never change horses mid-stream. But what if your horse can’t swim?

"The Free Realms team used a traditional waterfall approach for over half the game’s development. It was working about as well as it usually works in a complex scope, large team environment. With only about a year left in development we decided to move to agile development and start using scrum with a team of 80 people. We sent all the leads and key personnel to scrum training, asked those team members to train everyone else, and then made the leap.

"From the start, there was a marked improvement in team morale and communication. Although there were (and still are) a few holdouts who gripe about the daily meetings, everyone recognized that the game was making more progress in less time than it had before we started agile development.

"Over time, we modified some of the more traditional scrum elements as we added team members and features, but we maintained the heart of scrum: daily meetings, user stories going into a backlog maintained and championed by a product owner, and increased scrum group responsibility and ownership.

"Sense of ownership is key to understanding the impact scrum can have on a large team. When you have so many different people working in parallel, it’s easy for each individual to lose his sense of purpose—he starts to feel like a cog in a machine. You could definitely see that 'just doing my job' feeling in parts of the Free Realms team before we used scrum. Many people on the team didn’t understand the big picture, had no idea what other parts of the team were developing, or had lost some of the entrepreneurial spirit that started Free Realms off so strongly.

"Scrum brought with it daily meetings and bi-weekly sprint reviews where we saw what everyone else had developed. Those meetings were inspirational when we saw fantastic work from other teams, and embarrassing when one group’s work wasn’t quite up to par. The team morale woke up and the quality of the game improved along with productivity."

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