Project Management for Indies
by Andreas Zecher
In this blog post I want to talk a bit about how we do project management. If you are an indie game developer you might say, “I don’t care about project management. All I want to do is games.” If you are the only person working on your game you don’t need to care about it. However as soon as you start working together with (or for) someone else you’ll need to find a reasonable way to communicate with each other.
Since Understanding Games we are using the web-based project collaboration tool Basecamp (affiliate link) for our written communication, alongside Skype for chat and discussing things in person. Here are some of the advantages of using Basecamp over E-Mails and plain notes.
Basecamp enables you to assign and keep track of to-dos and milestones. While a to-do is usually a small task, a milestone stands for a bigger goal that you want to achieve until a certain date. Both to-dos and milestones allow for sending notifications or reminder via email, so you won’t need to check for them manually. A common workflow for us looks like this: I assign a to-do to Martin to compose a music loop for our next game. We discuss some ideas (style and atmosphere of the music, length of the tracks, what file format to use) on the message thread of the actual to-do. Once Martin has composed something, he uploads an mp3 on the same thread. In this way the complete discussion happens in one place and does not get mixed up with other discussions.
Basecamp also lets you keep track of milestones and any recent activity in all of your projects from within the Dashboard view. This way we can easily priorize which tasks need to be done next and what the other team members are doing.
History of communication
When you do your team discussions on Basecamp, it’s really easy to go back and see what you actually agreed on. Can’t remember if it was BF-SUCC.mp3 or BF-SUCC2.mp3 that sounded better? You won’t need to browse through all your emails. Just look into the according message thread.
We don’t have an office and we work from different cities in different countries. We have other jobs and freelancer gigs on the side, so we seldom work at the same time. Having all important information about our projects on Basecamp frees us from the necessaries of asking each other in real-time how something was supposed to be done.
For small indie teams Basecamp can feel a bit costly (paid plans start at $24/month) but from our experience the improved team communication makes this investment worth it. There is also a free 30-day trail and a free plan (one project, no file sharing).