The following is a post-mortem for a game that I recently worked on called Wasteland Mayhem. This project was undergon with the intent of learning the freedoms and restrictions of working within a team of people working on a single project. As the project manager, it was my job to ensure that all tasks were assigned effectively and completed efficiently. Though I feel that I failed my team, my full reflection is below.
With Wasteland Mayhem finally completed, much of the tension surrounding the project can be released. With T1T1 Productions dissipating upon submission of the game, it is imperative that one reflects on previous projects and locates areas of key value so as to improve and maintain an effective method of producing games. Pulling reflective lenses on yourself and something that you participated in creating is something that is quite difficult, yet mandatory to master when in the creative arts.
What Went Right
When this project was first acquired, T1T1 productions did a great job of describing the processes and methods that the team should abide by for the duration of the product. Avenues of communication, task allocation and version control were promptly opened in order to allow for easy access to each team member and the current version of the game.
With the trimester only just beginning, it is simple to see that these avenues were quickly opened in order to ease the team’s mind. Decision of roles and key features of the game to focus on were relatively quick and greatly boosted the team’s morale. The appearance of having some kind of progress made so early spurred on the completion of many of the more basic planning tasks.
Deciding very early on who will do what and establishing a general yet strong outline of where the project should be at intervals throughout the duration of the project is a very strong morale booster. For me, having knowledge of where everyone is at, and anticipating where the project will be by the end of a set deadline helps in easing my brain and surely everyone else’s. This should be an automatic reaction to establishing that your team is going to take on a project in due time.
Creation of Components
When it comes to each individual component of the core game, much of it was completed quite well when members of the team were assigned to the task, the task would be completed at some point in time. The task would always be completed as desired and would follow the outlined mechanics from the project brief. Once these components were created they would be able to be applied to the project in due course.
All members of the team held the capability of completing these tasks if needed, although some of the tasks may have challenged the team member in some way. The completion of the task would always reward them with furthering their experience in their field whilst contributing to the project at hand. Undoubtedly the fear of failure will have helped in the creation of these components.
Having confidence in your team is important when it comes to their completion of tasks, though I did not feel confident in the quality of what was created because I had not created them to my liking, I entrusted the team with these tasks. As someone whom has largely worked independently throughout life, I found it hard to entrust people with tasks and roles as the project manager.
What Went Wrong
Completion of Tasks
As discussed in the ‘What Went Right’ section, tasks were created and completed quite promptly as this project was received. However, the team’s productivity as deadlines neared slowed to a crawl, which nearly completely halted progress on the project. Some of the simpler tasks such as having some particular features in the game which would assist in the creation of the game were not placed in the game.
As these small tasks stacked up against the team, stress for other commitments only grew, which did not help. I don’t believe that the neglect of these tasks were the result of negligence or lack of skill. I believe that this entire team mutually agreed that other projects took precedence over this project.
As the project manager, I feel that I failed the team by not chasing up these incomplete tasks sooner. Getting these small tasks in line so as not to overwhelm in the end would most definitely have helped whilst definitely keeping the pressure off of this project so that the team could focus on their own commitments.
Communication between the team, or lack thereof made it exceptionally difficult to keep up with the development of the project. At various points throughout the project I felt that I as the project manager was left out of where everyone was up to and as a result I felt less confident in placing more tasks onto a team member. The team did have a maximum of two modes of communication outside of face to face meetings and so a lack of communication should not happen.
I’m unsure of the root cause of this problem, though it is quite possible and understandable that other commitments stopped the team from trying to communicate with each other. Some of this lack of communication may have come from the embarrassment of not being able to complete a task, or a lack of confidence in the team in general. It is also entirely possible that the team was waiting on status reports and direction from me.
In order to try to rectify this large communication error. I attempted to provide to the team a form to fill out weekly outlining tasks completed and not completed and reasoning why so as to evaluate where to allocate tasks in the future. Though even this weekly form was not filled out often, and turned out to be little more than a meagre attempt executed later than it should have been. I would have been more beneficial to establish that a survey/status report on tasks be completed after each session or working week while the spur of activity was still fresh. This would have motivated the team to work harder and evaluate the way that they were working on the project.
When it came to the overall completion of the project, I would say that the entire team could have managed their time better. I think that all of us severely underestimated this trimester as one that could easily be passed. Assessment quickly crept up behind us and we found ourselves stressed out trying to focus on these outside projects and not progressing towards the completion of this one.
Overall it would be acceptable to say that I did not manage the team adequately. My position as Project Manager fell naturally as a result of role selection rather than being a volunteered status. Because of my lack in confidence as a leader of a group, I feel that I was not correctly assigning tasks to the team, or failed to complete my duties as the project leader. I think that this project acted as a good indicator that I prefer to take orders rather than give them. I found that I felt that I had more manpower at my disposal than necessary, which deemed problematic as I did not know whom to place on what tasks. The fact that this was such a small scale game also contributed to that factor. Having two people work on creating one simple level, or working on a slider script felt redundant and so I attempted to split up those responsibilities as best as I could. The fact that I did not know where everyone was up to in regards to the project did not help.
I think that if I were to manage a project again, I would want to lay out strict ground rules of regular reports to let me know what has been done and to what standard. I would then want to see these tasks and their effect on the project. From there I could then more accurately decide which member of the team should be assigned to which task. I could have also not hesitated to use my full manpower, I found that I was not assigning many tasks to Jack because I did not know his potential and I already felt that I had an excess of manpower working on the project at once.
In regards to this project, I do not feel as though there were many unexpected events or events that served as major distractions from this project that aren’t commitments to other projects. However, that is speaking only for me, I know that some of the team members were struggling with their studies, and I tried to acknowledge that whilst I was assigning tasks to the members of the team.
I was not fully satisfied with the way that my team and I performed. I feel that as the team’s leader I let my team down by not utilising the team’s strengths in order to maximise efficiency and progress on this assignment which would have, in turn, led to a smoother and less stressful production trimester. I feel that I could have vastly improved on what was done if I had not hesitated to lead myself and my team down a more productive and active path. As I have said above, if I were to lead a team in the future, I would like to be very involved with the team, with frequent reports on status and confidence so that I would be able to assign more small tasks to all members of the team rather than a single component of the project to one or two members of the team. This would boost my confidence as a leader and also help the entire team stress less about the project knowing that their leader is confident in their abilities and where they are at.
I feel that as a whole, the team failed to communicate with each other despite being in a day and age wherein not having access to peers via the internet or locally should not be a problem. I believe that in spite of this, I still contributed to this team’s radio silence, contacting the team about the current task that they were working on or trying to get status reports was more of a hassle than anything, and I’m unsure of whether it was my lack of attempts at getting the team to fill out these reports, or just simply forgetting to fill the form out/ neglecting it completely. I think that it is difficult to reflect how well I communicated with the team if the team in general were not communicating.
As stated previously that although I am studying a heavily team-based art, I am a largely independent worker. Finding the confidence within myself to attempt to lead this team was rather difficult given how small scale the project was. I felt that before I could lead the team, I would have to build confidence in myself as a leader to then place trust in their abilities. Though I don’t believe that I was able to accomplish that. Overall I’m quite disappointed with the way that I led this team, and I fully intend to attempt to improve myself as a leader rather than a lone-wolf worker.
I tend to think of myself as a jaded person, I’d rather stay neutral than be overcome by emotion be it positive or negative. It can definitely be hard for me to genuinely uphold a positive outlook on my status, specifically when I overthink things or am focused on other projects. With this trimester being more stressful to me than any other trimester or semester in my educational life, I found it hard to keep a positive outlook on our progress, especially as time went on. I wouldn’t say that I was particularly harsh on the team, most definitely not, worse words could be exchanged, much more extreme measures could be taken. Though at times I did feel like I was driven to be kind of the whip to keep the team in line. It’s difficult to hold that persona of authority whilst still upholding a positive attitude on what you’ve done especially if you’re that stressed out as I was at the time. I think that I’ll have to reflect on exactly how I can increase productivity with positivity whilst maintaining an authority figure in my team’s mind. Though upholding this authority figure would be unnecessary if a team has good communication skills, as good communication skill would great a naturally positive environment for the team to work in.
Overall, I’m not very satisfied with the outcome on this project, more specifically I’m unhappy with the way that I led this team. I hope that I will be able to overcome my doubts in the future in order to lead a successful team to complete an even bigger project. Until then, I’ll need to train myself to trust in others more so than I do now, while also trying to maintain an aspect of authority if given a position of leadership.