Sunday, May 29, 2011

Timelines

I never did mind project management, and I did understand it's vital importance. Timelines are vitally important. They prove to yourself and others that you have a plan and commitment to get a job done. When you are planning dates you have to define how much time you'll give yourself. (Often it's for a good reason) And then pick an amount of work you KNOW you can do. A good guideline is to pick a little below your best motivated work rate. Once you have the end date, and measure of success (the goal), you need to fill in some realistic milestones. Every month is good for a start, but every week becomes necessary later on.

Finally show your timeline to others and do everything you can to cement those dates in. For example, having just enough money to cover rent. The more those dates are a necessity, the harder you'll work towards them and the more realistically you'll set them.

Here's my timeline:


Date Milestone
June 24th 25 days of relearning flash
Aug 1st 1st Flash - Micro Game
Sept 1st Preproduction and Prototype on 2nd game / Optional Dropout point
Oct 1st 2nd Game Feature Complete
Nov 1st 2nd Game Released
Dec 1st Game Publishing and Assessment / Optional Dropout Point


Relearning Flash
I was introduced to flash back at VFS. And although I got into it a lot, it's been 4 years since I've used it to make a game. Luckily as long as I know where I'm going I learn fast. 25 days will be enough to get the basics down. Besides, I installed the trial version and it gives me enough time to relearn, just in time to buy the full version at the end as a sort of milestone graduation present to myself.

1st Game (Micro Game)
First I suggest you look at this developer on a flash game site called Kongregate. Check out the link to Nerdook here. Now first look at his release dates. He pumps out full flash games in less than a month! These aren't super crappy flash games either, but they are short. This is the example of the scope for the first "micro game". It won't look at pretty is his, unless I'm able to get some serious art help. But it should be just as functional. Also the profit model has to be installed. I'm expecting no actual profit on this game. In fact I expect an overall loss.


2nd Game - Game for Profit
The current plan is to make a 2nd full flash game. This one will stand up to any other good flash game out there, and will at least break even. Hopefully at this point I will have a couple people to help as well. At very least someone for art. Although I'm likely not making a zombie game. SAS Zombie Assault 2 shows generally the scope I'm aiming for and the profit model I would like to use. I'll cover why I like this profit model so much in another blog.

Optional Dropout Points
These are the points where I have to ask myself seriously. Am I on track or have I gotten to my defined success? The more "loosey goosey" you make things the more dangerous and expensive it becomes to waste time. If I do drop out, I'll be starting to send my resume out to the industry and have to get a normal job. Finally these are the absolute guideposts that cannot be moved or renegotiated. In 6 months from now it's do or die.

Game Publishing and Assessment
This is the point where the game is shopped around, and it's the final (and likely tough) assessment of have I met my level of success. This month is also for flex time in case any of the other dates (aside from the dropout points) shift.

Success Factor
As important as the timeline, you have to define your success factor. Ask yourself this simple question:

"How exactly will you know when you are successful?"

Make it as specific, yet as concise as possible. Here's mine:

"Be earning enough stable money to pay my living expenses while working on my games for 30+ hours a week from home."

So, notice what I didn't say. I didn't say, "My games earn enough to pay my living". I can earn money from other side projects, consulting work, basically anything else at all, even stock dividends, as long as I can stay at home and do it. Also it's enough to pay "my living". Not a set amount of money. So if I can live cheaper, it also gets me closer to this goal. I picked 30+ hours so that the majority of my time is spend working on the games I develop. As to not be tempted to get an ultra cheap part time job.

So if I meet this goal by Dec 1st I'll continue to expand and develop more. I would likely set another goal in the next 6 months to earn living expenses +15K a year or something like that.

If I don't succeed. I have to strongly consider going back to work in the industry. I use the words "strongly consider" because although it's more than likely, you always have to consider current circumstances at that time. For example, you may not be earning your living wage, but just signed a deal with Sony to develop some games for them for 80,000 in 2 months from now. So we'll see what happens.

So a little bit long, but thats the plan!

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