How Can Remote Work Affect the Scope of Your Game?
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the infamous coronavirus or COVID-19 that is sweeping through the world. It is clear how a pandemic can affect bricks and mortar establishments, but the digital mark is rather questionable based on context. It seems that the game’s industry is doing well as a whole since people have more time to play games, but how does it affect the developers pulling strings in the background? For some, it may be no difference on what they can complete for work as they are used to working at their home anyways. However, as the product owner and lead designer on Eira: Echoes of Adventure, I feel very different about remote work than some may think.
Personally I prefer to meet people face to face. I find it easier to overcome issues in person as you can read expressions better and get a better understanding of someone’s mood. I also like collaborative work spaces--like a lab or studio. I find that distancing everyone from each other makes people feel disconnected and I personally lose a lot of my motivation.
When our team transfered to remote work, there were some resources that became unavailable to us. The average strength of our computers are weaker, not all of us have double monitors, accessible feedback tends to have a delay as there is no office door to knock on. From a purely efficiency perspective, remote work tends to add more steps to get in contact with people making communication and work less efficient. I also find that there are some resources like a QA lab that we can’t source from, so anything new has to be tested internally or by friends. We’re finding that internal testing adds a lot of time to development and takes away from work we can be doing. Usually to test the game we have one or two developers taking a game to a group of 20 or more individuals to test. This gives us fresh eyes and saves an enormous amount of time.
So how does this affect scope? If our team members are typically spending about 14 hours a week on this project, they have less time to actually develop the game as there are more meetings and steps to make the process happen. Not being able to test the game as frequently also limits what we can add safely to our game. From the perspective of our leads, we feel that the team cannot produce as much work as we initially planned and have decided to cut features. We ended up cutting two of our five levels and took out features that we wanted because we didn’t feel confident that we could finish them. It always sucks removing parts of your game, but at least it’s for the better. With hope, the rest of the game will feel more polished because of this.
I wish you all good health, and I hope your projects are going well. Next week I will try to review how the transition has played out for remote work. Until next time!