I was recently speaking with a wonderful Perth based developer, Joel Knox, and the topic of my development cycles came up. In the past I have shared with Joel my process and he suggested it would be worth discussing in blog post, so here it is!
Coming from a background where I have a high degree of exposure to commercial development techniques has instilled in me certain best practices that I try to follow in my own way. One of these key principles is that of a sprint cycle which is a core component of the Agile methodology. You can read more about it here with a pretty diagram that shows the basic concept of churning through a backlog of work and releasing content at regular intervals. These regular cycles are sprint cycles.
Being a time poor indie developer I have adapted myself to follow this method and I work to a month long sprint where I can hopefully find time to fix bugs, implement features or nut out concepts for later development. To do this I have been heavily using Google Docs to create a monthly lists on which I will add feature goals, existing bugs, break down tasks into components, jot down thoughts on concepts and eventually mark things as done. I have stripped out my personal copy of this month’s list and created a version of my back log to share which can be view here. I have added some comments to explain my sections but ultimately the key section is the first part where I add all my existing bugs and features I plan to work on (as well as some along the way) and have in this case marked done most of the list.
So, what does this all achieve? Well ultimately at the end of every month I make a “release” build where I can see my progress and “play” my game. It gives me an opportunity to briefly QA and find issues for next month. It is also a great gauge of if my current direction is working or if I need to consider a feature in a different light. At the moment I have only shared these builds with a very limited audience and I intend to share with a larger review audience to gather further feedback in the near future. If you are interested in having a look at a release please feel free to contact me by any of the methods on my contact page. These monthly to-do lists also form the back bone of my release notes that I am in a habit of creating for every build. I plan in the future to talk more about my process of creating a release and these notes.
Beyond the monthly releases these documented sprint cycles are now something I can look back on in the future and see my own personal growth and reflect on the enjoyment that being a game developer brings me.
I will leave you with a video of where the game is at