Let’s talk about increasing your productivity with user-friendly game making tools. Mostly we are looking to reduce wasted time with lackluster free tools found online. I make a few assumptions when creating this list:
- You’re an indie developer with little or limited large scale production experience
- You have a distaste for scheduling which limits your creative or coding time
- Your team is not all in the same city or even the same country
- You want to spend little or no money and get results on par with a well-oiled corporate machine.
It’s all doable! Try these out:
1. Toggl – Track your time. Do it. Don’t think for one moment that you are above this or don’t need it. Toggl is free and very simple to use. They have apps for your phone and tablet. I track all of my time in broad chunks and it is incredibly helpful to go back each week and see my performance. You can also setup categories for yourself (home business, game projects, free day, etc.) and see how you spend your time over the year. It’s very helpful and honestly changed my attitude towards work. I feel much more efficient. If you doubt this, try it for two weeks and just experience the process. There is nothing like plugging “Facebook time” or “web surfing” into a time tracker to demotivate you from wasting 10-15 minutes looking at sloth gifs.
2. Trello – A very competent website for organizing small scale team work. Trello allows you to setup tasks and projects with multiple people using a system that is pretty close to digital 3×5 index cards. It’s very easy to setup and once you start rolling you create project “cards” with attachments and checklists. You can even have small discussions per card. It may sound complicated but it is extremely simple to learn and execute. I highly recommend this one. I use it currently and can’t imagine working without it.
3. Excel or Google Spreadsheets – You need something to track your project parts. Get a piece of software which allows you to create check boxes and organize things in a structure. The idea here is to create a sheet with everything you think your game needs. It’s old school but it works. Trust me, you do not want to forget about things like options panels, credits, marketing pushes and countless other things. You can’t remember everything perfectly. Short story, make a list. Make it as complete as you can and reassess the list weekly. It’s ok to make a list you correct but it is not ok to have no list.
Below is an example of a simple Excel setup from the Boss 101 web game. Note that this page is basically a data drawer for info on the hats in my project. It’s very easy to see and track progress:
4. Hansoft (Optional) – Hansoft is what I switched over to recently at home. Hansoft is free for developer teams of 9 or smaller. If you have a minor inkling of things like Jira, or otherAtlassian software, you might want to give it a go for yourself. What I personally like about Hansoft is that you can structure your project as you like. The short story here is you create a giant project to-do list (called the backlog) and then pull assignments out as you work on them. You can setup a nice work week and then just plug away. This is hands down one of the most efficient ways I have found to work. I did the Excel thing for years and always comeback to pro-design project software. You can’t beat Hansoft for free and though it has its fair share of detractors, I can only tell you this – I was a project manager at a few companies and used Hansoft for all of them. The only people who didn’t like Hansoft were the people who didn’t want to open it. That’s not an excuse you get to use when you are on your own. You have to take yourself and the project seriously. You may not need to use Hansoft or Jira or something like that but you must track the moving parts!
Ok, enough gassing for now. I hope you enjoyed the latest and feel free to hit me up with questions or comments!