Creative Chronicles: Development Management
19 June 2018
PLAN, PREPARE, ANALYSE AND COMMUNICATE
A development manager’s personal pillars are: plan, prepare, analyse and communicate.
You are continually estimating and goal setting from a macro level all the way down to the micro detail.
Supporting the production, you have a variety of tools, graphs and indicators to estimate and evaluate delivery expectations, this might be done by taking past averages to produce a project timeline. It’s the development manager’s responsibility to plan out the project milestones and deadlines, keeping the entire team on track and making constant adjustments for all the changes that invariably happen throughout development. Accurate finish predictions can be ascertained by measuring individual progress based on previous averages and setting the scope at the start. In an AAA environment, you may be working with teams of hundreds of creatives and these predictions must be carefully analysed.
The development manager is a goal-setter, but also a problem-solver.
While the data helps build a picture of the product pipeline, it's only part of the picture. The rest comes from discussion with the team as there will always be external factors that will impact the schedule, and the producer will need to adapt to take these into account.
Through this wider analysis, the development manager can foresee potential problems. With a broad knowledge of the production process as a whole they will be able to help identify what might go wrong, what has gone wrong, and work with the expert e.g. the programmer, who will be able to find the solution.
While planning and analysing data will help you spot issues, it’s through this communication with the team that you can understand the full picture and drive everyone towards solutions. Within a creative team there will be such a broad range of personalities and the development manager will need to bring everyone together, leading them towards solutions and being able to get the best out of the team.
This is one of the reasons why game production is such an interesting area, you have a holistic view of all the disciplines and work in an extremely multidisciplinary field.
You are analytical, constantly interpreting, evaluating, adjusting and communicating data to the wider team. This skill is far more important than proficiency in software and yet is often overlooked by those looking to get into games production.
However, Excel is the development manager's best friend and software for understanding time estimates, capacity and managing tasks, such as JIRA and Hansoft, will come in handy and are often utilised on large AAA projects.