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Behind-the-Screens: An Inside Look at our Project Management Approach

projectmanagement

Curious about what it’s like to create a learning game alongside our team? Today we’re offering a look into our processes for creating engaging, efficacious learning games – something we’ve been doing exclusively for nearly 15 years! It’s a chance for us to reflect on how we approach the act of making, and an opportunity for you to get to know the inner workings of an award-winning educational game studio. Today, we’re sharing a behind-the-screens look at Filament’s approach to project management – a key component of successfully creating a learning game!

Methodology

Over the past 14 years, Filament Games has honed its skills, expertise, and Agile game development methodology to consistently produce high-quality and engaging games within timeframe and budget. There are three key tools we use to maximize the engagement value from a fixed budget. First, we rely on our team of game designers to understand which mechanics have worked well in the past and which current commercial gaming trends are appropriate for enhancing the experience. Second, we leverage the efficiency of having our entire art, animation, and audio team in-house to provide high fidelity visuals and sound effects. Finally, we generate feedback from end users and use it to prioritize the functionality that
will have the greatest impact.


NOTE: The number of sprints in a release will vary given the unique scope of each project.

Design and Development Phases

Kickoff
We start every project with a 2-day kick off in our offices in Madison, Wisconsin so that everyone involved can meet in person before we move to a virtual collaboration model. During the kick-off, we focus on understanding basic product considerations such as the product vision, the target audience, the learning objectives and standards, assessment needs (if any), and external requirements. We start with the pitches included in our proposal materials as a baseline – however we also open the floor to further brainstorming and collaboration. We also use this time to discuss the technical approach and to iron out the team’s collaboration preferences.

Design
Building on the brainstorming and discussion that happened during the Kickoff, we focus on deepening our understanding of the project and collaborate on some key materials including a game design document, wireframes, concept art, and a production plan help share the vision of the product.

Development
During development  – the phase during which we build the game – we work in 2-week sprints that are grouped into 3 release phases: Alpha, Beta, and Gold. Every two weeks, we formally meet via video conference with our clients to review the progress of the last two weeks and plan the next two-week sprint. In addition to these formal meetings, our team members and clients communicate frequently on an adhoc basis.

By Alpha, we plan to have a rough playable version of all of the major game features. This release is used for playtesting with our own staff, the client’s team, as well as with user testers from the target demographic. Since it’s early in development, we call the Alpha playtest the “bad news test” as we hope to understand everything that doesn’t quite work early on so we can address the feedback in the future sprints. 

By Beta, we plan to have a playable version of all of the game’s features including any changes that came out of the Alpha playtest. We call the Beta playtest the “good news test” as we hope to get confirmation that the changes we made now work for the learner. Nonetheless, we design the schedule so there are sprints after the Beta playtest which provide time to further improve the release.

Deployment
The Gold Release is the release that is made available to your users. We will embed the game on the platform of your choice in addition to submitting any mobile/tablet apps directly to the App Store/Google Play. Additionally, we offer a standard 30-day warranty on our projects after deployment.

And there you have it – we hope you’ve enjoyed your inside look at how we harness the power of project management to build playful experiences that improve people’s lives! Are there other aspects of our game development process that you’d like to see us demystify? Let us know over on our Facebook or Twitter!


More insights into Filament’s game development practices:

Behind the Screens: An Inside Look at Our Visual Design Process

Why You Should Use Unity to Build Your Next Learning Game

What Makes Great Learning Games?