Organizing the Team

The team can be organized in several ways, depending on the team size and what roles are needed. Small companies might have a single person fulfilling multiple roles on a project, such as producer-designer, engineer-designer, or producer-engineer. Large teams will likely have a team comprising people who specialize in a specific, clearly defined role, such as user interface (UI) artist or Artificial Intelligence (Al) engineer. Be aware that when one person is fulfilling multiple roles on the project, it may cause some conflict. For example, you might be a producer-designer and find your producer side disagreeing with your designer side, especially if the design decision means adding more time or money to the project.

Whatever the team size, create a team organization chart so that people know who they need to talk to for information.

Figure 11.1 depicts a general organization chartfor a team with a producer-lead structure. The producer manages the art, engineering, design, and QA leads, and the leads manage the rest of the development team. This is a very straightforward way of organizing the team, and the chain of command is very clear. This reporting structure works well for developing employees since the discipline lead is focused on helping subordinates improve and grow within their disciplines. The drawback to this structure is that it silos the disciplines and doesn't encourage cross-discipline collaboration. If you have a large team, you may find that organizing them into strike teams will provide a better result.

Strike Teams

Task forces or strike teams are cross-discipline groups that are responsible for designing and implementing features into the game. They work best when they have flexibility and autonomy to make decisions within a general set of project parameters. Being cross-discipline is a key component to their success; the group should have all the necessary people to design, implement, test, and iterate a set of game features. For example, a project might have a Ul strike team who is focused on creating all the Ul in the game. Because they are cross-discipline, the engineers, designers, and artists will be more knowledgeable about the technical, design, and artistic limitations of Ul functionality, and will be able to more efficiently work together to create the full Ul experience. Another strike team might focus on the player's character and how it interacts with the game world. This team will also have artists, designers, and engineers working together to design the player character, the activities the player can do, and perhaps the character customization system. Another strike team might focus on implementing enemies in the game.

Some teams may find it better to organize around strike teams than to organize around disciplines. When you organize around disciplines, it limits the exposure team members will have to people outside of their discipline. Doing it this way also fragments the tasks needed to implement a feature across multiple discipline teams. Instead, organizing strike teams around a set of game features provides a more holistic view ofthe feature and information on what effort will be needed to implement it in the game. With the rise of agile development (discussed in Chapter 4), game teams have become more open to utilizing strike teams to get things done.

If you utilize strike teams as a way of organizing your team, follow these guidelines:

  • Teams must be cross-discipline: This includes art, design, engineering, and production. It is also nice to include testing. Having testers work directly with the developers is enormously helpful when creating and iterating on features.
  • Teams must have all the resources within the team to complete the features: For example, if the team is tasked with creating mission intro cinematics, they should have animators, audio designers, and a scripter on their strike team. The team shouldn't be put in a position where they need to "borrow" someone from another strike team to do the work.

If all the resources are contained within the team, they have the most autonomy to do what needs to get done.

  • Utilize an agile production methodology: Agile and strike teams go well together. Strike teams can be created for certain feature sets, then they can be reconfigured as needed for others. At the end of a sprint or milestone, reassess the team configurations to see what changes need to be made.
  • Appoint a strike team lead or leads: Within each strike team, it is helpful to have leads who are responsible for the implementation and quality ofthe feature. These people work closely with the strike team to research what needs to be done, collect information, task out the work, implement features, and check quality, and are responsible for the final version ofthe feature.

If organizing around strike teams, you will want to have a lead who is responsible for helping the team organize their work, unblocking any issues, and providing status updates to the appropriate parties. This is a role that can be filled by a producer or a discipline lead. If you utilize this format for the production pipeline, you can still utilize a structure where employees have a discipline lead who is responsible for performance feedback, mentoring, and career growth.

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