Lean, mean, startup infrastructure

Are you pumped and ready to build the next hot mobile game or app? Great, all the power to you. However, if you have two or more members on the team, then you are going to need some structure to run efficiently. This is especially true if some members are far apart or work during different times of the day.

When we started working on our game, Sketch Guess, our first and only “tool” was email. It worked great at the beginning, but it quickly became cumbersome when our discussions moved to more complex matters and we started producing assets. As the project progressed, we incorporated fast, cheap, and reliable services to keep us rolling smoothly. We are happy to share what worked for us. Every project is different and each team has different needs, so look at this more as inspiration.

Basecamp, Dropbox, Zendesk, Google Drive

Project Management

First things first, you need a communication hub. Basecamp is the way to go. We were using the older version that had a free account. I think the latest version requires a monthly subscription. Regardless, it’s worth the price. Basecamp is great for organizing conversations, establishing milestones in a calendar, and maintaining to do lists.

Files and Storage

You’re going to need a place to store designs, digital assets, legal documents, etc. Dropbox is our tool of choice. In minutes you can have a central location where the team can access files. Also, Dropbox is great for backups because they keep a version history. Luckily, our game is lightweight, so the free 2GB account was sufficient. I referred a few people so were able to squeeze out another 1GB for free. Although, we were getting low on space when we created a video trailer for the game…

You can also try SugarSync, which provides 5GB for free. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to pony up some cash for a plan. They are pretty cheap and it’s great to have everything sync up nicely without any effort. FYI, when we started the project Google Drive wasn’t available yet. That is also a good option.

The great thing about Dropbox is the mobile app, which we used to quickly get a feel for the flow of the game. When designing comps, save them as PNG, then navigate to the folder within the Dropbox mobile app and swipe through the designs. It helps to label the files in sequential order. For example:

  • GameName-01-LoadingScreen.png
  • GameName-02-Tutorial-Step1.png
  • GameName-03-Tutorial-Step2.png
  • GameName-04-GamePlay.png

Customer Support & Bug Tracking

Once your game or app launches you may need to communicate with customers and deal with issues. This is where Zendesk comes in. It’s a great ticketing system that is a snap to set up. You can simply direct users to the support site that they host for you. Although, the best approach is to create an email like “support@gamename.com” and have that be your middleman. Zendesk will automatically create tickets for the messages sent to the email address.

At the beginning, we didn’t need a customer service system. So we used Zendesk as bug tracking tool. It’s not the best tool for bugs, but it got the job done. On the plus side, it helped us get a feel for the system so we had a good understanding of the features/process by the time we launched.

We plan to eventually get something more dedicated. Especially if we get a lot of customer service requests. It’s best to keep internal discussions (team) separate from external (users). If you have a really complex game/app you may try something more robust for bug tracking, like Jira.

Documents

When creating a game or app you’re going to have copy (e.g tutorial, marketplace description, privacy policy, etc). Also, you may need to track expenses or specify game logic/rules. Google Drive is awesome for online documents. You can share and collaborate in real time. They got a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing (diagrams), and more.

Last Words

That’s the core of our “project management” infrastructure. We didn’t cover how we handled our game and server code. That will be explained in detail in another post. Lastly, if you have suggestions or advice, please feel free to share.

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