Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis
An Educational Mobile Game Seeking to Improve Adult Literacy
- Core Development Team Size: Nine (2 artists, 1 designer, 5 programmers, 1 producer)
- My Involvement Duration: Four months
- Work Hours: 10-29 hours per developer per week, mostly virtual
- Engine: Phaser.io
- Platform: HTML5/Android
Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis is an Android and web game currently in development by People ForWords as part of the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPrize.
People ForWords seeks to advance the cause of adult literacy by creating a mobile application that engages and educates a broad spectrum of adult learners. The team plans for the application to not only aid learners in improving their test scores, but also teach real world skills and empower the learners to succeed in various aspects of their lives.
I joined the project for the duration of its Vertical Slice milestone, during which I worked to help organize as a virtual team, and implement new production practices to facilitate development.
Asset & Development Plan: I created an Asset & Development Plan to help guide the team, and hosted it on our Confluence Wiki that I set up. This is a PDF export of that plan from the end of my time on the project.
Asset Database: I set up an Airtable database for us to keep track of our assets in a simple and user-friendly way, and then linked that database to our wiki. This is a public, read-only version from the end of my time on the project.
Weekly Status Report: I created a status report each week to keep my executive producer informed about what was going on in my project. The report contains a bullet point list of talking points for a 10 minute status meeting.
Vertical Slice Retrospective: At the end of our Vertical Slice milestone, I hosted a retrospective with the team to help inform improvements to production practices moving forward, after I left the team.
Retrospective Blog: After holding that retrospective with my team, I wrote a blog post that discusses some of the major points in more detail, and explains what we learned. Selected as a featured post by the editors of Gamasutra.com.
My Responsibilities (Producer, May - July 2016)
- Serve as product owner, working with the rest of the team to create and manage user stories that describe the project.
- Create and own the Asset & Development Plan in consultation with the rest of the team.
- Monitor all Confluence Wiki documentation and ensure its accuracy across the project.
- Create and own the Asset Database using Airtable, and set up forms to simplify the team's usage of the tool.
- Coordinate and document team meetings.
- Consult on sound design issues as needed.
Mini-Postmortem for Vertical Slice
What Went Right
- Slack is good for constant communication
- The Confluence Wiki makes documentation very accessible
- Separate application states isolate work
- Having a producer on hand is highly valuable
- Good notes on meetings and brainstorming are valuable
- Weekly checklists of action items are a useful tool a virtual team
What Went Wrong
- Didn’t use correct Perforce branching practices
- The build is only visible on Thursdays
- Working without specific device requirements is difficult
- Few delivery standards and asset requirements for art
- Team members’ response times have been slow
What We Learned
- Team members must hold themselves accountable for their own time
- Build more often and make it more accessible
- Collect resources for compatibility testing
- Clarify asset pipelines between art and programming
- Design and art must plan the next section of the game carefully
- Team members must check Slack at least twice per day every day