How I accidentally project managed my failing game
Published 5 years ago
To success
Like most of us, I used to love playing Quake. I particularly loved playing the Defrag maps especially those as a time-trial where you had to master the art of Strafe and Rocket Jumping. In 2009, The Impossible Game was released, a game where you had to make a stupid square jump over the spikes and often in time with the music, mostly by trial and error. In Spring 2013, along came ShootMania with another add-in called Obstacle where the goal was to master this time Rocket and Wall jumps to beat the levels in the fastest time. (You may not know this game as it didn’t really take off, check it out)
I have no idea if any of these games were linked but I thought “someone should make something a bit like Defrag, The Impossible Game and ShootMania – Obstacle” … so I did… eventually (well the start of it!)
I’ve released phase 1 of my master plan which doesn’t incorporate many of the features that I love in the above type of games but it’s the baseline for something big.
This is a story of how I accidently managed my failing game and turned it around. I’ve designed, coded and tested this game all myself so my advice will be old hat to the seasoned developers, this post is aimed at indie developers who are in a similar spot to what I was.
The stupid ball thing jumping on stupid blocks game
So I didn’t have a name. Just an idea. It was to create something extremely basic, a toilet game. I wanted to make a game which was extremely difficult where the object was just to jump on stuff and get to the end of the level. The jumps would be very carefully placed so that the player would make them only if their speed and energy etc. were precisely correct. I started making this game using a couple of other game engines and failed miserably, nothing was working how I wanted it to. A friend of mine introduced me to Unity and instantly I was hooked. Instead of planning my game’s features, the architecture and gameplay what did I do? Jump right into code of course! I mean, I don’t need to plan and spec it out right? If it’s just me, I mean, I know what I’m thinking! I later learned how wrong this was!
The stupid ball thing jumping on stupid blocks game (Unity Version)
I’m a full-time employee as a .NET Developer working for an eCommerce business in the UK. I have developed this game in what free time I have with my young son and wife of 4 years which is about 5-6 hours a week.
I’d had this idea and messed about with it for maybe a year at this point. I still didn’t have a name. I have it kind of working in Unity. It’s buggy as hell and looks awful! I had the idea of the stupid block being a crane for some reason:
So I’m at work contemplating quitting my project, it’s not working, people aren’t going to play this trash and the target release date just keeps moving. My boss calls me to a meeting, he says that we need to rethink our ALM strategy (Application Lifecycle Management). We talk, I mention that I have reasonable experience of TFS (Team Foundation Server from Microsoft) and I was given the project to implement something robust.
I took the time to learn TFS inside-out. Now a decent ALM strategy depends on the organisation and there is no single right way, a lot of software development teams claim to be Agile but sadly, many are not! I had many different options to choose from and really I just needed a kind of demo project which I could use to create my backlogs, my work items, my tasks, my bugs, my builds, my code reviews and anything else that I needed to experiment with. “Oh I know, I’ll use that stupid ball thing jumping on stupid blocks game (the Unity version!)
The late planning
I’m just messing about at this stage. I’ve created an Agile team (it’s just me), I’ve created a backlog with a few PBIs (Product Backlog Items). I’ve broken these PBIs into tasks and I’ve created a few Sprints. I have a few known Bugs so I’ve created those too. I make use of TFS’s Forecasting abilities by use of the Teams Velocity to estimate an end date.
So I played about with TFS quite a lot actually, creating items, builds, code reviews, bugs and moving them on to In Progress and Done as I completed the work later that night at home. I used my demo project of the stupid ball thing jumping on stupid blocks game to demo the new ALM system to the office and they loved it.
So the project at work was going well, I implemented TFS and we’re using it today. One day, I noticed that I’ve basically planned the rest of the stupid ball game jumping on stupid blocks game out fully and I’ve even assigned my items into sprints and I have a target release date (Christmas Day 2015).
I went home that night and completed a few tasks, moved them to Done
Next night the same and I continued this for a few weeks. My burndown charts were looking healthy.
To cut a long story short, my failing game with a stupid name went live on Christmas Eve 2015!
The game is called Crane Jumper and ended up featuring a ninja-style girl that jumps from crane to crane making her way to the goal.
The point here is planning. For some (and probably most of you), this will be obvious, but that fact that I sat there with my failing game whilst all along working full-time as an experienced developer in an Agile environment and did not feel the need to plan and manage the development of my game must surely mean there are others out there doing the same right? Hopefully this message will inspire a few of you.
Plan you game. Honestly, spec it out, create a GDD (Game Design Document), create work items, estimate your time, even if it’s just you doing the work. It may seem overkill but trust me, it really works. TFS is free and there are plenty of other free alternatives out there if you do some brief research.
The future
As I type I am planning what I’m referring to as v2 for Crane Jumper but it’s basically a complete rework but with the features in that I originally thought of. In short it’s going to have a very strong social orientation, players will design their own levels for their friends to play.
I’m really excited about this game and I am kind of developing it for myself! I can’t wait to play the levels that the players create! I genuinely can’t wait!
I hope this has been an enlightening read and now before you get back to work, take some time to rethink your project.
Crane Jumper is available to play now on iOS and Android as a single player with 10 levels but “v2” I expect to release in Q4 2016.
If you want to keep up with news and development, please like our Facebook Page or visit our website. If you have any feedback for me or want to get in touch with me personally, email me at
I’ve designed, developed and managed this project solo but I owe a special thanks to Ilustrocbvcar from for winning all of my design comps!
Thanks for reading and happy planning :)
Rod Hall