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2. Decentralized Development and "People Trump Process"
If you're at the time of year when some of your staff are coming off projects, then you're also at the time of year when most of your games are finishing, which means that you're going to be very thin on available managers. Such was the case with Droplitz for most of its development.
We therefore took stock of what we were attempting to create: a game that had proven fundamentals developed with frequently changing staff. We therefore chose a very Agile approach, focusing on the "People Trump Process" mantra.
What this meant is that we fully trusted the staff on the project to make the best decisions, and the only management that we employed was to agree on the next set of delivery dates.
Two negative outcomes might have been predicted from this very unstructured approach: the team members themselves could have argued constantly, achieving little other than bad blood; or perhaps even worse, they could have done everything possible to avoid conflict, resulting in a wholly vanilla game. In fact, neither of these happened.
The ever-changing team remained focused and fiery, relishing their freedom and absolutely passionate about the game, but also more than prepared to give and take to achieve the best possible outcomes. They were incredibly productive at this point, and content poured in at a rapid rate. People often stayed late to get the work that they had committed to done, but this was never any kind of death march.
Whether this experience was due to the particular individuals involved, or simply because they were all highly experienced developers with a deep understanding of the blend of commitment and compromise needed to create a great game remains to be seen. It's an experiment we're definitely keen to repeat, however!
3. Partnering with a Publisher
Once the game had reached a certain level of polish, we began approaching publishers. We were extremely fortunate to develop a partnership with Atlus U.S.A., Inc., who really bought into the project and showed great commitment and enthusiasm both to the game and its marketing.
In 2009, they showed Droplitz off at E3 and gained some great press coverage, and once they started mailing their fans, they were reaching tens of thousands of people with direct information on the game. There is no way that a small-scope game such as Droplitz would have been picked up so fast and reviewed by so many review sites without having Atlus on board.
4. Short Deadlines
Although we were very hands-off on the management of this project, there was one other trick regularly employed: to take very small baby steps when drawing up the next set of deliverables.
In all honesty, this was often simply a result of reacting to stakeholder requirements, but we also advocated the use of short, tight iterations so that the current team could pretty accurately work out how much they could bite off in the current cycle. If we hadn't had these tight iterations there would have more than likely been a lot of unnecessary drift during development -- something we definitely didn't need!
5. Greenlight Chart
When we first launched the Arcade Division we pretty soon established our internal greenlight chart. It was through this democratic approach that Droplitz appeared, along with the initial prototype that the designer (James Parker) had been working on.
Via the internal voting process, Droplitz immediately shot up the green-light chart to the number one spot, whereupon the company stakeholders agreed that this was a game we should start to develop internally.
The entire process here was very empowering for everyone involved. The fact that the game went to number one meant that a lot of people within the company were already fans of it, and would be willing to support it throughout development. By having such transparency it was also inspiring for people to see that their games can be realised at Blitz in a completely fair selection process, as we have proved with several others.