*stretches* Oh it has been a long time Forgehub. I've missed you guys. Halo 5 is around the corner, so everyone is coming back. That includes myself, and as per usual I'm looking to disrupt the normal flow of things in Forging. "So what now GP?" Good question... I'll cut to the chase. I'm building a Forge Product Team. TL;DR I'm constructing a team of specialists; designers, developers, testers, QA managers, community managers, etc. With said team, we can develop a mass amount of products simultaneously, in a structured format, with shared risks, responsibilities, and rewards. This team would not be it's own community, but would continue to integrate deeply with Forgehub, not split off on its own. All of this is possible with some project management and project organization tools. We will be using Trello, Realtime Board, and Google Drive to organize and collaborate. Read on for whys, whats, hows, whos, whens, wheres and other question-like words. Here is an example Trello board to get your imagination going: Why build a Product Team? This is the part where everyone is like, "Dude that's no different than teams that have been built in the past." And to you I respond with, the difference is in organization and approach. Outside of this precious Halo community, there is the world of business. After having been a software engineer for a while now, and looking to start my own company in the near future, I put thought into Forge being just another venue for content creation. And by which I mean, why not try to tackle it with the same approach as a content creation company? By that I mean, no single person is responsible for the entire process of content creation. In the world of Forging, a forger does a TON of work to get their map in front of peers and even further towards matchmaking. Some of the tasks involved are: Spoiler: Responsibilities Designing a map Developing the map from the design Testing the map with the community Tweaking/polishing the map to perfection Generating content (screenshots and videos) for the map Publishing the map on outlets like Forgehub Spreading the word of the map Responding to feedback Getting the map noticed by the matchmaking team Adjusting the map to matchmaking needs Forgers work hard and play hard. That is a HUGE content pipeline and a lot of responsibility to tackle on your own. No single person can come close to even perfect in a couple of these steps let alone all of them. So it's time to try to evolve that perspective by creating a product team with individuals to handle parts of the process rather than the entire process. This is not an easy task. Entrepreneurs will tell you how much work is involved in building a company and that is essentially what would be built. So with the experience I've gained in various places, I've decided to make this my next project. Solo and Teams of Peers Most Forgers are solo artists. There is nothing wrong with that. I tackled that for a long time here and there. Spoiler: Solo Pros You can trust yourself with what you want. You can manage your own time. Nobody is counting on you. You have true creative freedom. It is yours and nobody can tell you otherwise. In the end every decision is yours. That's only part of the wonderful parts of being solo. But on the flip side: Spoiler: Solo Cons Everything is YOUR responsibility. You can't be perfect at everything. (I promise you, I've tried lol) Time is limited. Sometimes you don't have time to run sessions when you really should. So many ideas, but you have to pick one or two so you don't spread yourself thin. Some forgers have a hard time leaving behind "style" and "preference" so a lot of your stuff ends up being the similar sometimes. Sometimes we just don't want to take screenshots or watch replays. With so much to handle it is easy to miss something or make an easy mistake. Very lonely sometimes. Then there is the Team of Peers. Where every forger plays the role of forger. Spoiler: Team of Peers Pros Not everything is your responsibility, you can share work. More heads on a project means more ideas bouncing back and forth. More coverage, so when you have to be offline others on the team can run sessions. Merging of styles is a powerful thing that will help the staleness of one's repeat style and preference. Only one of you really has to make a post. A litter of ideas means you get your pick of it. Fun to collaborate. More eyes on one project means a lot of chances to catch issues. And then there's the horrors of working with peers. Spoiler: Team of Peers Cons You lose creative freedom. Seriously dude, you can't have that cone there. Arguments a plenty. Depending on your crew arguments are bound to happen. Unexpected decisions. Not being the sole creator means sometimes things change without you realizing it. Ownership. This tends to be a problem when someone feels like they did most of the work. Some of you may be good at certain parts of the pipeline, but overall you are still overlapping your skills. Too many options to build. Seriously... everyone has ideas and narrowing your own is difficult enough. Defining Product Team Ok so you get the point. What I'm proposing is creating a team where everyone plays their part. You do the things you love and you trust others to do the things they love and everyone does it at their best and gets better at what they do. Repetition allows for mastery and also allows for streamlining. So let's talk about the roles. While planning out the roles I used Realtime Board (one of the tools that we would use on the team) to plan out roles and responsibilities. Check out the diagram and the roles below: Spoiler: Designer These are your concept artists, your layout sketchers, your sketchup masters, your prototypers, etc. Designers do more than just design maps, they also learn the design "guidelines" and learn to break them when it is necessary. Designers do more than just design content, they design experiences. If they want to create a stealthy experience in Halo they have the ability to. Maps are obviously not the only content to be created for gameplay; so gametype enthusiasts also fall in this category. It isn't that Designers don't build, it is that their skill and motivation lies in a new idea. Every forger has at least a little of this. As part of the team your job as a Designer is to create ideas, brainstorm concepts, spec out products, design intentionally not coincidentally. You write design documents, you convey through art and models, you understand the market competition we are going against, and you also understand your target audience. You work closely with Developers to make your designs a reality, but also having to compromise for feasibility in performance and other budget like concerns. Also sometimes a shape you are looking for is just not possible with the puzzle pieces given. You need to learn to sacrifice your creative freedom. You will also work closely with the QA Manager and Internal Testers, zoning in on feedback related to the design experience that you are trying to build. You will work closely with the Project Manager to prioritize designs and analyze what needs to be built now, and what can wait until later. A good designer doesn't stick to one style, they have an open mind, and explore possibilities. No idea goes unexplored. Designers are trend setters. They see cookie cutters and saw them in pieces to make their own designs. Spoiler: Developer These are your geo-mergers, interlockers, speed forgers, texture obsessed, performance nazis. Developers know the tools better than anyone. If someone says they'd like a flying ship that explodes on impact, the can tell you exactly what you need before they even dig in. These guys build maps faster than you could even imagine, and their maps are SOOO clean. They understand what pieces should go next to others to make a smooth transition. Looking for an exact shape? Developers know the exact combination of pieces in the right rotations to get you what you are looking for. "Have you tried a large, brace here?" They CONSTANTLY fly through their map fixing details, removing Z-Fighting, Ensuring everything is on the right coordinates, all of the colors are set to reference the main colors. As a Developer on the team your job is to take designs and build build build. You build prototypes that a Designer quickly concepts out. You build the Alphas, and the Betas, and the Release Candidates. You obsess over perfection of every object placed. You debate over a Coliseum Wall vs several Large, Braces. You work closely with Designers to make their dreams a reality, tweaking to meet their needs, but also ensuring that they don't get over zealous pushing the budgets too much. You work closely with QA Managers and Internal Testers to ensure that people are falling off the map in the wrong places, make sure lighting is optimal for navigation, and make sure performance isn't harming the experience. A good developer will know all of the tools at his disposal. Every color, every piece, every setting, every scripting possibility. They will also be anal about the product's polish. Making sure that no piece is out of place, or that certain rock is rotated just so. Spoiler: QA Manager These are your party hosts, your connection to a large testing pool, the guy watching the replays, and keep note of statistics. They know how many times a person has fallen off a particular part of the map. They listen and they take notes. QA Managers love to play the game... a LOT. They have loads of friends, jump into custom lobbies the first chance they get, they save ALL the videos. QA Managers take notes, they know when to not give players a heads up on the map. They can understand the importance of having a FULL lobby of players who have not played the game, and also the importance of having a full lobby of MLG players. They know how to resolve conflicts quickly and not let the party grow out of control. They know all off the HLG players in the community and have to regularly remind people that this is a test for gameplay, not exploits and that exploits are currently being taken care of by the Developer. As a QA Manager on the team you will be responsible for maintaining a list of testers, making sure regular testing sessions are happening, watching replays to confirm feedback from testers, and keeping testing statistics where possible. QA Managers will work closely to communicate all feedback back to Designers and Developers. They'll know which feedback belongs to which person. QA Managers will also work with the Community Managers to ensure that they continue to grow their pool of testers, connecting with new people willing to test. They actively look for potential Internal Testers to join the team. QA Managers will work with the Project Manager to ensure that they have the most influential people testing the products. Knowing who the top streamers are, the top youtubers, and the best HLG testers. A good QA Manager will be good at secretarial work... which isn't a bad thing. They manage multiple simultaneous play sessions. They keep lists of testers. They keep track of which testers have played which maps to ensure Kleenex sessions when necessary. They are probably the most available of the team to play in custom game lobbies next to the Community Managers and Internal Testers. A good QA Manager also knows how to listen to feedback and doesn't take things personally. They resolve a conflict quickly and don't let the vibe of the group fall. Spoiler: Internal Tester These are the hardcore players. They play a lot, they want an invite to everything, they jump on to play custom games as soon as they get home, they love to review stuff, they give you feedback and they will follow you into your forge sessions. These guys can tend to be your critics, sometimes they are a Developer/Designers worst nightmare. They point out the flaws that nobody wants to hear, but everybody needs to hear. First in everything they do. First post, they know about a new map so and so is working on, better yet they've played it before you. Not only are they first, they are also the word of mouth of the community. Praise or condemning from this type of person could spell success or failure as they tell EVERYONE. They will check every nook and cranny of your map, doing things that you never expected them to do. They'll learn the imbalance of your map before you finish the prototype. It's scary. These are your HLG players, they are your MLG players, they are the mini-game lovers, and they are the Matchmaking Try Hards. As an Internal Tester on the team you will play Prototypes as soon as they are ready to go. You will help determine whether or not a Prototype is viable to construct an Alpha for. You will provide feedback at all stages of development. As products reach Beta and Release Candidate status you also run testing sessions. You however will not be privy to the Product Design board, just the internal testing. So you will only know about things that hit prototype. No brainstorming or market analysis or anything. Internal Testers will work closely and report to the QA Managers. They will push feedback to the Trello boards to ensure that the product meets its highest potential. When time comes to go to Public Beta and Release Candidates, they work with the QA Managers and other Internal Testers to coordinate hosting testing sessions and running custom game lobbies. Internal Testers will also work closely with Community Managers, as Internal Testers are typically involved community members of their respective communities. They will also grow their friends list to always ensure that they have enough testers to test things on their own. A good Internal Tester will be one that takes the initiative to run testing sessions and brings back all of the feedback they can gather. They are consistent and punctual to testing and they are a friendly bunch. But they aren't afraid to get critical when they need to be. However, they have a sense of tactfulness that is needed when working with the babies of the Developers and Designers. Spoiler: Community Manager These are your journalists, your friend that knows everyone, the person everyone likes, they have connections everywhere, and can pull in randoms out of a hat. They are your public face. Community Managers will interact with the world while products are being worked on. They probably spend more time on the forums than you or I. These people are crazy sociable, but also very tactful in every response they give. They know how to watch their tongue and also how not to get in trouble while being brutally honest. They answer questions... ALL the time. They know where you can find X resource on what community and what content is the most popular right now. They are pros at retaining interest on threads. Threads that the Community Manager cares about will never die. They also know how to find X person at what times of day. It's kind of creepy. Their name never leaves the shoutbox list. As a Community Manager on the team you will be the public face. You will reply to posts, make sure people are seeing posts and giving feedback. You are also keeping tracks of what communities exist, what products should be advertised where. You will also be responsible for participating in Market/Audience Analysis to help prioritize products. Community Managers work closely with QA Managers to ensure a steady flow of growing testers. They also get testing feedback and communicate it to more public sources and redirect it back to QA. They know where products are being talked about and why. Community Managers are also a link to the entire team when certain answers need to be given. For example, a question on the atmosphere of a product would be redirected to a Designer. Community Managers will also be close with the Project Managers, planning on when to release content, what kind of content should be built to meet the needs of the public, and also to maintain good relationships with communities and influential individuals. A good Community Manager will think before they speak. They know how to play the mediator of the boards and diffuse conflicts as they form. They make sure topics stay on topic and they know how to spread the word to the right communities without being labeled as a person just spamming communities with posts. They are just as active in the communities that we spread the word to as they are in the team Trello boards. They understand what the community wants and where the saturation of content is. Spoiler: Project Manager Currently this position is held by me, so I'm not going to cover it. Cuz I'm also sick of typing. When it is time to pass the mantle or get another project manager, I will make sure I fill this position in.