Tag Team Development for Darkwatch

In an industry notorious for release slippage and product bloat, new ways of streamlining the development process are a hot topic

"Long term planning just doesn't work," said Clinton Keith, chief technical officer of San Diego-based High Moon, the development studio behind the vampire-Western FPS Darkwatch.

He explained how his company's use of a process called "Scrum" helps small teams of employees work more efficiently as a deadline approaches. Scrum is actually a management tool that is part of the studio's Agile Methodology of efficient game development

Products go late one day at a time. That's why High Moon uses the Scrum process to break development tasks down to a daily basis during a longer two week "Sprint" period.

Each of High Moon's Sprint teams (composed of less than 10 people) is multi-disciplined and has specific tasks to complete. A daily 15-minute meeting makes sure everyone is on track, as the time remaining to fulfill their tasks is recorded. Everything must be finished by the end of the Sprint period.

"The process is like working on continual demos," said Keith "The staff takes responsibility for their work, and it's very results-oriented. We want to see how the game is improving."

In conjunction with this Agile process, Agile programmers use the eXtreme Programming Method, where two coders work together on the same PC, and code is constantly tested for bugs using 2,000 automated tests.

"You'll see a large increase in productivity using these methods," said Keith. "Scrum raises the intensity of your work rate, not the number of hours work."

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