Entries in Backyard Monsters (1)

Tuesday
Apr292014

Backyard Monsters

Role: Executive Producer (supporting)

Contribution: After just being hired at KIXEYE, (it was actually called Casual Collective at the time), I was set up to learn the ropes of Free to Play by supporting Dave Scott who was then starting work on War Commander. My role on Backyard Monsters was that of a Product Manager / Project Manager.

Design Challenge: Put the team on a path to work more collaboratively and iterate faster. This was far less about changing the game, but more about changing the way the team worked. 

Backyard Monsters was already fairly successful game and was the foundation that allowed KIXEYE to develop Battle Pirates. When I joined the team I became part of a passionate group who knew their product and consumer well, were able to release quickly, but had a ton of churn in development with way too many things to do, but not a clear priority of which to do and why.

The first step was putting the team on Kanban as our development methodology (we would later switch to agile as the team grew in size). This illuminated all sorts of issues around work flow including issues with ownership, testing, spec documentation (there was none) and communication.

I remember my first stand up meeting, where I explained the rules, (say what you did the day before, what you are working on now, any blockers), I went first then Dave. Dave went through the flow as normal, then told Kevin and Eric what they needed to be working on, leaving Eric and Kevin to repeat what Dave just said. This showcased a huge flaw in how the team was working, because everyone was waiting for what Dave wanted and no one was empowered to execute on their own using their best judgement.

Once people could execute on their own, the next major step was establishing what they needed to execute against. I established a spec template and made sure all features both large and small were properly specified with wire frames. Wire frames was another fun project, since I could easily get into Flash and pull out all the assets, so I built a stencil set in Omnigraffle which allowed anyone on the team to build full, perfectly accurate UI mocks in minutes. That stencil set would be used all the way until the game was finally put into maintenance mode nearly three years later.

My last best action on BYM was hiring Ryan Sindledecker to take over as Product Manager and watch him help run the game smoothly and efficiently for the next two plus years.