Favro forGame Development
The game industry is moving from a project mindset to a product mindset. Games used to be thought of as projects with set production start and end dates. They’ve made the transition to products that, depending on their success, are continuously developed and supported with new content and features for many years after initial release.
Take a look at the top-selling games in the USA for 2021, according to The NPD Group.
All of them, with the exception of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, have either a live service component, online multiplayer, or post-release content. Most of them are supported by all three and are treated as ongoing products. Seven of these 2021 top sellers were also on the 2020 list. Mario Kart 8, which is in the top ten, was originally released on Switch in 2018 and on Wii U way back in 2014!
This list doesn’t even take into account the incredible revenues of pure free-to-play live service games like Fortnite (approximately $5 billion per year), Destiny 2 (approximately $100-500 million per year), and Call of Duty: Warzone (approximately $1.9 billion per year).
Live-service games are bringing an end to traditional “shipped” game projects. Ongoing development, content production, live-ops, and a much closer connection to players are now the norm. Even before a game is fully released, it’s now much simpler to receive mass player feedback with early access models.
A game is now an enduring product with a much longer life cycle.
For game studios, this means far less compartmentalization. Not only do all disciplines need to work in tandem, but now continuous collaborative planning must occur between all teams, departments, and levels of a studio.
Overall studio agility, not just team-level agility, is critical. Development needs to be aligned with live-ops and marketing. Studio goals and initiatives must be clear and transparent to teams, driving all game product development, operations, marketing, and support aspects.
Favro, which has its foundation in game development, has also evolved since it was first released in 2016. The Favro founders have game industry experience stretching back to the ’90s, with no shortage of learnings to build on.
By listening to feedback from game developers and publishers worldwide, Favro’s core flexibility and capabilities have expanded to empower everything from small indie studios to massive multinational studios and publishers. Ongoing co-innovation with some of the most progressive studios continues to ensure Favro stays at the vanguard of collaborative planning platforms.
With a booming game industry, the move to live-service, and new hybrid (remote and co-located) working arrangements, the challenges to both development of games, on a studio level, and production, on a team level, have increased dramatically.
Thankfully, the transparency and silo-breaking flow required to run the entire business of modern game development is built into Favro. All of the complexity is under the hood, making teams more agile even if they don’t know anything about specific agile methodologies.
In this article, we’ll show you how a single platform can be used to run all aspects of your studio, ranging from leadership to development to quality assurance to live-ops to marketing, even supporting fast-growing recruitment efforts. We’ll also highlight some recent feature releases like capacity limits, agile dependencies, the new relations column, automated status roll-ups, and enhanced timelines.
While it’s absolutely possible to start using Favro with a single team and ramp up to additional teams and levels over time, studios that choose to run everything in Favro can now get organized from day one, using collection folders.
Collection folders are used to organize your team-specific game dashboard, leadership dashboard, and external partner collections any way you choose. Favro collections are just that - a collection of dev boards, marketing roadmaps, feature backlogs, asset lists, bug tickets, art pipelines, and management objectives necessary for a team or teams-of-teams to plan and collaborate.
It makes sense before creating any collections to map the structure of your studio to your Favro organization with folders.
Once you have this folder mapping complete, it’s simple to create collections directly in each folder or drag and drop existing collections into their respective folders.
With the structure of your studio in place, it’s time to start building your collections, feature backlogs, asset lists, and workflows.
We’ll begin with team-level collections, move on to game teams-of-teams aggregate collections, all the way up to big picture, studio leadership dashboards.
Whether it’s an art asset team, feature development team, live-ops team, leadership team, etc., every team should have its own collection. Each team-specific collection will be a container for all team members’ work, starting with cards representing the work, filling up backlogs to organize, plan, estimate, and prioritize that work, and boards to complete the work.
Here’s an example of a feature development team’s collection.
With continuous release live-service productions, teams have to collaborate with other teams in real-time closely. Favro has the unique ability to have both the cards and boards exist in multiple places simultaneously. This means that a feature development team can add a live-ops team board to their collection, both visualizing what the other team members are doing and dragging and dropping the same cards between boards to work on the same features in parallel.
Feature teams must also be in constant communication with quality assurance. Bugs that escape development work and embedded QA are tracked in bug backlogs and fed back to the development team that initially worked on the related feature.
For QA teams and others that still have to synchronize with Jira tickets, Favro offers a recently updated native Jira integration and other solutions to bring QA closer to development, enabling team member mapping. Favro also has numerous native integrations to other studio-critical tools.
Another example of a team-level collection is an art team, with its prioritized art asset backlogs and art asset pipelines.
Internal art teams will typically need to sync with external art development teams, possibly with assets from the same backlog feeding both internal and external teams. This can be driven from a single Art Director dashboard collection.
Art Directors can also review both internally and externally created assets directly from the same Art Director dashboard. Here’s an example of Favro automations being used to automatically add an asset card to an Art Director’s review flow once an external team moves it to “Studio Review” on their board from their own external art team collection.
Regardless of the team, some level of capacity planning comes into play. Do we have enough capacity in each discipline to meet the scope of work for a particular time period, whether it be a sprint, milestone, or release? Although pure agile teams can answer this question with velocity or flow-based metrics, many studios still require some level of more traditional capacity and utilization capabilities.
A good way to handle this is with a capacity planning board. Each board represents a timebox and each column represents either a team member or discipline. Favro now has the ability to set capacity limits for any column. This is done by connecting the column limit for each person/discipline to a custom field, which could be an estimate in hours or days. Limits for each column can then be entered for each column in that custom field’s estimation currency.
Via automations, as work is assigned to each person the cards are automatically added to that person’s corresponding column on the capacity planning board. The scope of assigned work is compared to the capacity limit for each person at the top of each column. If anyone becomes over-allocated their column turns red. The same holds true for the overall team capacity at the top of the board.
The capacity planning board can also be switched to a timeline view to see allocation per person over time to see if there are planning gaps or too much assigned work on any particular days.
Producers and Directors need to see the big picture. A game dashboard collection provides a single high-level overview of the entire live production, empowering them to drive priorities, set goals, create roadmaps, and track development progress all from a single screen. There’s no need to jump back and forth between team-level collections to find what they’re looking for. Again, because boards and backlogs can exist in multiple collections, a game dashboard acts as an aggregation of all development teams and can also include boards from necessary departments such as marketing and community.
With Favro’s unique ability to have the same card on multiple boards at the same time, a Producer is able to see the status of multiple simultaneous team flows directly from the backlog. Favro’s new relations column makes this even easier.
Say a feature exists in a feature backlog and is being worked on by a development team, live-ops, and marketing, with the card representing the feature flowing through each team’s board independently. In the backlog, a separate relations column can be specifically added to filter down to display each team’s status. This makes a backlog a single source of truth for tracking progress across all teams working towards the release of a feature or asset.
Speaking of backlogs, it’s always good to catch dependencies early. Switch a backlog to a timeline view and adding Favro’s new agile dependencies between features being worked on within teams and across teams is the perfect way to visualize and and then be able to minimize dependencies as much as possible.
If dependencies aren’t caught in the backlog and need to be resolved after the teams have already started working on the dependent items, a conversation related to each dependency can be held directly on the card. Communication between team members and even across teams is the best way to resolve dependencies, and this communication is now facilitated and documented in the same place where the work is flowing.
Automations are a massive time saver for all of production: everything from automating the creation of recurring meetings to automating the flow of Producer reviews to creating automated release plans and burndowns that update themselves when each team completes features and releasable content. Favro automations is not something someone central has to set up but in the hands of teams. They can themselves automate what they want to automate.
Suppose a Producer or Director needs to share game dashboard information with executives or publishers that might not have Favro accounts. In that case, they can use the new shareable links to give secure instant access to either specific boards or entire collections. It gives them a live view instead of a static manipulated report.
Taking it up another level, studio and publisher leadership requires the ability to set and drive business initiatives, measure and track the performance of all their live games, and dive down into the details whenever there’s an issue requiring their attention. Favro executive studio dashboards make this a one-stop-shop reality.
Here a studio portfolio backlog feeds a studio portfolio kanban, giving leadership a top-level view of all their initiatives and productions in progress. Drilling down to see specifics is as simple as following the Favro relations.
If leadership uses goal setting and progress tracking methods like OKRs and KPIs, those can also live within a studio dashboard collection or in their own collection, with links to supporting details.
An executive dashboard is also an excellent place for studio and game roadmaps, again linked to the team level backlogs, boards, and cards for details that are only a click away.
Since roadmapping has become a primary way to visualize high-level goals and initiatives at the studio portfolio level, Favro recently released timelines 2.0. It’s now possible to view all card field data, including custom fields in the timeline view. Also, there’s now the ability to create swimlanes in the timeline view to better segment roadmaps by team, release, or whatever you choose.
Studio portfolio management also requires the capability to track work at higher levels than at the team execution level. This has always been possible thanks to Favro’s hierarchical backlogs and the ability to break a goal or initiative down into its own backlog or board. Now, with the introduction of status roll-up automations, the initiatives’ statuses and/or flow on a portfolio kanban can automatically be driven by team-level progress. With Favro’s 2-way Jira sync the teams progress can be tracked in Favro even if they use Jira.
This type of advanced portfolio and program management is achieved with a simple status roll-up automation.
With fast-growing studios, recruitment and onboarding are a constant effort. Hiring managers can also visualize both of these flows directly from the studio dashboard.
With many studios fostering a player-first mindset as one of their core cultural values, it’s imperative to keep players up to date with current and upcoming feature and content releases, as well as upcoming events, competitions, and modes. A Favro public collection is the perfect way to create this real-time player hub.
Phoenix Labs shows us how it’s done with their Dauntless Community Hub & Roadmap, connecting ongoing development directly with the game’s more than 25 million players.
Games are now live products, requiring continuous development, releases, service, and response to player feedback. With all the moving pieces and the vital need for all studio teams and departments to work together, managing it all with a single app makes sense. Favro is a single collaborative planning platform that any team can use and scales to any size studio.
Favro’s core building blocks of cards, boards, collections, and relations, along with recently added capacity limits, agile dependencies, relations column, automated status roll-ups, and enhanced timelines, make it the perfect platform for running your entire studio.