Week 17 – Being a Lead

As we near the half-way point of this semester, I’m trying to dedicate more of myself to acting as a proper Lead Designer. Having 2 additional designers on the team has been nothing but a blessing so far, but after most sprint planning sessions, I do find myself wondering, what’s left for me to do? In this blog post, I’m going to talk about my experience so far as a Lead Designer and how I plan to improve moving forward.

(header image source)

Where Do I Fit In?

Tim has been working on putting together a brand new level for us, every week so far this semester. Natalie has spent most of her time, overhauling our UI and prototyping new VFX. As you’ve seen from some of my recent blog posts, I’ve been spending my time prototyping new weapon parts, creating/implementing new sound effects, and documenting the new systems that were put in place earlier in the semester. However, every week I find that I have a shortage of hours planned and have to ask myself, what else can I be doing this week to be a productive member of this team.

I talked about this issue with my girlfriend, Jade. She is not involved in games in any way, but has a lot of experience acting in a leadership role in her field. I explained the problem to her and she told me that instead of finding little tasks here and there to fill in that time, I need to be dedicating more time to reviewing the work that Tim and Natalie produce, and provide them with clear and helpful feedback. Honestly, I don’t know how I didn’t think of that. Obviously, as the Lead Designer, I need to be looking over the work my other designers do to make sure it is up to the quality standard that we have for re[Mod]. So, last week, that’s exactly what I started to do.

Providing Feedback

Dedicating time to reviewing work and providing feedback is a difficult thing to plan for. How long will it take to comprehensively review the work? How should the feedback be given? Will they have this task done in time for to look it over before the sprint ends? I’ve been thinking about the answers to these questions for a little while now and what I’ve determined, is I need to start breaking down my review tasks the same way, they are breaking down their production tasks. For example, if Tim has a task dedicated to only widening the hallways in the map, I need to have a task to review the hallway width. If Tim has another task for changing spawn times, I need a task to review that as well. The time length for these tasks will have to work on a case by case basis, but at least this way, I know I’m looking at everything my designers are doing in a sprint.

As for how the feedback should be delivered, I’ve found that the best way to relay my thoughts to them is either through a private Slack message or in person. In person is preferred, because that way I can fly around in engine and show them exactly what I’m talking about. The one exception is that if I only tell them my feedback in person, there is no written record of it. So, my approach is to deliver feedback both way whenever possible. This way, even if I’ve told them in person what needs to be changed, they’ll also have a written record of my exact thoughts on Slack, available for them to look at whenever necessary.

Trying to plan for having enough time to review everything and providing adequate feedback can be tricky. So far, my solution to this has been to evaluate which tasks will be the most important for my designers to get feedback on during that sprint, and ask them to front load those tasks if possible. This way, we have enough time for me to give them my feedback and have them make those edits before the sprint is over. I know that moving forward, I need to a better job of giving them feedback in a timely manner instead of waiting until all of my other tasks are complete.

Moving Forward

Last sprint I made to sure to let Natalie and Tim know about the changes I thought were necessary, but didn’t necessarily give them enough time to respond to that feedback. I need to be better about that this sprint and all of our other sprints as we continue through the semester. I also need to make sure that when I give feedback to Natalie and Tim, I’m having a conversation with them. I don’t want them to see me as some overbearing dictator. Instead, I want to hear their reasons for making the choices they did so I can gain a better understanding of the work they’ve produced. I want to keep an open mind because I realize there is always the possibility, that I’m just not seeing things the way they had intended, and if we work together, we’ll always be able to come up with the best possible solution. I hope that I can continue to grow as a Lead Designer this semester, so I can bring those skills with me into the work force.

Until next time!

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