Project: Outsource Everything followup – SUCCESS!

This is a followup to my Project: Outsource Everything post, nearly a year later.

To be frank, almost everything I planned to do succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. 🙂 Not without a few hitches and problems from which I learned much, but on the whole, my crazy notions were a complete success. It’s actually silly how well they’re going now. I’ll go through them point by point:

  • Armor Set Integration. I handed this off to the artist I had create my Creature Trees and he stepped up to the plate and started cranking all of these out and making them work in the game. An artist I had internally would check over and critique his work and make sure everything went smoothly. I did have a few problems with the way I priced all of this out, though.

    For complex operations like this, a per-asset rate is really a liability for the contractor, both for the time it takes on his end to test and iterate, but also for the time on our end to verify everything worked. In the contractor’s haste to get paid, a lot of problems cropped up he’d have noticed if he’d been paid for his time, so we ended up having a LOT of iteration passes (3 – 6 per set sometimes, and I prefer having a hard limit of 2 iterations per asset if I can help it) and built a backlog of 90% complete armor sets that were a pain in the ass to test and finish off.

    I solved this by moving him over to a flat daily rate where he actually took the time to really dig into the armor sets, fix a lot of problems he wouldn’t have before because he was in a hurry to get paid (no telling if a set would take a day or two weeks to final), and the number of iteration passes is getting lower and lower and we’ve finally hit a nice groove with it.

  • Give them Perforce Find a dedicated bugfixer. I have one contractor (the same guy as above) hooked into Perforce now, as well as our internal bug database. The first thing I gave him to do was work through the project’s entire backlog of art bugs and paid him a flat daily rate to do it. This guy is uniquely motivated to crank out as much stuff as possible and be hyperproductive at all times, so this was perfect personality fit. He fixed virtually every outstanding bug we’d ever had in about three weeks, and checked everything right into Perforce with minimal issues.

    Additionally, I gave him his own account in the bug database and started encouraging the team to start noticing all the outstanding little art glitches and bugs they’d normally filter out and ignore and to assign them to this guy. After awhile, you get used to seeing something ugly or broken, and you don’t even bother mentioning it because you know it’ll never be fixed. That is no longer the case because We Have A Guy For That. 🙂

    All the low-priority bugs (small clipping issues, etc) he would fix and check in without checking with me. All the medium and high priority bugs I went through and explained the solutions to and told him to reassign them to me to check his work before committing all the changes. This has worked out extremely well. Pricing this out per day was also crucial in making it economical and efficient.

    It was a nice little morale boost for the team to see things that were broken forever suddenly start working properly. Whenever possible, I seek high-value, high-visibility, morale-building tasks that’ll make the team feel like everything’s moving forward. A lot of my job is invisible to them in terms of management, organization, structure, etc, so it’s good for them and me when I can come in and show them concretely that their needs are being met and that Cool Stuff Happens.

    (man, I still can’t believe I outsourced bugfixing. 🙂

  • Ramping up dedicated world-builders. I finally have a studio starting work on our environment art content with a clear path ahead to start expanding the scope of the assets they work on as they familiarize themselves with our terrain system. Woot!

  • Drop in world integrators. We hired a technical artist inhouse that’s handling this, actually, so that’s been delegated fully. He’s going to be looped into the feedback forums we’re setting up with the dedicated world-builders to help see everything through to completion.

  • The only thing I didn’t do was find a standards enforcer, which is really quite ambitious and has horrifying, far-reaching implications that I don’t want to mess with since we’re a live game. Maybe if he was inhouse I’d think about it, but that’s such a Herculean task that can make everything blow up that I’m abandoning that idea entirely.

    You know, it was pretty cool to go back, read that post, and find out everything I did totally, completely, fully worked. Quite a nice confidence-booster. 🙂 I have a few ideas for what’s next, and I’ll formulate those into a post soon!

    Do any of you have questions about any of these things I’ve done? I’m happy to share all the knowledge I can, especially if I can go into any more detail on mistakes I’ve made and what I learned from them. Yay knowledge!

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