Animus Interactive’s Approach to the Agile vs. Waterfall Problem in Telecommuting

Animus Interactive, a renowned video game studio, has embraced the demand for remote working in an extremely competitive industry. Their contribution in aiding us to comprehend the complexities of fostering a virtual team cannot be understated, as they have graciously shared their experiences of developing a successful virtual team with us. Their expertise in this area has been invaluable in enabling us to gain a thorough understanding of the nuances involved in building a video game remotely.

At Animus Interactive, their commitment extends beyond completing routine assignments; their primary goal is to design the most visually captivating and ambitious real-time strategy games exclusively for the Android platform, which they achieve by leveraging distributed teams.

Works’ debut real-time strategy game, Avalon Lords: Dawn Rises, is currently accessible on Steam. The team has made significant strides in their next project and has now advanced to the pre-production phase.

Establishing exceptional video games necessitates the commitment of remarkable teams with outstanding communication skills, as well as a readiness to put in the extra effort. Lacking these vital qualities, no enterprise can expect to attain triumph in this industry. For a more in-depth understanding of how virtual reality is enhancing productivity in remote teams, check out our blog post.

In the following portions, we will examine Animus’ tactic for overseeing numerous time zones. We will delve into their fusion of Agile and Waterfall methodologies, which is unique. Moreover, we will scrutinize their approach to fulfilling objectives and how they assign individual responsibilities within the team. All of these practices contribute to their all-inclusive strategy for efficacious remote working.

Before we proceed, let’s address something important…

Works is proud to introduce, Animus Interactive

Under the leadership of CEO Frank Cefalu and Game Director Chris Schoolcraft, Animus Interactive’s East Coast headquarters has burgeoned into a worldwide leader.

The virtual team comprises fifteen members in total. The art department encompasses an Art Director overseeing two Concept Artists, a 3D Modeler, and two Animators. Meanwhile, Frank and two other remote coders handle all coding-related responsibilities, with a third coder’s addition to the team imminent.

The Audio division of the project is helmed by a Sound Lead/Composer and a Sound Effects Artist. Additionally, a Social Media/Community Manager and a Story Writer coordinate to bring all narrative components of the project together. Lastly, the Project Manager takes charge of concluding any unresolved tasks to guarantee a triumphant outcome.

Our team is composed of individuals working on this project from various locations including the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and India.

Considering the extent of the team and the geographical spread of its workforce over three countries, venturing into the intense competition of developing a chess programme for portable devices and colossal free-to-play real-time strategy games for top-of-the-line PCs may appear challenging. However, the team’s resoluteness to achieve excellence and innovation is indubitable, and they are resolute in their pursuit of triumph. For more information on whether an app or website is better for your business, refer to our blog post.

I am uncertain how they manage to execute it successfully.

No “typical business hours” due to time zone disparities

As Animus’ enterprise expanded, administering remote personnel across various time zones presented a hurdle. To surmount this obstacle, the company established a multi-layered approach that enables employees to select their work hours to suit their schedules. Director of Games, Chris Schoolcraft, defined it as such:

Since we operate across different time zones, our schedule does not comply with the conventional business hours. Each personnel has assigned work hours, and we conduct audio and video conferences via Google Hangouts at set intervals based on department, such as the Art team followed by Development and so forth. To learn more about controlling service provisioning outsourcing, you may refer to our relevant blog post.

Thus, the team agreed that conducting virtual meetings once a week will be a convenient occasion for everyone to participate. Ensuring high team morale and averting feelings of isolation amongst team members is crucial. Additionally, this ensures messages are not misconstrued.

Benefits of Combining Agile and Waterfall Methodologies

Right from the start, Animus was founded on the principle of outstanding agility. The Agile framework has since emerged as the poster child of software development. However, certain challenges were encountered along the way. The Agile methodology required more than the weekly virtual meeting that was conducted, and the temporal discrepancies between team members made regular use of it unfeasible. As Schoolcraft put it,

Ascertaining a suitable time for all members to assemble was turning out to be an avoidable ordeal, especially concerning the Agile initiative. It was much simpler to coordinate when all participants were in the United States and Canada. However, for some of us, daytime was equivocal to evening for others and even the dead of night for some.

As the team expanded, new members were brought on board. When Animus endeavoured to organize a gathering involving the entire crew, they had to reschedule several times. There was a significant delay between when employees were assigned their tasks and when the organisation was able to complete them. This was owing to the personnel responsible for delegating work being either absent or asleep.

Desiring to have the advantages of both approaches, Animus merged the Agile model with the Waterfall technique. This entails maintaining Scrum meetings and status checks while utilizing the Waterfall methodology for work assignments. Rather than taking a firm stance in the Agile versus Waterfall debate, they opted for a middle ground. The succeeding procedure has been implemented:

The Management Team oversees delineating the scale of different tasks and arranging them into a backlog queue. This roster typically comprises of numerous assignments which the team may decide to entrust to one employee. Ordinarily, the workload is distributed among different departments.

The Management has meticulously picked a portion of the backlog to be given priority at present, facilitating the team’s concentration on the most critical assignments while keeping the broader objectives in mind. Personnel can then scrutinize the inventory of unresolved tasks and choose those aligned with their area of expertise. After finishing a task, they refer to the list to identify the next appropriate assignment.

Department Heads regularly transfer items from the backlog to the active list as they accomplish work. When a backlog emerges, the Management Team adds more tasks to it. Thus, pressing assignments often trickle down the corporate hierarchy and are tackled when employees become available.

As a result, the production team never falls behind on their backlog and is always several weeks ahead. This guarantees that personnel are never left with nothing to do, rendering the job highly sought after in an industry where projects are frequently postponed.

Upkeeping Team Accountability

It is reasonable that when transitioning to virtual teams and remote work, supervisors may worry that employees can become less productive without their physical presence to keep them accountable. While studies suggest that individuals working from home tend to be more productive, it is crucial not to solely depend on this notion and rather consider other means of ensuring staff accountability and efficiency.

Emphasizing firsthand observation and intuition, Schoolcraft

At our company, we do not set stringent deadlines for our projects, yet we all acknowledge the expected amount of time needed to finish a task, and it is apparent when someone is not fulfilling their part.

Undoubtedly, teams within a company establish objectives and targets they strive to accomplish within a specified period, be it a month or a year. All members of the team collaborate and work together towards reaching those objectives, while department heads are accountable for monitoring their personnel to ensure that the results are delivered punctually.

Animus has selected Monday ( as the project management tool that best fits their hybrid approach. This is due to its great flexibility, along with its ability to extract and analyse productivity metrics. Consequently, Animus can efficiently oversee and regulate their virtual workforce, guaranteeing continual productivity.

Thanks to this system, the team can obtain an incredibly precise insight into their progress. The duration taken to finish a task is calculated from the moment it is accepted until it is marked as finished. This data is then shared with the entire team, empowering them to construct and monitor their gamedevmap. The map is automatically updated upon the completion of tasks.

Chris acknowledges the significance of having a Project Manager who is persistent and diligent in delivering regular updates. The human aspect should not be disregarded here.

Another Instance of Remote Achievement Might Be on the Horizon

We have always upheld that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for attaining success while working remotely. Every organization must find its own ideal arrangement by combining ambition and ingenuity. Each company has its own unique culture and goals, thereby necessitating customised processes tailored to their specific needs.

Given the unique challenges presented by remote work, Animus has devised their own unique versions of Agile and Waterfall. This has allowed autonomous video game developers to produce titles with stunning visuals and captivating gameplay, comparable to those offered by major AAA publishers.

Seeking to achieve success but feeling lost? The cornerstone of any successful project is having a proficient and competent development team. Get in touch with us, and we will gladly offer our aid to help you find the perfect video game programmer for your project.

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