VAN, 08:15 PM
VAN, 08:15 PM

A Look Inside the Video Game Dev Studio’s WFH Experience

A Look Inside the Video Game Dev Studio’s WFH Experience

With The Verge and other media introducing lists of games one should play while stuck inside avoiding the coronavirus, the gaming business is nowhere to stop. However, gaming companies may struggle with this new format of work.

In this article, we’re taking the tech expertise of our staff, and the experience of many of our creative and tech people, to put together tips and advice on working from home for video game professionals. This includes both common risks and general information on working from home, as well as collaboration know-how and security measures necessary to keep the creative juices flowing.

Tech & Security

Risk: there will be hardware and other equipment issues that may lead to security lowering.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: We faced a choice between two options. First option: the team will work from home using their own equipment, and the Studio will provide them with remote access to workstations. This approach had some potential risks, in particular bad Internet connection as we often had to transfer large files. Also, using private PCs and laptops may be associated with potential security issues. 

We went for the second option: to provide employees with their office workstations. Yes, the logistics cost us some time and money, but this approach ensures the highest level of security for our customers and their data. The main goal of all these actions was to preserve all security measures related to the assets being produced or any other work completed. 

Risk: potential security gaps during the transportation and delivery process.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: All the boxes with office equipment were sealed up for transportation. We also additionally sealed up the system units to avoid any possibility of removing the hard drive without damaging the seal. Besides that, equipment was delivered by trusted staff with signed NDAs.

Taking to account the pandemic situation we practiced a no-contact delivery upon request of our team members. Studio also provided the uninterruptible power supplies.

Svetlana Savitskaya, Head of Games – our programmers and testers require a set of devices to work, and they won’t have the same access to them as they do in the office. We decided to have a selected person assigned to every device, a ‘device holder’, and plan testing tasks accordingly. They were delivered or rotated, if needed, by a delivery service we’ve organized for this.

Risk: issues with installing equipment at home, possible failure of equipment.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: We understood from the beginning that while WFH is temporary, but also it will be rather a long period. Therefore, we put a lot of effort into preparing to move all Room 8 Studio team to remote work.

To implement our plan of delivering office equipment to specialists, we needed all equipment being carefully tested before the transportation.

Our IT team has worked during the weekend to check all computers so as to minimize the risk of potential failure. They also developed solutions for every possible option of installation and connection of office computers and other hardware in specialists’ homes and created a general document with all instructions. Starting from the day of actual equipment delivery until now all raised IT issues are properly managed remotely by our tech support team.

Risk: poor connection to corporate resources and data storages.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: We use enterprise-level solution — Palo Alto with a commercial license, which guarantees complete security with DLP solution from ESET (Safetica) on top. All stations are encrypted and antivirus installed. All our specialists are using VPN-protected channels to connect to any of the corporate resources.

Risk: we require fast Internet to work, and there are going to be failures.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art –  Some internet providers are experiencing a spike in usage since everybody’s at home now. But that’s quite a rare case, and while we miss office life, most of our team members actually found that they rather enjoy working from home and adjusted well to it. 

Collaboration / Communication

Risk: we don’t have strong expertise in crisis management & organizational issues.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: In such periods of global uncertainty and vulnerability any business needs quick and clear decisions to stay afloat. Therefore, here at Room 8 Studio, we have developed an action plan — Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan — for force majeure situations. This plan saved us a lot of time because most of the tactical actions we are taking now during the COVID-19 crisis were thought out in advance.

Any emergencies related to the WFH mode will be handled by a centralized special group consisting of Heads of Divisions, Administrative Dep and me.

Risk: long transition period to WFH and, as a result, team efficiency drop.

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: Our first priority was to provide a safe working environment for our team to fulfill our commitments to clients and deliver projects’ results on time. Therefore, we decided to transit all Room 8 Studio specialists to remote work, even before the official government recommendations were released. The transition period lasted only a few days, but even so, small losses in efficiency these days were inevitable. We are very proud of our team, each member of which took our common responsibility to customers as their personal one and even worked overtime to compensate for any layups.

Risk: HR issues keep the team spirit up

How we manage it:

Anna Kozlova, COO: We use general chats to regularly inform specialists about the current situation in our country and globally based on data from the official government channels and trusted media. We also keep our team updated about all internal company news and decisions due to pandemic.

Besides, the HR team developed a special communication plan aimed to keep up the team spirit and to avoid disunity. It’s obvious that people who used to socialize in the office are now struggling through isolation and need some support. So, to keep this community spirit that we are so proud of, we are holding different funny contests, like voting for the most creative workspace, home workout challenges, etc.

Risk: our processes require daily standups, and that’s not possible now.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – the process remained the same. Now we do online standups every morning, and by the end of the day, artists share the results in the team group chat.

Svetlana Savitskaya, Head of Games – we hold our meetings online and always turn the video on, it’s so much easier to communicate seeing each other’s faces. We’ve been doing a lot of such calls with clients before, the only difference now is that our team members are online too. And we do not waste any time moving around the office.

Risk: managing team members and communication will become harder.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – all F2F meetings and management activities remained the same, we didn’t change the process. They may put even less strain as we’re talking with our bosses from the comfort of our homes. 

Client-Facing Activities

Risk: WHF regime will affect our relationships with clients.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – since the whole world is facing the same issues, our clients do understand the changes. Our team, on the other hand, have adjusted to the new regime and we lost only a couple of working hours that were needed to deliver and set up the hardware. That was pieced out within days.

Some clients, however, required signing more strict NDAs, which included artists’ family members – and we did that as well.

Svetlana Savitskaya, Head of Games – basically, remote work pipelines have always been part of our work since our partners are located all over the world. So there are minimal differences.

Risk: our deliveries will be affected.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – all of our delivery tools are online. Some of them that are office-bound are now managed via remote desktop. Our current take on the situation is that generally, we have adjusted, as well as our partners, and our workflow remained stable.

Risk: time-tracking will be harder.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art  – actually time tracking and reporting  got easier, since we have all the statuses updated with additional attention.

Creative Techniques

Risk: artists need discussions and brainstorm sessions to come up with good ideas.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – We now use Google Meet for all our group calls, and Miro board for brainstorming, which helps to create, collaborate and centralize communication across our company. 

All brainstorm sessions in the art teams require using visual references, so now it became even easier: everybody can just add and point out the piece they are talking of instantly. 

Plus, we now use the Slack feature that allows drawing on your screen when sharing it, which is a great tool our art team leads use in review sessions.

Svetlana Savitskaya, Head of Games  – We all miss informal communication with colleagues in the office, discussing things over coffee and other stuff like that. As a kind of substitute, we hold online gaming tournaments, create informal groups where people share links to self-education courses, movies, etc. All this helps.

Risk: it’s harder to focus on work.

How we manage it:

Vadym Kraevoy, Head of Art – We have set boundaries with our families, put effort not to be distracted by, for example, a pet waiting to play. Other than that we experienced actually no shortage of ideas or good work from our guys.

At least for a while, there’s no option B, and the WFH mode is here to stay. There isn’t any other such magic as sparks of creative thoughts that happen when people meet face to face. But, we’re inventing new ways to be productive, and become even stronger along the way.

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