Frostrunner

 

FrostRunner is a first-person platformer “speedrunning” game, where the player is tasked with rapidly completing platforming challenges before the timer runs out. The game is set in a desolate, frozen environment seemingly abandoned by all life. Scattered throughout the icy landscape are mysterious energy crystals emanating a strange power. The player navigates 36 levels of arctic terrain using their platforming skills and a tool that allows them to tether between crystals. The constantly ticking timer encourages players to complete levels as quickly as possible and compete with others to earn their place at the top of the leaderboards.

 

Details:

Engine: Unreal 19.2.1

Team Size: 13 Developers

Duration of Project: 15 Weeks - 3 hrs/day

Platform: PC

Release Date: January 1st, 2019

Available On: Steam

 
 

Accomplishments:

  • Became Most Downloaded SMU Guildhall game ever ten days after release

  • 100k Downloads in First Month

  • First SMU Guildhall Project to have more than 100 thousand Downloads

  • Spent two weeks in the top 5 of Steam’s “Popular New Releases” list

  • #1 Trending Speedrun game for a month after release

 
 
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the Team

We were an ethnically and culturally diverse group with members hailing from all corners of the United States as well as from China, Thailand, and Japan.

Our team consisted of:

  • 3 Artists

  • 3 Programmers

  • 5 Level Designers

  • 1 Lead Game Designer

  • 1 Producer

My Role

I was the producer overseeing the entire project.

My major responsibilities were:

  • Facilitating sprint planning

  • Negotiating development schedules and processes with the team

  • Negotiating milestone deliverables with Stakeholders

  • Managing the SteamWorks publishing process

  • Building and maintaining team culture

  • Broadcasting schedules and progress for the team

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Day to Day

On a daily basis, I was responsible for:

  • Facilitating daily morning leads meeting

  • Overseeing daily team Scrum

  • Managing sprint and project backlogs using Hansoft

  • Creating and updating schedules

  • Coordinating with external Usability/UX producer

  • Monitoring and reporting development progress to team and stakeholders

  • Checking processes to ensure they were working for the team

  • Troubleshooting interpersonal and morale issues

  • Coaching agile development fundamentals

 

Team Culture

Every project is an opportunity to learn and to grow as a developer, a producer, and a person. From this project, the biggest thing I learned was how to build and maintain a purposeful team culture.

 
 
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Culture is Everything

The success of our game and our project can only be attributed to the incredible team culture we developed. We had a culture of open discussion, psychological safety, and zero crunch. We developed this culture early on in the project, which helped us make some of the harder decisions we faced as a team.

The culture we developed paid off in several major ways. Individuals identified as members of a team and made selfless decisions for the team and the game. We enjoyed working and team morale was always high, even when unpopular decisions needed to be made. As the producer, our culture of psychological safety allowed me to have important difficult conversations with individual team members without them shutting down.

 
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Building Intentional Culture

When we came together as a team, we discussed what an ideal team culture would look like. We tossed around ideas like mutual respect, zero crunch, everyone participating in group discussion, seeing ourselves as family more than coworkers, spending time together outside of work, and discussing issues openly and honestly.Then we set out to build that culture:

  • Every morning after we scrummed for the day, we had a team cheer - we changed it up every day, resulting in a good laugh.

  • Every day we took a 15 minute break as a team. Most days we took a walk outside, but sometimes we would do other things like yoga or calisthenics.

  • During weekends or over breaks, we had a small group of team members who would come in and decorate our common work space.

  • Every milestone day we would go out to lunch as a team. This was an opportunity to bond over shared food and spend time together away from work.

  • Every Monday was donut day where I would bring the team too many donuts to eat to make the transition into the work week more palatable

As a result of these intentional actions, we built a shared culture of openness, togetherness, and trust that grew stronger over the course of the project.

Frostrunner Document Samples

Sprint Planning Pipeline

This Document is a visual pipeline we developed early in development before we had a fleshed out product backlog. I used this pipeline as a training tool to help the leads understand how they related to the product backlog and how to construct user stories and conditions of satisfaction for the team.

 

1stP Deliverables Sheet

This sheet was the supporting document that I brought with me to the milestone negotiation with stakeholders for our “first playable” milestone. As you can see, this was before our game coalesced around the name FrostRunner. This document is brief enough to be parsed quickly by stakeholders to allow them to get to their relevant questions and concerns faster.

 

Level Beautification Pipeline

This is the pipeline we developed in the later stages of development to get all 36 levels polished to the same visual standard. Accompanying this pipeline was a large whiteboard where the status of each individual level was kept up to date by the artists and level designers responsible.