July 19, 2017
Behind the Scenes

Prioritizing the Production of Tyto Online

Lindsey Tropf

Hi! Lindsey here.I wanted to give you a quick look at how we prioritize the production of Tyto Online, and how we decide what we’re going to work on.

So what you see below is a small part of our backlog in a program called JIRA. A backlog is basically just a prioritized list of all the features, bugs, and things we need to do for the game!

This is the heart of all the tasks we have to do and how we organize it all. And every two weeks we go through a “sprint” — a set of tasks that we want to complete for the updates we release. Right now, we’re in the midst of our Drakon Breeding: Part 1 sprint, and in our backlog are all the tasks that are involved in this sprint, like “I need to be able to click on and see different genes,” and “I need to be able to access the Drakonarium from a hotbar,” or “I need to be able to breed drakons.”

We call these tasks “user-stories,” which we create as we determine what the user is going to want to do in the game, and set them alongside bugs and other things we need to do as we make, build, and grow Tyto Online. Sometimes they’re from new features we want, and sometimes we make them based on requests from our players.

This is our current sprint, where you can see what there is To Do, what’s In Progress, what needs to be tested, what needs to be reviewed, and what’s finished.

One of the important things to understand about how we prioritize production is that we have a GIANT backlog, with 130+ items in our main backlog, 40 in another, 60+ in our Bug backlog and HELO backlog, and so on. All in all we have about 300 items across all the organizational areas and lists we have in JIRA.

So when it comes to prioritizing all these tasks, we generally try to go from top to bottom — what’s highest priority down to lowest priority. For example, at the top of our list are things like making sure players can see buttons in order to complete and start conversations, while wayyyy at the bottom are things like “I want to be able to automatically bar non-holographic pets from entering biodomes.” Obviously that would be a pretty minor story-driven thing, so that’s toward the bottom of the list.

There are times when people will report a bug or tell us about an idea they have that we think is awesome — but that awesome idea might end up at #200 because it’s not immediately essential to clarifying gameplay or the features we’re currently putting out. We will definitely get to it, which is why we keep it in our backlog; it’s just that it’s a long, long list that we have, and we have to be very careful about how we prioritize things. It can be really challenging to balance how much time we spend on adding new stuff and making sure we fix any issues that are confusing to users, but right now we do have to prioritize usability first.

So every couple of weeks we start a new sprint, working through the top priorities as a team, and JIRA will generate some cool visuals so we can track our progress. I can see how the work is being divvied up:

And poor Nick has the most tasks assigned to him right now (he does all the user interface).

I can look at how long it’s taking to get different new issues taken care of:

And our overall sprint progress:

If it looks like a lot, that’s because it is — it’s a pretty complicated process when you have a project as big as ours. But it’s also pretty great when you see the outcome of it all!

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