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Community Project Management Ideas

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Since working on Plutonia 1024, the idea of harnessing the energy of The Doom Community Project has been really fascinating for me. I have a few ideas for new projects in mind, but they need to wait as being a community project leader involves a few months of heavy attention and commitment to the project at the very least, and I have some real life obligations that I need to attend to before getting into it.

Anyway, I have a few management ideas that I'd thought of that might reduce a community project's risk of getting off-task and help unify members as part of a team, to deliver a high quality project without too much mapper individualism potentially hurting the project.

One of the ideas that's been resonating in my mind is a community project where, in addition to having the leader -- the guy who forms the idea, manages the thread, answers questions, etc. there would also be a "creative director," a guy appointed by the leader to write a storyline, name the maps, dictate how and when the player encounters certain monster types, acquires certain weapons, embraces themes, etc. A guy to say "This map is excessively long for this early in the wad" or "this slaughter map doesn't really have a place in a megawad like this" or "the visual elements are a bit too noisy compared to the rest of the maps"

It would sort of be like the role of the playtester, except that the creative director couldn't just volunteer themselves, they would have to be appointed by the leader or elected by the members of the project. Their creative vision would have to be expressed beforehand in explicit detail before members start making maps for it, so that the mappers that volunteer have a clear guideline as to what they should be doing to benefit the project.

In practice, to employ this strategy as a sort of stress test, I was thinking of maybe making a short episode (6 to 9 maps) where the style and theme of each map is expressed in excruciating detail, and mappers had to attempt to simulate what's being described to the best of their ability.

From speculation of many community projects, I have some other ideas in mind that are designed to channel community mapping projects into mapsets and megawads that the players would want to play. I'm thinking not just effective playtesting to detect objective issues, but supressing the mappers' urges to create excessively long adventure maps, slaughtermaps, or overdetailed masterpieces in favor of conforming to a consistent style and entertaining gameplay experience that would benefit the players in the long run.

Do you think such strategies would:
A. Generate community interest in mapping for it?
B. Result in more entertaining wads for players to play?

Just from observing how most community projects are handled, do you think there's something missing in the way they are being managed, in regards to delivering a better set of maps to play one after another in a unified project? Suggestions?

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IMHO, this is a more professional approach than the average DCP we have usually here, which isn't a bad thing, since it would create a more coerent and overall solid mapset.

Regarding your questions, for what matters, i am interested, i found it to be a challenging idea (whatever the theme is, it is not important).

Will result in a more enjoyable experience for the player? that depends heavily on the creative director, he must be, how can i say it, really honest on what is going on a map; if a map is bad (may be gameplay, may be aestetics, may be both) he/she must be clear on what make the map be bad and eventually reject it if can't be saved. (this actually implies that the CD must be a very capable person)

There was a project not so long ago that more or less respected those "rules", but i can't remember what it was.

A final note, CPs are always a sort of mixed bags even when you have a stronger project vision, may be because some mappers are just better than others? or because CPs's leaders leave a way too varied texture pack to use? but even the Monochromatic project had some big differences between maps styles, which makes us return to point 1. How much variety we need in an episode long wad, and how much in a megawad?
I don't know, managing CPs isn't easy after all.

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Yeah, this would definitely help make some mapsets more fun. I know the big community wads that we know have a lot of "Magnun Opus's" and that's great, but 30 huge, detailed maps is just too much.

I'd like maybe to see let's say 3 episodes of 10 maps, the first 8 being normal sized, the ninth being a mega/final dungeon styled map, and the final map a boss map. That would be ideal for episodic gameplay I feel.

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I don't see any reason the Project Leader and Creative Director can't be the same person, unless you're purposely trying for a sort of good cop/bad cop setup where the Project Leader can be the 'nice guy' that keeps everyone involved, with the Creative Director as the 'mean guy' that gives the criticism, calls the shots on excising certain maps, etc. Of course, having multiple people to share that role can also be helpful (just to get more eyes on something), though you don't want to go too far and have too many cooks in the kitchen and all that.

I definitely think there's room for having projects which are "tighter" in their leadership and decision making... many projects tend to attract lower-tier and newer mappers, who will churn out a map or two and submit it, not really realizing that their maps have a lot of problems and just aren't that good. Good maps take time to craft. This is also one of the problems with having people call slots - someone will call a slot, make a map, others will point out the flaws, but no one makes a replacement map because hey, the slot's been taken. Or those decisions are made too late in the game after enthusiasm for the project has passed.

Doing smaller episodes would definitely make this easier... replacing maps is a lot easier when it's only one map out of nine that needs redoing, instead of multiple maps out of thirty. I'd like to see more projects where the mappers all contribute to various maps, not just submitting their own and acting as an individual, only caring about their own map. Maybe this is too much 'team project' rather than 'community project' for some folks, but I think those provide much stronger final products.

As an aside, I'd really like to see more projects like Interception or Hadephobia where there's a definite plot connecting each of the maps.

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Maybe a little OT, but I think this may be the right place where to put it: why not creating a tool (like a web page within doomworld) where to record and track the various Community Projects created within the Doom forum(s)?

It would help mappers looking for projects to contribute, and as constant reminder of the work to be done.

Just an idea...


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Hard to answer your questions because there are a lot of variables but...

Do I think your ideas would generate interest?

Well, there is already a default interest in community projects anyway. I don't think the twin leadership model would add to this. I think the only pull leadership has is the reputation of the people in charge because contributors obviously want to commit their work in something they have confidence will be finished and preferably become a notable release. The other idea about giving rigid guidelines will probably encourage participants. People seem to like to be told what to do, hence the fact we can't seem to have a community project without limitation rules.

Do I think it will lead to a project that people want to play?

This is even more difficult to say. Depends who the project leaders are, what the guidelines are and who the contributors are. I don't think the ideas will harm the chances of this and both ideas could at the least make the running of the project much easier on the project leader(s).

Here are the areas that I think could use improvement in community projects :

1. Limitation projects are getting old. Put together a texture pack, write a cheesy story, choose a port and maybe cite some WADs for influence. Worked for many classic megawads so why not now?

2. Too many projects are inclusive. They are good for the community because the give new mappers an in and a platform for exposure and feedback that they might not get posting their single map on WADs & Mods, so this is not a critisism of CPs like the NOVA series, but how about more projects that are submission based?

3. "I'll just leave my map here". I'm just as guilty of this as others and this is getting into more team mapping than CPs but it's a shame that people often don't engage in a project much more than just posting their map.

4. 32 Magnus Opus'. Or, the CC4 problem. I'm not a fan of huge maps so I might be biaised but IMO this not only stunts the development of the project but makes it exhausting for players too.

5. It's done when it's done. This isn't so much that I am impatient for the release of projects, more that soft or lapsing deadlines often leads to a stagnation of the project where it's not earning it's Mordeth award because it is being painstakingly polished but because half the contributors haven't bothered to too their map for a month.

6. Weak leadership. Or to be fairer, nice guy syndrome. This continues from the last point but a lot of CP leaders are too nice to say a map is not working or it needs improving or sticking to consequences for deadlines. For practicality purposes I can see why this happens. Nobody is being paid here and CP leaders want to encourage participation so are not necessarily in a position of strength. I liked 40oz's rule that his 1024 project will not ncessarily have 32 maps as this gave him the leverage to stick to his own plans.

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Here's another idea. What about a project where mappers can volunteer to be in a mapper selection pool, an the project leader assigns mappers to groups to work on a small subset of maps that are part of a larger project. Like say a megawad with 5 six-level episodes. Each mapper can volunteer to map, and the manager will assign them to an episode of the managers choice, to be paired up with one or two other chosen members to work on that particular episode. Theyre entitled to work individually, or they can collaborate on maps together, playtest them under their own scrutiny, and submit their episode together as a team once they all agree its finished. Then after some last minute testing, the episodes would be compiled together for the final megawad.

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I just made a post (Before seeing this one actually) about a christmas themed megawad.
I would love to be "Creative Director" For a project like this if you would like to help me? It will be my first community project if people like the idea, and would be a lot of fun I think, especially considering most christmas wads suck, it would be nice to make a good one for the holiday times!
Edit: Probably should also mention, my dream job in the future after college and such, is to be the eventual creative director of a project. So it would be wonderful experience for me. :)

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Magnusblitz said:

I don't see any reason the Project Leader and Creative Director can't be the same person

Mostly this, I feel. Such a split would make sense for projects on the scale of professional game design (i.e. AAA studios), but it'd be a bit overkill here. The responsibilities described by the "Creative Director" position are things the project leader ought to be doing, IMO.

There is a lot of merit, though, on having appointed "dedicated playtesters" doing a lot of the non-dictatorial things suggested (e.g. feedback on things like map size, etc.), though at that point you're indeed expanding the scope of a playtester rather than introducing a new role of sorts.

[EDIT] Thinking more on this, there's one major project that comes to mind that did have this sort of leader/director split: TNT2. We all know how that turned out. <_<

Final note: purist offers some super-sound advice, I say. :D

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Thanks Xaser, another CP problem that I was reminded about in the. Xmas CP thread is the 'vague premise'. This is where the guidelines are not fixed from the start or the leader is too easily persuaded to chance rules. If the CP is a page long and the guidelines aren't yet set in stone it's likely the project will suffer in some way - either it will dissuade contributors (5RoD), attract unfitting maps (D2INO) or delay progress (DTWID).

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Sounds like someone's been studying organization theory. The leadership being discussed here is very much a top-down management and that won't work when the people in the bottom are doing this in their free time as a hobby. A good way to go would be to have a full working democracy in the team that's building the megawad. That way you would also achieve a consistent flow in gameplay and architecture, given that the team members really voice their opinions. If you establish a goal together and have follow up meetings and discussions it would work out perfectly. If you parctice democracy without a leader in the team, there wouldn't be a leaders ego to please either.

The best solution is DIY. You should know that since you're into punk ;)

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Really good post purist, I agree with a lot of your points. I also agree with others in that I don't think the project lead & creative director need to be different (in fact I doubt a creative director is necessary unless the maps are thematically linked).

For community projects to be more successful, I think one of the most important things is that you don't need to make a 32-map megawad. Aiming for that number can become a grind when you're missing 6-8 maps, and the process can go on for so long that authors that submitted their maps back at the start of the project don't see/don't care about feedback they're getting months later. A sterner voice is also necessary for quality control, and well-defined guidelines/rules always help (if you're looking for a technically consistent project). Personally, I kinda wanna see a megawad with an interesting/quirky theme as its impetus, as it's been a while since we've gotten something like Hadephobia.

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In regards to the Xmas CP I put up, i'm not in particularly looking to start the project myself, and i'm not looking to run the whole thing either, as I explained in the thread, i'm just looking to get the idea out there and get the ball rolling, if someone wants to come in and take control that's fine with me as well, just it's been so long since a good XMAS wad was out, and most of the other ones aren't that good that I figured it was time and due for one.
But I understand where your coming from, I should have outlined it better in the beginning but as I said as well, it's my first idea of a community project and don't really know where to begin so i'm just going along with it as it happens.

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I'm the creative director for Revilution and a second project, but I don't take it as high as the role you portray, 40oz. I do do a lot of those things already though.

I can see how drama could happen, depends on the situation and the people. In Revilution's case, I work with the team to set our story, goals, themes etc, while Kyka handles the maps, the opening thread, other things like that.

I also dont fully agree with that "being an ass" thing, as Xaser pointed out, we came out of such a thing, and, sure, the community gets two megawads (eventually), but people are STILL hurt over that event. Something I'm not going to repeat, everything we don't accept for whatever reason, goes into a seperate episode.

I am also currently employed by a REAL creative director at an indie game studio, so I'm learning from that as I go.

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In a broad sense, having a successful project relies on the competence of both sides: director and contributors.

It may sound a little strict, but the creative director should be able to create most of the project themselves without outside help.

The recruitment into a project should be born from the acknowledgement of what skills the director lacks (graphics, music composition, etc.), and the director should have the capacity to determine what contributions help the project and what contributions are detrimental to it. The conveyance of these requirements should be as clear as possible from the start so that your potential resource pool has focus.

At the other end, the contributors have to be honest about their own interest in the project and their personal skillset. It is unfair to express interest in something and deliver nothing that the leader can use, and the leader/director should be able to plan for this situation, either by delivering personal feedback or outright rejecting the contributed pieces.

In short, the thing that makes a successful project and leader are experience and drive. If nobody can do the work, you don't have a project.

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