As an independent game developer, I try to keep my projects small, but even small projects require some sort of management and tracking. Previously, I have used things like Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel to keep track of my tasks, but a little while ago I decided to try out Trello.
Trello is some sort of virtual board where you can stick your “post-it notes” to make lists. You can use it for anything you want, but personally I use it for two main things: brainstorming and keeping track of things I am working on.
When I start working on a new game, the first thing I do is brainstorm ideas and, to keep things organized, I put each idea in a different card.
In Trello, you can add a description to every card, if you double-click on it. I use this to add extra information to any of the game ideas I come up with. Obviously I could do that in Word: create a table with the game idea on one side, and a description on the other side, but Trello also lets me copy cards from one column to the next. For brainstorming sessions I can use this to “greenlight” an idea from the “brainstorm session” column to the “further analysis” column.
Imagine you decide to use color-coded post-its on your board, to make things easier to understand (I am a very visual person, so that helps me a lot). You can do something similar here. Cards have these “labels” (colors) you can apply, and you can add a note explaining what’s the meaning of each color. I will use these mostly to define which cards are more important and require more attention, but they can also be used to differentiate between art related tasks or programming related tasks. And these tasks can be moved from a “pending” list to a “finished” as you are done with them, making it easy to know what is finished and what’s still missing.
Another nice feature is checklists. If a task has subtasks, I can use checklists inside a card to list all those different sub-tasks. For example, if I create a task that simply reads “create player character”, I can add the different sub-tasks in a checklist for modeling in Maya, UVs in Maya, texturing in Substance Designer, sculpting in Mudbox, rigging in Maya, importing into the game engine, etc., and mark those as “done” as I go through them.
One thing I want to clarify is that I don’t see Trello as a replacement for full scheduling, since I still use Microsoft Project for global scheduling. However, Trello can be very useful for day-to-day tasks.