Twizmo Games (also known by its parent company Twist on Games), is a game manufacturing company that develops and markets both physical product games (i.e., Twizmo! Original, Twizmo! Words and Twizmo! Cards) and app versions of its games for both IOS and Android devices.
As the original inventor of Twizmo and the founding member, I have had the wonderful opportunity and fortune to bring together much of my knowledge, skills, principles, and passion together to lead and drive both the product development and business development of Twizmo Games. Founded in 2010 upon my first departure from IBM, I formed the company with two partners, Rich Zeglovitch and Lindsay Denman, who each brought a set of complimentary set of skills and relationships, as well as their own passion, to the effort. As each of us were part-timers in truly uncharted territory, it took three years to get the product line truly ready for market launch which has successfully occurred with Twizmo! now in over 100 retail locations in over 25 states in the U.S. as well as Canada and New Zealand.
While still very early in its business lifecycle, there are still many lessons learned and take-aways from my days with Twizmo Games. Here are some of the biggies.
Physical game development that takes a “great idea” from its conception through a true product development lifecycle is a journey that goes way beyond what anyone would think when they begin. There are clear lifecycle stages that mirror software development and clear places where software engineering practices can come in quite handy.
- Business Modeling to understand the games marketplace and demographics lead to the creation of an entire product line to provide an offering to rather distinct demographics / player profiles. Additionally, understanding how the games market (i.e., sales distribution structure, sales rep group role and methods, etc.) were areas of BM focus for Twizmo!
- Agile Project Management, more specifically Scrum project management, practices can be leveraged in a surgical strike fashion to solve specific challenges such as those described in the GDLC (game development lifecycle) disciplines identified below. Specific to project management, Sprint Planning to ensure a constant delivery of an evolving product potentially marketable to the public should opportunity arise helped keep the small team focused and moving.
- Requirements Management practices that include use case modeling, user stories ala Agile / Scrum, and product and sprint backlog approaches can really help to keep the ball moving from iteration to iteration. (see example of the Twizmo product backlog). Prioritization and effort estimation can really help leverage the limited time availability that a small group of part-time resources have to use. Though the original inventor of Twizmo, my deferral of the role of Product Owner to Rich Z, to allow me to maintain the integrity of my Scrum Master role, proved to be very useful indeed.
- Game Architecture / Design, akin to software design in many ways, was where the major components to the three games in the product line were identified and prototyped and where the interactions between those components were refined.
- Game Development is where the game play was tuned, refined, and field test through many game nights with anyone we could get to participate. Included here was the documentation of the game instructions which turned out to be probably the biggest collaboration challenge of the project.