Developing a great game can be quite a challenge nowadays, because there are many things you have to take into account. One of these things is your team. Let’s be real, there’s no such thing as the “perfect” game development team. Your goal should be realistic: Put together a team that works well enough to get the results that you desire. The better and more cohesive your team is, the better the game will be in the end.
Key Considerations For Your Team
First, the team needs to have a vision, because team members need to share similar ideas in regards to how the game and the studio as a whole will evolve. If the focus of the game and the direction the team needs to take are not clear, the team will struggle to keep up.
Another important factor to consider is size. Make sure your team is well-suited to accomplish the tasks at hand. Don’t bring on people you don’t need – it’s a waste of money and resources. Don’t understaff your team either – you don’t want to overwork your team or burn them out.
Commitment is another thing that the team has to share. All of the team members have to be committed equally, because it will be close to impossible to make a company work if each person within the team has different expectations. If everyone is on revenue share, make sure the contracts and milestones are crystal clear. If your team is salaried, set clear expectations and requirements.
What About Clear Communication?
A while back, our own Katie Conigliaro wrote a piece about the top five digital collaboration tools for remote teams. The internet has revolutionized how we communicate and has allowed collaborations between teams that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. This is great! However, there is one constant that we still need to work around: people themselves.
While having communication tools is great, knowing how to get messages across is still an art form that can escape some teams. Taking inspiration from our podcast with Martin Tranter and Robert Merrrit, the developers of Office Freakout, it seemed appropriate to tackle some helpful tips to avoid office freakouts. Here they are:
1. Outline Roles Clearly
Wearing a lot of hats is a common practice nowadays, but make sure everyone knows what hats the others—and they themselves—are wearing. It’s fine if your programmer also provides art assets, but make sure that everyone knows that they’re the ones to go to if something comes up.
Similarly, your team might have someone (it might even be you!) who likes to go out of their zone of expertise and provide backup elsewhere. Just make sure nobody else is trying to do the same thing, or that you each know what the other’s planning. Crossed wires can cause conflict within a team.
2. Pick Your Weapon—And Stick To It
Katie outlined some great options for collaborating. There’s something out there that fits every team and every person. But just like there can be too many cooks in the kitchen, it’s very possible to have too many tools in your hand.
Have your team collectively choose a set of tools, and make them the official tools of the project. Ensure everyone knows how to use the tools, and don’t change protocols in the middle of the process. Make sure your collaboration tools are consistently updated, constantly checked, and easily accessible.
3. Meet Often
While working on a big game project, it’s easy to get burned out after grinding for a long time. Calling a Skype (or Slack) meeting on a regular basis can be very helpful in keeping your team motivated and on track. Even if all you do at your meeting is say that things are going fine or haven’t moved forward, and then discuss weekend plans, it gets the team into a healthy state of mind. They’ll have a moment each week where they pause, think about the project, and reflect on their next steps. Plus, it’s fun to chat with your co-workers!
4. Foster Understanding
When you have a lot of people on your team and each person is working on their own little piece, it’s easy for team members to feel like they are putting in more than others. Every programmer might not understand the work of every animator, and every designer might not understand what every marketer is up to. Try to make your team mindful of these differences, and make sure people have a working understanding of every role in the team.
This way, when your programmer requests more assets from an artist and gets a timeframe that’s longer than they may have hoped, they know enough about the artist’s workflow to have a productive conversation rather than just blindly asking for the assets sooner.
Effective communication begins with an open conversation. A team isn’t a group of individuals isolated in cubes, each working on a separate part. Handling a team is about figuring out how your pieces fit together to make a whole image. Talk to your team and they will talk to you. And check out our podcast interview with Hollow Robot for more thoughts on team communication!
What Tools Can I Use with My Team?
In the ever growing internet age it is becoming more and more common for people living hundreds, even thousands of miles apart, to be working together. While this is great for diversifying teams and drawing talents together from around the world, it can sometimes be difficult to keep all members of the team on the same page. If this sounds familiar I’ve got good news: There’s an app for that!
There are tons of digital collaboration tools that make it easier to share ideas, track progress, and keep every member of your development team in the loop, regardless of location or time zone. Here are five of the best tools to keep your remote office running smoothly.
Slack is a communication tool designed specifically to help teams operate as efficiently as possible by keeping all communication in one place. With Slack, you can set up multiple channels, letting you organize your team chats by topic or project, so important information never gets lost in a sea of group chat madness. You can also set up private channels for sensitive information, and send direct messages to other members if needed.
Bonus points: Slack is available across PC and mobile devices, so you can keep in touch with your team anytime, anyplace.
Trello is your all-in-one task management app. Break your project down into multiple boards, use cards to organize what still needs to be done, and assign team members to complete them. Trello is excellent for keeping your entire team up-to-date on what has been done, what needs doing, and what each person is responsible for.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of having to email files back and forth between team members is a total nightmare. It becomes too easy to lose important documents, and you often find yourself stuck waiting for someone else to send you the files you need—a particular pain when you live in completely different time zones. Dropbox lets you avoid all that hassle by letting you share a cloud server with your entire team. It can be synced to all of your devices, so everyone on your team can have access to all important project files anytime, anywhere.
4. Google Drive
Sometimes sharing documents just isn’t enough. That’s where Google Drive comes in. Google Drive allows multiple people to work on a single document together in real time. No more waiting for others to contribute to or comment on a document and send it back! With Drive, your entire team can chat and work on text documents, spreadsheets, and slideshow presentations with each other at the same time.
I can feel some of you staring skeptically through the screen. You’re thinking, “What do mason jars and image filters have to do with workplace productivity?” but Pinterest is so much more than a site full of DIY tutorials. In fact, according to Nathan Meunier, it’s a game designer’s best friend.
Pinterest is the inspiration cork board of the remote office. Teams can easily create private group boards to share inspiration, concept art, development and design research, and more. The visual element of Pinterest makes it perfect for design teams working on game environments and aesthetics to collect and share inspiration for their artwork. And since every pin also links back to the site it originated from, it is also the perfect place to collect useful articles (like this one!) for your team to reference.
Working with a development team doesn’t have to be a headache. By using the fabulous digital collaboration tools available to you, and ensuring clear communication flow, you and your team can enjoy all the conveniences of a physical office space with all the freedom of working outside a cramped cubicle. Sometimes, you really can have it both ways.
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