I thought I would do a follow up piece to the guide I wrote about developing games around a full time job. This week I will be talking about working as a satellite team, which will likely be nonsense as well.
Rodobodolfo lives in Argentina and I live in the UK. When we’re not at war over the sovereignty status of the Falkland Islands we like to make sensational video games together. In order for that to work we use the internet and this guide I just wrote.
1. Work with like-minded people
It’s all well and good putting together an online super team, but it’s no good if your designer has poor taste in music and questionable theories on the shape of the planet. You don’t need to be best friends but projects are time consuming, it benefits to have a team of like-minded individuals that can relate to each other. Not too relatable, though. You don’t want them talking too much.
2. Work with hard working people
If you want to finish a game then everyone needs to pull their weight. Making a game is like working at Subway. I’m manning the salad section waiting for the next sub, but it’s not coming cause the sandwich artist is having a little nap out back instead of creating an overpriced treat. Now the queue is building up. I could create the sandwiches and work the salad section, but before long I’d be burnt out and the sandwiches will be filled with game breaking bugs.
I didn’t get a job at Subway* to work alone, just like you didn’t form a team to work alone. There’s no I in team, though you can spell meat which is what you can put in a sandwich. You’ll need a team of people you can rely on that won’t bring the project to a grinding halt.
* I didn’t get a job at Subway.
3. Clearly Defined Rolls
Roles, not rolls. Was still thinking about Subway, sorry.
Everyone should know their role. Though the role will be ever expanding, vague and increasingly impossible to define, it should still be clearly defined.
Rodo and I have many roles but we know who’s responsible for what. For example, not only am I the artist but I also have the role of writing this drivel every Monday. Rodo has similar roles which are clearly defined as his. It’s vital to share the roles equally and know who’s responsible for what. This also makes finger pointing easier when production comes to a halt.
4. Create a test project/Take part in Ludum Dare or other jams
Not just for a game prototype, but to see if you can work together as a team. Rodo and I meet through an online music project. We decided to make an album together which we churned out in a matter of weeks! I did the bass and melodies, he did the drums and more melodies. We fulfilled the first 4 steps in this guide! We discovered like-minded tastes and worked hard in our clearly defined roles. We concluded that we could probably make an incredible game together, based solely on our breath-taking teamwork.
We took part in Ludum Dare together and made a decidedly average game, but once again, the teamwork was staggering.
5. Make a game
Okay! You’ve got a quality team of skilled people, they’re really on your level and the vibe is great. Next step is to embark on creating a multi-million dollar franchise. This step seems obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people miss it.
6. Universally Agreed Vision
All teams members should be on the same page early on in development, whether it’s the vision of one person or the entire team’s idea. Stick to the plan.
Ever hear the expression “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”? No? Me neither, but, I think it means if all the cooks are putting their ingredients into the soup it’s gonna taste like shit. This metaphor can be translated into game dev terms as “Shut up, I’m the auteur around here! Stop trying to add features to my game!”.
Okay, maybe it doesn’t translate quite as that but if during development someone suggests that Samurai Soccer needs an arcade driving section then they’re not sticking to the universally agreed vision of the project.
7. Language barriers and time zones
For some reason, not everyone can speak English and instead talk in silly languages I can’t understand. This can create a barrier. Fortunately, a lot of them can at least type in English, so not all is lost for those ignorant like me. The bigger problem is the time difference between team members.
Rodo and I have 4 hours between us, which isn’t much but during a working week at our day jobs it leaves us scant time to work together. When he gets home from work at 6pm I’m already thinking about bed. Of course you can work alone all you want but you need some overlap so you can catch up in real time instead of emails. Find a mutual time to meet up online even if that means you have to take turns staying up late/waking up early because…
8. Communication is key
Constant communication keeps the project alive. If you aren’t all constantly communicating then you cocked up on step 1.
I like to text Rodo everyday to tell him about all the work I’ve done, show him screenshots or share incredible ideas. I don’t really care what he thinks but it works to guilt him into doing some work himself. Actually, this tip should be called ‘Guilt is Key’. As long as someone is working hard that will usually guilt the other members to get cracking. It’s when everyone stops working that the project can then fall into hiatus. Keep your team guilty and keep the hype!
9. Add your team on Steam/PSN/XboxLive
This isn’t for team building exercises playing Rocket League, it’s to make sure Rodo isn’t skiving off playing Dark Souls when he should be working on the animated door system.
10. Divide the riches evenly.
If you follow this guide you should find yourself rather rich*. You should either write up contracts or do an online pinkie swear to avoid any disagreements over royalties.
* Not true. We are still poor.
Well, there you have it, 10 fool proof tips for working in a successful satellite team. You’re welcome. Feel free to read my other collection of tips – How To Develop Games With A Full Time Job. 8 Tips for Success!
Join me next week when I discuss 10 tips for making games when you have no skills or discernible talent. Take care.