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sunandshadow

Creative Vision, Cooperation Between Leads and Recruiting What You Aren't

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Creative Vision, Cooperation Between Leads and Recruiting What You Aren't A large story-based game project such as an RPG requires several Leads/Coordinators because nobody can be good at everything, and even if you were trying to do all the work yourself would be boring and take a really long time. Xenallure has or will eventually have: - Lead Designer/Team Coordinator (Me) - Lead Writer (Me) - Art Coordinator (Me - I wear lots of hats) - Lead Programmer (?) - Music Coordinator (?) - Lead Animator/Cinematics Director (?) - Playtesting Coordinator (?) - Webmaster (?) So, all the roles I can't fill, I obviously must recruit someone else to fill or they won't get done and we won't have a game. But if I can't do it myself, it's probably because I know next to nothing about it, (*cough*programming*cough*) so how do I know what kind of skills to ask for in my help wanted ad, or how to test if a candidate is qualified? If I want the gameplay to work one way, and the lead programmer wants to program it to work a different way, how can I assess whether there are legitimate technical reasons not to do it the way I want, or whether it is just a matter of personal taste? If I weren't the designer or the writer or the art coordinator I would have exactly the same problems with them. Or what if there's a dispute between, say, the animator who wants 3,000 poly models and the programmer who says the game engine can't handle that, and I don't know anything about either technical issue? I know there are no right answers to these questions, but I will have to recruit a lead programmer in about 2 weeks and I don't have a clue how to go about doing that, so any tips you can have to share will be appreciated.

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You are the producer of Xenallure. Start by reading the excerpt of The Game Producer's Handbook currently on the GDNet front page. Then realize that you have to know a little bit about all the various aspects of game development to function effectively as a producer, which means: you have to acquire at least basic programming competence (make a tetris clone in Python+PyGame, write Pong in C, something); you have to acquire an understanding of the music workflow and the criteria of a good Music Coordinator; you have to know enough about the web to give direction to your webmaster (what technologies to choose/use and why, what special requirements you may have); and so forth.

In addition, you have to participate in the evaluation of every piece of technology being used in your project, from a licensed engine if you decide to go that route (which I recommend, as it's a helluva time saver!) to ProTools/Fruity Loops to the IDE of choice to Avid/Premiere/Final Cut. It's your responsibility to source funding as well, and generally do everything administrative to maximize the success potential of the team.

Alternatively, you could realize that you're not a producer but rather a game designer (if this is, in fact, true) and hire a producer instead. That'll free you up to focus on creative direction and art as well as overall design. Of course, you'll then have to deal with the prospect of a producer cutting features to stay under budget and within schedule.

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Here at UTD we have a habit of posting messages all over the place. We have whiteboards in the honors lounge, and more in the arts/tech labs that we use. Found it's a good way to get help in obscure areas. I guess the equivalent here are the forums, but that isn't as helpful as it might seem.

I'm in charge of making a game for the regional museum, and I'm fighting to learn ActionScript, Flash animation, Illustrator, an isometric engine, more about sound effect creation, as well as digitally writing/recording music for the game. The most useful thing I've found is to have at least one person *outside* your group to ask about each area you need help in. I'd suggest PMing the heck out of a few GDNetters who have experience in it.

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Be sure to ask for a portfolio from anyone you bring onboard, as this should demonstrate that they have at the least basic competency, and have at least in the past been able to succefully complete at least one project. Try to somehow guage the personality as well - you'll need a team that can get along with each other without significant clashes. They don't all have to be perfectly friendly or anything, but if someone is too difficult to work with, it will cause serious problems.

As Oluseyi said, you'll want to have at least a basic understanding of each and every task that you'll be recruiting people to do - it'll help immensely with effectively communicating ideas, progress, etc, and will also aid you in choosing the correct candidate. If you absolutely cant learn anything about a particular area - say you try to learn a bit about the basics of programming and you just can't seem to get it to 'click' for example - then you should have someone you know well who does understand these areas, and be able to consult with them on things.

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Original post by sunandshadow
Or what if there's a dispute between, say, the animator who wants 3,000 poly models and the programmer who says the game engine can't handle that, and I don't know anything about either technical issue?


A good programmer should be able to give you an explanation of why (s)he is setting out the requirements and/or limitations they are imposing, and similarly, the animator should be able to give you a reason why he wants to use a particular format/poly-count/whatever. With the basic knowledge you really should pick up in each area, and with the explanations you've been given, you should be able to quickly verify that the reasons are legit, and make sense. If both have good, legit reasons, then I'd tend to side with the programmer, but of course, that will be your decision if the situation arises.


While all your programmers (and other staff for that matter) must be good, your lead programmer is probably particularly important - make sure you get someone with a bit of experience, and preferably who's worked with a team (bonus points if they've been lead) in the past. A lead programmer should ideally also have some basic knowledge in various areas by the way.

So basically, my advice is also to try to learn a bit about each and every area - read up a bit, and try out a few basic tasks yourself to get a bit of a handle on the terminology and what's involved, or alternately, as Oluseyi suggested, to find someone else to do so for you (in which case you'd be giving them a fair amount of control over the project however).

Good luck, hope that helps a bit. [smile]

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[edit] And so Kazgoroth beats me and I end up saying what he says [lol] Sigh, at least great minds think alike [wink]

If I knew any other programmers, I'd gladly ask around. However sunandshadow, you may have to put off with this idea until you can find soneone you can trust and is good with the programming. Reason being there will be many issues that come up that will really be a judgement call on the programmers part - but they cannot simply choose what to do if something comes up.

You need to be aware of the issue at hand and how it will affect your project. So you will need someone that can effectively communicate with you. If you can do this then you will not have to worry about this:

Quote:
If I want the gameplay to work one way, and the lead programmer wants to program it to work a different way, how can I assess whether there are legitimate technical reasons not to do it the way I want, or whether it is just a matter of personal taste?


A good lead programm should be honest and be able to evaluate both sides. Designers alwasy have ideas they want to see in the game, but most of the time, these just are not possible in a given time frame - so it is up to the programmers to show why this is the case and show alternatives. You really need to have a lead programmer that is also a Team Coordinator with you, but on the programming side of things.

There are numerous of issues that will come up that are specific to the technical side rather than the other side. The lead programmer would have a lot of responsibilities as well as you do - for they are the Programming Coordinator. I mean you can find someone through an add, but you would need to collaborate with someone technical to setup how your game will work out before you start making it.

So I wish you the best of luck! There aren't that many avaliable programmers nowadays [depressed] but if you have any programming specific questions you can feel free to PM me. The way our project works is that we have someone as the manager of the programming and then a manager of the arts and stuff. This way they can work together on what is best, while handling the specifics of each side on their own. I think it's working out good right now [smile]. SO you need to find a complement!

- Drew

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Then realize that you have to know a little bit about all the various aspects of game development to function effectively as a producer, which means: you have to acquire at least basic programming competence...


True for the most part, unless you can find people that just excel at what they do and have those skills and are willing to help contribute to the project. [wink] Instances like those are indeed rare, as finding good programmers, but still very, very possible [grin]

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Quote:
Original post by Drew_Benton
You really need to have a lead programmer that is also a Team Coordinator with you, but on the programming side of things.

...

The way our project works is that we have someone as the manager of the programming and then a manager of the arts and stuff. This way they can work together on what is best, while handling the specifics of each side on their own. I think it's working out good right now [smile]. SO you need to find a complement!


Yeah, this is definitely what I want to do. :) The challenge is to recruit a person like this. o_O

I should probably clarify that I don't have totally zero knowledge of programming, I took a semester of C++ and got a B in it, my final project was an ascii-art mancala game with an AI player. What I meant was more that it's taken me years of studying art and writing and working as a staff artist and writer before I was capable of being a lead for those things, it will take a programmer with that much experience to decide what language/engine Xenallure should use and create a plan for how to program all the various bits and get them to function as a game at a reasonable speed on a wide variety of computers without crashing. And anyone who's competent and experienced enough to do all that and manage a staff of programmers probably already has their own project to work on, or would want more of a say in the game's design than I can give them... :(

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These roles have titles.

The "lead programmer" or "program manager" is usually referred to as the Technical Director. The Art Director is the "lead artist".

I assume the Xenallure is a non-commercial/hobbyist company? There's no way that one person can act as the Team Manager (Producer), Lead Designer, Head Writer, and Art Coordinator (Art Director) on a serious project without half-assing a good deal of that along the way.

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Quote:
Original post by dgaf
These roles have titles.

The "lead programmer" or "program manager" is usually referred to as the Technical Director. The Art Director is the "lead artist".

I assume the Xenallure is a non-commercial/hobbyist company? There's no way that one person can act as the Team Manager (Producer), Lead Designer, Head Writer, and Art Coordinator (Art Director) on a serious project without half-assing a good deal of that along the way.


There's a big difference between an art director and a lead artist. The lead artist is the person who does all the initial sketches and sets the visual style for the game. The art director is the person who gives instructions to artists about what they must create, suggests changes, and collects approved pieces and passes them over to the programming staff to stick in the game or the webmaster to add to the webpage. The first is an artist, the second is a manager of artists and editor of art.

Xenallure is a volunteer project but our goal is to turn out a professional product comparable to a final fantasy game, because several of the staff members are experienced hobbyists ready to turn professional but in need of a good portfolio piece to demonstrate our talents.

I don't want to be in the position of wearing all these hats because I know it takes a lot of time to do a good job at them. It's not too much of an issue yet because we aren't going to switch from the design phase to the production phase for about another month. Meanwhile I am trying to delegate various responsibilities - my goal is to end up as the lead writer and director of everything non-technical, while delegating all other roles to qualified staff. My project last week was to recruit a level/combat system designer and an architectural artist and give them their initial instructions, and I also acquired a potential musician by accident; this week as they start producing I will be helping them get a more pinpointed idea of what we need for the game, while also continuing to guide previously-recruited concept artists through completing various assignments. When the team have gotten oriented enough that they only require a minimum of instruction from me I will work some more on my own tasks (writing mainly) and do a design doc update, hopefully to the point where we will have enough specs to hand to a programmer and enough concept art to make a project webpage - that will be our next milestone. :) Then I'll start over with the next cycle of recruitment and orientation. This process has been working well for me so far - fortunately I have management experience and am the kind of person who enjoys juggling a variety of tasks.

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The artists, depending on your project (concept artist, animator, effects artist, environment artist, and modeler) should be getting creative fuel from the designers. Not all companies have a dedicated content designer, and no hobby company should really have a dedicated designer. In a hobby company and even some established companies everyone is sorta a designer. It's silly to think that someone has no good ideas because they know how to program in C++.

It's good your doing something to make this happen. Best way to learn is to jump in and do it :).

Best of luck on your project!

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I think it's a great idea to have people willing to work together to add material to their portfolio. If it ends up a good game, it could even be entered into the IGF. A win for design or innovation is a great thing to add to the portfolio and there is even the possibility of having your game published for winning. I believe that is what happened to Savage a couple years ago (or was it last year?).

I'm not sure I see the point of an Art Director as a non-artistic manager of the art. If the art team is given the Game Design Document, I would assume that they would know where to go from that and from the conceptual designs.

It seems like a typical producer role is being broken into a number of different roles with the same job.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I'm also developing a game(then again, who isn't these days?). You will also need a 3d modeler, a 2d artist(textures) and you'll probally need more then one pprogramer if it's a big project. Good luck.

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Quote:
Original post by dgaf
I think it's a great idea to have people willing to work together to add material to their portfolio. If it ends up a good game, it could even be entered into the IGF. A win for design or innovation is a great thing to add to the portfolio and there is even the possibility of having your game published for winning. I believe that is what happened to Savage a couple years ago (or was it last year?).

I'm not sure I see the point of an Art Director as a non-artistic manager of the art. If the art team is given the Game Design Document, I would assume that they would know where to go from that and from the conceptual designs.

It seems like a typical producer role is being broken into a number of different roles with the same job.


Hmm, yeah, the IGF is a possibility, I hadn't thought of that. :)

The point of an art director overseeing artists is the same as the point of a managing editor overseeing novelists - an artist of an sort is too close to his/her work to objectively critically evaluate it. The art director/managing editor provides an objective second opinion, checks consistency within a piece and between pieces, and makes sure all pieces are tailored towards achieving the project's goals e.g. appropriateness to the target audience and target rating, supporting and conveying the project's theme... a good artist can create something powerful and original; a good editor can help refine that something so that it's also functional, comprehensible, and technically flawless.

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