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Forming a dedicated team

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Yesterday, someone asked me the following:
Quote:
How do you create a dedicated team? Have you earned the respect of others that are skilled programers so that they are willing to develop, or were they like me, stumbled across the project somehow, and said "wow, this is cool. I want to get involved in it... somehow." Most of the people I've talked to seem to be motivated by money alone, and I would rather think of my own project as a means of promoting myself as a programer and composer, and giving life to something that's been in my head for a few years now. Things like licensing, project management, game design, and coordination of a website and some form of organization come to mind. I would pattern myself off your own project, though I'd feel like I was cheating. But I'm really interested in learning what you found was successful, and developing from there.
"How do you create a dedicated team?" I found this question incredibly difficult to answer. In fact, I can't answer it; I can only give some hints into what has worked for my project (which is nearing it's one year birthday soon). Here are my thoughts onto what has happened for me so far. 1) Let prospective members know what they are getting into Provide as much information as possible so that they know whether or not the game you are trying to design satuates their interest. If I just said "Allacrost is a game that's like a old SNES game" some might think Mario, another might think Chrono Trigger, and yet another might think Zelda. By being descriptive you avoid hiring members that initially think they are interested, but after learning the details find out they are not and do very little work, or just disappear. ) Leadership is (almost) everything; Be a guiding light Especially working with a big team, this is an important point to note. Everyone probably has their own ideas about what the game should be and there needs to be a leader to say "Ok, let's decide on what features we want" or to outline what needs to be done. If the art, music, and programming teams all worked independently and then at the end you tried to throw everything together, things would be a complete mess. You always need to keep your team focused and on-track and make sure they know what needs to be done. Personally, I'm a very democratic leader and I make sure that everyone's opinions are heard and that they are treated equally. 3) Set goals, but be realistic If you set some insane goal like "Make the best 3D MMORPG and do it in two months!" when you fail to meet that goal morale will plummit, and so will the motivation to do any work. I prefer to set easy, short-term goals for us and try not to look too much at the big picture too much because when you do, even for a (relatively) less complex game like Allacrost it can get overwhelming when you think of everything you have to do/figure out. Setting smaller, more frequent goals are easier to accomplish than larger, more difficult goals. It's good to have a long-term goal in mind, but with the short term goals everytime your team completes something there is a sense of accomplishment, which further motivates and drives the team to meet the next goal. 4) Beware the money grubbers If someone's main motivation for joining your team is money, think twice before hiring them. There is a higher chance that they might just be looking to work on *any* game, rather than *your* game. (Of course, Allacrost is a free, not-for-profit project so we don't have to worry about this) 5) Beware of "portfolio's" Like the money grubbers, there are some people out there who just want to work on a project to get something added to their "portfolio" so they have something to show off to a game design company. When I receive hiring applications that mention something about "add to my portfolio" I take a step back and re-evaluate the applicant. Are they interested in working on my game? Or are they more interested in adding something to their portfolio? 6) Have a clear vision It is much, much easier to recruit a dedicated team when the game's vision is clear. If you say 'Hey, I want to develop a FPS like Quake 2' and you get 5 people on your team, when you are deciding on the details of your game there is bound to be disagreement among what people think should and should not go into the game. After things are finalized, maybe half your team decides that they don't necessarily like the game anymore because of some things that are planned to be in it, or not planned to be in it. If your team doesn't like the game or what they are working on, you'd be shooting yourself in the foot and reloading the gun. 7) Be flexible with your members Unless you only hire people that can commit themselves full-time to your project, be flexible. Don't put any unnecessary pressure on your staff to complete something by XX date, because if they are busy with other things in their lives they will become stessed, and in my experience continuous stress leads someone to begin to hate something that they initially love. Quite a few people have come and gone from Allacrost because of various reasons like "I'm just too busy now to do this", or "I have to change jobs and I don't think I'll be able to continue". It sucks losing dedicated and talented people, but if they can't commit themselves to it anymore, you're better off finding a replacement for them rather than trying to force them to stick with you. Phew, I typed a lot didn't I? Well what do you guys think about these points? Are these good tips for leading a successful game design project? Are they general, or are they too specific to my own experience and may not apply for everyone? And what tips did I leave out? I hope you all can share what has worked in the past and/or present for you. [smile]

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Excellent post! Very enlightening. I think a lot of people roaming the boards here can learn a lot from this.

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[EDIT:] Your post was fairly good, I have two objections though.



4) Beware the money grubbers

If someone's main motivation for joining your team is money, think twice before hiring them. There is a higher chance that they might just be looking to work on *any* game, rather than *your* game. (Of course, Allacrost is a free, not-for-profit project so we don't have to worry about this)

[/QUOTE]

Out of curiousity, though you may be a respectable team leader, how many bills do you have to pay? Out of curiousity are you still living with parents (IE: no expenses?) Good programmers, and good hires in all fields, oftain HAVE to look for the money because they HAVE to survive. Occasionaly for projects like yours (IE: not for profit) you avoid this by saying there will be none, successfully weeding out those people, which is only good for the project because you have no money to blow. Remember, everything has a price.

Another thing your not doing here is you are not talking about people you pay to do portions of the work, at the time (IE: outsourcing) where you really dont have to care about the level of dedication so long as they get the work done.

All in all, this is a very invalid statement from my perspective.




5) Beware of "portfolio's"

Like the money grubbers, there are some people out there who just want to work on a project to get something added to their "portfolio" so they have something to show off to a game design company. When I receive hiring applications that mention something about "add to my portfolio" I take a step back and re-evaluate the applicant. Are they interested in working on my game? Or are they more interested in adding something to their portfolio?

[/QUOTE]


And this one is just crap right here. There are plenty of game projects out there to join, and everyone, like it or not, is planning on adding it to their portfolio (or looking for money) plain and simple. Your asking for someone with just the drive of "I want to play this game, therefor i will make it" without any actual preprocess going through their mind. If you are weeding these people out you are making a vital mistake. They want to break into the industry, they are the people passionate about games. Chances are if you dont get one of the two (Professionals/Future Professional) you are being selective to only extreemly young inexpirianced types.

The people looking to add to the portfolio is looking to produce their best work, to showoff their best stuff..... think about it.

BTW post a link to your project quickly, id like to see its status.

Thanks
Richard

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I actually expected someone would debate these two points. Very well, here's my rebuttal. [smile]

Quote:
Original post by PaulCesar
[EDIT:] Your post was fairly good, I have two objections though.

Out of curiousity, though you may be a respectable team leader, how many bills do you have to pay? Out of curiousity are you still living with parents (IE: no expenses?) Good programmers, and good hires in all fields, oftain HAVE to look for the money because they HAVE to survive. Occasionaly for projects like yours (IE: not for profit) you avoid this by saying there will be none, successfully weeding out those people, which is only good for the project because you have no money to blow. Remember, everything has a price.

Another thing your not doing here is you are not talking about people you pay to do portions of the work, at the time (IE: outsourcing) where you really dont have to care about the level of dedication so long as they get the work done.

All in all, this is a very invalid statement from my perspective.


Right now, the only bills I have are for our webserver, which comes out to around $100 a year. Not very much for me but it might be a lot for say, a high school student. I live alone (well, with a roommate) and have a well-paying engineering job right now, so I can easily afford the expenses for the game and my own life. My job takes a big chunk of time out of my week obviously, but I still work on our game in my spare time. And anyway, I'd rather take my time making a good game 'part-time' than trying to rush something out to make a profit so I can survive financially.

And yes, by announcing that I don't pay my staff undoubtably many interested people will turn their backs, but honestly I could care less. For me, and everyone else working with me, this is a hobby, not a job. Even though everyone works for free, that doesn't mean that the quality of their work is going to suck. And am certainly not one to "don't care as long as work gets done". We put a lot of effort into every piece of art, music, code, or whatever until the majority of us are satisfied with it's quality and presentation. [smile]


Quote:
Original post by PaulCesar
And this one is just crap right here. There are plenty of game projects out there to join, and everyone, like it or not, is planning on adding it to their portfolio (or looking for money) plain and simple. Your asking for someone with just the drive of "I want to play this game, therefor i will make it" without any actual preprocess going through their mind. If you are weeding these people out you are making a vital mistake. They want to break into the industry, they are the people passionate about games. Chances are if you dont get one of the two (Professionals/Future Professional) you are being selective to only extreemly young inexpirianced types.

The people looking to add to the portfolio is looking to produce their best work, to showoff their best stuff..... think about it.


I didn't say that I turn-away everyone who mentions their portfolio, I just said that I re-evaluate them. I want to make sure I'm hiring someone who is not *just* interested in their portfolio, but *also* interested in the game itself. I do in fact have some people on my staff that want to break into the gaming industry, and that's all fine with me. I do agree with the point you made though, and perhaps I'm the only one who thinks that "portfolio hunters" are a thing to watch out for. Like I said, these were just my own personal thoughts onto what has worked for our project so far. [grin]


Quote:
Original post by PaulCesar
BTW post a link to your project quickly, id like to see its status.

Thanks
Richard


You could have just clicked the link to my sig [smile], but here it is.
> Hero of Allacrost - http://www.allacrost.org

There's still a long, long way to go, but we've gotten a nice amount of work done. Remember that everyone on my team, including myself, is a part-timer so it's hard for us to devote a lot of time to the project (especially when things like final exams come up).

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As for your replies,

to number 1)

You are perfectly valid within the context of your own project. What I was mentioning was the fact you were being rather vauge, and used the word hiring. Those two together are a total no-no on the boards. If you would have labeled your post "Forming a dedicated non-profit team" that would have been a perfectly legitimate statement though. in a for-profit team, money certainly should be a big factor, otherwise it should be cut out.

to statement 2)

To this one I actualy think we reach an understanding, i just object to it, LOL. A persons portfolio is supposed to show his/her best work, therefore if they are looking for it to be in their portfolio they A) feel like they can contribute skills worthy of their professional portfolio (IE: AAA class work for free) and B) that they have faith that the project will be completed, or become completed enough to advertise their skills.

Thanks
Richard

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On the portfolio issue, one problem with a portfolio developer is that if the opportunity comes along to either get a paying job in the games industry, or to work on a project that fits their portfolio better, they have verylittle motivation to stick with your project. Someone who's genuinely interested in the specific game you're developing is much less likely to walk away. Also, where your first priority when assigning tasks is going to be "which task best fits each project member's abilities", the portfolio developer's priority is "which task would look best in my portfolio". Yes, a lot of the time, the portfolio developer and the project developer are going to behave in the same way, but there are enough differences that it's worth being more wary of the portfolio developer.

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Very valid stance... you brought up some good points. I personaly have not had that experiance, but it def. seems to have very good reasoning behind it.

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I liked your post and I have a view on three points you have:

3) I agree that you have to have realistic goals and a realistic schedule to have for the project. I have laid out the schedule for our project and I sent it to my team members and got their opinions about it. For my two modelers I gave them the schedule before I started giving them assignments. When they agreed that the schedule I made was feasible, they started to work on it...and they have finished their work before the time was up.

You cannot be overbearing and say to prospects that you want to make a game in two months if its one of length and great detail. The key is smaller steps to get you to the bigger step.

4) In the beginning I tried to recruit some members for our project with no money up front, saying we would pay them from the publisher's advance, but it didn't get me anywhere. I have heard from many saying that they have been burned many times in the past from projects that either a) came and went without completion or b) they were promised money and got stiffed when the time came to pay up.

Time is money, after all.

5) Since I was looking for two contracted members to do some modeling, I have no problem with them placing the work they did in their portfolio just as long as it shows that its copyrighted by my company. Many people are freelance and I do not want to hinder their future income and livelihood by not giving them a position if they are willing and talented....just because I do not want them to place work they spent their time and efforts on to create.

Other than that, you make good points. I do hope it inspires people that have the drive and ambition to create. :)

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