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Avenyr

Team Organisation in Game development [I Need your feedback guys !]

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I've been trying to discuss the organisation of the team with my fellow members and some sort of code of ethic concerning the creation of content and decisions on the work done. Basically, I think that a team is called a team because it's more than one person working together toward the same goal. I also believe that as a team, all the members must adhere to some "rules" that will make the team work as one. The thing I'm trying to find out is if I am a lousy "team leader" or if I'm having some people that have a hard time adhering to proper work ethics. So here's the examples I'm talking about: I fought my way in to eventually get them to understand about the importance of game design and planning and stuff since they claimed it was useless overhead. We are 4 guys with an habit of working alone and I've been doing all I could to research and find ways to really change my habits and work for a team as a team and not as a guy in a group with other people all working seperately without any kind of consistency. So I had one of my fellow teammates one day tell me he had this awesome idea for making our website and then I asked him what was his idea and everything. He completely refused to tell me what it was about and how he would do it and what functionnality he would put in the site because it was none of my business since it was his idea and that it did not need any approval from anyone to start the work on his own. He was absolutely certain that he knew he was doing the right thing even though nobody had any idea of what he was going to do. In the end he refused to make the website altogether because he said I was not trusting him for the work he had in mind and that he wouldnt be doing it anymore because since I was being such as smart ass at willing to know what he was going to do exactly and probably try to get stuff changed from his original plan then I should do it myself because of course I would obviously know better and shit. So he told me that it is a complete lack of trust from my part not to give him the go sign on it even if I know nothing about it. So we had a meeting last night in which everyone pretty much told me I was jumping the gun on willing to go for a company and make indie games for money and all because they only want to have fun making games and maybe consider a company IF they feel the games made were successful has demos or freebies. They also backed up the other one with the website issue in which I have no right to control the what content is created and how it is created because it is the business of who does the work and no one else. They gave me an example where one would make the music and that it would be none of my business to tell him if it's good or not and if it's what we need. So am I wrong in this or do they simply show that they do not really want to work like a real team should be even when simply considering the "project made for fun only" aspect of it. Should a team of people work the same way simply for fun or in a corporate company no matter what must be done and discussed about on any subject. If I am wrong then I might simply start working on my stuff and not tell them what I'm doing until I'm finished cause it would be none of there business to know if I'm doing what must be done or not. Also it would be so great if you guys would give me your own opinion/suggestions and experience on how a team should behave no matter what is the reason for the team being together. I'm so eager to see what you guys have to say it's going to be interesting [Edited by - Avenyr on August 26, 2005 6:08:25 AM]

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You should probably pick up a book on management. There is no concrete way to lead a team but there are many hierarchies that can be used as guidelines. Okay so since I never did pick up the management book that was suggested with the course I will summarize three team structures in my Software Engineering notes.

These go from strict hierarchy to more flexible arrangements.

Now there's the egoless approach which essentially acts as a "council". Everyone is on the same level and everyone can have an input on decisions that are made. This is a good structure to promote creativity and is a good way to solve difficult problems that are assosiated with difficult projects. However this team structure doesn't always work seeing how it depends on each individual's personality and the whole equality thing is just an ideal since some people will have more skills then others and some might be jack of all trades.

There's also the "hierarchial approach" which is reminscent to large bureaucratic organizations. This isn't very suitable for a small team because everyone concentrates on THEIR task and they report to their superior. They do not discuss in between eachother on certain subjects. This can be problematic seeing how some problems might go unnoticed since people only concentrate on their own task. This structure also assumes that everyone is well trained and know what they're doing, not much room for learning seeing how everything has a strict deadline.

And then there's the "chief programmer team". This is kind of like the previous structure but with more communication lines. You'd form a few small teams with one team leader and these team leaders would report to you. Seeing how you're probably not a lot of people this doesn't seem to be the best idea.

Anyways these were taken from "Object-Oriented Software Engineering" by Timothy C. Lethbridge and Robert Laganiere. They aren't perfect and there's a heck of a lot more stuff to know about teams and how to keep people motivated and to gain/keep their respect. However all of this was taken in a course load and was mostly common sense but sometimes hearing it doesn't hurt.

So whether or not this was useful atleast you know that the ways to handle a team are numerous. But since you mentioned they don't want to take you seriously as a team leader then perhaps you should have everyone be an equal with no team leader. Goals should be addressed and people should tackle problems as they come together.

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Everybody in the group so far has 25% decisionnal power so we are all equal the four of us.

At the moment nobody has any real teamwork experience since they seem to be willing to keep a solo oriented way of working.

I took the info on the book down and will be looking for that cause I know there is so much way of handling teams and how they work that it's hard to select the "perfect" approach.

We are obviously too small for a corporate approach in team management but I'm still wondering if I'm asking too much out of them or are they really being stubborn and not want to work in a way I judge more appropriate for more than one person.

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Sound to me as if you need to call it a day. You may be walking on the same road but you are going to different destinations. These guys have said they are just doing this for fun and don't want any formal structure/processes. You want to do it properly and aim to end up with a business - these two aren't compatible and you are better off splitting up (or else you will have to give up your ideas). You really won't be able to impose structure on people who just want to have fun.

Before working with a new team I always sit down with them to discuss what each person wants (personally and commercially). It is important that all the team members want the same thing, otherwise a team will eventually fall apart.

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Personally, that sounds completely unacceptable- communication must always be open. Everybody in a team doesn't necessarily need to know every single detail of a project, but at least one person (if not more) needs to be fully appraised of everything that's going on- otherwise you end up with a messy hodgepodge of styles (like many really terrible published games).

“Sound to me as if you need to call it a day.”

I agree with Obscure. These people may be your friends, but that won't last very long if this kind of thing keeps up. Ultimately, you'll have to either lose the 'team', or lose your friends and the 'team'.

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Quote:
Original post by Avenyr
Everybody in the group so far has 25% decisionnal power so we are all equal the four of us.


Actually, it sounds more like each has (or thinks he has) 100% decisional power... [dead]

If you're all supposed to be equal in this (which I think is an ok way to do things with a team of four) then I think they're right to say that you (or any other team member) shouldn't have veto power on work they're doing. However, there does need to be communication. They need to tell the whole team what they're doing so that both sides can make modifications so that everything fits together. Otherwise, someone's going to make a cheery, two minute song to fit your hour long level, teammate #3's dark, gothic artwork, and #4's industrial inspired website.

Note that both sides have to make modifications to their plan. Everyone has to set their egos aside and probably make something that isn't quite what they would prefer but fits the overall design better.

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Original post by BioMors
I agree with Obscure. These people may be your friends, but that won't last very long if this kind of thing keeps up. Ultimately, you'll have to either lose the 'team', or lose your friends and the 'team'.


I have been thinking about this as well. I was wondering what would happen if I was to follow their way and then finally continue with everyone on what was already done but if they decide not to do anything I would be screwed and that would piss me off so much because I would feel betrayed. Means I would lose it all in the end.


Quote:
Original post by Obscure
You may be walking on the same road but you are going to different destinations. These guys have said they are just doing this for fun and don't want any formal structure/processes. You want to do it properly and aim to end up with a business - these two aren't compatible and you are better off splitting up (or else you will have to give up your ideas). You really won't be able to impose structure on people who just want to have fun.


That's exactly what I feel is going on. They might want to consider it if we ever seem to be succesful but the way it has been told, it seems like they will not work toward that goal but very very hard unless it happens like that with almost no effort and take advantage of it which will not if they don't do anything about it.

I was asking myself if I was indeed jumping the guns and going too far for simply willing to eventually make it out my own by starting right now. Of course we all have our lives, school, work and family but nothing will ever be done if no one ever does something about it. I mean why wait 5-6 years to start when you can do it right away ? The situation won't be better at that time. Everyone will still be working full time.

Leaving the group is also very hard to do. I don't think they seem pretty receptive from me leaving the group. They will probably see this as a personnal insult in which they would think I don't trust them or that I am unhappy with not being able to be the boss so I would be taking the easy way out. I have been told at many many times that a leader does not behave like I do because that's the number one way to have everyone hate me and leave WTF ? I think people who are really seeing things like the leader and want the best for the success of the team will not all gather together and put up against the guy that put them together and that guided them for a whole year just because he wants to go the extra mile.

This is very confusing though and some decisions are hard to take which will require much thinking... I have been doing too much thinking recently.

Last night was a proof in my face I was the only one really motivated about everything and not just coding a game. I admit I was very disappointed by what they told me in general and it made it clear I would have to shut up or step up. In both case I will have to walk the path alone which I am ready to do but I would have liked walking the path with them.

The way we're having the project right now, it is made in a way to allow easier development of further versions of the game which someone doing things just for fun would not do. Why bother making a game editor for being able to quickly develop the same kind of games faster once it's done ? I don't see what the problem is we are aiming at a potentially commercializable series of small indie games but nobody is ready for doing it 100%. In my opinion, when doing something, you do it at a 100% or not at all, not just in between

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So, are you the boss, or is it 25% each? If you are the boss, then take a long, hard look at what you're doing and see if you didn't push too far previously. Not giving you any information and refusing to work as hard as you ask could be a reaction to you having pushed too far before. If it's 25% each, then they have as much say as you do in the workload. In that case, it's three to one in favor of the lighter workload and they'll be resentful (and rightfully so) of you trying to play boss.

I've seen both situations quite often. The latter is particularly evil. Take a long hard look and make sure you haven't pushed the limits of the commitment you all made coming in. For what it's worth, I don't see a problem with not giving the project one's all unless that was the intent when you all formed the team.

In any case, if you wish to disolve the team but they'd take it hard, your best bet is to just let it die. Don't quit, just start your own side project (if a game, make it something significantly different to warrant a "side project") and gradually put more work into that and less into the team.

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I've worked on a few project teams in my life, so I'll see what advice that I've got.

Firstly, how is your team set out? You mention that you are the team leader, so I am assuming that at some point the rest of the team recognised you as the leader. With my teams either there was already a leader in place or we decided amonst outselves who would be in charge. If you appointed yourself leader, then that might be a reason why your teammates might have been acting all snarky [smile]. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you were leader by consensus.

Now you have the disadvantage that you are doing this out of your own interest, and not for course credits or for money. Having something else riding on the success of your project helps your team focus on its objectives, and it seems that you and your teammates have a different opinion about what the purpose of your team is. You seem to be taking this as a serious project, whereas your teammates seem to be doing this just for kicks. In that case, I'm afraid that if you can't convince your teammates to go for the bigger goal you might have to look for a new team, as your team will not be willing to put in the level of hard work required when the painful parts of the project come around.

As for being team leader, there's two archetypical roles that I know of. The first is the "dictator", similar to that of a head chef, chief surgeon or George Lucas [smile]. The dictator has a vision about what he wants done, and the rest of the team follow his instructions without question. This works well in a surgical team where mistakes cannot be made, but doesn't work well with creative types.

Then there's the "mediator", where the team leader exists purely to coax out and facilitate the creative ideas of the rest of the team. While the mediator will contribute ideas of her own, her main role is to keep the rest of the team together, happy and contributing to the full. This keeps the team happy, but there's a tendency to get lost down sidetracks and lose focus on working on the ultimate goal.

Most team leaders are somewhere in-between these two types, but with your team you will have to be more of the mediator than the dictator otherwise your team will revolt, as they aren't professionals in this for the money yet.

And as for the guy who wouldn't tell you his idea for the website, I'd say drop him from the team if you can. I've worked with these types of people before, and they are more trouble than they are worth, even if they have valuable skills that your team might need. If someone's ego is so great they can't bring themselves to coordinate with the rest of the team (via the team leader, the chief administrator) then they are sabotaging your efforts. Of course, if he's your friend, this will be difficult, but frankly if he doesn't trust you and is acting like such a prima doma I'd be evaluating whether this guy really is your friend.

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Original post by Anonymous Poster
So, are you the boss, or is it 25% each? If you are the boss, then take a long, hard look at what you're doing and see if you didn't push too far previously. Not giving you any information and refusing to work as hard as you ask could be a reaction to you having pushed too far before. If it's 25% each, then they have as much say as you do in the workload. In that case, it's three to one in favor of the lighter workload and they'll be resentful (and rightfully so) of you trying to play boss.


Well it is suposed to be 25% each and I want it to be but if I take a long hard look at what happened ever since we formed the group it's as follow:

We got the group done, we did meetings as often as we could to get to know how we would work it out. At first I didn't know much and all I did was to bring the game idea. We went on for months trying to get something planned out and it didn't work out because nobody knew what they were doing and I noticed that everybody thought they knew what we were doing until I got fed up and then I started looking out for books and information on making games because all I knew at that time was a little bit of C++ and some basic DirectDraw that I used to make a breakout game last summer. I started getting all kinds of books and becoming more active with the Gamedev.Net community and basically get into it all I could cause I was passionate and completely driven by ideas of doing something out of it.

Everytime I would read a book and take notes and I would go to the guys and give them a briefing of all the stuff I had been learning and how truly useful and helpful to the team it would be but they didn't care cause we were not coding and that wasn't cool so they told me all my design stuff and documenting was useless, boring and not necessary for such "a small game" and they wanted to code. The problem was that no matter what I would do, they wouldnt work constantly or keep the pace, they wouldnt do any research on the net or get books to learn or be generally interested about making games. They claimed and still claim it's a passion but it never showed. I was always the one they were waiting after to tell them what to do and where to go next. Most of the things they know about making games, I taught them.

All that time, I studied, read, tested all kinds of things and told them about it and they would generally be against it until we would face a situation where I would show them that I was right somehow and then they would decide to follow me.

Three months ago, I completely scrapped all the work we had done so far because it was botched and messy and started to work on everything on my own because nobody was there anymore except one guy because everyone seemed to have too many things to do and then the both of us worked on the game design for 2 months and we called them to join and help us out and they helped us a bit but not much.

All I know is they were still relying on me to tell them what to do. Eventually, I started questionning their motivation because I saw I was doing most of the work and that 2 1/2 people out of 4 we're not doing shit until we would ask them to do something. So I started posting messages on our forum asking them what was going on and what was everyone's goal with this project and why nobody would work at all and what was their vision of this project and most didn't want to answer because they said it wasn't important and that my goal of making it a source of income was jumping the guns, that we were not ready for that and that relying on this as a motivation factor was not good because it was too uncertain to be safe to bet on.

Still nothing was moving and everyone kept on telling me I was pushing things too far and that I would exhaust the team with my ways of doing work. All I wanted was for them to keep their words on their commitment I mean, if you don't you know jack about something but you really want to do it but you're not ready to do the work required or even make your own research on what you need to do to get things done, how can you come and blame me that I push things too hard when most of the real work was done by me with them assisting me at most points and the rest was talking in front of a blackboard or MSN chat taking cryptic notes I would document to the best of my knowledge. I was 80% of the time the one who brought in the ideas and the methods and everything and then I decided to calm down and see what they could do. Things got to a screeching halt there.

So basically they want to make this game as much as they would like to become millionnaires using pyramidal schemes but they are not doing the work required for that :P

The one that refused to make the website was the only one that was almost always there to assist me in my work. He would sometimes bitch at me when I wouldnt do work cause I was fed up and tired and he was pissed cause I would be lazy you know and that it was unnaceptable. How ironic to see that people get pissed at me when I don't work but that I'm pushing them too much when I ask them to work in a consistent manner.

Ever since all I get as an answer to all my questions is : Man we think you're jumping the guns here.

So Have I proclaimed myself leader or was it designated ? Nobody ever said who was leader since we're suposed to be equal on everything.

When we would discuss about ideas I would always be interested in theirs even if I didn't like it at first I would try to ask for more info and valuable arguments but since I told them It didn't look major cool they would be pissed and discontinue the discussion. If I had an idea they wouldnt listen if They did not like it. So only thing things that would be good from both sides right away went through all the time.

This is so complicated because I get to write so much that I fear I'll have the readers lose interest in this but I'm so concerned and willing to do something that I can't help it.

[Edited by - Avenyr on August 26, 2005 6:35:33 AM]

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