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How to evaluate Development Vendor

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I have a new role as an associate producer at a publisher and one of my first tasks is to find a 3rd party Developer company. How do I go about evaluating these vendors? What kind of questions should I ask them?

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You can ask about previous projects, approximate cost per man hour of production, missed/made deadlines, stumbling blocks they've had and how they've overcome them, and where they seem themselves heading over the next few years.

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Original post by FlashChump
How do I go about evaluating these vendors? What kind of questions should I ask them?

Check out the powerpoint of the talk I gave at the Serious Games Summit last year. I think it's on the Serious Games Summit website. If it isn't, email me (don't PM me, you don't know when or if I'll ever see it - my email address is very easy to find) and I'll send you the link.

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I assume that as an AP you are working for a Producer. An important trait for a good team member is to ask questions when you don't know something - you should ask your Producer what processes your company goes through. They almost certainly have a due diligence process (at least I would hope so).

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Original post by FlashChump
Just a month ago, I was a Flash developer. As you have noticed, there's a lot for me to learn.

Well, read some more. Read the Biz/Legal white papers on IGDA. Read article 42 on my site. Join the Producing SIG on IGDA. And I recommend "Introduction to Game Development" (Rabin) and "Secrets of the Game Business" (Laramee).
Read Gamasutra. Subscribe to GameBizDaily, or is it GameDailyBiz, whatever.

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Original post by FlashChump
Thanks Tom, yeah secrets of game business and the game producer's handbook has been very useful.

Then if you have those two, and there's nothing in there about evaluating developers, get the other one I mentioned - I know I wrote about that in that one.

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You will find that publishers maintain a 'roster', a list of contract developers it has worked with in the past and which could be recontacted for future work. Producers on those past projects can also give you insights, capabilities of those contract developers, etc. and as Dan mentionned, there is certainly a company process for doing a due dilligence. You might also want to look at past contracts and get a sense of how your company works, what it expects from developers, etc. Just remember that contracts are the results of negotiations, not necessarily the terms your company is looking for.

Maintaining that roster is an important task, especially if you contract many titles out. You will find that some studios can do one genre very well, other specialize only in consoles, others in multiplayer cross-porting, etc. Having them do a studio pitch will get you more info as to what they tend to do best.

You will also want to find out what's "in the pipe" at frequent intervals at those studios. Contract development is a difficult business, schedule-wise. You want to keep your pipe full at all times, leaving just enough interval between projects to overcome the risk of overruns + some deserved vacation time, but not at the point where you run out of cash and are forced to fire entire teams. Bigger studios can afford to move teams around as they tackle multiple projects at the same time. It's a safer bet, but the price tag goes up along with it. Smaller studios with only one pipe tend to be cheapest; but you could end up with a hodge-podge team that has been fired/re-hired/re-fired a few times. It's always worthwhile asking about the history of the team that will be assigned to your project.

I also suggest you attend IGDA meetings in your area. You'll meet other developers and can more easily fish for information & rumours.

-cb

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