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Further direction of project advice needed

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Hello, I've got a question how to go on with/manage our development team. First I'll describe our current situation so that you've got an overview. We are a small development team. There is one fixed artist and one fixed coder. Then there is one more artist and coder who work on the project infrequently. We are building a small game which utilizes our own engine. The engine has been in development for 3-4 years and has many features. It's oriented towards newest technology and has a complete set of python bindings. We have also developed an art pipeline where the artist can model in some collada-capable 3d modeller (like 3ds max), fine-tune the materials & shaders in fx composer 2 and then there are various tools to get the finished model into the game engine automatically. The modellers can build all their models and view them with a single click. The game is a casual-type of game where you can drive a car and accomplish various tasks. It's written in a server/client architecture fashion, so multiplayer game is also working. The game is written entirely in python (using our engine python bindings) to allow for rapid development. I think the game is coming along nicely. A rough version of the first mission (a kind of tutorial to introduce the player into controls and story etc) is already finished and works. Right now the graphics are completely unpolished (only diffuse textures) and need some brush up. The problem is now that I feel the project is moving rather slowly. We could move along much faster imo. We're completely unpaid and work on it in our spare time. That's why sometimes people don't have the time to work on it for a week or two. This is taking a lot of time, since sometimes I - as a coder - rely on certain artwork to be present before I can add more gameplay. Sometimes the artist needs some bugfix and I don't get around to fix it for a few days. So in order to move things faster I had three ideas: 1) Add another two or three mission and polish the game so that it looks & plays really good. Then create a demo and showcase this on the net (for example here on gamedev) and try to find (skilled!) people who are interested to join our project. If this works, the scheduling problems which arise when there is only artist and coder should be much less severe. 2) Invest some money to hire artists (for example pay them a fixed sum per model). Unfortunately I am a broke student and can't spend lots of money on this, so this is probably going to be difficult. Paying coders will probably get quite expensive. 3) Make a mini-game with 5 missions and make it even more polished and shiny then in 1). Then try to find a publisher for it and raise money this way. The money could then be invested into the next project where we could hopefully get one or two paid people for art & coding. 4) Simply making a better schedule. This won't always work and it doesn't solve the problem that we are probably not enough people now to lift our current game. The game is not too huge, it's rather small and well-focused, but if you want to have graphics and other features to show off in order to get a good deal, you'll need detailed models, all kinds of textures need to be produced etc. This is too much to do for two people in their sparetime. There's an additional complication. In half a year or a year I need to start on my diploma thesis and my spare time will reduce then. After the diploma thesis is done I'll have to start working. I'd love to get our own serious development team started as I think we have what it takes talent-wise. So my current conclusion is to go down 3), the "try to find a publisher and get money" road. Now I don't know how likely it will be that a publisher will accept our game. I also thought about going route 1), but I tried this in the past (without showing a demo first) and most people who wanted to join had less than mediocre talent/experience/working morale. Finally (what a long post): Which way would you go down? What's the usual way? Have you gone any of these ways and can comment? Do you think way 3) is our best bet? Do we have a chance at all? Thanks for reading to here and sharing your opinion! -Matthias

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I would (take your grain of salt now) do the following:

1) Set up a website for the project that outlines what has been done, what you guys are currently working on, and what needs to be worked on next. (So, in otherwords, a well defined history and plan of action.)

2) Get any screen shots and movies you can onto your website to show that you actually have been working on something and you're not just blowing smoke out of your ass.

3) Set up some productiono management system, such at dotproject, to manage your resources.

4) Make (at the very least) a fun demo. If anything it'll serve as a great portfolio piece for everyone involved.

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Matthias wrote:

>the project is moving rather slowly. We could move along much faster imo.

Are you the producer, the project manager? Or someone else? Or is nobody the project manager?

>We're completely unpaid and work on it in our spare time. That's why sometimes people don't have the time to work on it for a week or two.

You need a project manager, part of whose job it is to motivate everyone. Read http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson16.htm

>So in order to move things faster I had three ideas

Have you discussed these ideas with the others on your team?

>3) Make a mini-game with 5 missions and make it even more polished and shiny then in 1). Then try to find a publisher for it and raise money this way.

That's extremely unlikely to happen. Read these:
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/article60.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson11.htm

>Do we have a chance at all?

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson50.htm
It's very worthwhile to build a project, because the experience is teaching you a lot. Hopefully it goes farther so you can add it to your portfolio, but even if the game never gets finished, you've learned from it.

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You can also get a free basecamp project managing site at http://www.basecamphq.com/ and it might help your team coordinate.

I'm not sure what the rush is, though. You say it's not coming along as fast as you want it to, but why? It sounds like a very nice hobby team, doing a game in their spare time, with no pressure. If the game you're designing is fun, it will stay fun and engaging, no matter when you release it. :) (Cases in point: Chess, Go, Monopoly, Poker)

I'd say get some tools to help with the project coordination, so that you have your art when you need it and they have the code.

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