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Do's and Dont's of Recruiting a Volunteer Team?

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Hey,
I have some questions about game development teams in which the developers are not paid (they volunteer to help develop the game). I'm asking because I may want to try this in the future, and I want to approach it in the most professional way possible. So, I'm hoping to get answers to some more specific questions, as well as general advice on the "do's and dont's" when it comes to recruiting volunteer teams.


I understand that, since the developers would not be paid for their work, it's expected that the game would be released for free if it's finished. In this case, any volunteers you would attract would most likely be contributing because they want a finished game where their work is displayed, so they can reference this in their portfolio.

The other case would be when they are promised a share of the profits that the game makes, and they want to rake in the cash when the project is released and sold in the millions. I hear these types of approaches very rarely work out and usually end in either a failed project or a finished project that makes no revenue.

So here are my questions:

1) Is it a bad idea to even attempt to get a bunch of volunteer developers together to make a game? Do these kinds of teams work out often, even if the project is of a reasonable scope?

2) Do those projects which promise a share of profits ever really work out? What must be done to make a project like this proper and professional (e.g. contracts, licenses, and all that legal stuff)?

3) If you finish a game project with a volunteer team, will they expect you to have other game projects ready to develop with them, or will the team split off and do their own thing afterwards?

4) Should the team mark the game with a "company name" or splash screen once it's finished? If the team splits up and the leader later creates a new team to make another game, should the same "company name" be used? Or should there be no such thing used whatsoever, just a "credits" menu in-game which details all of the contributors to the project?


Ok, I think that's all. Feel free to share any advice you can on the matter!

Thank you!

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I have been part of 3 different projects ( 2 of them were not game related ) like this.
2 of them failed ohmy.png due to the person who was "in charge" not knowing what they were doing.
The last one went into "open public development", and fizzled out.

My advice:
1:-Have a good game plan on what you want done, and how it will get done.
2:-Listen to input
3:-Do not expect free help to be the best in the world
4:-Do not have hard deadlines
5:-Always have a "plan B", "plan C", e.t.c. in case you loose folks
6:-Make sure you have the time to commit to the project.

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You need to know every system you'll need and how they fit together. You need to know every ui element. You need to know every single detail about your game. If there are any holes it'll cause major problems for your team. The only way you'll know all this stuff is if you have finished a game yourself, even if its a basic game.

Most of these project managers haven't finished a game and actual have very little detail oboist their game in programming terms. I feel this is why these fail so often.

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My advice is to start as a small 2-man team and grow from there. The project should be small, but worth doing - perhaps a shoot-em-up like Zero Wing or a platformer such as Super Mario Bros. Something like that is great for breaking the ice between the two of you...

Once you have a good working relationship with your first coding-buddy, then think about a third team-member - most likely an artist/musician...

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Hello, I was a volunteer programmer for a few months for a fairly ambitious fantasy mmorpg using Heroengine. If it is a serious project, you will probably need a business license and have the volunteers sign all the necessary agreements (NDA, proprietary rights, non-compete, and Software agreement).

Unfortunately it's hard to keep motivated for these large scale projects that will take a year+ to complete. I liked slayemin's motivation equations :) It's even more difficult to gather programmers because if the project will take a year+ and the project fails, the developer has very little show for it. Ideally the team leader will also be the lead programmer, and already have a very good idea on how to implement all the core systems and features for the game.

Realistic goals and expectations is the most important. You can't expect to complete all the core features of normal full fledged triple AAA mmo with only a few volunteer programmers in any sort of reasonable time.

Of course the experience of these larger projects is valuable. Looking back on it however, it would have probably been more valuable to take Anri's advice and go with a 2-man reasonable project that will be completed and implemented well. Good luck!

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1) Is it a bad idea to even attempt to get a bunch of volunteer developers together to make a game? Do these kinds of teams work out often, even if the project is of a reasonable scope?


It is a good idea. No they don't succeed often. But failure is worthy.



3) If you finish a game project with a volunteer team, will they expect you to have other game projects ready to develop with them, or will the team split off and do their own thing afterwards?


It really depends. My own experience here is that people I've worked with tend to drift afloat and occasionally 'hit'. I don't have a 'steady team' but I always have a bunch of them not currently busy that accept to partner up based on the project, interests and of course, availability. You're building up relationships there. Its like, you don't always go to the movies with the same friends, but they're still friends. You just don't have a contract that states 'you come to the movies whenever I go' ;)

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Thank you all for the advice. I appreciate the time and effort!

I'll be compiling the information from this post and the "so you're a programmer" post into a document, so I can have it as a reference if there comes a time where I want to start a team.

If anyone has any other advice or links to possibly helpful threads/articles, I'd appreciate seeing them, too.

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You would need proper contracts to do this sort of deal completely by-the-book.
Agreed.

Honestly, If I had the finances, I'd hire someone to produce what I needed to make a simple game. Then I'd sell that, and use 100% of the profit (Unless I accidentally pulled a minecraft) to hire them again. if I did pull a minecraft, I'd hire them on full time to continue developing other small games.

One problem is that developers seem to want a challenge. Me, I would rather target the simplest game likely to make a profit, and step up the complexity chain very slowly until I get a hit.

Additionally, an MMORPG is the last thing that would interest me. (Except that I already have an engine better than Heroengine. XD [No arguing, I'm magical, that's how.] Unfortunately, also of the level of difficulty of use of hero engine). I'd rather have something to show. Even if it's a small game that didn't earn much, it's at least more beneficial to make a profit. My current goal is to create something tempting enough to fire off a kickstarter to buy the basic iOS license of Unity3d.

As for what kind of MMO I'd make with the MMO engine, i wouldn't, I'd buy one, and cheap too. (it's more efficient than buying a crappy MMO engine with a good MMO when the MMO is priced for the crappy engine.)

Distractions are a big problem. Oh, and a lot of developers who are far better programers and think they have better ideas.

I think it would be better to make something minimally profitable and pay everyone. No ego's, no worrying about how to split everything... and everyone gets paid. Edited by Green_Gill

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