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Implementing a product with a compensated, yet indie dev team?

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For my part, I am a believer that a person producing / directing an indie game should keep their day job. For myself, I've found that being unemployed as an indie is just too self-destructive and prone to failure.

 

Given that constraint, my plan is as follows -

 

1) While working my 40 hr week day job, for the game I will be concentrating only on design and team-directing tasks. Though I am a pretty hardcore programmer, I will not be doing really any programming on the game itself. Fortunately, the game engine is done and is a pretty pristine framework for someone else to work on - making the handover of the programming role straightforward.

 

2) I will hire a part-time programmer who will need to work at least 30 hours a week on the project. I may not be able to hire out of the US or Canada, however, as I can only pay about $12 per hour. Another constraint is that I'm looking for someone who can write well in F# (or can quickly learn).

 

3) Same for a part-time artist (except for the F# part).

 

4) When things get hectic at my day job, I may have to also keep on stand-by an assistant director to temporarily take over the project. How exactly I set that up so the assistant director would stay available when needed without paying him too much when sitting out is unclear.

All told, this will cost me roughly half my income from my day job, leaving me pretty much unable to save money for myself. A lack of savings from that will foist additional risk upon the project.

 

My general question for this post is - what problems would you all anticipate from this strategy? The strategy seems mostly solid having just typed it up, but I'm fully certain that there are risks and pitfalls that I do not see.

 

Side Note: For the curious, here's why using F# is a constraint on the project -

 

Functional programming is priority #1 for this project. As a developer, I'm no longer willing to use OOP (except in very specific cases), and as a manager or director, I would not generally allow it on my project. Otherwise I'd just go back to developing games professionally for an established company. Due to their insistence on the use of OOP / imperative programming, they can no longer hire me at any price. That is why I'm indie smile.png

 

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2) Halve the hours and double the hourly rate happy.png tongue.png $20/hr is about the minimum I'd expect a programmer to ask for. 1 hr of a good programmer's time is much more useful than 2 hours of a bad programmer's time.

4) Maybe you can find some "community managers" who are interested in the design, but will stick around at no cost, maybe moderating forums etc, as well.....

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Hi Hodgman!

 

2) I think the first suggestion makes sense, perhaps for some balance in between. I just can't see much getting done with less than 20 hours a week - even if I were the one doing it myself!

 

4) Really good idea. Perhaps they would be more willing to negotiate based on royalties, too.

 

Main thing for the latter is that I want to avoid lulls in the projects due to god-knows-what will happen at my FT job.

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4) Maybe you can find some "community managers" who are interested in the design, but will stick around at no cost, maybe moderating forums etc, as well.....

 

The best and cheapest community manager is a girlfriend :) 

 

If you plan to use your own money for this you should lay down a business plan (proper). I would not expect "if clauses" when using your own wallet.

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I think that transition from employee to owner requires a crunch.

Personally, I was doing 60h/w at a day job while pushing for 20h/w contracts on the side when establishing the financial basis of my own business.

I was also working about 8-10h/w on my own project, which gave me little overhead as to what was happening, and I was averaging 90h/w of actual work across all projects (which drove my gf and kids insane).

 

Word of advice, keep the big picture here and hire someone for the lower level management (someone you trust).

If you can, try to cut a deal with your current employer to get more money. It will be a tough ride, but it will secure your financial angle so that you can focus on having the right people for your project to go smoothly.

 

One of the best local indie startup I've seen was a guy that had managed to muster 9 months in overtime salary. He cut out a deal with his employer so that they would pay him over 9 months (as opposed to all-at-once upon departure) and was able to have his business sustained full-time from this when things really started to kick in. This works well if your project isn't time sensitive.

 

Best of luck!

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Don't do it this way. 

 

Seriously, if people steal your project and run, you'll be left with no savings OR game.

 

Work on it a little bit at a time until you have a prototype, then try and find fundraising to get some cash in advance to hire a team.

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Seriously, if people steal your project and run, you'll be left with no savings OR game.

 

You might know "a guy" where his crew ran and stole the project.

It's a risk, but if you know what you're doing and sign contracts, the risk is drastically smaller.

It still exists, but every business owner lives with risk and manages it. 

 


Work on it a little bit at a time until you have a prototype, then try and find fundraising to get some cash in advance to hire a team.

 

Fundraising? As in, crowd-funding? Otherwise, even with a prototype, all you'll get is Friends, Family and Fools (I think that this is copyrighted by Tom Sloper though, so don't sue me!).

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even with a prototype, all you'll get is Friends, Family and Fools (I think that this is copyrighted by Tom Sloper though, so don't sue me!).

Nope, it is old. I recall reading it in the 1980s, but I suspect it goes back a century or more.

 

There are either three or four F's depending on which list you read:  Founders, Friends, Family, and Fools. 

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I guess I should also chime in with advice for the OP.

 

It is a business. Run it as a business. 

 

Having a paid employee, even just one employee, means you must follow a bunch of additional laws.

 

You are a small business hiring your first employee. Make sure you have all your business workings in order, make sure that you have talked with a business lawyer about what all is required, make sure you have all your legal requirements met, including things like business insurance, unemployment insurance, government filings, government mandated safety reporting, employee tax reporting, and everything else that is mandated by law. Make sure you pay your taxes, and report your employee's taxes correctly. There are federal regulations, state regulations, county regulations, and frequently municipality regulations. 

 

As an employer there are all kinds of quirky requirements, such as (in the United States) displaying several government-mandated notices about employee rights, requirements about prominently posting your annual business license which includes an estimate of the number of employees, and more. Even if you run your business from your basement, you still most prominently display the posters and the licenses.

 

Employees are expensive. They generally cost about 50% more than you pay them. Contractors are slightly less expensive, but they are only good for a short-term solution.

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Since you insist on using a decently obscure language you available pool talent is going to be considerably smaller then a company looking for C++ or Unity people.  You will end up paying more for an F# programmer since they don't have to compete with the droves of new graduates to find a job.

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Since you insist on using a decently obscure language you available pool talent is going to be considerably smaller then a company looking for C++ or Unity people.  You will end up paying more for an F# programmer since they don't have to compete with the droves of new graduates to find a job.

 

F# is no longer obscure to be fair. I've heard about it almost nearly as often as I've heard "Unity" in the past year.

Functional programming has a lot of pros (it does have a few cons though, mind you).

Currently, the big problem is that there are very few programmers versed with the inner workings. 

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