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JLW

My teams all hate eachother.

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Alright, well my last team tore itself to shreds because none of the people involved had any respect for eachother's jobs. In particular, the concept artists thought the programmers were mindless code-monkeys with no talent that could be replaced in a heartbeat, the programmers thought the concept artists were idiotic layabouts with a job involving no actual work that were of no value to the project, and both of them thought the same of the designers (myself and Jeremy) that they thought of eachother. I couldn't keep them together, and they hated me for even TRYING to reconcile their differences. This is the third time this EXACT thing has happened. FUCK. ME.

 

WHY is it so hard to form a team without them fighting over petty garbage? HOW can I keep them working together when they don't have ANY respect for anybody's role but their own? I can't keep them from interacting at all, no matter how much I wish I could since the moment they start talking all they do is fight, because they need to interact to do their bloody JOBS. How does anybody deal with this? What the FUCK am I missing? I am seriously at a loss, and I can't keep a team together long enough to accomplish anything until I have this figured out.

Edited by JustinS

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my last team tore itself to shreds because none of the people involved had any respect for eachother's jobs. In particular, the concept artists thought the programmers were mindless code-monkeys with no talent that could be replaced in a heartbeat, the programmers thought the concept artists were idiotic layabouts with a job involving no actual work that were of no value to the project, and both of them thought the same of the designers (myself and Jeremy) that they thought of eachother. I couldn't keep them together, and they hated me for even TRYING to reconcile their differences. This is the third time this EXACT thing has happened. FUCK. ME.
 
WHY is it so hard to form a team without them fighting over petty garbage? HOW can I keep them working together when they don't have ANY respect for anybody's role but their own? I can't keep them from interacting at all, no matter how much I wish I could since the moment they start talking all they do is fight, because they need to interact to do their bloody JOBS. How does anybody deal with this? What the FUCK am I missing? I am seriously at a loss, and I can't keep a team together long enough to accomplish anything until I have this figured out.


Justin, it sounds like your team needs a producer, and GOOD concept artists, and GOOD programmers.
Your concept artists need to turn out art that commands the respect of anyone who sees the concept art.
Your programmers need to create code that makes the game function well - then other members of the team won't disrespect your programmers.
Your producer needs to pick that kind of people, and to speak positively of everyone on the project, and everyone on the project needs to be deserving of that kind of respect.
An artist who speaks ill of the programmers needs to be warned, the warning needs to be written, and after 2 or 3 warnings, fired.
Same for a programmer who disses the artists, assuming the artists are not idiotic layabouts.

BTW, are you just forming teams from unpaid volunteers? And you're the designer, the game is your idea, so you're the team leader, and you don't have professional project management experience? That sounds like a recipe to cause just what you're describing. If your teams are unpaid, do you have a clue what motivates them? Maybe you should get some clues.

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So... It's my fault then, for being socially inept? Well, I can't say I disagree with you. I'm going to take some time to think about the suggestions given and keep them in mind next time around.

 

They're semi-unpaid. They're working for a share, which will be nothing if a game isn't made, plus $1000 each guaranteed pay upon completion. But no, they're not getting paid until the game is up on Steam. Of course, they won't let me use their resources now that they've left, not even concept art, so I have to completely restart. And I just figured the pay checks and shares were sufficient motivation, myself. Maybe that's a problem, I don't know.

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You often get what you pay for. These people aren't acting professionally because they aren't professionals.

Are you all working locally or is your team distributed? Knowing each other face to face often helps. I'm sure you've seen how strangers behave on the internet.

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With no sight of income you will have to show exceptional leadership and spokesman-ship in order to keep the team together.

 

You will be the problem solver, the middle man, the glue and you also have the job of telling the team who important they all are and why the whole Clock will break if one person(wheel) breaks off or stop.

 

You Need To Learn Management.

 

And yet again, we get right into my social ineptitude. I get the feeling that adding a friend to the team who is generally more socially capable than me or Jeremy in order to act as a manager would be a good idea. Here's hoping he's willing to join up.

 

You often get what you pay for. These people aren't acting professionally because they aren't professionals.

Are you all working locally or is your team distributed? Knowing each other face to face often helps. I'm sure you've seen how strangers behave on the internet.

 

The first two times they were over the internet almost entirely. This time we had a solid split. Myself, Jeremy and the two concept artists are all local, the two programmers, texture artist, 3d modeller and texture artist/modeller were from the internet. I don't remember many conflicts with the texture artist, 3d modeller or the gal who did both, but the programmers were total assholes to everyone else and the concept artists weren't much better than they were.

Edited by JustinS

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And yet again, we get right into my social ineptitude

There is a big difference between being socially inept, which implies that you do extremely poorly at social interactions, being about average at socialising, and being the kind of brilliant social leader / motivator who can easily build and the kind of team you're describing.

 

I cannot say where you are on that spectrum, but I don't think it is fair to say that the other responders are putting you at the lower end.

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3 times in a row is a bad streak, so I understand your need to assess the situation (and that's a good thing to do).

 

First of all, my instinct would be to find the underlying cause. It is POSSIBLE but UNLIKELY that you just happened to hire a full crew of misfits, and even if it is the case, this could be boiled down to one underlying cause.

 

So let's examine the likely culprits:

 

1. Were the people on the team the RIGHT people?

When working for free, you generally have to select from a much smaller pool of potential individuals, and oftentimes without proper background. It's not that they don't have proper skills, but without previous experiences, it's very hard to judge of a person's worth.

Thus, you end up hiring a lot of people without much of an idea of what you're doing. 

Put the wrong blend of people together, or even just one 'bad' person in the mix, and before you know it, things all go to shit...

 

2. Was the vision clear?

It's perfectly possible you've hired a bunch of skilled people to do the 'next RTS', but everyone had a fairly different idea of what that meant. 
Since your team is working for free, they're all hoping to achieve something more from this product. For some, it's a step into a day job in the video game industry, for others, it's learning, for others yet, it's doing something amazing without external influences from a publishers, etc.

Was that clear with all team members from the get-go? Did some people join despite not being aligned with the general or specific vision of the project? (This is more based on SC than C&C for example, or here are the core values of this game, etc.)

 

3. Was the RIGHT person in charge? And was there really SOMEONE in charge?

Most projects benefit from having a single entity that has total and complete power over each area of development. This can be broken down per section (a lead for art, a lead for programming, a lead for management, etc.) but there needs to be someone.

Was it clear before the project started who these individuals would be, and how they would exercise their authority? How much freedom was given to other team members?

Finally, in practice, who ended up 'making the calls'. Was that as intended?

 

It takes development skills to contribute to a team positively, but it takes a much different skillset to LEAD them. Did anyone in your team possess this skillset and some experience?

Video game development tends to mix 2 major things: creativity & problem solving (pragmatism).

Creativity can come in the form of art, and design (mostly), while problem solving comes under Management, Programming and QA most of the time (depending on the project that can often vary, and most designers, especially level designers, tend to fit both sides of that coin).

 

This is a constant clash between several groups of individuals that happen to be at different points along these two scales.

As a general rule of thumb, unless you happen to come across a (much desired!) technical-oriented and organized artist (possibly with freelance experience which hints at a good ability to self-organize), you're generally dealing with 'chaotic beasts' that can really contribute to your project creatively, but need to be handled very differently from say, your programmers. Likewise, Programmers will generally tend to be more pragmatic (unless you come across a pearl of a gameplay programmer!).

Depending on your personal background, you will interface better with one group, and much less so with the other. As a result, you will tend to understand the concerns of one group, while the other's will elude you. Despite fully trusting your team, it will be easier to act on things you understand than things you don't. 

Now, imagine that everyone on your team has this issue. 

If the situation is left unchanged, 'clans' will form, and they'll blame each other for everything that is wrong instead of trying to fix the problems. This is bad. Very very bad.

What it needs is management, that is, someone that will take point, 'translate' the information for one group to the other to help bridge out communications, and take the blame for everything (and I mean, EVERYTHING). You don't want them to live with the feeling they're surrounded by slacker-no-good-doer-enemies. By giving them a leader, you're telling them:

If there's an enemy, then there's only one: me, but fear not, I'm on your side, and I'll bleed to help you achieve what you're trying to do.

 

It is much harder for a team to hate one another when you point the cause of everything bad on yourself, and remind them of what successes they're having as a group.

 

 

A bit more on being the 'bad' part of the team: I realize there are two different approaches to this. Some prefer to say we fail as a team, or we win as a team, and I tend to practice that a lot, but from my indie experience, I've had more success being the 'weakest link' as it provides unpaid teammates with a tangible reason for all of their 'why's and, imo, it works better with people with less industry experience & maturity.

In both cases, the most important part is to remember that you need to be there every step of the way, and help wherever you can (whether you've done 'this' before or not, whether you care or not, whether it feels important or not). Sometimes, it is true that the best thing the leader CAN do is bring donuts: these are the good days, when your team knows what it's doing!

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These people aren't acting professionally because they aren't professionals.

 

But before being professionals, they were indies. So, while rare, you still get to come across a few good individuals along the way.

I think the most important part is reminding how well/not well things went with each person individually (not whether the team broke).

See how some people contributed positively to the general project, and be sure to invite them on the next project.

 

Over 15 years back, I came across a guy, and I still involve him with some of my projects because he was a rare pearl with actual talent and an ability to deliver.

It might take you 50 projects before you find such a guy, but when you do, be sure to bring him in on any project that has some potential (and don't burn him on random projects though).

 

All in all, 3 failures is pretty small compared to what most successful developers will endure.

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Once upon a time, several coworkers and I talked about making a game in our free time (I work at a large game development studio, but we make games that we don't actually like to play ourselves). I got a basic skeleton of the game code thrown together, one of the artists whipped up some cool art, then everyone else lost motivation and I salvaged it as a simple tech demo.

What went wrong in our case?

- Everyone on the team (except for me) was only motivated by money. The main goal was to quickly throw together a vertical slice (fully functional demonstration of the core feature set) and then pitch it to management (so that we could get paid to work on it - at work), but we didn't even make it that far before everyone fizzled out, because we had...

- No leadership. We had the high-level picture of what we wanted to make, but NOBODY could agree on the details. If you can't agree on details, you can't actually implement them. Edited by Nypyren

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So... It's my fault then, for being socially inept?
I'd say it's either your fault for hiring useless programmers and artists i.e. your recruitment process sucks. OR, it's your fault for being really terrible at managing people. I can't suggest which without more information but ultimately if you're running the project, it is your fault regardless :)

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Of course, they won't let me use their resources now that they've left, not even concept art, so I have to completely restart.
And make sure you address this in future contracts. And make sure you have contracts!

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Another thing you can do to help minimize these sort of problems -- especially with a volunteer team -- is to keep your team as small as possible.  Do you really need more than one programmer, and more than one concept artist?  Many hobbyists try to recruit large teams because they know that professional games are typically created by large teams, but the many successful indie developers tend to work with very small teams; just the minimum to cover all required skill-sets.

 

By keeping the team smaller you minimize the number of people to be dealt with, and the number of potentially clashing personalities.

 

 

Also take a read through the topic "what programmers want from a designer", there are some good posts in there that will probably be relevant to your situation.

We also recently published an article  "communication is a game development skill" that may be beneficial.

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Quick question just out of curiosity...

 

Your display name is "JustinS", which sort of suggests your name might be "Justin", and you keep referring to the fact that "you and Jeremy" are the designers on your team... but your profile also lists your real name as "Jeremy Williams"...  what's going on with that? huh.png

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Another thing you can do to help minimize these sort of problems -- especially with a volunteer team -- is to keep your team as small as possible.  Do you really need more than one programmer, and more than one concept artist?  Many hobbyists try to recruit large teams because they know that professional games are typically created by large teams, but the many successful indie developers tend to work with very small teams; just the minimum to cover all required skill-sets.
 
By keeping the team smaller you minimize the number of people to be dealt with, and the number of potentially clashing personalities.


I'd say this sounded like a good idea, if only I hadn't had a very small team the first two times ad got the same result. I actually got a larger team this time to see if taking some of the stress of them would help.
 

Also take a read through the topic "what programmers want from a designer", there are some good posts in there that will probably be relevant to your situation.

We also recently published an article  "communication is a game development skill" that may be beneficial.


I don't have time today, but I'll bookmark them.

Quick question just out of curiosity...

Your display name is "JustinS", which sort of suggests your name might be "Justin", and you keep referring to the fact that "you and Jeremy" are the designers on your team... but your profile also lists your real name as "Jeremy Williams"... what's going on with that? huh.png


That's a short, idiotic story. When I first made this account, Jeremy was in the room. I mentioned being hesitant to use my real name on the internet, and wondered if I'd have to on a more professional site. (Yes, I realize I don't have to now. Realized that within an hour of making the account.) Jeremy said I could use his because he didn't care about his name being on the internet. So I did. Then later I realized that was stupid, and changed it.

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I'd say this sounded like a good idea, if only I hadn't had a very small team the first two times ad got the same result. I actually got a larger team this time to see if taking some of the stress of them would help.

 

Now you've learned the problem isn't with the team size. However, a larger team isn't helping, so the suggestion is still valid.

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