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Project management quandry

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Although I am not new to the professional world of development in general (I've been a web dev for about 10 years), I am currently about halfway into leading a small team through the process of developing a game, which has been a life-long ambition of mine. I am fairly business-savvy and at least a pretty good programmer (I'm being a little modest to not come across as a jerk, but I mean to say that I'm at least not a noob, and I'd probably be considered like a "level 2 or 3" kind of programmer in the corporate world). My secondary programmer, and "number one" in Star Trek terminology is also extremely skilled. I consider him my partner (our previous gig together was running one of the "top" Minecraft servers for about 2 years, which returned a large profit). 

 

For the game we are developing, my primary partner and I realized we needed someone with some serious artistic experience to help us out, as while we had the dev side of things under control, neither of us is an artist in any stretch of the imagination. We have no budget, and hence we started looking for an artist who would work with us on a revenue-sharing arrangement, and we found one. He's been doing a great job, and we like the quality of the work he's created, but we're concerned that the quantity of the work he's produced is insufficient to meet our release timeline goals, and we're at a point in the dev cycle where we're kind of leaning on a need for artwork.

 

My primary partner and I are considering the possibility of bringing in a second artist, and as such reducing our revenue share by the amount we'd come to an agreement upon with the new guy.

 

My question to the pros out there is this: are we falling into a trap? Are we following solid logic, and is it a good decision to bring in a second artist to bridge the gap in art quantity in a project in the state we're in? Or are there other ideas out there about how to increase our art quantity in a shorter frame of time?

 

Mind you, we like the quality of the work our current artist is creating...we just need more of it, and given our revenue share arrangement, I'm apprehensive to try to put the coals to his feet too much (he's a guy with a normal 9-5 job and kids and all that). 

 

To rebut one possible response: I know it would be ideal if we had a budget to "juice" our production speed, but...Kickstarter kind of blows, I don't have any rich relatives, I'm beyond the end of my own personal cash flow from putting 24-7 hours into this game, and I'm really trying to just release this game wholesale without getting into any early access scenario.

 

Any advice from seasoned vets would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by mpmumau

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How far away are you from releasing at the CURRENT rate (with that single guy)? This matters because if you're close-ish you're actually going to make this slower not faster by bringing in an additional person who needs to learn the team (adapt to the art style, learn the Tools etc). It may actually push the release backward.

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My first concern is whether or not your project has a collaboration agreement (a written statement of the terms of the relationship between all the team members), and whether you're basically acquiring art by giving up equity, but those are Business/Law issues and should be discussed in the Business/Law forum. Here in Production/Management, I'll just address the question of your art pipeline.

If I was producing a project and saw that our one new artist was unable to produce the art assets in time for our planned release, I would consider:
1. The art creation process - maybe a kanban board would help - make sure the high-priority art is done first, make sure all assets are delivered when the programmers need them (and no later).
2. Adding an artist (as you said). (This needs to be done without giving up too much equity.) Ronan said that this would slow things down, but that's not a certainty. It does definitely increase the management load, and if there is a slowdown, it might be only temporary while the process is worked out.
3. Pushing back the release date. Edited by Tom Sloper
fixed a typo

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Thanks to both of you guys, the advice helps a lot to just kind of get the issue "right" in my head.

 

Ronan, we're about 3-6 months out, or so I hope...about halfway through. That was one of my concerns, as well...whether or not bringing in a second guy might be counterproductive. We're more worried about getting two artists to work within the same style and be on the same page and all that.

 

Tom, we do not currently have such a written agreement, although that has been our intention. Unfortunately, although I'm familiar with writing standard work contracts for web clients, I have been struggling to wrap my head around how to structure such an agreement, and admittedly, I've procrastinated on it. We do have a verbal agreement among us as to the exact figures...probably given our predicament it's now critical to put it down into a formal contract. Are you aware of perhaps any template contracts I could use as an example to write ours? I've struggled finding one that matches our scenario.

 

As for the production issues, we are using a kanban board (via Trello), although we've been mostly focusing on development issues with it. Perhaps I can kind of start to more formally task art through that system as well to give the art side of things more structure. Perhaps it just boils down to me sort of being a "tougher" boss and being more insistent on timing issues...I just feel a little awkward with it, given our lack of budget. Is the very concept of trying to produce a game under revenue sharing terms unusual? To me, it's the kind of project where such a thing would seem to make more sense, but maybe that very premise is flawed...

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we are using a kanban board (via Trello), although we've been mostly focusing on development issues with it.

Kanban is probably most useful for asset creation, more so than for feature creation. Definitely recommend instituting kanban for the assets.

Perhaps it just boils down to me sort of being a "tougher" boss

Not necessarily. When the parties see how things progress on the kanban board, that becomes a motivator itself. Assuming you also have regular scrums in which the members can discuss blocks and achievements.

As for your agreement, no, I have no template. Recommend you get an attorney familiar with the game industry. See the Business/Law forum. Not having had an agreement until well into the process can make it difficult to institute one as an afterthought.

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Yeah, as for the agreement, agreed. It was definitely unwise of me to let that linger so long (and I know better than that...we just got into the heat of work a little too quickly). Fortunately, my team is pretty amicable, and given that we discussed the issues verbally, I don't anticipate any problems, but getting that contract together at this point should probably be priority no. 1. Unfortunately, given our lack of budget, I can't afford to hire an attorney outright. I'll probably just continue to peruse the various "template contract" web sites and see if I can spot something to use as a basis. Thanks for the help. 

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Unfortunately, given our lack of budget, I can't afford to hire an attorney outright. I'll probably just continue to peruse the various "template contract" web sites and see if I can spot something to use as a basis.


See http://www.sloperama.com/advice/article58.htm
The few hundred dollars you spend now on an attorney can save you thousands, tens of thousands, or more down the road.

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The few hundred dollars you spend now on an attorney can save you thousands, tens of thousands, or more down the road. 

 

I fully agree with you, but when I say "no budget" I'm not fibbin' haha. Even my personal finances are a mess given the (admittedly, somewhat foolish) "all-in" amount of time I've been dedicating to this game. I certainly value a lawyer's work, and I fully think they should be compensated for what they do...but $0 means $0, haha. I think I'll cobble something together as a temporary band aid, and review it with a real lawyer when I'm able.

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