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sanwayzar

Collaboration Success Stories

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Hey indie/hobbyist devs, got any stories of successful collaborations to share with us? There are many indie game developers looking for teammates in the Hobby Projects Classifieds here on the Gamedev.net forums, and on other online communities. Have you been able to find people to work with on games, on a collaborative / revenue-share basis instead of traditional employment or freelance contractors?

I am very interested to hear about your experience and advice in finding collaborators/partners/co-founders/team-mates for indie dev. I'm sure there are others here who would like to learn from what you have to say, too. smiley.gif

How did you find other devs to work with? How long did your search take you? Were you able to complete and release any games together? Do you still work together? Any advice towards success, and warnings of pitfalls to avoid that you can share with us?

Thank you for your wisdom! 

Edited by sanwayzar

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My only experience of the kind so far has been in developing a simple game for a sports celebrity, but we did it in our dev team's slack time, and it wasn't a very risky venture to begin with since the "client" had a strong base of social media followers. In the end, we ended up selling the dev work at a fixed price before publishing, breaking away from the revenue-sharing model.

 

I would however be very interested in exploring other opportunities for developing more complex games - my dev shop has a staff of 17, between devs, testers and designers - and we can keep a decent throughput of work being done just by using slack time from our "paying" projects. This way we get to do interesting stuff, without risking our necks too much, since there's a revenue stream from other sources paying the bills. The challenge is we don't have many references to show in terms of games, since most of our work so far has been in SaaS and mobile apps that aren't game-related.

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Thanks for your input!
 

...but the volume of these kinds of projects is so vast that it's impossible to see them over the corpses of the abandoned ones.

Yes, that's one of the main reasons that I posed this question. Because there seem to be lots of people looking to start projects and working relationships like this, but it seems like so many never get off the ground or get to the finish line. So I'm really interested to learn about and from those few that have.
 

I know lots of other companies where a small number of devs own it, which means they can choose to pay themselves with company profits if they like, but aren't really set up as a "profit share project" like you see on the internet. These people typically have a small office (poasibly shared with several other companies to save costs), physically work together, and use freelancers and a small number of actual employees for most labour.

I'd say that this is within the same category as the teams I'm asking about, just the more advanced/professional version of it. As co-founders/co-owners of a company, they're still technically sharing revenue, in addition to sharing ownership of the company and IP itself. Working in the same physical space (and being able to have a space in the first place) is clearly an advantage over virtual co-working.
I'm definitely interested in hearing stories about these kind of teams as well.
 

These groups tend to know each other from previous jobs / have worked with each other in the past.
IMHO the best way to find a group like this is to first work in the AAA industry for 5 years and make a lot of friends at as many companies as you can :wink:

To offer my own experience: I'm actually in this position, having worked at various studios in the AAA industry since the late 90s. I made lots of friends, and still keep in touch with some, but I've found that it can be really challenging to find/convince experienced devs to take the huge risk of going unpaid indie. (Probably why so many projects seem to be started by students and hobbyists.) I know lots of experienced and talented people in the game industry (current and ex) - but most have mortgages to pay, kids to feed, spouses to appease, and jobs that give them more pay and security than going indie probably ever will, given the statistics. Some of these people dream of and envy building their own games and studios, but don't feel ready or safe taking that risk. And they're always so neck-deep in crunch-time hours, that they can't even muster the time and energy to dedicate to a part-time side project even if they want to. And the few I know who DO have more independent and entrepreneurial personalities like myself, are usually already doing their own projects and walking their own path.

So I agree with you, that harnessing connections from years of hard work in the professional game industry would be the ideal way to build a team for success. But I haven't been able to get that to happen yet. Stories and advice along those lines would also be greatly appreciated!

Edited by sanwayzar

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My only experience of the kind so far has been in developing a simple game for a sports celebrity, but we did it in our dev team's slack time, and it wasn't a very risky venture to begin with since the "client" had a strong base of social media followers. In the end, we ended up selling the dev work at a fixed price before publishing, breaking away from the revenue-sharing model.

I would however be very interested in exploring other opportunities for developing more complex games - my dev shop has a staff of 17, between devs, testers and designers - and we can keep a decent throughput of work being done just by using slack time from our "paying" projects. This way we get to do interesting stuff, without risking our necks too much, since there's a revenue stream from other sources paying the bills. The challenge is we don't have many references to show in terms of games, since most of our work so far has been in SaaS and mobile apps that aren't game-related.



Very interesting story, thank you for sharing!
What you're describing seems more like work-for-hire to me. For "exploring other opportunities for developing more complex games", have you or are you thinking of cooperating with other dev teams on joint projects? (since you already have a team, and 17 is a pretty big size for indie dev.) Have you reached out to other devs with interesting projects?
With a dev team your size, I'm curious why you would find outside (rev share) ideas interesting to pursue, rather than developing ideas born from your own team members? (I'd expect at least a few would have game ideas they're dying to make.)

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You're right, we do have a few ideas of our own, but we'd like to gain a little more experience in full development of something of higher complexity than what we've done so far, before plunging into a big sized project. If at the same time we can help other game developers that could be an ideal win-win situation!

I've made only a couple of approaches to other devs so far, with no positive responses yet, but I'm looking around here and other online communities to try to find a project that might be a good fit :)

 

Thanks for the feedback, and don't hesitate to send any suggestions my way!

 

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To be honest, I now have the almost subconscious judgemental view that any online organized, rev share promising project is almost certainly lacking experienced leadership and bound to attract flaky "staff".
There may be good ones, but the volume of these kinds of projects is so vast that it's impossible to see them over the corpses of the abandoned ones.

 

Yeah, I share this jaded view as well. I can pretty much look at almost any online project and say with near certainty that it's going to fail from a project management standpoint. There's a ton of red flags:

-Nobody gets paid up front
-Payment is based on project equity. Sorry, but 20% share of $0 is still zero.
-Nobody has shipped a game of any sort before
-The project leader has nothing to contribute to the project other than his bright idea. He's usually a charismatic narcissist and a bit delusional about what its going to take.

-The project "team" is very large. This signals there will be lots of turn over and pretty much anyone is welcomed, which means there isn't a qualification to joining (ie, you can actually do worthwhile work)

-The team meetings are frequent and a waste of time, dominated by people who like the sound of their own voice.

-An NDA is required to work on the project. Look at you, Mr. Fancy McPants! you have legal paperwork you found online! It still doesn't legitimize anything you're doing.
-The scope is way out of whack for the team size and skill set

-Everyone is working remotely in geographically separate parts of the world
-A majority of the team is either highschool students or college students (zero experience making games)

-"What's a software development lifecycle?! I've never heard of that before..."

-Management style is authoritarian

-People rely on everyone else to get work done, they're just here for the ride and ready to play test the finished product when its ready. 

-Even though everyone is working for free, the budget for the project is $0 or it hinges on a kickstarter campaign to be successful.

-There are very few if any true stakeholders on the project.

-Deliverables are frequently missed or severely delayed

-Nobody has much experience with any game engines. Or, the programmer has decided to create their own game engine from scratch (*ahem*...)

-There is no thought put towards end user testing to validate the game. "We'll just build it and it'll be great because it's my idea, and everyone will just naturally love my idea because all of my ideas are good, so therefore, lots of people will buy the game!"
-If the words MMO, RPG or multiplayer are used to describe the game

Okay, what about offline teams? How do they fuck up?

-At a minimum: You need a programmer, an artist, and a business development person on the team. And they need to be GOOD. Don't have that? Prepare to suck.

-Scope. Again. It's always scope. 

-Lack of customer feedback as a part of the development production cycle

-Lack of funding. You think kickstarter or investors are going to fund you? HAHAHA

-Shitty production values

-Out of touch with reality

-No controls on member behavior or discipline. You think smoking pot during work hours is fine? You think showing up to work at 2pm is acceptable? You think drinking on the job is allowed? Be a professional or GTFO.

-Fights. Arguments. Squabbles. Not the good kind, but the toxic kind.

-Crunch time. Always crunch time.
 

What does it take to be successful?

-The team leader is the MVP. The game will get done with or without everyone else.

-People are paid. Morale is high for the duration of the project.

-75+% of the team works onsite, together.

-Everyone is focused on getting work done. Meaningful progress is made every day.

-The project is reasonably scoped.

-The team members have a history of shipping products and getting stuff done.

-The team members are stakeholders who are invested in the success of the project.

-There is a budget and a schedule

-They are always ready to ship something and often test the game with potential customers

-They know that producing the game is only 33% of the battle to success

-The bar for quality is high and the game vision is consistent

-There is an effective leader running the team.

-Most weeks, people work a sane, sustainable amount of hours.
-People on the team like working with each other.

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@slayemin, I agree with what you've written, however I offer my own successful formula:

1) the game is managed start to finish by one or two determined developers, with some experience in engines and a fair bit of past experience creating games for fun.
2) the developers know each other personally, but are not necessarily in the same geographic location.
3) loose realistic deadlines are set and adhered to (e.g. "summer 2017").
4) as much as possible is farmed out to subcontractors or paid for from art and music sites. This is done from developers own pockets and records kept.
5) everyone enters the project with an understanding that a business shall be created in the event any profit is made at all and money shall be handled in a proper manner so relevant parties such as tax are happy.

This has worked for me so far. Usually the number of team members at all stages has been just me, or me and a close friend.

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@slayemin, I agree with what you've written, however I offer my own successful formula:

1) the game is managed start to finish by one or two determined developers, with some experience in engines and a fair bit of past experience creating games for fun.
2) the developers know each other personally, but are not necessarily in the same geographic location.
3) loose realistic deadlines are set and adhered to (e.g. "summer 2017").
4) as much as possible is farmed out to subcontractors or paid for from art and music sites. This is done from developers own pockets and records kept.
5) everyone enters the project with an understanding that a business shall be created in the event any profit is made at all and money shall be handled in a proper manner so relevant parties such as tax are happy.

This has worked for me so far. Usually the number of team members at all stages has been just me, or me and a close friend.

 

Thank you for sharing, Brain!

How did you and your close friend(s) decide to make a game together? Did one approach the other about a project they wanted to create, or did it just happen organically while talking about games/work? What game(s) did you create together? Where did the budget for subcontractors come from (personal savings?)

 

Thanks again!

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@slayemin, I agree with what you've written, however I offer my own successful formula:
1) the game is managed start to finish by one or two determined developers, with some experience in engines and a fair bit of past experience creating games for fun.
2) the developers know each other personally, but are not necessarily in the same geographic location.
3) loose realistic deadlines are set and adhered to (e.g. "summer 2017").
4) as much as possible is farmed out to subcontractors or paid for from art and music sites. This is done from developers own pockets and records kept.
5) everyone enters the project with an understanding that a business shall be created in the event any profit is made at all and money shall be handled in a proper manner so relevant parties such as tax are happy.
This has worked for me so far. Usually the number of team members at all stages has been just me, or me and a close friend.


Thank you for sharing, Brain!
How did you and your close friend(s) decide to make a game together? Did one approach the other about a project they wanted to create, or did it just happen organically while talking about games/work? What game(s) did you create together? Where did the budget for subcontractors come from (personal savings?)

Thanks again!
Hi,

Generally we have an idea together that grows organically. Sometimes, one of us has an idea and runs with it while the other has no time or inclinations to follow it further.

Not all projects end up being partnerships as everyone's availability differs.

We've created a few games together, only a couple have reached completion (mostly while we were at college) and the one I'm working on alone right now is nearing completion in the summer (see my signature and profile info). Even with an approach that works, not all games survive past a prototype and part of gamedev is successfully discarding bad ideas and retaining good ones.

The budget for subcontractors isn't set in stone and as and when we need art or music we can't produce ourselves we pay out of our own pockets, keeping track with the intent to recoup it on release. For example in my current game I've spent about $200, mostly on art (3D models and textures etc) which I've then adjusted myself.

Let me know if you need more info!

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