As an aspiring game developer, you may envision yourself one day taking a course, obtaining a qualification, and slotting yourself into Gigantic Megacorps to make awesome games forever with a team of six million people. But have you ever given serious thought to how you’re going to work with them?
The size and scope of the project doesn’t matter: whatever you’re working on, you need to know about the potential pitfalls (and advantages!) of operating in a group. Here are a few basic points to consider:
Two heads are better than one …
You may have already read up on the value of advice, feedback, and support from game development communities. Working on a project with someone else highlights these same benefits. Team-mates who are skilled at viewing each other’s work critically (and we’re not talking about the “LOLusuk!” approach) have a far higher chance of polishing and refining a project – one member can poke at things that the others would rather leave behind, or provide motivation when morale happens to be low.
… but too many cooks spoil the broth
Contrary to the beliefs of some, teamwork is a skill in itself and needs due attention. We all value our own creative vision, and it’s usually easy to follow a plan that you’ve made yourself, but incorporating other people’s views can be more difficult -especially if you’re not used to it. On any given game development project, disagreements will occur on a daily basis, landing somewhere on that bell curve between “Shouldn’t this bullet be a darker shade of blue?” and “I’m just about ready to devour the soul of your firstborn.” Your job is to accept and discuss the former, while avoiding the latter and defusing it properly if it surfaces.
Every project demands different things. In a small, casual endeavour it doesn’t really matter what team members do, as long as their roles are defined: give people responsibility for particular areas, then stick to that plan until the team agrees on a change. Similarly, put someone “in charge” overall – even among friends, it’s useful to have a project manager who is willing to take the responsibility for tough calls and work scheduling. Just make sure that the candidate is a good leader!
Lack of communication is the number one cause of misunderstandings, and interferes with the spreading of potentially awesome ideas. At worst, it can waste days of work because somebody got the wrong idea about an arrow texture.
Communicating well isn’t easy, mainly because people have such different ways of expressing themselves. So take the time to establish what your team members are most comfortable with before launching the project: do they work better solo or with an overseer? Do they follow written or verbal instructions better? How do they comment their code? Do they fling poop when they get angry?
If nothing else, set about answering these questions. Your game development life will be better for it.
Good luck with future team projects, and consider using the holiday period to get together with some dev friends if you haven’t already. Also be sure to pop by the Game.Dev forum and show us what you’ve got.