Home > Tutorials > Game Development > Collaborative Game Making
Collaborative Game Making
This is how it's done in the biz so there obviously is some benefit to it. The trouble is, that it's not easy. Working with teams requires good, clear, constant communication.
In this article, I intend to cover recruiting and working with a team.
-Recruiting Your Team-
So you have a great game idea, but you know you can't finish it by yourself or you need some help. How will you convince people to join your group?
Before you start recruiting you should have the following things.
1. Game creation experience
2. Knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses
3. A Game plan/High concept
4. Clear idea of what you need
Items 1 and 2 are related. Once you've created a game, you'll know where your specialties lie. Most likely, you are talented at programming or scripting but have trouble with artwork and writing.
When you make a team building forum thread you should post your game concept and show that you have a developed idea. A clear concept of the game would include the game name, setting, features and some characters. (See this article for more info about High Concepts).
Once you have written down what the game is, post what you need help with specifically.
-Luring Team Mates-
There are several things to consider when trying to attract people to help with your game. In general, when someone is looking to join a team, they look for a few things:
1. Past Success of the Game Designer
2. Description of the Game to be Created
3. Interesting Ideas or concepts
4. Organization and clear goal
5. Realistic Goals and expectations
If you are new to the community and start up a team recruiting thread, you will need to provide proof that you have done this before, you have created a game. You know what it takes to make a small working game. You may be enthusiastic and excited about this idea, but in the end, a person is judged by past action.
The description of your game, as mentioned before, should sound solid. The concept should be there. Things such as sound and visual things do not have to be developed but at least a story premise, some ideas for characters, world description, a battle system. The more you have written or planned, the better. Someone looking to join a team wants to know what they're getting into.
Things that are new, fresh or sound appealing attract people. You may want to try a different kind of class system or have a new idea on leveling a character. Although, it does not have to be strictly game play that sounds interesting. Good Story ideas, characters and settings also appeal to people.
Someone who can organize and has a clear idea is someone who can at least be trusted to think things through. Make sure you write well and pitch your game idea as something exciting. It does no good to beg, sound desperate or immature. Such things will tarnish a reputation and not make you desirable to work with. You sell yourself a bit as well as your game.
If you have game creation experience, you know how difficult some aspects can be. It is not wise to set a high order right off the bat. To at least start the game you only need a few team mates to flesh out the development. I go into this more later on.
In the end, it may be the type of people you are pitching the idea to. It may be the genre you have chosen or your game story does not appeal to a majority of people in a community. If you can not find people in one community, there is no shame in trying another community. Or you may want to reconsider your game concept and change it to make it more appealing.
-Game Production Phases-
You will not need every role filled right away if you think of the game in 3 phases: Pre-production, Production and Post-Production.
Pre-production would be the development team: Game Designer, Level Designer, Writer.
Production would be the production team: Programmer, Mapper, (sprite artist).
Post-Production would include: Play-testers, musicians, sound tech, programmers again, and sprite artists.
The development phase involves solidifying game play, story and characters. This involves lots of discussion so it is important to keep things organized and recorded.
Production is putting the plan in motion. This is where you would build maps, set stats, and start working on a first demo. It is best to use "stand-in" graphics for the sake of testing and take time to develop the game art.
Post-production is the game testing portion and editing. This is where you work out the bugs and go back to fix them until the game is awesome or you've exhausted your team. This is also where you can add the bells and whistles such as original game art and music.
Remember: details like original sprites, music and graphics can be added later in the development. Using RTP graphics or filler for a demo is perfectly acceptable.
-Job Roles -
It is important to be clear about what is expected from each job role:
Game Designer: That should be you. Head of the team and creator of the game concept.
Level Designer: Decides what goes on the map and where, how to complete a level and so on.
Writer: Writes in-game text: instructions, dialogue and so on. NOT responsible for creating the entire story but can flesh it out or edit.
Programmer: writes the hard code for the game events
Mapper: Works with programmer and level designer to create the map
Sprite Artist/Pixel Artist: All refer to someone who makes the pixel art game graphics.
Graphic Artist: Artist that creates non-pixel graphics in the game.
Sound Technician: Creates the sound effects in the game and music.
Musician: Obviously, someone who creates the music for the game.
Play Testers: Someone enlisted and forced to play the game to find bugs and errors.
It's also best to check applicant's resources. Pick someone who can prove experience in their field.
Working on a team requires good communication skills, especially if you only know the person through online means. (As a side note, online only communication tends to be slower than face to face communication.)
As the game designer, you are also the project leader. On top of your duties to design the game you have to keep track of everyone on your team. The classic barrier is communication between art teams and programming teams. As designer, you have to bridge that gap and try to understand a little how each type of person communicates and works.
Commonly, artists tend to be right-brained. They think abstractly and are good at what they do. The thing artists hate but do need is a time constraint and guidelines. Be descriptive about what you want from an artist if you have a specific visual design in mind. Another thing an artists dislikes is a vague description. An artist is creative, but guidelines are extremely helpful and will give you the best result.
Programmers are stronger left-brains. They think logically and not always creatively. Make sure you are exact in your description of what you want the program to do. Pseudo-code it in your descriptions to be helpful. Also be realistic in your programmer expectations. There are limits to what certain programming languages can do. For example, try to think in terms of conditions, events if-then statements, and so on.
Writers are a mixed balance of both lobes. Writing is a logical process but also an artistic one. Like the artist, a writer hates but benefits from a time constraint. Like the programmer, you should be specific about what you want, but leave room for the writer to be creative.
In general, it is good practice to set deadlines for different aspects of the game creation process. Talk to your team-mates to get a general idea about how fast they work and how much time they might need to finish a certain task. (If they attend school, you should take that into account).
Setting an overall goal for game completion is best decided after you have started developing. You can guesstimate in your post about how long you expect to take, but don't make it THE deadline.
It is very important to remember (especially in online communication) that you are working with another human being. Life happens. People are not machines. Flexibility is a trait worth using.
Remember, usually online you are doing this for fun and as a hobby. Other obligations come first for everyone. Do not hesitate to put the game production on hold.
Be courteous in your language when speaking with your team mates. Being difficult, stubborn and rude will only help you lose team mates. If you treat team mates with respect they will show you respect in return.
If you started it, finish it. Do not abandon your post unless you absolutely have to. Also make sure you are consistantly online and available for communication. People skills take practice too.
(collaborating tips...might be a helpful thing.)
Collaborative Game Making