Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Working With Teams

A frequent complaint from indie developers is that indie team projects commonly fall apart without ever releasing a finished game. While it's very difficult to complete a game as a lone wolf developer, some report that it's even harder to form a multi-person team that can achieve this goal. Because it's so rare for an individual to achieve sufficient talent in the areas of design, programming, art, music, and sound effects (not to mention marketing, selling, and business acumen), there's an obvious incentive to assemble a team that covers most or all of these areas. Not only can a team tackle more ambitious projects than an individual, but there are projects you can complete with a team that are effectively impossible for an individual. But do the potential rewards of a team project outweigh the risks?Although team projects can lead to great rewards, they can also be perilous. When a lone wolf's project fails, the damage is minimal. Often only one person is affected, and that person generally assumes full responsibility for the results anyway. Few outsiders will even take notice. You made a mistake... you only hurt yourself and hopefully learned from it... no harm, no foul. Sometimes a failed individual project is even considered a badge of honor, a sign that you endeavored to stretch beyond your previous limits. However, when a team project fails, many lives are affected. Fingers point in all directions. Angry posts from disgruntled team members start flooding message boards: "The designer is an idiot," "The whole art team is lazy," "The programmer is incompetent," "The project was just too ambitious." The project dies a painful public death. Bitter ex-participants conclude that team projects are perhaps doomed from the start and opt never to make that mistake again.Yet some team projects actually manage to succeed. The team synergizes well, completes a game in a reasonable amount of time, the game sells well, and the team continues to work together on future projects and lives happily ever after. Why? Did they just get lucky? Or do they know the magic formula that others don't?Here's the good news: There are ways to increase the chance of success for a team project, and magic isn't required. Most of what follows will probably resonate as common sense, but despite that label, the application of "common sense" principles in team-building remains all too uncommon. So let's dive right in and learn how to build and maintain a great team....(Please click on the title to view full article)

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