Collaborative Game Development

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Troubleshooting a Team

Team game development can be a tricky thing, and a frighteningly large percent of group developments break apart before they are even realized in the slightest. The tips in the previous sections, especially in selecting group members, have been shared in order to help prevent that, but only the members of the project can hold the group together!

Issue: Teammate disappears.

Sometimes teammates can disappear from contact for a period of time. Try to find if they left a note somewhere saying they were going. If possible, anticipate this by asking all team members to notify you/the team of lengthened periods of absence. If you don't know why they left, try sending them a message/e-mail to check. If they don't show up for a month, or if you need their part filled ASAP, find someone else to temporarily take their place, or, remove them from the team.

Issue: Team members fighting/arguing too much.

Often when working on features or such, team mates will end up conflicting in opinions on how to do something, or just a general argument about anything really. It's important that you as team leader keep the team together. If things get real messy, try talking to the two team members and mediating a peace between them. However, note that differing opinions and arguing are both important elements in making your game evolve- if everyone agreed 100% of the time, there would be little fun in both building and playing the game. Also suggest that the team members use constructive critique, such as "Well, that is a neat idea, but I don't think it would work that way, instead, perhaps if we did it this way, it would work better."

Issue: Game not progressing.

If your game gets stuck in a rut, either because you are lacking a vital element or because of lacking creativity/inspiration, it is important to continue networking among members. Perhaps try taking a week or two off from the game as a team, or try focusing on a different part (such as, if you are stuck trying to get a sprite to work right, instead go work on your tile sets or music for a while). One of the best regimes for development I have seen for large projects consists of an opening period of working on the large project, then a short period (1-3 months) working on a minigame and releasing it, then another period on the large project, then a second minigame, then the last bit of the large project. This takes longer, but keeps the creativity flowing without too much monotony. Take regular breaks from the game if necessary. During the workday, be sure to take relaxing breaks where you get outside, or play games, or just do something that requires little mental stress, but be sure to get back to work! Timers are your friend if you have difficulty doing this.

Setting deadlines can also help resolve this. Be sure not to be too gracious or too restrictive. Unreasonable deadlines can anger members. Consider asking them for an estimate on how long a task will take them and consider their answer, shortening or lengthening as needed.

Also note that sometimes you need to make changes to your team. If people aren't pulling their weight, let them know VERY POLITELY (i.e. "Hey man, could you get those graphics to me by next Tuesday? We really need to get going here. If not, I'm afraid I'll have to ask another member to do those and give you something less crucial to work on."). If they still aren't doing what they need to and are a detriment to the team, consider removing them. Removing people from the team is not a fun thing to do, and that's why I heavily recommend you select team members carefully early on.

Issue: A member's work is much lower quality than you needed/expected/originally anticipated.

If you get stuck with someone whose work ends up being either too poor or too different from what you need, it's okay to find someone else. However, first see if they can do anything else for the game. If not, they can always stay on as a beta tester if you think they would be fitting for that. As a team leader, you are NOT obligated to keep people on-board1. However, as the game progresses, the work and labor people put into it should weigh positively in your mind as a reason to keep them on-board. Sometimes, you just need to do it and remove that guy who is nothing but a nuisance to the team.

1 this isn't really true for commercial projects, especially when you pay individuals. Also, if someone has done an asset already for the project, it is understood that they are on the team and you will need to verify that you can still use that asset in the game if they leave. I recommend that you don't remove people who have contributed unless you absolutely must.

Issue: Things just aren't getting done fast enough!

Consider getting more team members if you can handle it, or outsourcing things to 3rd party artists/etc. Also note that for the most part, your release date is not really locked... you can push it back a bit. You shouldn't try to have a locked release date anyway, unless you absolutely need a deadline to inspire you to work harder.

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