Building a game development team that works well can be quite difficult. I wanted to look back at my experience in a classroom, working with nearly fifty different teams and put together a list of qualities that I believe had made up some of my best teams over the years.
If you are currently a solo developer and know that your game project may take more than just you, how or where should you go to start building your team? I have written a few things down that I think can help you build a team around yourself and make you more successful.
Needs of a Quality Game Development Team
First, let’s look at what actually makes a good team. These are a few pre-requisites, I would say. Some things you might should look for in teammates. If you really want to lead a team, these are a few skills I think you might need.
1. A Solid Plan
You won’t get very far in finding good help if you don’t have a true vision of the game you are trying to build. You want to find people who are going to be as passionate about your project as you are. If you don’t know what your project is, then people will have a difficult time jumping on board with you.
Good developers and qualified people look for projects that spark an interest in them. They have the skills, they have a lot of opportunities because a lot of people are building really cool projects and many would like help. It’s going to be really difficult for you to attract them unless you have a history in game development already or have something to show them.
The best way to develop a plan is through a game design document. If you have never created one before, I have written an entire article on how to write a game design document and what it should include.
2. A Leader with Leadership Skills
Looking at my most successful teams that I have had, there has always been one person generally leading the team. It wasn’t the loudest, most obnoxious person on the team either. Instead, it was someone that had the respect of the rest of the team members, had clarity within their ideas, and could present their ideas well.
If you are looking to the build the team, you naturally want to be the leader of the team. However, I place this near the top of this article because I think there are some important qualities you have to understand in order for people to respect you as a leader.
Here are a few qualities I would look for in a game development team leader:
- A good leader will take on the work that no one else wants to do. They often will take on the modeling of assets that don’t have the highest glamor to them. The leader of a group often takes on the most challenging tasks as well. It’s those tasks that everyone knows will be time consuming.
- A good leader will keep a team on task. It’s not that you are bossing everyone around and telling them to get back to work. However, a good leader will ensure that the rest of the team has something to work on. There is very little downtime. They might spend their time creating backlogs items or keeping their eye on Trello.
- A good leader will be as commited as anyone else on the team. This is pretty crucial here. I have seen some people with great leadership potential, but they simply don’t devote the most time on their team. When other team members feel they are putting in more time and effort, it’s hard for them to respect the ones who aren’t. This means you need to be clear and try to recruit people in similar life circumstances. If you can work on this game for only an hour or two per day, then try to find others that are limited the same way. This helps them feel you are just as committed to the project.
- A good leader has to be willing to work on their technical skills. I say work on them, because I don’t believe they necessarily have to be the most talented or knowledgable of the group. A good game development team leader won’t simply be the “idea guy”. They will be in the trenches grinding out game assets or code.
3. Technical Skills
When building a good game development team, don’t look to bring in your friends. Friends are great, but they often make lousy business partners and game development team members.
In a classroom setting where I try to allow students to make up their own game development teams, this is generally the first go to. It’s amazing how many times they will try to build a team that doesn’t have a programmer on it because the kid that has the most knowledge there is a little weird. Or, they bring on the laziest kid in class because they like hanging out with him on the weekends. I mean, you’re just missing opportunities here or causing yourself grief.
Instead, look for people that are strong in areas you are weak. If you are great with art, consider looking for someone who is comfortable or enjoys programming. You need people with skill. People that can actually help you build the game.
4. Clear Commitment
Have a conversation early on about what type of commitment level is needed. I would find someone that matches you fairly well.
As an example, if you are working on your game nearly fulltime and anticipate doing that for the forseeable future, you need to find someone who is really serious about game development. They may not be able to match your number of hours, but they likely need to be able to invest a significant number of time so that if feels worthwhile to you.
The opposite is also true. If you know you can only invest a handful of hours into your project then unless you plan to pay someone, I wouldn’t look for someone that is investing more time than you. Instead, try to find a match or as close to of a match as possible. This will then make everyone feel comfortable about how quickly things are progressing.
Steps to Building a Quality Game Design Team
The first few steps are what I would do prior to building a team or bringing on team members. It will help you establish an overall goal for your team. Also, those joining your game design team will likely have a better understanding of what your game is and what it isn’t. They will be able to determine whether they want to be a part, or whether their skills meet the needs of your project.
1. Build a Vertical Slice of Your Game
The first step is to build a small portion of your game that feels fairly polished. This means it could be a small 3D environment that looks impressive with possibly a couple of unique game mechanics incorporated into it. This is your opportunity to show off your technical skills and abilities. It is also a good opportunity for people to understand your vision of the game.
2. Post Screenshots Regularly
Honestly, I am a part of a lot of the Facebook game development groups. I have always been surprised by how many people offer to help on a project when they see impressive work from others. Simply put, artists and developers want to work on really cool projects. It’s much easier to find help if you’re showcasing your project.
3. Consider Doing Devlogs
Becoming a modern way of building a following for indie game developers, devlogs are a great way to get people excited about your project. Excited people who are developers are potential business partners. If you do a few months of work and post a devlog at the end of each month, I would be very surprised if you didn’t have a handful of people interacting with you about your project.
4. Evaluate Those Offering Help
At this point, you likely have a few people who have offered a helping hand. They see that you are serious, especially if you are doing quality work. Those interested in your project may have expressed interest to jump on board with you to get the project completed. It’s time to sort them out.
Remember, you want people who mesh well with you, have similar availability, and have the technical skills needed. Even if you find someone who likes doing the things you’re working on, you may be able to pass it off to them and work in other areas. Remember, a good leader takes on work that no one else really likes doing at times. It’s not that you have to hate your work, but you might find ways to get the project done more quickly if you take the tougher jobs.
5. Make it Worthwhile for Those Helping
Remember, if you are looking for long-term help, they won’t stick around very long if they feel they aren’t getting a fair shake on the deal. If you just say, “Yeah, awesome, I’d love help.” but never offer to give them part of the money generated or offer to pay them, don’t expect them to work longer than a few days on your project.
Realistically, if you have good help, you should pay them well. This industry at times likes to take advantage of one another. I believe that those putting out good work should receive fair wages. I know it may be your idea, and that is fine to retain full control of the project, but consider paying well and treating people fairly for their work and you may be surprised at how much help you may receive in return.
Ultimately, treat people fairly. When showcasing your work, showcase the best work you have. It often gets people excited about your project while receiving good feedback. When it starts gaining interest, you may be surprised at the number of people willing to help you out.
I find this to be the best source of finding help. If you are struggling to get that attention, I would love it if you would reach out to me. I will provide honest feedback on your project!