What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

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What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#1 Post by Helyees » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:32 am

I'm leading a small (3-5 person), multilingual & cosmopolitan Visual Novel team. In addition to the core members we also have freelances coming and going. I have learned that communication is the most important part of my duty as the director. :D

What has been your most important insight as a director? Would be nice to hear what you think? :)

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Re: What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#2 Post by verysunshine » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:34 pm

Management skills: super important!

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Re: What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#3 Post by Helyees » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:33 am

I think human skills comes first. If you fail with people you dont have anyting to manage :P

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Re: What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#4 Post by Mammon » Wed Feb 14, 2018 7:19 am

Talent, understanding, structure, productivity. Not in that order, or any order. It's a constant rinse and repeat in an ever changing order and amount that usually comes in several cycles per product and none of these four parts is more or less important than any of the others. Rather they'll all play a vital role, in that doing them wrong will harm or kill the project. There is no one skill that's more important than the others in this regard. I'll be taking an artist as example here because they're the easiest (their product is one visual at a time, rather than a long document or code mystery), but this will apply to all members of a team in their own way and scope.

I only led one team and I'm far from an experienced team leader or someone who did the below, and I was real lucky to have the right people in the right roles to prevent my project from failing miserably. I have to say that recruiting the right people is a real need for any project, bad project members will yield bad results. However, as the saying goes 'a good chef can make a delicious dish out of the worst ingredients'. You can't work with rotten apples and even a mediocre chef can make something good with good ingredients, it's up to the team manager to take the group in between (a.k.a. most of the applicants and developers) and make them taste like a 5 star dish. Yes, you heard me. I want you to cook your project members. :twisted:

-Talent: This most definately does not refer to the skill of your artist, rather than the full picture of what they do. An artist that can make photo-realistic art isn't necessarily talented in this category. In fact, when they can only make very specific images and take a very long time, they're not talented. Practical talent means that your artist not only has skill and talent to make good-looking art, but also puts enthusiasm in all their work, has the flexibility to make all the required art pieces and can do so within an acceptable timetable.
An artist that doesn't fulfill all criteria to the max isn't untalented, in fact it'll be tough (and expensive) to find one that is. Rather you need to find one that is flexible enough for your VN needs, and you'll need to be flexible to utilise their style and approach. Someone who only has one particular style they excel in just needs to be flexible within that style: Good. A lot of artists around here only seem to draw cute girls and don't really want to draw boys or other ages. That works for some VN, but will make them too unflexible for most projects: Bad. Not to mention, the artist needs to be able to produce the required amount of art in the same timeframe as the project's duration and such.

-Understanding: Or human skills, as you call it. Definately useful, has to come from both sides, and this is where a manager can shine. An artist will have to be able to clearly express what they can do, the project leader will have to tell clearly what they need, and the group must be clear in what they want and why. This does not only mean that you need to listen, but also comes with finding a perfect (and usually individual-specific) balance between being stern, understanding, brief, clear, free and planning. Probably the only things that will apply to anyone are a good estimate/solid number of the amount of work they'll have to do, what is expected of them and what their timeframe will be. And that's no absolute either; you need to find a proper balance between letting the writer add new characters and CGs but not overburdening the artist with two new assets for every one they finish.
When you've got your artist, tell them what they'll need to do. Give them the amount of art pieces, what these are, and when you want them. If paid, also establish that. However, that is far from what needs to be done. A good team leader will also establish some system to check these and give feedback (having the artist submit their lineart is always a good idea.), make sure the artist not only feels comfortable to discuss the assets but also feels like there's a point to it (as opposed to 'I say, you do' or endless arguing without understanding one another) and is stern enough to get the best results out of the artists and make them feel guided but not working as slaves or underappreciated. And that's a hard balance, some artist will try to completely resolve even the slightest negative feedback while others may be stubbornly stuck in their ways with incompatible art unless the team leader gets very clear and strict.

-Structure: Neither talent nor understanding will help or be that efficient if there's no real structure. You can approach each member and asset with a new method, sure, but structure may help. This does not only refer to having a proper agreement on how many weeks per sprite or what products to submit (and which to leave out), but also on how to provide exactly what they need and to get what you'll require. For example: Instead of discussing every sprite's appearance and role anew when making this sprite, perhaps the artist much prefers a format. And instead of getting the bland descriptive format telling the character's height and hair color, they need a short description of the character's profession and personality. Make sure you properly discuss what they'll need to know, in order to prevent that they're too stiffled in their creation with specific demands or make a sprite that looks nothing like what you intended.
You and your artist make a structure of one sprite per two weeks, with lineart for feedback and first check on day 4 and the finished sprite including a pre-determined standard list expression at week 2's end. A consistent payment plan on a weekly or 2-weekly basis is paid quickly thereafter. On day 1-2 you and your artist and writer will have pre-determined periods during which they'll discuss the specifics of the character that aren't put in words or need discussions and explanations, and reasons for (timeconsuming) special additions are discussed including their reason, increased payment and lengthened timeframe. This is NOT an universal approach, rather than one you need to develop together with your artist. Some artists will want to work in a different order or on free times (holiday spikes of production), and it's up to you to see if that would work and either accept it or see in advance that their approach won't work or be too unproductive. The trick lies not in making your perfect schedule, but one that will make the best from your artist without overworking them or leaving them too with much freedom and chaos.

-Productivity: All of the above doesn't mean anything if there's no eventual results. A schedule that both you and your artist can work with, isn't sufficient if they don't deliver what you expect, don't make the deadlines, if they'll only deliver a part of their work before leaving the group or if the group doesn't work together. This does not only refer to the actual practical results of your team members, but also yours. As a team leader, you'll need to be able to pinpoint problems in the productivity and how to resolve them, make sure that communications work and that everyone knows what to do. You need to resolve people lagging behind or making subpar products, without scaring them away or spoiling them. Getting those 10 sprites is the eventual productivity of your artist, getting them all in the game with working expressions is the product of the coder, but making sure that everything gets to the coder in a format that they can work with is your job. Listening to the complaints or problems of your team and determining if you can resolve them is your productivity. If you are talented in nodding and giving compliments to your artist and coder only to suddenly hear that the coder can't work with these sprites and that your artist needs to spend several hours adapting them, then you haven't been productive. If you hear complaints that the artist doesn't quite understand what they have to do, only to see that they make the wrong work but do want to get paid for their work, you're at fault for not being productive. If you can make a pleasant environment for your team members to communicate and showcase their work to one another, you've been productive.

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Re: What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#5 Post by Morhighan » Wed Feb 14, 2018 10:42 am

Communication. The ability to effectively communicate with your team and anyone else who might encounter your project (press, players, etc.) is key.

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Re: What is the Most important Skill as a VN Team Lead

#6 Post by mikolajspy » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:40 am

Creating any game is a project. Regardless if it's commercial or free, we should treat it as business. And if we're talking about projects and business, we have to talk about management.

As I already released successfully one commercial project (Jake's Love Story) and I'm Business Management student, I think I can write a bit about that.

Also, let's differentiate "leader" from "boss"; a leader is someone that people follow, where boss is someone who just gives commands.
To be a boss, all you need is money in most cases, so let's leave that, and focus on becoming a leader.

I think there's no "most important skill", because all of them are more or less equal and make a good leader of any project and team.
A leader has to know many aspects of management in order to make project successful.

So, main managements skills are:
- Plan - what and when is needed? It's crucial stage, if you overdo it, you'll find yourself with too many characters and scenes which will be hard to visualize.
- Organize - who will do what and when? What information/tools he needs in order to work? What's the sequence of actions?
- Direct/Motivate - how do we keep our coworkers engaged? - That's where people "skills" come in. Can you be polite to others and motive the team?
- Control - is everything going as planned? If not, you need to see what's wrong before the bad is done and needs to be redone, which takes additional time.

On top of that, I'd like to point to the PDCA cycle of quality management. I think it is also important for leader to understand this, and it means:
- Plan - what do we want to achieve and how?
- Do - work according to previous plan
- Check - is the work done correctly?
- Act - if something is wrong, correct the plan (workflow) and reiterate

But alright, what if we're fresh, just have dreams? How to know how much what takes? Well, the best way is to check how much work everything takes, only then you will understand and appreciate your coworkers and become good leader. Do you think artist is slow? Well, go ahead and try it yourself.

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