How to keep a team together...

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pocoscon
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How to keep a team together...

#1 Post by pocoscon » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:28 pm

I'd like to know how people keep teams going. With a certain artist for my game Lethal Love, I haven't gotten anything from them. I don't want to be a tight ass and get on their case, but nothing has been worked on. So what should I do? Give both of us deadlines? Find someone new? But even if I do get someone new, I'm a bit scared that the person or people I work with will literally fade away. I understand people have lives outside of visual novels and am totally fine with things going slow, but when they stop talking to me, it can become a bit saddening....

I guess this is actually more for two writers I had. We talked for about a day, but then they kind of disappeared and aren't on much anymore...
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#2 Post by Mistik » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:54 pm

As someone who's been through this.

SHORT GAMES FIRST This is most important. Get the team used to publishing, that means make it quality, but know when to cut. Weekend game jams are good for this.

Let everyone express their creativity. They must feel ownership of the project.

Have a useful skill. Realistically art or programming, are what people need and want.

Learn what their personality is like and keep it them motivated.

Pay for art It's not easy, but it's more reliable than collaborating.

Marketing Make sure once you release something it gets exposuere and good reviews. This is social capital it does do good.

ONCE THE MOTIVATION STOPS THE GAME IS DEAD. Last but 2nd most important. if people have not worked on the game for a week, i know it hurts, but drop it. they aren't into it any more.

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#3 Post by pocoscon » Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:01 pm

Mistik wrote:As someone who's been through this.

SHORT GAMES FIRST This is most important. Get the team used to publishing, that means make it quality, but know when to cut. Weekend game jams are good for this.

Let everyone express their creativity. They must feel ownership of the project.

Have a useful skill. Realistically art or programming, are what people need and want.

Learn what their personality is like and keep it them motivated.

Pay for art It's not easy, but it's more reliable than collaborating.

Marketing Make sure once you release something it gets exposuere and good reviews. This is social capital it does do good.

ONCE THE MOTIVATION STOPS THE GAME IS DEAD. Last but 2nd most important. if people have not worked on the game for a week, i know it hurts, but drop it. they aren't into it any more.

I agree on the small projects if you'd like to get into the hang of things. Also, it's good I know programming. Glad I practiced, even if it's basic. As for payment, that's a problem for me because I'm a student in America and any money I have must go to food, gas, and so on =(.

And that last one is true sadly...but I'm not sure if one should totally drop it. Then again, you do kind of know that the person won't be into it if they haven't talked to you.

And I'm in total support for another's creativity =). I like seeing what people come on with.
Black Lotus(A work in progress)- (BxB,Horror,Thriller,Fantasy) Tells the story of a boy who must save his home and friends from dangerous creatures known as the Tainted. http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... 43&t=28588


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Re: How to keep a team together...

#4 Post by Deji » Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:15 am

I agree with Mistik SO much.

Also avoid the feature creep.
Avoid getting excited and add stuff in the middle of development, or worse, keep adding stuff and making the project bigger and bigger...
You may enjoy it because it's your project and hey, you have all the time in the world! But if you promised your team to work for 6 months with you and you extend things and they end up being one, two or even more years... they'll get tired and want to move on to things that they like/care about more than somebody else's project.
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#5 Post by SundownKid » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:57 am

It's just really hard to find people who are so invested in your game they are willing to help make it. The best advice I can suggest is to learn what you can, and find a way to pay for the rest. Yeah, as a student, it's probably hard, but those are the travails of being able to make a game. Find some free time... any free time... and do some freelance work. Or just walk someone's dog and save up the money. Eventually you will have enough to commission everything in a manner where it will hopefully get done. Yes, it might take a while, but chances are it will be faster than having 3 "free" artists stop drawing and having to find a new person.

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#6 Post by firecat » Mon Dec 01, 2014 11:08 am

setting deadlines is a good idea, in the real world the job that you are given has deadlines. an example would be a fast-food restaurant, you have to build the food or get fire, another one is business meeting because missing a meeting means losing money for your project which is bad. thats why deadlines are a good idea it weeds out people who are trying to be lazy.
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#7 Post by Noire » Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:09 pm

This is one of the reasons why I'm doing the key things in my project alone (art, story, programming), but I realize not everyone can do this.

User before me already said some great points, but I'll add a few ideas from myself.

Even if people are very nice, and friendly always keep in mind, that life is harsh, and the probability of them abandoning the project is quite high (life priorities, sickness, sudden events etc). You should make a list of things that are the most essential for your project, and ensure that they will be done first.

Art

There are two categories of artwork that will be used within your game - it's divided between "Sprites & Cutscenes" and "Background & Other".

Sprites & Cutscenes
This is most essential, visual thing in your project. If you happen to change an artist, people will notice immediately. Yet, there is a way to do a little bit of damage control, if the worst case scenario will happen:

* Ask the artist to finish the linearting for all the sprites/cutscenes first. Coloring should be done later. Why? Because if the artist will happen to leave the project finding a colorist will be much easier, than finding an artist who will mimic the art style of their predecessor.
*Other solution is to ask your artist to do all work related to one of the character first (all the sprites, emotions etc.). If they happen to leave the project, the art style change will be less painful, if other characters will be done by someone else.

Background & Other
If something bad happens, the damage control relating this category will be easier that with sprites, so if your artist does all the work, backgrounds and other things should be done after sprites.

Writing
Sometimes there might be cases, where your writer will leave your project. To ensure that everything will go smoothly after it happens, there are a few things you can do:

1. Make a plan of events first, have drafts and character sketches. The second writer will be able to fill in much quicker.
2. Ask your writer, to finish one story arc before they'll start doing another one.

Things that are easier to replace:
- Music
- Programming
- Proof reading
(Of course, I mean that the potential gamer will not notice the diffrence / transition between the work of two people. It doesn't mean that it's easy to find one.)

You should also consider making a crowd-funding campaign - amount of the money for the game doesn't have to be high, but it has two benefits:

- Even a small money compensation for your team is a nice thing, and should motivate them a little
- It's a obligation, that you need to fulfill. It's way harder to abandon a project when people know about it, and expect it to be done. It keeps people motivated to finish their work.

Hope that it helps a little :)

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#8 Post by Deji » Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:32 pm

firecat wrote:setting deadlines is a good idea, in the real world the job that you are given has deadlines. an example would be a fast-food restaurant, you have to build the food or get fire, another one is business meeting because missing a meeting means losing money for your project which is bad. thats why deadlines are a good idea it weeds out people who are trying to be lazy.
Unlike on jobs or paid projects, I believe that on free projects the whole team should agree on deadlines instead of just being given a deadline by the project head/manager/writer/etc.

There's a difference in personal commitment, imo, since it's a different thing to say "I'll have sprite X done by next week!" yourself and making personal effort to meet that personal milestone/Deadline than to be told "your deadline is next week for sprite X" where you don't really have an incentive to finish it by that date.

When you set a personal deadline you feel proud of yourself when you meet it and you don't really feel the rest of the team pressuring you to do it; you're doing it for yourself.
When another person gives you the deadline, you feel like you have to meet "their" expectations, not disappoint them, and feel pressured if you're not able to meet the deadline. It may even turn to apathy, like "why are they pressuring me to get X done by X time anyway? I'm doing this for free on my free time just because I want to help! I could be doing other fun stuff instead..."

So be careful with setting deadlines :'D
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#9 Post by Anne » Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:30 pm

I kind of think there're just people (surprisingly a lot :() who do that to you, no matter what you do, and paying them doesn't increase your chances of getting things done, in addition to wasting time and efforts you're just going to lose money as well. Recruiting people with good reputation (a number of projects done already? several satisfied clients are not a guarantee here, for various reasons) might help, those are not many and probably have enough projects of their own though.
I think a good advice is to do your part of work, it's very motivating to see a project coming along nicely (or rather it's very demotivating to see a project leader, the person who is supposed to be most interested, doing nothing, makes the hired person think that even if they finish their part, the project is going to be unfinished and their efforts will go to waste), besides, even if things don't work out you'll have at least something done, which is generally a good thing and will help you recruit someone else.
if people have not worked on the game for a week, i know it hurts, but drop it. they aren't into it any more.
That's not really true, especially if you haven't agreed on deadlines with them (why would you even expect them to do something within a week in this case?). I once had a person reappear after 6 months of no contact with a big part of work done (just in case, I'm not suggesting you wait for them)

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#10 Post by Kinjo » Tue Dec 02, 2014 10:59 am

I know this feeling too well. If someone could give me a clearer answer, I'd appreciate it, because I find this to be the hardest part of making games.

From my experience, there can be a number of things going on. There can be creative differences between two people, taking the game in different directions, and if they refuse to come to an agreement then one of them leaves. Or there could be pressure, where the artist has a deadline and they continually fail to meet it, so they have to leave because they're holding the project back. Or even where the artist has no interest in the project and hasn't done anything to contribute, so you're better off looking for someone else.

The only way I've found to bypass any of these problems is to make your own things and show them to people. Do what you can on your own, and then people will see it, they will be interested and say "Hey, I really want to help you out with that!" Because these are the people who are going to be interested in your projects. You don't have to worry that they won't like your ideas, because of course they do, that's why they spoke up! And you know they have initiative because they asked you in the first place, so they will get things done, and they will want to get things done. These kinds of people are motivated to work.

So, put your stuff out there, and see who shows interest in it. You will still probably get a few people who disappear on you or cannot afford to do anything for you on time. However, you will also get people who will stick with you. So it's not 100% effective, but it's not 0% effective either. Some things I'd avoid are trying to get someone to work on your game just because you really like their style, whatever field they may be in. This tends to go badly because they may not be interested in your game enough to hold their interest and you set yourself up for disappointment if it doesn't. And usually it damages the friendship in some way if you try to get friends to work on your projects. So it's better to find people who are interested in working for you from the start rather than getting friends to work for you because you just happen to know them and they have no prior interest in whatever you're doing.

This way, you don't need to "keep" a team together -- as long as everyone in the team wants to stick together, each person keeps themselves in check, so you don't have to manage anyone.

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#11 Post by Katy133 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:55 pm

A lot of indie games I've worked on with other people use Trello. It makes it easier to work on a collaborative project because you can post images/documents of your work (so that people can critique it/give you feedback) and you can post deadlines and checklists (Trello provides widgets for that).
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#12 Post by Tyrantauranox » Tue Dec 02, 2014 11:54 pm

Many of the people who say that they'll work with you mean well, but they often convince themselves that they'll have the necessary time/willpower when they really don't. The realization that the project involves a lot of work usually kicks in soon after initial talks are complete. There's a chance that you'll get lucky, but it's generally safe to bet that the majority of the potential collaborators are flakes, and that you'll have to invest a good bit of time panning for gold.

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#13 Post by Barzini » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:13 am

I think its really gathering a team of people who have realistic expectations - You can never work with people who have great dreams of grandeur and unrealistic goals, in fact, I think most projects fall apart due to the very basis that even the leader or project manager fails to set realistic goals.
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Re: How to keep a team together...

#14 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:10 am

I had to have a bit of a think on this one because basically you can't /make/ people do anything. If they stop wanting to work on your project for whatever reason then there is usually nothing you can do to stop them or change their minds. Trying to pick a team that won't break up from the get go would also require a crystal ball. You will have absolutely no way of predicting people's circumstances in the future, and neither will they really.

However thinking a bit further on it, there is one thing you can focus on and that is motivation.

I'm speaking from the other side of the pond here in that I am one who has spent over 3 years on someone else's project without pay, not the one who owns the project, so I think I understand fairly well what goes on from that front. What you need to do is figure out how you can increase your chances of both finding and keeping people as motivated about your project as you are.

1. I STRONGLY recommend that if you are looking to start your own project and gather a team that you first join someone else's, preferably an experienced someone. This is a matter of walking a mile in someone else's shoes. How can you understand the way someone's motivations work if you never look at it from their perspective? I see people totally fail at this on a regular basis. They just don't understand why people aren't excited about their project, why they can't keep their promises? Work on someone else's project and you can gain an understanding of what it is like. You can also pick up dos and don'ts from the project lead on the way.

2. I also totally agree with Kinjo that your first priority shouldn't be someone's skill level, it should be their personality and their history of dedication. You are much better off working with someone who may be less skilled, but you work with well and will stick around then to have someone who is more skilled but you either butt heads with or they drift off. Ever see this image?
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Same principle. It is unlikely you can have everything at once, so focus on what is important.

3. Also agree on deadlines. Without deadlines people will prioritise things that DO have deadlines and put your's off for infinity.

4. YOU have to stay excited and motivated about your project. Excitement tends to be contagious. If you love what you're doing it helps other people enjoy it too. Keep in contact with them, chat, listen to their ideas, make sure you are producing work on a regular basis and show them it.

5. Be a good lead. Obviously this takes practice, but this is one of the things that really turns me off. Good leads are organised, they understand how to communicate and motivate, they understand how to pull people together and they understand how to fulfil each person's wants. An example is freedom. Freedom doesn't mean the same thing to everyone and you need to know what different people expect. For me freedom doesn't mean the lead dumps the work in my lap and tells me to do whatever I want. The lack of direction usually means a lack of commitment and understanding to me. I would personally prefer if they come to me with a good idea of something they will like. The freedom aspect for me means that they will listen to my comments and generally not ask me to redo things. I basically like to be half way, listening to their direction and what they want for the story while at the same time doing what I think is best and not having to redo things to fit their whims. That is what you pay people for.

Those are my general observations. There /are/ things you can do pre-emptively and during a project, but it will always be a bit of a gamble. Life doesn't work like that. The best you can do is to create an environment that if it wasn't your personal project, would you sacrifice your free time for it?

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Re: How to keep a team together...

#15 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:39 pm

A couple of things which should be obvious but are pretty easy to screw up. I've seen a few projects fail as a result of not adhering to one or more of the following principles of working professionally in a team environment:

Be in regular communication
The fastest way to let people vanish into the void is to fall out of touch with them. You probably don't have contact information for any of the people you are working with except for internet handles and maybe email addresses. Make sure that you have a way to get in touch with them for real-time conversations (IRC, for example) as well as phone-tag (email, PMs, google docs, or dropbox) so that you can still communicate to each other across time zones or other boundaries which keep you from communicating simultaneously, and make sure you use these lines of communication on a regular basis.

Stay on task
Being in regular communication is not the same as being in constant communication. The slightest introduction to office humor (Dilbert, Office Space, The Office) will make you keenly aware that the best way to waste a lot of time getting nothing done is to call meetings too frequently and hold them for too long. Meetings are for touching base, reporting progress, bouncing ideas, setting goals, and then getting the hell out of there and back to your respective desks before the coffee gets cold and the donuts disappear. Don't get sucked into perpetual conversation about the project to the point that it takes away from time spent working on the project.

Keep your mouth shut
Or rather, keep your personal opinions and unrelated banter to yourself. Would you like to work with people who are very talented at what they do? People who can compose like Wagner, or write like HP Lovecraft? Okay, but how would you like to endure their antisemitism and racist opinions on a daily or even weekly basis during all that communication you're going to be doing? Not really a pleasant thought, is it? Kind of makes you not want to be associated with someone possessed of that level of unsavory or disagreeable personal or political opinions, right?

Well, that goes for you, too. When you're working with a team, even if they're unpaid, it's time to buckle down, be professional, and focus on the project. At best, nobody cares about what you think is "problematic" in society, and at worst, the more you blither on about your unrelated opinions, the more likely you are to step on the landmine of offending someone so badly that you leave a foul taste in their mouth which prevents them from being able to work with you. Don't toy with that needless risk, especially when there is no conceivable benefit to be had from taking it. Keep your opinions to yourself, no matter how right you think you are (Do you really think the racists and antisemites of the 19th and early 20th century genuinely thought they were bad people with shitty opinions? They were almost certainly just as sure about their political opinions as you are about yours.), and encourage professional communication by modeling the behavior for the rest of your team.

Don't let completely irrelevant discussions distract from the entire point of your meetings and tear apart a talented group of people who could have otherwise gotten something done together. You don't have to like the people you work with, you only have to like the quality of their work and honor your contracts with them. Everything else is irrelevant.

Pull your weight
This is especially true if the project was your idea and/or you are the project lead. Expect to be doing the lion's share of work, and expect other people to be waiting on you. This is obviously true if you are the writer; you should expect, as a rule, to have to completely write at least the first draft of your story before expecting anyone else to be on board with producing other assets for the project. Consider any assistance prior to that to be an extraordinary luxury, and work your ass off to continue earning every bit of early support you get.

If you are in the unusual position of being the project lead but not the lead writer, that does not mean that you can just leave the whole plot to the writer and simply do your thing; even a complete set of sprites, backgrounds, and CGs are far from a completed VN and will be quite impotent without the words to put a story to the imagery. Be prepared to assist your writer with clear plans and outlines for the plot when they need guidance, and also be prepared to allow them the flexibility to write to the best of their ability, even if they wind up deviating somewhat from the plan you had in your head, so long as it won't completely derail the plot.

The point is, just like the saying about how nobody cares more about you than yourself, so too does nobody care more about your story than you do, and that is going to have to be reflected in how much more work you put in than the other project members. Equal workload is not good enough. The team lead absolutely must pull more weight than everyone else, or the project will likely fall to the all-too-common fate of losing the development team's interest due to having been made to feel like a herd of slaves to the will of an ideas guy.

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