First Time Working Together

Oct 24, 2009

Breadth of Skills is Useful…

I’m an advocate for solo game development. I encourage developing a breadth of skills. I think it’s helpful for every game developer to have at least a little comfort and fluency in the tools needed for art, sound, and programming. This improves communication. This creates respect between people with different strengths. This increases freedom to develop your own ideas. This accelerates team projects by removing bottlenecks.

…But No Substitute for Teamwork

That said, strengths vary.

Knowing how to use Photoshop or 3D Studio doesn’t mean someone is a good artist. Knowing a programming language doesn’t mean someone is a capable programmer. Knowing how to use Fruity Loops doesn’t make someone a talented musician.

Even if you can do all of those things very well, there are still advantages to working with others. Different artists do different types of art well, and learning to work with an artist other than yourself makes it possible to develop games with any type of art, depending upon which artist you work with. Different programmers enjoy different types of problem spaces, whether artificial intelligence or online multiplayer or distinctive graphics tricks. Learning to work with someone else means who you work with next can greatly vary the types of videogames you make, avoiding a creative rut.

Team members can help to keep one another on track. Much like having a partner for workouts, studying, or joining a club.

Teamwork also builds your future network. Networking with beginners may not sound like a strategy for future success, but they’ll be tomorrow’s experienced developers.

Connections can make a big difference.

Challenges of Team Forming

Finding a team can be hard. When your passion exceeds your experience, it’s hard to get the attention of an established team.

Making the problem even more challenging is that, without prior experience, it can be tricky to tell passion on track for success from passion on track for disaster. Everyone has ideas, and everyone has good intentions.

Just a few minutes of feedback from an experienced friend might be able to save months of trouble, or steer a team clear of a known causes of project dissolution.

Minimal Team

  • One programmer. More programmers can actually slow things down on a beginning project, due to the complexity of code integration, and the added communication overhead.
  • One or more digital artist. Beginner game art mixes easier than beginner game programming.
  • One audio person. This is often either the programmer or artist on double duty, hunting for creative commons and public domain audio.
  • One of the above, with an additional interest in the videogame’s design, or possibly a level/puzzle designer if the genre needs a lot of that type of content.
  • Someone with at least a few finished projects, able to meet a few times over the life of the project, in order to help the developers steer clear of avoidable trouble.

Altogether: 2-3 people. Having that third to provide audio support, additional art, or additional puzzles and levels can be helpful. If you can find an experienced advisor to touch base with a few times over the life of the project, that’s also smart thing to do.

Free Team Building Forum

If there’s already a club of interested videogame developers in your area that you have access to, I’d suggest joining in with them. If you’re in a situation to found a new organization of that sort, check out Establishing a Videogame Development Club for some tips and tricks to help increase the chances of success. If you’re like most people, and you have neither easy access to a videogame development club nor a situation in which it could make sense for you to found such an organization, I’d like to help.

You’re reading this section, probably, because you have some experience in at least one of the areas needed for game making (programming, art, audio), and you’re ready to translate those skills into videogame making without starting from scratch in the other skills.

[What follows is an April 2014 update!]

Some of us have recently been active in getting r/HobbyGameDev going, as a free community for hobby videogame developers of all skill levels to find one another, collaborate, and share in the challenges and successes along the way.

Come make games with us!

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