22 August, 2015
Blaugust, day 22
Let’s get this party started, shall we? I’ll be monitoring the comments most of the day to day, and I’ll answer what I can.
Again, the one major ground rule is no questions about Camelot Unchained. Sorry, I’m not authorized to give out any information. I recommend you visit the main site, as there is a ton of information on there about the game.
For today’s post, I’ll answer a question already posed yesterday.
Alex Zacherl wrote:
What did you learn about running a live MMO (M59/NDS) that you would like new MMO devs to know?
(For those of you who don’t know, Alex is leading development of the game Das Tal.)
Great question! In my book, we included a chapter entitled “I wish I knew….” which was basically this type of question. And, it’s one of the more directly useful chapters.
I’ll provide some bits of advice under different headers. Take what you want.
The big lesson in indie game development is that it’s very hard to find reliable people. There were always people who wanted to “help out”, but I think few of them really understood the amount of work that goes into game development. When you can’t just keep people going with the promise of a steady paycheck, people tend to get bored and wander away when things get hard.
But, if you can find good people, absolutely do right by them. If someone is giving you great work at well below market rates, do things to help them out. Refer them to other people, give them some attention in your press releases, whatever it takes.
And realize yourself how tough game development is. Game development will likely consume your time. Make sure your significant others and spouses understand this. Make sure they understand that they aren’t going to always be top priority, especially if you’re running a company. Making games can be a hobby, but if you aren’t doing it as a hobby make sure the people in your life understand this.
Ideas are easier, execution is hard. Very hard. Not to say ideas are simple, because good ideas are less common than bad ones. Bad ideas can sound amazing at first, but fall apart in execution. Identifying good ideas from bad takes some talent.
Don’t be selfish with design work. People you’re working with could probably be making more money not working for you. Part of why they want to be in game development is a chance to shape the design. (Although, sometimes tech savants just want to work on shiny tech, so be aware of that.)
But, there’s something to be said for a strong, authorial voice in the work. Designing everything by committee is usually a recipe for delays and disaster. Knowing when to get feedback and when to press forward with your vision is important. Trusting the person who is leading the design is important if you’re not the one in charge of design; if you don’t trust them, then you have a monumental problem.
Be extra careful if you’re the person in charge of the design and also in charge of the business. If people are relying on you to sign their checks, they might not be quite as honest with their feedback. Remember the golden rule of business: “he who provides the gold also provides the rules.”
Absolutely make sure you and the other people in your small team are on the same page. Someone who disagrees with everyone else makes for a rough working environment. Especially if that person is your business partner.
Get things in writing. It’s easy to think everything is friendly and will always remain so. But, attitudes change, and when things get hard having a written guideline can help, particularly in the form of contracts. Get founder’s agreements signed before things get very serious. If someone wants to leave, you want there to be a specific mechanism in place to define what happens rather than things being left in limbo; uncertainty kills investment interest.
Go make contacts. Having the right contacts can be the difference between success and failure in many, many things. Don’t just collect them like butterflies, though, make sure you keep in touch with them and talk to them.
Know where your limits are. One of the hardest things for me me is knowing when to walk away. Sometimes I’m just a little too optimistic and stick with things longer than I should, hoping things will improve. Its an easy path to go down hoping that that next contract or that one press interview will turn the tide. It can be hard to cut your losses and walk away, but it can be harder still if you are blindsided by a problem and are financially ruined.
Take care of yourself. It’s easy to let tight resources and a packed schedule let you do things like ignore visits to the dentist or doctor. Take some time for yourself and take care of yourself. If you like to go to the gym, make sure you keep going. If you like to participate in sports, take time to do that. I like to go for walks, although when the weather is terrible it’s really hard to find that motivation sometimes.
And, again, make sure the people in your life understand what you’re going to do. Find that right work/life balance that works best for everyone.
Ultimately, it can be hard, but it’s worth it.
Your turn to ask a question
I probably won’t be as detailed as this, but ask a question and I’ll answer it the best I can.
As a note: If this is your first time commenting, your comment will be held in moderatinon. I’ll approve it ASAP, but it may not show up immediately.
Also, Akismet seems to not really like long posts, so try to keep your posts to a few paragraphs at most. Sorry for the inconvenience!