The previous Indie Studios post was quite popular and I certainly wanted to revisit the subject later on. While there is quite a bit information on setting up as a solo developer (producing their own games or as a freelancer) setting up a full team is certainly more involved (and risky) but it seems something people are interested in.
This won’t be the last of these posts so please feel free to mail / tweet with further queries.
Following the last post I had a couple of questions from Björn Knafla – a great guy I met in Paris at the Game AI Conference we sponsored and his work (and talks) are well worth following.
How do you decide who works on which active project?
Where possible we try to talk to the team to work out where their particular passion lies regarding the portfolio of projects (be it work-for-hire or our own) and use that to guide how we assign out tasks. More technical tasks don’t really require the person to ‘get’ a project quite as much and generally are project independent and so those are easier ones to assign to any of our team. We also use freelancers / short term contractors and we try to match up their previous projects and preferences with the work we have coming up.
This doesn’t always work out and certainly in the past on some of our football (soccer) related titles I’ve been the main football fan on the project and have to give a bit of guidance
As well as people being the best fit for projects obviously we also consider the skillsets of each person and previous experience needed for the tasks – the intention being to keep the same people on projects rather than spreading everyone thinly.
What’s the typical preparation time till projects start?
The majority of work-for-hire seem to be ‘can you start yesterday?’ despite people knowing about their requirements for several months when they could have given you warning! Whenever new projects are first discussed we bring it up in our weekly chat so that we can consider possible implications on technology decisions we’re currently making (or even in terms of research the team is currently doing). This acts as preparation of identifying the major risks and critical path of a project.
In terms of our own projects we’re getting quite good at having a clear design / pre-production phase to make sure we can mock-up and iron out issues early on.
How do you distribute tasks between the management team? (development versus administration)
Originally with my co-founder this was done in a pretty clear way of splitting business development / administration and internal development management work. We both performed coding work most days so always had a good handle on projects.
Nowadays I’m the only owner of the company so I’ve just developed a cunning alter-ego that takes care of each
How much time do you work per week?
This isn’t the best week to ask unfortunately as we’ve been busy finishing up a project and it’s involved longer days than usual for me. We’re very good with our office hours and everyone is in the office for around 8 hours between 9am and 6:30pm which means we can all communicate in person. Only recently have the rest of the team started accessing the network via VPN, previously it was just myself who would work out of hours. I normally did this so that I could perform production / biz dev tasks during the day and perform any coding tasks I had on active projects during the evening.
As a company we’ve paid overtime from day one which has been a major driver for us to be sensible and although people will put in the extra time at the end of the day to finish up tasks we don’t end up with people getting burnt out on overtime.
How do you find art contractors?
We’re lucky in having a few great local contractors we’ve worked with several times in the past and when you have a good relationship there is no need to change things. We get a constant supply of CVs and portfolios to be honest so we’re very fortunate to have a great set of people to choose to work with.
How do you handle the finance / tax situation of a small company?
We hired a good accountant early on who was able to advise us in these sort of matters, my wife helps out a lot in terms of the bookkeeping which is a weight off my shoulders as I used to always perform this myself early in the company’s life (it’s actually quite cathartic!). As much as using external help is important for legal and finance matters it’s irresponsible to not understand what it all means in my opinion which is why working through all of the processes is well worth doing. The only aspect we’ve outsourced from day one is payroll which is incredibly easy for us in terms of sending off information on salaries.
Are you able to ever not think about work?
Not really, but I love it
It’s a busy phase for us at the moment having just finished off another pre-Christmas submission and doing the marketing work for You Are The Umpire, I’m hoping to keep things up on the weekly blogging during the holidays however!
Things we’ve been enjoying this week
- I’m not a massive fan of cooking but I love some of the art here
- More exciting Kinect developments – the quadrotors are ace as they are but with full scanning of the environment it’s even cooler