Hello! My name is Alexander, I am a team leader and game designer at OVIVO. Today I would like to talk about my experience of managing a small team and share my thoughts on the structure of the indie game development: planning team work, when you need to think about marketing, why it is useful to use methodologies and task managers, and dizdok is better in the furnace. I hope that novice game developers is interesting to read about our experience, and it will help them not to get lost in their endeavors.
When we organized as a studio and started developing OVIVO not for a competition anymore, but for real players, I was faced with the fact that I absolutely do not know what the development of games consists of. I did not find suitable articles on this topic, and those that I managed to find were too general. I decided not to bother with this issue, but in vain. The next six months of development became chaos for us: we broke deadlines, wrote some patches instead of a stable code, and made curved videos for conferences. In general, it was necessary to structure the process, and then the mat-mech education helped and what I, it turns out, did not always sleep in the lectures. We selected for ourselves suitable management tools, developed our own development structure and it became much easier to work. For everyone which wanted to have a good advise I recommend this company https://vironit.com/ for software development and game development. I propose to introduce the stages of game development for small teams or solo developers. I'm really looking forward to comments in order to finalize this matter.
Stages of indie development. Prototyping
Many people write that the first stage of development is the creation of a concept document. Maybe it was before or it happens in large companies, but now the first stage is the creation of a working prototype, and not painting the details on a piece of paper. Creating a concept is already a waste of time, especially when numerous game hackathons and game jams are held. Most indie projects start from there, when prototyping is done in 24 hours. Moreover, such events are very fun and productive.
It is important to start this stage as soon as possible in order to test the idea on a real player, get feedback and understand whether to develop the game further or stop. Many people can go in cycles in thinking about their ideas, they wait for months for a suitable thought to come, but in the end nothing is created and time is wasted. But now the gaming industry is developing very rapidly, the amount of content significantly exceeds the demand, and therefore it is important to endow your idea as a “shell”.
It may sound crazy, but the next step after creating a prototype is marketing. I think that many developers unconsciously move to this stage or do not think about it at all, and then get lost in their thoughts.
Marketing asks extremely important questions for the developer, the answers to which will facilitate his future life and determine the ultimate goal. The first two important questions are why make a game, and for whom.
This stage can be skipped if the game is created for yourself. But then you shouldn’t be surprised that no one wants to buy your game, because the main goal that encourages playing it is clear only to you. If you want to get some money, then you should decide on the audience, come to terms with some needs of your players and learn how to convey to them the experience that you want to convey. Having received at the initial stage of development answers to questions that marketing asks, it will be easier for you to carry out further planning of the development itself.
As for the promotion of the game itself, many people think that this stage will be at the very end of the development or you can do without it at all. So many do, we did, and it was a mistake, because effective promotion should occur throughout all development stages. About your game is to talk and recruit community. The more you pick up potential players before release, the more likely they are to talk about you. You will attract the attention of the press and YouTube, but in the end get a better chance of success of the game.
Preparation for work. At this stage, brainstorming, defining the basic features, creating concept art, preparing the necessary tools and at least a rough estimate of the development time occur.
The most important thing is to determine the general vision of the game and ensure that this vision coincides with all the project participants. There is an opinion that for this you need to start a design document, but for a small team it is a useless and outdated thing. During the development process, the game will not be modified once, but no one will reread the 20 pages of documentation for new changes each time. Instead, you can create a small concept document describing the main ideas and features, and scatter a more detailed description of the task managers and small notes.
It is necessary to immediately determine the tools that you will use in the development process, and not scatter working correspondence in all available instant messengers. Think about version control tools. There is a possibility that the work will occur remotely. In this case, I advise you to keep the project on a remote repository, and not on the hard disk. And the time spent studying work with a remote repository is guaranteed to pay off in the future and protect the project from unforeseen circumstances.
The development of the game itself
It would seem that if there is a clearly constructed plan, then you just need to follow it and everything will be okay. But force majeure can always happen, and get used to it. For example, a cool idea came to mind and, in order to implement it, it is necessary to rewrite all the existing architecture. Or someone decided to leave the team, and you need to look for a replacement. You have decided to take part in a large conference, and urgently you need to prepare a working build, and it is falling apart like a house of cards.
These and many other situations will surely appear during the development process and delay the release date. It is possible to minimize entropy, if one learns to develop in a disciplined manner. This helps in the study of project development methodologies.
Scrum methodology worked well for us. There was a list of tasks scattered on sprints, and every day we held a rally, discussed current tasks, then clapped, and traditionally ate bananas. It was strange, but we studied like that, and we liked it. Then we eliminated many elements of Scrum as superfluous, and thus worked out for ourselves a suitable pace of work. It is enough for a programmer and an artist to open a list of tasks and solve them according to the degree of priority. If you have questions or a task requires a general collection, then we call a group chat. At the time of this writing, our team is located on different continents, but everyone knows what tasks need to be solved, and only one phone number is enough to coordinate actions.
During the development do not need to be afraid to let the game test outsiders. When testing is done only by developers, it is very easy to blur the view and forget about what experience the player should get. In many ways, trips to various conferences helped us, where people tried our game and told us their feelings. At a certain stage, we realized that the game was going too hardcore and incomprehensible. Then we got rid of some complicated mechanics at the levels and significantly improved the interface.
As I said, marketing is something that will accompany your game from start to finish. It’s time to start working on active PR of your game and negotiate with the press and letsplayers several months before the release.
The developer needs to learn to talk briefly and clearly about the game. This is necessary so that the person to whom the letter has been sent with the proposal to review the game immediately understood what was going on. This is a whole science and this is very well written in the book “Marketing of games” by Sergey Galenkin, famous for his gaming podcasts. This is an excellent reference for novice developers. It is a simple and understandable language tells about the marketing of games at all stages of development.
In after release time, in addition to working with the press, it is worth paying special attention to the preparation of the final build for sale at the sites. Each site has its own rules, SDK and list of requirements for your game. You need to accept several license agreements, get access to a developer account, prepare a page on the site, translate it into several languages, send the build for review, get an age rating, and so on. All this takes from several weeks to month depending on what site you are releasing the game.
At this stage it will be important to support your product - games without bugs do not come out. It is important not only to quickly fix bugs, but also to answer players' questions in a timely manner and to unsubscribe about the results of work on the bugs. Players are waiting for a quick response, as from support. They need to give confidence that their gaming experience and problems are important to you.
It is worth thinking in advance about the upcoming sales and discounts. There is such a practice that many players pirate your game, and then, to clear their conscience, they buy it with a big discount. There is no sense to fight piracy, and it is not really necessary, because this is also a kind of marketing.