If you've only ever worked as a one man gamedev team, I recommend giving teamwork a shot. In this article, we'll look at how to define yourself; where to find coders, artists, musicians, and other types of gamedev to work with; why I recommend doing this; and how to make it work.
No matter what type of gamedev you are - coder, artist, musician, animator, writer, or otherwise - it's a good idea to define your position and build up your strengths.
While having a diverse skillset will never harm you in life, not having at least one thing you're really good at might do. As the game industry continues to evolve, and even indies are raising the quality bar through the roof, it's important that you decide what your role in game development is, and that you excel at it.
Once you know what it is that you do, it's in the best interest of your project that you find others that excel at the remaining positions required for the project. Even if you're a gifted animator that can also handle programming and writing and music, and so on, there will always be people out there who are better than you at those positions.
When it comes to dating, you can't simply walk outside, find someone single, and form a relationship; you need compatibility. The same goes for finding the right game development partners.
If you're a programmer, and you need an artist, you shouldn't simply grab any available skilled artist that can handle your project. It's best you find someone you can relate to - someone who understands your game ideas, has a similar taste in games, and shares your ambitions as a developer.
While finding someone who fits the above isn't essential for forming a team, it'll greatly raise every positive aspect gained from working with others, and greatly diminish the negative.
Where Do You Find Others to Work With?
There are countless places to find team mates, both online and offline. Some places cater directly to the industry, while others have little or no direct relevance. The key is to be diverse in your search, and not limit yourself to any particular method of searching.
On the Net
There are two main types of place where I would suggest looking for team members on the internet.
First, consider sites directly catered towards game development - be it selling licenses, a forum dedicated to actual development, a game jam website, or anything in between. These places are a second home to thousands of developers, many of whom (both new and veteran) are constantly looking for people to work with.
Second, look for sites that are dedicated to showcasing finished games. Although these mostly exist for the sake of gamers and publishers, rather than gamedevs, there's always a lot of activity on the forums where partnerships pop up time and time again. These places are also great for finding new talent that is incredibly skilled, but that may not have the information on where to find team members or work.
FGL focuses on selling game licenses for both web and mobile, and has a decently active forum, complete with a Collaborations board designed specifically for finding team members. Participating on the FGL forums and in the chat room lead me to my biggest partnership to date, with Andrew Sandifer, which lead to the development of Tower of Greed, Pixel Purge, and more.
FlashPunk is a popular Flash library that has an active community of developers who are always working on something.
Ludum Dare is a long-standing game jam that runs quite frequently (be it the main jam, or the mini-jams between main jams). This site is extremely active with members looking to team up for the jams, and is the perfect place to get in some development practice, and meet new people. Any game jam is a great place to meet new people and gain valuable experience, so keep an eye out for them, and join any and all you can.
Google+ Communities - There are countless game development groups on Google+. Join them, be active, and let people know what you're up to!
Indie Mix is an active group of indies that that I'm a member of, where we discuss current projects, developer events around the world, etc. It's one of many gamedev groups on Facebook.
DeviantArt (or any site on the internet showcasing art) is a great place to find team members. If you find an artist with a style that is to your liking, don't hesitate to ask them to team up for your project. This is similar to how Colin Northway found his artist for Incredipede.
Out in the World
While the internet may be a likely place to meet new development partners, going out in the world is an equally viable solution. Depending on where you live, or travel, this option may be a bit more tricky, but I assure you that potential partners are everywhere, if you know where to look. I know a few local developers myself, and my city is only home to a little over 40,000 people.
The best way to find local developers is to check around your local colleges, as lots of colleges have programming groups or programs directly related to game development. Whether you go to the college or not, don't be shy - introduce yourself to these people, as I know from experience that you'll likely get along great.
I'm personally friends with a few graduates from Champlain College's game development program, and through them I was invited to a launch event at a bar for a local studio's game release. Even in my small city, studios are creating and pushing games, and getting out there and knowing these people just increases the reach of the game development web in your area.
Another good way to meet developers is to attend any and all events that you can. There are countless events going on at all times, with some of the bigger events including GDC, Casual Connect, and PAX.
While some of these events may be expensive to attend, they can be life changing, as you can read in another of my recent articles on attending GDC. During my trips to California for GDC, I've fortified my relationships with many developers I've known online for years, and all of them are now prospective partners for any future projects I may have. Additionally, I've met new developers that I've since worked with.
I recommend you attend at least one of these major conferences a year if you're in the industry and looking to meet new people.
Some examples of real world gamedev gatherings:
Why Work With Others?
Maybe you're simply only capable of completing one aspect of a project (such as programming, or graphics), or perhaps you simply don't have the motivation to finish something ambitious without a team member to help push you forward. In my experience and opinion, indie game development is almost always done best not alone, but in a small team.
If there's one thing that drags when working alone, it's development time. While a motivation boost may improve development time, so do additional team members. I've found that having two people on the team better than halves your development time (via the motivation boost, group problem solving, and so on), which is absolutely invaluable. If you're in a small team, and your project has a decent scope, it only gets better.
Whichever way you look at it, additional members (within reason; large companies can back this up) simply speed up the development process.
Another huge reason to work with others is motivation. If you've ever worked on a game alone, you know how hard it is to stay motivated and focused on your idea. Perhaps your idea seems amazing at first, but working alone takes a lot of time, during which you lose sight of what originally had you so hyped.
Working alone, you could spend days on programming technical aspects that never make the game look or feel any different, which is insanely draining, and not at all exciting. When working with others, not only do you bounce ideas off of them constantly, further building up excitement about your idea, but you see more rapid progress on a daily basis, which really helps keep progress moving forward.
Healthier Work Environment
With long hours on a solo game development project comes long hours alone. And although being alone is absolutely fine in small doses, it really starts to take a toll on you after a while.
Even if you're balancing your work life and social life, most people experience a lot more social activity while at their day jobs. When working with a partner, locally or online, you're in a much healthier work environment, which is much better for you, and even speeds up your development time as you're not distracted by your lack of what many could call a necessity.
Overcoming the Negative
While working as a team is definitely the way to go, it's not all kittens and tacos. There are definitely some negative aspects to working as a team - some that are simple to overcome, and others that take a bit of work.
The hardest part of working as a team, at least from my personal experience, is letting someone else into your creation. As a creative type, I'm very proud of my ideas, and often don't want them to be changed. That's not to say I haven't had partners contribute ideas that absolutely made the project better, but occasionally you'll find that your partner's ideas don't fit the project idea, and it's important to handle the confrontation of neglecting those ideas responsibly.
The most important thing all team members need to practice is compromise. When you're working as a team, the project becomes the team's creation, not yours. This means you need to learn to respect all suggestions from all teammates, and respectfully debate why you think something should or shouldn't be added, when the time arises. Think of your game as your team's child: no one parent can decide how it's raised; it's a group effort.
Another issue when working as a team is ensuring that all team members work at a similar pace, or at least accept why that may not always happen. (It's quite common for one person to get ahead.)
Sometimes one member is more ambitious about the project; other times someone simply has more time to contribute. While it's important to discuss and plan how many hours go into the project from each member, it's important to remember that people do have lives outside of work, and unexpected things happen. The most important thing you can do to combat frustration here is to discuss it; being passive and ignoring your issues with the team will only lead to further issues down the road.
All in all, working with a partner can be (and usually is) an overall upgrade from working alone. While there are exceptions to this, I urge anyone who's never done so to follow the advice in this article, and start their first partnership.
It's not always easy to meet new people, especially those in a somewhat niche profession, but there's certainly ways to do so, and it's well worth your time.
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