How To Find, Vet, And Work With Game Developers For Your Serious Game Project By Tom Sloper
So you have a serious game project... How to begin? Assumptions: –You know what kind of game you want –You have at least an idea of how to market the game when it’s finished –You have funding –You’re not an experienced game producer
Finding Developers Conferences like this one. Others: –GDC, MIGS (Montreal), AGC (Austin), GDC London, TGS, KGC Websites That List Game Developers –Gamasutra, Wikipedia, IGN, Neoseeker, Gamesup Fishing Expeditions –Get on the phone with trusted pros, ask for leads, call those, ask them for more leads
Selecting The Best Developer For Your Project You want experience and expertise in: –Subject matter –Platform –Genre –Your market Location – will there be travel? Time zone? Language – fluent in English? Cost – in your price range?
Initial Contact Call them on the telephone. Interested in discussing your project? Available? Execute an NDA before revealing any specifics of your project. Standard templates easily findable on the web. After some initial fact-sharing, determine if they’re a good fit.
Check Their Creds See games listed on their websites. –GameSpot, GameRankings, other review sites –Call their publisher, ask about the developer’s working style, responsiveness, timeliness, attitude Better Business Bureau – any reports? Credit bureaus – how’s their stability?
Go see their office if you can You can learn a lot by visiting a developer. Messy? Lots of electronic equipment, jumble of wires, games, toys, posters – like a grown-up day school? Neat and tidy, professional-looking, with well-dressed personnel? Very small developers may work out of the staffers’ homes, rather than an office. Visit anyway.
The Bid Package Highly detailed specifications for what you want. Make your expectations crystal clear... in writing. Developer should give you cost, time, and any other needs. Tell them what format you want that bid in, and when you need the bid.
Contract, Milestones Select the developer based on the criteria that are important to you. Your lawyers draft the contract. If your lawyers aren’t familiar with the needs of a game development contract, hire a game lawyer. Milestones are important – they spell out your expectations. Two ways you can go:
Typical Milestones All spelled out in the beginning. –Pros: Clear and predictable. You know what the project will cost and when it’s to be done. –Cons: Inflexible. If your project involves uncertain or experimental technology or novel concepts, may not be best structure.
Flexible Milestones Define first 1 or 2 milestones at outset; subsequent milestones to be defined as part of milestone delivery. –Pros: Flexibility may provide better fun factor of product. Greater reliability of getting deliverables as defined and on time. –Cons: Reduced predictability of final cost and completion date.
Establish Working Relationship Early on, discuss frequency, format, and detail level of: –Progress reporting –Builds and deliveries –Payments –Visits, meetings
Monitor But Don’t Micro-Manage The developer is a pro, else you wouldn’t have hired him. –He understands how to build the product; you don’t... and you don’t need to. –Trust him to do his job; don’t be a pest. –The time to ask hard questions is when he delivers late or delivers below expectations.
Feature Creep Once the specifications have been defined, don’t request new features and ideas. Once the specifications have been defined, don’t accept new features and ideas from the developer. Exception: when money’s no object, and it doesn’t matter when it’s finished. Or the whole thing is an exploratory venture.
The Fine Art of Listening and Planting Seeds It’s rare for two people to see things the same way. It’s rare that the other party will instantly bend to your way of thinking immediately upon your merely expressing your viewpoint. Listen to his ideas. At least promise to think them over. Make your ideas sound like his ideas, if possible. Don’t press for immediate acquiescence.
When to Email, When to Call, When to Fly Email is for normal and frequent communications. Phone is to maintain at least some humanity in the relationship. Weekly or biweekly... monthly at most. Face-to-face visits vital at the outset, when reviewing 1 st Playable, and at Alpha.
Make Payments When Due Developer needs initial payment to get started. Developer needs milestone payments per contract in order to afford to work on your project. Withheld payments damage the relationship and may well end the project precipitously.
For More Information Game Production Handbook (Chandler, Chas. River Media) Introduction To Game Development (Rabin, Chas. River Media) The Mythical Man-Month (Brooks, Addison- Wesley) The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (Peter, Harper Collins) Parkinson's Law (Parkinson, Buccaneer)
Thanks for listening. Questions? Tom Sloper Sloperama Productions Los Angeles, CA, USA firstname.lastname@example.org 1-310-915-9945