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 1st 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