It’s no secret that our team has been struggling with keeping each other in the team. Ever since our conception, we grew, shrunk, grew then shrunk again. This has been a normal thing for us. However, this should not be the case for everyone else. Let us share some things we’ve learned over time to help you manage working with your remote team.

Maintain a constant communication with each other.

Scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it years ago, but it was hiding behind a couple of other genes. – Jonathan Katz

This is one of our team’s greatest banes. I’ve tried talking with each of the other members privately before, and all of them had interesting stories and ideas to share. Yet, during the average day and our group calls, rarely anyone speaks. I tried asking all of them why they are so. Apparently, everyone’s “not really the type to share things”.

The result would normally pass as comfortable silence in daily, real-life situations. However, in the case of remote teams (like us), this would not do. Not at all. The team is creating a game together, and all of us need to be in the same page all of the time.

For a remote game dev team, communication is probably everything. Things could go a lot better if some or all of you can go meet somewhere every once in a while. However, most of the time, this is not possible. The best all of you can muster may just be a few minutes for a call over at Skype.

Slack and Skype, probably the typical game dev team’s best friends

Even so, try to keep communication among you going. It may get tiring to keep doing the same thing over and over every day, but the feeling knowing your other teammates are still out there can be rewarding to some extent. It can help inspire your other teammates to keep on going. This may sound silly and dramatic to some point, but constant communication can do wonders on your motivation, individually or as a team. Through a well-maintained contact among yourselves, you get to experience working as a team. You get to feel that you are working as part of a whole, aiming to accomplish something. That is definitely something.

Aside from this, constant communication allows you and your team to make work a bit faster and easier. Collaborating with other people can be a pain, most especially if your work highly depends on another’s. With constant communication flowing, you can easily address any concerns or issues that you have. You can contact a teammate about your suggestion for a revision and get a response faster. Bits in the code you find problematic can be addressed right away (more or less). Anything that relates to your production as a team can be focused on with this kind of communication going on.

Last but not the least, it helps you get to know each other more. It can’t be helped that every once in a while, you and your team may like to discuss something else aside from your game. Our team usually have floods of memes going on, and they do cheer up our chat a bit. We do get to talk about our favorite things and people seem to like it.

In your team, you can have a more enjoyable environment where everyone is comfortable to talk about what they want. You can get the chance to talk about other things, and this will allow you to get to know yourselves better. Just because you formed to create a game, it doesn’t mean all you should think about is making one. Who knows, you might even discover friends among yourselves.

Establish common grounds.

Pill Rush started as a project I initially wanted to finish alone. I decided to acquire help from other people and, thus, Selebreus was born. I originally meant it to be my very first game and expected it to be average. When everyone got on-board for the project, I tweaked its goal to “bringing the team together” and “introducing everyone to teamwork”.

Parts of the original GDD of Pill Rush

People got into this thinking during the first few months of production, and it motivated everyone. Time passed and everyone’s interest in it began to dwindle. I took the time asking everyone why. Soon I discovered that people began losing interest for varying reasons. Some didn’t like the idea behind the game; others didn’t like how things went with the team.

Working with a bunch of strangers to form a game is no easy task. Maintaining the team together means even more work. However, getting to know you share some things with your fellow teammates can make both of these go smoother. Knowing you have things in common with others can make your team experience more enjoyable. This, we learned the hard way.

Starting out with a team mainly with the purpose of creating a game in mind is probably not a good idea, in our experience. When this purpose is fulfilled or abandoned, the team itself crumbles to bits. We didn’t take our time to get to know each other well, find some other ground where we can stand once we finish the game or abandon it. This was one fatal move from us.

A rough depiction of how communication goes in the team. Notice how there's some detached members (with no other contact except for one) 
A rough depiction of how communication goes in the team. Notice how there’s some detached members (with no other contact except for one)

Another thing was the lack of a communication web within us. Depicted above is an estimation of how communication went for our team. Sharing a common goal and other things is one thing, but having a central figure in our communication was another bad thing to have. This may not seem so obvious, but it is bad. Once the person on the center deviates, the others follow suit. This makes the structure of the team into a scatterplot rather than the branching bit it used to be.

When going on with your team, make sure to consider both of these points. Establish communications lines where everyone can communicate without the presence of a single figure. This eliminates the need of a “bridge”. Any person of the team can know what’s happening with or without the presence of a specific person. In your production, this can make work easier and faster. It also strengthens the structure of your entire team.

Consider having a separate yet related goal as existing as a team. You may have joined a team merely for profit and/or experience, but don’t think of it as the only reason why you’re there. Individually, this may not have an effect especially for large teams. However, if everyone thinks the same, then you may have not been a team after all.

There’s a reason why you exist as a team, not a group. A group is simply just a bunch of people who decided to clump together to achieve something. Once this goal is reached (or left), the group disintegrates. Groups may also act individually; meaning, people may act independently of others in the group although their collective actions are directed to achieve their intended outcome.

Teams are so much different. People in teams become dependent with each other, sometimes a bit too much. When someone falls, the rest follows. A team is also more efficient when it comes to work. Since interdependence is observed, they are much more likely to perform better than mere groups.

As game dev teams, it can be exciting to finish a game together. However, it can be so much more than that. You get the chance to meet interesting people from other places with abilities and ideas different from yours. There is much potential from being more than just game developers. Try to get more with your experience of being in a team and you will enjoy it.

I hope that some of these things can help you. As I’m writing this, I figured that there is much to tell in one article. Do expect that there will be another one or even more. (I am also a bit tired).

Want something to comment or share? We’re welcome to hear from you. You can contact us from our Facebook page or here in our blog.

Keep in touch!


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