It's not always the lone wolf tactic: making games with other people can be fun! In this article we will talk about if teams are a good idea or not, about the optimal team size, how to find a team and problems that can occur when working in teams.
The "Just-Hire-More-People" Paradox
First things first: having more people working on a project does not necessarily increase its success chance. There where a lot of scientific studies about this topic for years now, always coming to the same result: there is an optimal team size.
For some reason though, most of the people that make games still have the misconception in their head that more people equals more work getting done.
Especially when making small indie games, working with a Team is just an option, nothing more. Games can be made by the lone wolf, but they can also be made by little teams.
Note: read up on the story behind Minecraft if you still don't believe that making games without Teams is an option. Notch created it completely on his own, and was incredibly successful with it.
Why to work in a Team
Working in teams has exactly two benefits: manpower and socializing.
Be it because of the lack of time, or the strict amount of work that has to be done: sometimes throwing more people at the problem can actually solve it. More people can indeed make our lives easier when making games (again, only up to a certain number of people).
Let's talk about the less obvious (but equally important) aspect of working in teams: humans are social beings. Back in the days when we were dancing around the fire, hunting a mammoth was a social activity - those who tried doing it alone usually failed. Due to our nature we are used to being around people, and we can easily feel lonely when doing something completely on our own for a longer period of time.
Having a few friends that you can talk to and solve problems with can make the whole process of making a game a lot more fun. Nothing to do on friday night? Just create a conference call in Skype and talk with your team, maybe play a few rounds of your favorite multiplayer game together. Finishing a game can be a rewarding experience, and when done with a team it almost always creates a great new friendship.
While it's usually not the primary goal, connections are a good thing to have. Who knows, maybe some day one guy that you worked on a game with suddenly offers you a paid position in his project.
Why not to work in a Team
While being in a team can be great, it also has its downsides. If you ever tried to lead a team of ten people, you will realize how much stress it can be. You have to keep in touch with everyone, solve problems that they have with other team members, keep everyone up to date, assign work, evaluate work, keep everyone happy and in the meantime work on the actual game. Even if you are not the team leader, it can be stressful and time consuming. People might ask you to come to meetings or be online when you would rather be left alone working on the game.
Teams are time consuming. While this is no big deal in the beginning, once you made games for a few years you will realize how limited your time really is. Adding a team to game development always decreases the amount of time that you can actually put into working on the game itself. Especially when you are a programmer, explaining and sharing code can be a time consuming process. Usually you will be able to get things done faster if you just sit there and throw out code on your own.
There is nothing wrong with working alone, and if you like it it's usually a good idea to keep doing it. It will be fast and stress free. You can switch between different projects any time you like without carrying any responsibility for other team members. If you want to take a week off, it's no problem. You don't even have to tell anyone.
How to join a Team
The quick and easy way to work with Teams is to join an existing one. All you have to do is create something to show about your work, then look around in the bigger game development forums and contact a few teams that are looking for members. If you are new to game development, chances are high that you won't get paid at all. But as long as it's fun and as long as you keep learning new things, it should be all worth it.
How to create a Team
Creating a team seems simple, but it's not. If you want to create a team, you will be constantly worrying about everything. On average you can expect your team members to work as half as hard as you do. If you want everyone to work really hard, you will have to be their role model and work like a maniac. If there is a problem, you are usually the one that will have to solve it. Telling people what to do can be hard. Telling them that their work is horrible can be even harder. Kicking someone from your own Team is the hardest part, but let's take it one step at the time.
Step I: the Game Idea
At first you will need a game idea. Write it down, make some sketches, maybe create a little prototype. If you can, make a website about it. If not, this could be the first problem that you have to solve. Having a website will make you look like you are serious about your game and that you are not afraid to put a lot of work into it. This will automatically attract the kind of people with the same attitude.
Step II: Make basic decisions before it's too late
Its important to think about money and rights. If you want people to work on your game, you have to pay them either with real money, or with having fun. The common approach is to split the final income equally, in case the game makes any - and not to pay anyone along the way. Ask yourself, why should anyone work for you if you don't even pay them? As just mentioned, they will do it as long as it's fun. This aspect is so important that it has to be repeated: people will keep working, as long as it's fun!
Don't be that guy who treats people like slaves. Don't tell them that their work sucks. Keep them happy! Give out constructive criticism, tell them that they did one hell of a great job if they did something well - and never stop telling them if they do it again and again. Show them that you worship them and show them respect, then they will stick with you for a long time.
Step III: Spread the word
The next step is to get your idea out there. Go in one of the major game development forums and create a forum post about your game, tell them everything there is about it, show them pictures, put a link to your website in there and answer all their questions. Don't be scared to not being able to pay them, this is very common and indie developers are nice people, they won't hate on you.
Once someone gets interested into your game, add him or her to Skype and try to get on the same wavelengths together. Find out what his/her goals are, what improvements they have in mind, how much time they want to put into this and what their skill level is. If it's your first game, just accept everyone who seems like a nice person - you will learn along the way if it was a good or a bad idea. If you did this for a few times already, try to be a as professional as possible and only add those who try the same. Ultimately you are looking for those crazy people that don't go to sleep for three days just to finish that feature. Those that don't have a real life because they dedicated their life to making games. Those people that have a passion for what they are doing. Those are the people that make great games, those are the people that you will want in your team!
There could be hundreds of pages written about working with teams, about things to avoid and things to look out for. But ultimately it's about experience. If you are interested in working with other people, join or create a team and just enjoy the process. Don't be scared to make mistakes, don't get demotivated if people keep leaving your team for no reason. Keep trying and ultimately a few people will stick with you and have a great influence on your motivation and your game.