Chapter 3

Working With Other People

Do lone wolves travel in packs?

In Chapter 1 we discussed some of the roles game developers must play in order to bring a game to market. The fact is, very few people are capable of playing all of those roles. So how many people does it take to develop a game?

According to an ad for the Computer Game Developers Conference (Miller Freeman):

At last count, it takes about 217 people to design, produce and market a killer game.

I asked noted industry commentator Mark Shander about this, and his response was:

Yeah, they're right... It takes up to 20 or so to do a game (depending on the time frame and the complexity of the programming, artwork, etc.), 10 or so to market, publish and sell it, and 187 to stand around, collect salaries and bitch about the stock dropping. Yes, that's correct.

So clearly, the experts agree it takes a lot of people to build a game.

But what if you are not a lot of people? What if you are just starting out, don't know anybody, can't get a job, and you still want to be a game developer? What then?

I think you can go a long way on a game project without bringing other people into it. You can design a game, you can write a game, you can even market and sell a game, all by yourself. The only problem is, it probably won't be a very good game. Even brilliant, artistic people who spend years working on a game will have trouble producing a game that can compete with a game developed by a team. Therefore, if you want to be successful as a game developer, you should plan on eventually working with other people.

Typical Game Development Relationships

Employee You work for them. They pay you. They deduct taxes from your paycheck. You own no part of the game, and you get paid the same whether the game succeeds or fails.

Contractor You work for them. They pay you. You pay your own taxes. If the game succeeds, you might receive royalties, and if it fails, you may have trouble finding work next year.

Partnership Partnerships are good. Scott Miller and George Broussard have a long-standing and successful partnership in Apogee Software . If you can make a partnership work, you are in good shape. Problems occur when you get sick and tired of your partner goofing off and sticking you with all the work.

Sole Proprietership You take all the risks. You own all the rights to the game. You try to hire people but can't pay them so you promise them royalties which may or may not actually accrue.

Actually, this model works well when you do have enough money to hire an artist and a musician, and pay them on a work-for-hire basis, as I did on Diana Gruber's 3D Casino Las Vegas.

Loosely-woven team of high-school buddies all working on spec. Nobody gets paid. Nobody has any money. You live with your mom. When your mom complains, you tell her she should be glad you didn't decide to start a rock band in her garage.

This model, believe it or not, actually works well for some people. Low-budget, low-risk games produced by high-talent (though sometimes inexperienced) teams can be very successful. Just be careful. Remember you are swimming with sharks. Somebody should be in charge of watching the business end of game development.

However you choose to work as a team, it is important to understand who owns what part of the game. Don't let legal issues bog you down, but do have a clear understanding as to what each team member is expected to do, and what each team member expects to receive.

A good source for self-help books on such things as software copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property ownership issues is the Nolo Press . A cynical and opinionated source of information on the business of game development can be found in Chapter 4.

My first retail project:

Click here for a description.


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