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Any developer can tell you that one of the absolute most important elements of game development is communication...

Kboom Games, Blogger

November 15, 2011

4 Min Read

By Paul Otake


Orginal Blog post: http://www.soundcitygame.com/post/12865473365/communication-yoga

Any developer can tell you that one of the absolute most important elements of game development is communication. Each separate team must clearly be able to explain their ideas to every other team otherwise mistakes get made, time gets wasted, and ultimately problems (both big and small) can potentially arise. These problems can cause delays or, in the worst case scenario, result in irreparable mistakes that will cause the entire team to backtrack and force them to proverbially recreate the wheel. To have a productive and effective team is something that requires either a carefully crafted plan or a close knit group of people that just naturally have very clear communication. Without either of these things, or while you are developing one or the other, well... you just have to do your best and think on your toes. 

The whole reason for my initial trip to Qingdao came from the problem of trying to communicate solely through Skype and e-mail. The gap that was created between a design team in Chicago and a development team in China was too great to bridge electronically. However, after arriving here I quickly came to the realization that this gap was not just created by distance; it was also a matter of culture, experience, and (most importantly) language. What was difficult over Skype was still difficult in person, only now I could actually see the resulting confusion first hand.

Like every problem, there is always a work-around, and this particular resolution comes down to almost nothing more than being patient, creative, and flexible. These three things can make just about anything possible, even communicating complicated design ideas to a group of people who speak a completely different language. I might break this post up into a few installments as I tend to be a bit long-winded and I know this is a topic I have a lot to say about. So...

Part 1: Intuition and Patience

The first thing you have to do is be able to accurately read the people you are talking to .  Not only will this skill help you win a game of poker, it’ll help your development process run smoothly and keep you from making some easily avoided mistakes. Most people’s natural inclination when talking to someone they don’t understand is to seem agreeable and to just smile, nod, and say, “okay”. Its less embarrassing than admitting you have no idea what someone is talking about. I do the same thing. In fact, I am the king of “just smile and nod”; fortunately for me, this makes it easier to spot when someone is doing the same thing to me. Complacency like this can cause major problems, so one of the most essential things you can do is just be honest and don’t ever be shy to ask someone to repeat something over and over again. What’s even more difficult sometimes is being honest with yourself and knowing that you’ve missed something critical. If you have a feeling that you haven’t been fully understood or if you yourself can’t comprehend something, jump on the opportunity to square things away immediately and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t understand.

On the same page, always be as patient as you can. If need be repeat yourself until the words you are saying have lost all meaning to you and you begin to contemplate bludgeoning yourself to death with the nearest heavy object. Misunderstandings are frustrating, of course, but the most important thing is to never show that frustration, because (believe me) they are feeling the same way. I think patience is something that makes life easier in general, but in working with a foreign team it is absolutely essential.  Its something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone, being able to take a deep breath and/or just laugh about it takes a little control and a lot of practice. But if you stay cool and learn to laugh about the misunderstandings, your team will stay cool, too. 

To be continued...

Coming Soon: Creativity and Flexibility

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