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Brain in a Jar's unique freelance approach to racing sim development

Independent racing sim developer Brain in a Jar (OpenWheel) explains to Gamasutra how it takes advantage of "a scalable workforce of freelancers to manage production capacity."

Mike Rose, Blogger

May 2, 2012

3 Min Read

Brain in a Jar is an independent developer that focuses on racing simulations. The team develops its own tools and engine in-house, and also lends its engine out to outside parties who are looking to create racing games of their own. The studio is currently working on racing sim OpenWheel, and is also looking to launch a reboot of its 2009 title Indianapolis 500: Evolution sometime soon via Xbox Live Arcade. Carl Dalton, Brain in a Jar's founder and creative director, tells Gamasutra how the studio utilizes a rather unique production technique, sourcing a database of over thirty individual freelancers for whichever jobs it needs doing. "The studio itself operates as a production hub with the management and pipeline flow being handled by our team," he explains. "With the exception of the Fmod sound system, we have designed and developed all of our engine technology internally, giving us not just an intimate knowledge of the systems, but the ability to relate the details and production methods quickly and accurately to new members of our freelance team." During production of a game, this management team stays in constant communication with the various freelancers via email, instant messaging and forums, meaning that any freelancer is able to communicate and share assets directly with any other freelancer. In this way, Dalton says that information is spread across the team via "a wildfire method," with more experienced freelancers able to share knowledge with those who are newer to the team. "Once a project schedule and budget has been prepared, the internal team sets out a rota for packaging and sending of initial reference and asset library information," he continues. "We also set production timelines for each task that is used for assigning a daily rate, using other factors such as task complexity and frequency to modify that rate." Once these timelines have been set in place, the management team then contacts each of the freelancers it is hoping to work with, and negotiates a rate with them. Freelancers may be asked to complete a specific "one shot" task, or be brought in to handle a series of jobs for a project. Once all the assets are in from a freelancer, Brain in a Jar's internal testing team then checks and integrates these into the final product. Brain in a Jar has clearly been watching the competition very carefully. Racing sim specialist Slightly Mad has seen great success with the crowd-funding model for its C.A.R.S. game, and Brain in a Jar is actively preparing its own crowd-funding initiative, with a Kickstarter on the way for a new title which it has not yet announced. The company is also looking to self-publish its Indianapolis 500: Evolution reboot, having entered into a license agreement directly with Indianapolis Motor Speedway following the collapse of the original publisher of the game. While Brain in a Jar is clearly focused on racing sims, Dalton says that the studio's engine and tech is not tied down to the racing genre -- in fact, the company has recently produced various tech demos and projects outside of the racing genre, including a platformer and a game set in space. "It just happens to be that racing games are the genre we regularly get paid to produce," he notes. "Hopefully our future output will have more freedom and it would be great to expand into some of those other genres in the future, in addition to continuing to improve and expand our racing portfolio."

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