In 2010 I was pushing, learning and all aboard the Unity3d train despite my company's differing path and eventually that became my title to my friends, colleagues, and family. That Unity3d gal, knowing the ins and outs, being in the gray area of programmer (ish) and an artist / designer. It's still how I'm mostly known these days despite falling a bit out of the industry after an accident.
I was so green and fresh out of college back at the start, and despite that as well as even now there's been a lot of situations of either me wanting to do a project with friends...or vice versa.
Hard lessons have been learned, and everyone talks about raging against the 'exposure' machine that I wanted to bring up another angle of this passionate industry and the scenarios that aren't so easy to just say no to. Friends, colleagues, and more lucrative positions revolving around getting together and making a game.
It seems so hard to say no to friends, especially when you want to keep showing your belief in them and their dreams. Colleagues seem more legitimate until you all realize you're just people and outside of a paid job, things can get sketchy quickly. Hopefully this reaches both sides in a place where we want to stay friends and family to each other but run into asking for help.
Check it, realistically plan against yourself if you were going to be a CEO on this project and ask yourself the same questions you'll ask others. Would you be inclined to help? Does it come off as too much work for one person? Is the request to vague? Go from 'Can you help me with this game' to 'What do you think about starting with Character Movement and Camera Position?'
Lots of questions above, and viewing it from the point of CEO can be intimidating...You do this exercise alone for a reason though, obviously you can't do it alone but neither can the persons you're asking for help with. Try to involve yourself, 'I can create some menu designs if you want to Create a mockup scene in Unity'. GIVE and take, exposure isn't an option but teamwork and letting the person feel involved in something larger is a huge perk we often neglect.
THIS IS HUGE. Just like we show kickstarter audiences that, 'Yes We Are Not Dead', when reaching out initially to others you want to keep them updated. Even if they say or have said no find a way to non-intrusively show them you're still going.
Don't hold it against someone for not jumping on board instantly, or even at all, but make sure that you show you're still working on your idea and making progress. This may bring some around to the idea that if they pitch in even a little that it's going to help and that if they wind up needing to move on that the project won't fail or crumble because of them.
REJECTION and REJECTING:
Saying NO is hard. Give someone a few days to think it over, underline it even so they know you're not putting them on the spot. During that time you can work up some plans, ideas, concepts to build up on the project to either help them get on board, or to help yourself keep going if they decline.
Being told NO is hard too. Half-No's, 'Let me get back to you' or even dead air are all forms of rejection on some level. Get back ASAP and take the few days to think it over either way, if you see a major weakness maybe put that out there and let your friend figure out a way to fix it in the few days of space you both get.
STAY IN TOUCH:
Both sides, just do it, UPDATE each other still, and don't let awkward silence get between you post-asking for help. If you were the one who was approached, you were obviously thought well of in a certain area and that kind of respect is amazing. Even if you decline, inquire every now and then on how it's going and where it's going. Be there either way.
If you were the one who asked for help, regardless of the outcome you should keep those you asked in the loop for more reasons than I could list. Running into problems, if the scope is too large, or if you have any real concerns on the project and it's approach it's best to ask someone who is outside and who is known to be honest with you. Just because someone says no doesn't mean they don't care.
These are my thoughts on how to keep your friendships healthy, give respect to both sides when help is needed for a project that may not pay out. Project oriented learning continues whether or not a project is completed and my personal experience is that so much can be learned at the start of the project that you'll easily get a few levels worth of experience in the trials and errors of starting a project and asking for help as well as those who then get the experience of being courted to help!