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Aven Colony dev champions the importance of good leadership in game dev

During our chat with one of the developers of Aven Colony we learned what business tips he and his colleagues took to heart while making their sci-fi colony sim.

Mothership Entertainment released the sci-fi colony sim Aven Colony this week on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. Today on the Gamasutra channel, we took the colony sim out for a spin and chatted with lead developer Paul Tozour about its development. 

As it turns out, Aven Colony’s four-person team traveled a long road fraught with speedbumps to getting the game out the door. But that process gave Tozour a lot of insight into managing a studio, and he had a few thoughts about his experience that were useful for other developers. 

You can hear our whole conversation up above, but just in case you’re crash-landing on a far-off colony as we speak, here are some quick takeaways from our stream. 

Game developers could use more trained leaders

When we quizzed Tozour about what he learned from his prior experience at Retro Studios, he told us he actually learned way more about company culture and team management from the Metroid Prime developer than he did anything about game engineering. Since his time at that company, Tozour has gone on to spearhead the Game Outcomes project, which studied the success of different teams in the games industry. 

Based on those two experiences, Tozour told us that he really feels the games business could benefit from more trained managers, since many team leaders find themselves dropped in leadership roles based on their expertise on a subject, rather than having any experience managing other people. If game businesses want to thrive, Tozour argues, they could benefit from hiring skilled managers from outside games, or getting employees specialized management training to improve their leadership. 

Be careful with advice from other developers

From survivor bias to far-removed perspectives, there’s a lot of danger in just outright accepting the advice you hear about game development these days. Even from us! While Tozour did say that insight from Soren Johnson’s Offworld Trading Colony helped shape his business decisions, he says much of the development advice he heard would have negatively impacted Aven Colony’s overall design. 

He also said had to be careful in reading too much into the success and failures of his fellow developers, since one indie’s success in a field obviously might still mean another’s failure (we heard comments like this at this year’s Indie Advice microtalk session at GDC).

Don’t pay for sponsored streams

Probably the bluntest advice we heard from Tozour was that, if you’re a smaller developer with a cool game looking to court streamers, paid Twitch streams and YouTube videos aren’t the way to go. Tozour told us that during the Itch.io open beta for Aven Colony Mothership Entertainment spent “thousands” on sponsored streams, only to watch everyday streamers pick up their game and upload multi-part videos of themselves playing for it.

After that experiences Tozour argued there’s far more value in working with streamers who are organically interested in your game than trying to make something artificial (and expensive) happen. 

If this advice was helpful for you (even the advice about not taking advice), we would appreciate it if you followed the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary.  

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