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Out of my series recapping my past successes, this is the 4th and last part.

stefan zamfir, Blogger

June 29, 2017

5 Min Read

My most recent adventure was selecting and growing the first creative team in Gameloft Studio 01, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After polishing my design skills, this job offered invaluable lessons in both organization and people’s skills. It was an interesting shift from tending  projects, to people.

 

  1. How it’s always important to seek other’s feed-back on whatever you’re doing

Looking back at my career, I can link my successes and failures to the periods where I received feed-back or not. Feedback is paramount for everyone’s growth and if it’s not offered, it must be sought after. Never just assume you are doing great.

Thank you, Hung Viet Phung, for the feed-back you offered.

 

  1. How to become profitable in a market you know nothing about

We published our games on a web portal (play.ludigames.com), not through any iOS or Android stores. We switched from players we knew about, to “everyone who has a phone and stumbled upon our website”. Again, it was a bit disorienting at first, but we got better, through laborious tracking and experiment. Each new published game was a question about the user’s preferences about genres or features. We basically conducted our work with the mindset of an R&D team, not one of a traditional production team.

Thanks Stéphane Roussel for appreciating our methods.

 

  1. How to ask the proper questions so the team can grow

What do you think about your version? How should we solve this problem? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this solution?

The biggest mistake someone who wants to grow and improve his team is to always say: “Okay, here’s what we should do!”. If the goal is to get an empowered and independent crew, questions above are key.

Thanks, my designers for giving me time to learn that.

 

  1. How to ask the proper questions so the team can trust you

How was your week? How do you feel about the project?

It is never enough to cater to the team’s intellectual problems, if you don’t really care about them in the first place. People are not projects, they are not pieces in a big machine that manufactures games. It’s important to talk to them, to know everyone's passions, strengths and weaknesses.

Thank you, team.

 

  1. How to listen

All the questions above are irrelevant if you are not willing to pay attention to and understand the answers. It’s very hard, but in time the urge to interrupt and jump to conclusions will subside.

My favorite exercise was our weekly one-on-one meetings that were part version review, part question and answer and task planning.

Thank you Celeste Headlee, for the eye opening talk “10 ways to have a better conversation”.

 

  1. How to publish a new game every 2 weeks

It involved splitting the team into more cells, each handling its own project(s) and having a healthy balance of complex and light games. We varied between 4 and 6 projects in parallel.

On my side, administrating the projects was done by meticulously tracking my time, using a (flexible) Pomodoro approach and always looking ahead, instead of only being reactive.

It helped to set aside some thinking time each morning: How can we optimize the pipeline? What should be our next title? What should be our next experiment?

Thanks internet for all the wonderful sources of information on project planning and Bernard Shaw, for the inspiring quote: “I made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week”.

 

  1. How to write articles for the team

As a team lead you have the responsibility to become better in order to inspire others to get better. So I couldn’t stay away while my designers struggled to learn: the “How I tune games” article (soon on a Gamasutra blog near you) was written to make it easier for one of my designers to tune her project.

Thanks Doan.

 

  1. How to improve communication and understanding inside the team

It was an odd thing: we managed to get on the same page with the designers and programmers, but the communication with the artists seemed to falter. Just to be clear, I’m not generalizing this for all artists, just observed this in my team.

Me and my lead artist, also a foreigner, tried different approaches: detailed emails, dropping by their desk to talk, correcting their work and sending it back and all 3 combined. The communication issue persisted.

Then I was hit by a sudden realization: none of the approaches above encouraged THEM to learn to communicate.

So we resolved to meet each morning, have a designer to translate and let them talk, discuss their tasks and make a recap of their feedback, to be sure they understood. Things improved considerably.

The biggest challenge was to make this meeting a habit, no matter how busy we were.

Thanks Elisio Lima Da Costa for sticking with me through this.

 

  1. How to have numbers as your best friends

In the past, planning and tuning were the only places where I would use numbers. Data tracking changed all that. It’s exhilarating to look of all these stats asking: which new experiments should we do? Player, you are out there and I’ll find out what you like! That’s true detective work. :-)

Thanks Tri Do, for teaching me about Google Analytics

 

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