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Professionalism & Productivity (With A Side Of Communication)

My experience with the importance of professionalism and communication while working with indie teams.

Nicholas Frushour, Blogger

September 26, 2011

4 Min Read

Even on indie teams, professionalism is necessary. One could argue that ESPECIALLY on indie teams, professionalism is necessary. It’s great to get together with your friends and have a fun time talking about games, what makes them fun, how to make them more fun, etc. It is another thing, though, to get together with your friends and make something fun. A lot of times, when I’ve started teams with friends or joined a team where everyone is friends, I find that everyone is at least as concerned with socializing as with the project-at-hand. A lot of people think that if you’re all having fun making the game, it will be a fun game in the end, right?


That’s not always true, but I’ll type it out again with emphasis on the key part: “If you’re having fun MAKING THE GAME, it will be a fun game in the end.” It’s different to be having fun and not making a game, because (surprise) you’re not making a game, you’re just having fun. Fun is good, but unless it’s relevant it won’t really get you anywhere.


When groups of friends try working together, productivity is usually low and even when things start to get done they are not very high quality. On top of that, because everyone is friends they are either afraid to speak up when something doesn’t look or sound right. So you end up with low quality and low quantity and the project grinds to a halt because so little is getting done over such a long period of time. And whether it has to do with people getting bored of the project, or not enough is happening, or whatever, the team will disband. Of course, this doesn’t ALWAYS happen but in my experience one usually follows the other.


Even though you’re all friends and love to joke around and post funny internet videos in your chat channel or forum or mailing list, my advise is to keep it separate from your project. If you have a chat channel for the project, keep it clean and professional; you can make another channel for rants and videos and ‘your mom.’ If you’re all just emailing back and forth, keep all the social and non-project-relevant emails separate from the list. Have everyone make different email addresses, if necessary, to put up a barrier of professionalism. You may be surprised on how much that professional attitude will increase the overall quality and quantity of everyone’s work (including your own). Of the teams where I insisted we separate professional and social chatter, all of them (and each of their members) made noticeable improvements in their workflow over the next 2 weeks. It was much more common for one person to have a breakthrough that spawned a bunch of great ideas from multiple team members.


If you’re using forums, chances are that you already have separate sections for spam or social stuff. Personally, I dislike forums as a main form of communication. They’re impersonal, very quickly become unorganized, and it’s hard to get a quick answer for simple questions. If you’re using forums, I strongly suggest that you switch to something more instant like Skype or IRC. Some teams I’ve been on have used chat channels with the supplement of forums for asset approval or whatnot. I’m still against using forums, even as a supplement. We’re all doing this in our free time (free as in spare AND as in we’re not getting paid for this because we’re an indie team), and we shouldn’t have to look in a bunch of different places to get the information we need. By ‘a bunch of different places’ I mean: chat channel, forums, GDD (You do have a GDD, don’t you?), wiki, etc. Put it all in one place, make it easy to search, and keep it updated!


Chances are, you’re having meetings about your projects, as well. There cannot be enough said about keeping things as professional as possible. Again, you will see productivity and breakthroughs much more often this way. Establish an agenda BEFORE the meeting, even if it’s a rough outline you will sound more confident and you won’t forget anything that you wrote down on the agenda. Keep the meeting as short as possible. If there’s time leftover, talk about the future of your project, or try to spark some ideas for new projects. If you start to mix personal topics in with the professional meeting, team members will quickly become unfocused and forgetful and it can ruin the whole meeting, even if it was productive beforehand.


I know it sounds like I’m preaching “don’t have any fun when you’re making fun” but that’s not at all what I’m saying. I just know how easy it is, especially when you’re with your friends, to screw around and drop the lame professionalism attitude. But that professional attitude is what will help carry your team into actually making something, and chances are that you will be proud of it.



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