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The secret to Spider's success: new forms of collaboration

Randy Smith, the Thief designer who went mobile and found success with Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, says that remote work means he creates "more evocative documents to communicate the vision and design."
Randy Smith, the Thief designer who went mobile and found success with Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, says that remote work means he creates "more evocative documents to communicate the vision and design." When he founded his studio Tiger Style with programmer David Kalina, it was always set up for distributed development -- which presents its own challenges. The two had come from a studio environment -- most recently at EA LA -- and needed to find new ways to work. "I don't see everyone face to face, so I rarely assume they're picturing the same game I am. This puts pressure on me to provide effective direction. I find myself creating more evocative documents to communicate the vision and design," Smith says. You can see an example of that at the bottom of this post. While the document describes a "different version of Spider than what we shipped," according to Smith, getting ideas into easily comprehensible formats is key to remote collaboration. When some problems can't be solved at the document level, Tiger Style turns to other solutions: "Sometimes things get tricky when we're attempting to solve a design problem, say something that's not working in the gameplay. Ideally, you'd like to converge on a whiteboard to sketch out your thoughts." Unfortunately, that isn't really possible in a distributed environment, so Smith has had to change his tactics from his studio days. "When that hasn't been available to us, we've at times just individually taken ownership over the problem for a few days until we can present a potential solution that's interactive and running in code. It's essentially like prototyping your answers instead of trying to talk through them. Again, it takes extra effort but is more likely to produce clarity." You can read more about Tiger Style's creative process in today's Gamasutra feature.

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