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Ex-Naughty Dog dev explores the perks of a studio devoid of 'dedicated management'

Former Naughty Dog dev Andrew Maximov offers insight into how teams can function, even thrive, with few managers or producers.

During a talk at Digital Dragons 2018, Promethean AI founder and former Naughty Dog technical art director Andrew Maximov offers developers an alternative to the traditional “dedicated management” studio structure and explores how teams can benefit from embracing shared creative ownership.

In the talk embedded above, Maximov points out that both Valve and Naughty Dog utilize this kind of company culture and, though he departed Naughty Dog earlier this year, uses his own experience with the system from his 3 years at the company to highlight which elements of shared creative ownership other studios may want to adapt for their own teams.

“There’s this gigantic vast space that we’re not exploring," says Maximov. "There’s your typical management structure, and your absolute free-for-all that is Naughty Dog and Valve, and then there’s all the space in between that we’re not talking about. So hopefully we can cherry-pick some of the ideas that will work for you and your specific company and then you can apply those and try them out and see what they do for you." 

Naughty Dog in particular, he explains, has shipped 19 games during its 33-year lifespan. At its peak, the studio employed over 300 employees, but only two of those developers were in the role of 'production coordinator,' something Maximov points out is quite a departure from the game dev norm of "a producer per ten people." He points out that Naughty Dog has managed to consistently release games of a certain level of quality across multiple console generations throughout that time, showing that there must be at least some merit to its novel approach to management. 

"Especially, I think that is relevant, in the face in the rising, ridiculous costs of game development. The teams tend to balloon bigger and bigger," he says. "When your team is around 600, 800, 900 people, the amount of structure and reports and corralling of all of that substantially bites into your actual production time. So much work is just managing work. There are more efficient ways to address some of that and hopefully that’s is also one of the takeaways.”

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