If you're planning on building a software team without an office, ex-Ubisoft developer Emeric Thoa recommends periodically convening for work, games, and fun to keep teams cohesive.
"One of the best ways we've found to improve remote work is to stop being remote for a while. We call this a 'workcamp', and the recipe is pretty simple," says Thoa, who adds "getting drunk together" in person is also a surefire way to bond.
A former Ubisoft developer, he formed a small and completely distributed studio called The Game Bakers to work on titles such as Squids for iOS.
The picture above is the team taking a cooking class together after the successful completion of Squids.
While most of his new Gamasutra article is about the tools and practices best suited to developing games with a distributed team, he says that it's also crucial to get together sometimes and meet face-to-face.
"People get to work together for real, and that bonding will last and prove useful for the next six months of remote work," Thoa writes.
"Before an important milestone, work is usually well-defined and everyone has a lot to do. We've found that in this setting, everyone is fine working 10 hours a day, with a nice lunch break and a little game time at night. For us, a two week workcamp is as productive as three weeks of normal work."
Here's his simple recipe, which he expands in the full piece:
- Rent, or find someone to lend you, a big house with enough beds for everyone.
- Make sure the house has a peaceful, countryside location, or is close to the sea.
- Make sure it's far away enough from anyone's home that nobody can go home at the end of the day.
- Make sure you'll be able to get a decent internet connection.
- Book the place for two weeks, preferably soon before a milestone deadline.
- Book plane and train tickets for everyone.
- Bring a lot of board games.
- According to your taste, bring a dedicated cook (like we did twice) or prepare to cook yourself (knowing that you'll lose at least two hours of worktime a day). Or just warm up pizzas!
- Make sure you won't run out of wine and beer.
- Repeat every six months.