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Treating external devs like internal members helps keep everyone on track

When you're working with another developer outside of your team on a project, failing to prioritize inter-studio communication can lead to a lot of inefficiencies that could have otherwise been avoided.
When you're working with another developer outside of your team on a project, failing to prioritize inter-studio communication can lead to a lot of inefficiencies that could have otherwise been avoided. That was the case with Stardock Entertainment when it developed the Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion expansion with Ironclad Games, according to a new postmortem from the two studios. After working together for several years on the series, the two companies had developed a strong relationship -- that familiarity and ease with each other, however, allowed them to be lax in communication. "Coordinating approval of game mechanic designs, UI visuals, and other art assets by email was a slow process," writes Stardock producer Chris Bray and Ironclad director Blair Fraser. "These 'done pending approval' elements of the game multiplied the uncertainty that goes with most production estimates." They add, "For example, instead of knowing our UI artist would be free to move onto another studio project with approximately a two-week margin of error, we always had to add the caveat of 'if we don't have any surprises in the feedback.'" Fraser and Bray admit that something as simple as a scheduled weekly call could have eliminated the occasional blocking issue and identified problem areas in development more quickly. "The lesson for us was, treat external team members like internal ones and schedule regular meetings, even if they are just a brief touchpoint, to make sure everyone is on track." The Gamasutra postmortem, in which Bray and Fraser share more things that went right and wrong during Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion's development, is now live.

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