SpilBar: To Team or Not To Team

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SpilBar is a Danish bi-monthly event focusing on networking and knowledge-sharing among game developers. A typically SpilBar afternoon consists of a couple of interesting game developers talking on-stage about their experiences regarding a certain topic, and usually ends up turning into a great evening of chips, beer, and networking.

Yesterday evening was no exception, as Paul Allen from Zero Point Software, Frederik Schreiber from Interceptor Entertainment, and Igor Noronha from Amazu Media took the stage to talk about teams and teamwork. NordicGameBits went to the event in Aalborg, Denmark, and here’s an extract of the advice the 3 speakers had about team and teamwork.

 

Interstellar MarinesPaul Allen is the producer at Zero Point Software, and the first speaker on stage. Paul Allen wanted to share some of the experiences Zero Point Software have had during the on-going development of Interstellar Marines, which arrived on Steam Greenlight back in July 2nd, 2013.

One of the key points from Paul Allen was that it is easy to quickly grow a team when you have enough money, but before you start spending money, you have to have a business plan. Developing a game is a long process, and spending the money you have correctly, is the real challenge.

As an example, Paul Allen mentioned that Interstellar Marines have been on Steam Greenlight for more than a year now, but 30% of the total revenue generated by the game, arrived within the first two weeks on the Steam platform. After those two weeks, the sales dropped drastically. You might think that the sales will continue – but they rarely will. That’s why, as Paul Allen said, you have to have a good business plan before launching on Steam or starting a Kickstarter campaign.

Touching upon the topic of growing a team from a one person army to an entire legion, Paul Allen emphasized that you have to be ready to give away responsibility: “If you give someone a job, give them the authority to do that job. Clarity breeds happiness. This is no longer just your project!”

ZeroPointSoftwareBefore ending off his speech, Paul Allen emphasized strongly that you should never devaluate your game through sales and discounts. Yes, you will get a lot of quick sales, but living off of large discounts  is not a feasible long-term business strategy.

Instead, Paul Allen explained that, “We have two versions of the game. Despite having done so in the past, we have decided never to decrease the value of the deluxe edition again. With the base version of the game, we will decrease the price as little as possible, and when we do so, the deluxe edition will increase in price respectively”.

Finally, when we asked Paul Allen what he believes is the most important thing to remember when growing a team, he explained that you need to: “Trust your people! Find proactive people. You need test people for their ability to do their job and their ability to work in the team. If they can fulfill both of these criteria, hire them. You simply just have to get the basics right.”

 

The founder of Interceptor Entertainment, Frederik Schreiber, was the next speaker on stage. He delivered an inspiring story about Interceptor Entertainment and their dream of making Danish triple A titles a reality.

interceptorInterceptor Entertainment is a very unique company when it comes to teamwork, as most of the employees are scattered around the globe in a virtual team of 40 people. Only 6 employees works from the headquarter in Aalborg, Denmark, but each of these people lead their own small cluster of virtual team members from around the world. Having a team primarily consisting of people who work from home allows the company to cut down on the costs, which is part of the reason why it is possible for Interceptor Entertainment to make triple A titles in Denmark, Frederik Schreiber explained.

Frederik Schreiber and his partner Mike, also recently acquired the legendary Games Developer and Publisher 3D Realms (previously Apogee Software). Apogee/3D Realms were known as the founders of a big part of the american videogames industry with the “Shareware” model, and games such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, and later Duke Nukem, Max Payne, Prey and Shadow Warrior.

Near the end of his talk, Frederik Schreiber gave a shoutout to the modding community as he mentioned that if he had to give one advice to game developers who would like to make triple A titles, it would be that:

“It is really hard! But if you want to start a game project, look to the modding community. That’s where you find people who really want to make a difference, and great games.”.

 

artworks-000018610444-jvhsa8-cropIgor Noronha, the CEO at Amazu Media was the last speaker on stage. During his talk, Igor Noronha mentioned that he originally came from a comic book background where you usually work alone. When he decided to enter the game development scene, working in teams was therefore something he had to spend some time getting used to. “It took a while to get used to working in teams. I can’t decide everything anymore.”, Igor Noronha explains.

Finding the most motivated people for your team is a challenge, but Igor Noronha’s best advice was simply to develop a project that really resonates with people:

“Having a project that resonates with people is a very important plus. If they want to come in and do their best – even if it’s just for an intern ship – you need to give away a little bit of your freedom. They have to feel that it is also their project now.”

Art from the mobile game light apprenticeTalking to NordicGameBits after his speech, Igor Noronha mentioned that his latest game, Light Apprentice, got rejected three times on the App Store before finally getting accepted. Taking a comic-book style business model, where you pay a certain amount of money for every new chapter, and integrating that into a game, simply wasn’t something Apple was particularly fond of. The game did eventually arrive on the App Store, thanks to great teamwork within Amazu Media, as Igor Noronha explained:

“Make sure you team up with people that believe in the project enough that they will endure the hard times, but have a contract that will reward them when monetary return comes. If you don’t have this, it is very hard to motivate people.”

 

Read more about: How Amazu Media used forums during a Kickstarter campaign.

Authors
Sune Thorsen

Sune is not only a gamer and writer who wishes his keyboard-typing-speed would translate directly into Nintendo 64 controller agility, but also the co-founder and CEO of NordicGameBits.

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