GameDev Protips: How To Effectively Manage Your Game Development Team

The old adage, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” couldn’t be more true in the world of indie game development. The most important part of developing a game is having a team to help you with development. Now I know that there are a lot of you solo developers out there, but let’s get realistic — there’ll be a point in time where you’ll have to get outside assistance with at least one or more aspects of the development and production pipeline. Now, how do you optimize this? Well, In order to get a team moving, everyone in the proposed team should be both capable of the work and also willing to work. A person’s performance could be said to be their ability multiplied by their motivation. If a person just isn’t capable, no matter how much they want to work the work will be shoddy, and if a person doesn’t want to work, it doesn’t matter how good they are when they’re not giving their all. Both of these attributes must be high for good performance.

If a person needs to become more capable, the only real way to do this is to give them training. Someone might be naturally skilled or not at something, but the training is what will solidify a skilled person or mold one that isn’t such. It really is this simple; there is no shortcut to becoming better besides training through practice and advice from others. Intrinsic motivators will form the baseline motivation, and that’ll come from how much someone enjoys the particular project, the coworkers around and if they’re connected or just “another person in the crowd,” or life factors such as sleep. Motivation is something that is much more easily fixed if it is lacking. The most obvious solution is having incentives to work such as extra pay or vacation days. Job satisfaction in general is a huge influence towards someone’s morale, as if the job is boring or not worth the effort slacking off won’t be as big of a deal and there won’t be anything to push that feeling away.

When someone’s satisfaction with their job and their motivation is high, team members are likely to be more consistent and also committed to making the product great. On the flip side, when either of these drop the turnover rate becomes higher, employees be absent more often, and they won’t give their best and therefore performance will be low. In all cases, low satisfaction will lead to low performance. Unfortunately, however, high satisfaction doesn’t necessarily mean high performance either. Someone may enjoy the job but that doesn’t mean that they’re doing the job well. Performance can come from satisfaction but it’s not directly correlated, just a catalyst of sorts.

Important Takeaways: Performance (and the overall quality of your indie game) is a result of both motivation and ability multiplied. Want a phenomenal game development team? Find motivated and skilled people, and keep them motivated. This includes yourself. Each member’s performance can be measured by their actual ability to work multiplied by their desire to work. If either lacks, performance will take a hit; if you enjoy the work but are terrible at it, you obviously won’t get much done, or if you are great at the work but don’t feel like doing it, not much will get done there either. A person’s baseline ability to work is determined by their natural aptitude and any previous experience with the particular job in question. To make someone more capable to work, they need to be trained; there’s no shortcut to making someone great quickly.

For motivation, the baseline is determined by the work environment, the project itself, coworkers, and life factors such as sleep or family relations. Improving motivation is as simple as giving incentives to work such as performance-based rewards. When teammates are satisfied with their job and willing to work, they’re more likely to stay for the long haul and commit to finishing the project, but when the opposite is true there’s a high turnover rate, absentee rate, and lower performance as a whole. It is guaranteed that low satisfaction will lead to lower performance, but the flip side isn’t necessarily true; just because someone enjoys the job doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good at it. While satisfaction can contribute to performance, they’re not directly correlated.