Some of the newest studies of people working from home during the pandemic show that gathered numbers are overlapping - on average 73 percent were at least as productive or more productive as when they were in the office and staggering 89 percent would like to continue doing so. Most of the people have pretty much enjoyed working the flexible hours, the main thing was the possibility of saving time and money on the daily commute. Some complained that they’ve experienced more online meetings than they would’ve had face-to-face ones in the office, but this I guess came as no surprise. Companies and their employees needed time to adjust to how to communicate with each other. However, on average only about 17% expressed the fact that they’ve received all the resources from their employer to do their job properly. Yes, we all at some point, during the lockdown came across ‘thoseat’ LinkedIn images. Overall, 38% said they’ve never worked from home, and ⅔ of those said that they found it easy to adjust.
Why working from home in game development?
The idea of employing full-time overseas contractors, part-time consultants, and others that contribute to game development has been a popular practice amongst big AAA boys to smaller startups gaming studios across the world way before the pandemic happened. This practice prevailed and is continuously increasing as a standardized way of running things because it simply works. Studios have access to world-class developers scattered across many different corners of the globe. Remote developers don’t waste time or money on commuting to the office that is normally located in cities, but instead, they’ve their bespoke, weirdly, and surprisingly arranged home offices where they can stay fully focused on creating their bits of the bigger jigsaw. It’s also proven that remote working actually promotes extra work because those ones don’t clock watch, not mentioning having less distraction coming from the office environment.
However, it must be said that in some phases of the project that require a high degree of constant day-in, day-out collaboration remote working shows its challenges. It may work for some but not for all. Here is a quote from Tim Sweeney about Epic Games - of Unreal and Gears of War fame - that started out as a virtual company back in the early '90s. "We were a "virtual company" with developers spread all over the world from 1992-1997. We started building Unreal that way. The initial core team was James Schmalz in Ontario, Cliff [Bleszinski] in California, me in Maryland. By 1997, the team was up to 18 or so people (including Steve Polge, writing the AI and gameplay code from North Carolina), and the coordination overhead was unworkably high. What had worked for three people had proven unscalable, especially in regards to coordinating programmers and level designers. When we actually finished the game 12 months later, we realized we needed to set up a shop somewhere permanently. "
And on the contrary, there is an award-winning, 2016 BAFTA winner studio called Moon Studios that have created their first title ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ by a team working on a fully remote basis. And they also gained Microsoft as their publisher.
It’s not fair to compare those two cases, but it’s fair to say the significant advancement of the technology since the 90’s made it all possible for the guys at Moon Studios to succeed in 2015. And there are more like them out there. The demand for talent working remotely won’t stop anytime soon, the same refers to all of those providing their services as ‘outsource’ studios.
With that in mind, let’s talk about some practical advice now. Here’s 10 most tips how to go about remote working:
- Make the information and everyone in the company available and accessible, set up core hours, and set up regular team meetings to keep everyone up to speed.
- Hiring. You will have to make a smart decision in that area. Some people like to interact with other people in the office, you will need to identify those when interviewing.
- Make participation and continued employment very much based on results and have a stable and effective task tracking and code library system in place. Being able to know at a glance what everyone is doing - and why - means you can assess their rate of work and also how much of the project is actually done.
- A well organized (and up to date!) documentation pool is a must, and it must become part of the company culture that everyone spends time on this and updates regularly.
- Give people what they need to get the job done (new PC, dev kit, and pay for things like internet connection and mobile phone). Give them no excuse.
- Save time on re-syncing. Find as many ways (through tools, pipeline, asset organization, etc.) that you can so that everyone working remotely does not require a massive asset dump every time they re-synch. Game assets are traditionally large, so taking an hour to re-get assets every time you do content sync is not the best way to spend their time.
- Task planning and technical documentation. Just like in traditional development you need to understand what and how you are going to do it. People need as much background on the task as possible, so that their future decisions will be as good as possible.
- Have a process code/art/assets/content creation go through immediately in terms of quality review. The bar of what's expected and what's below that bar needs to be set from the beginning, so that everyone is well informed and knows what's expected of them.
- Frequent and candid feedback is pivotal when working remotely. It puts everyone in the right place and invites the progression.
- Get-togethers. How often this happens depends on your requirements and ability to absorb the costs of travel for everyone. At the very least, it needs to happen at least twice a year.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you're considering working remotely in game dev get in touch with Marta for Art/Design/Production and Patrycja for Tech/Engineering. Each studio is run differently because it is run by different leaders with unique and niche characteristics, vision, and, of course, passion. You are doing a great job no matter where you are based in this world. You have the ability to connect players and this is what matters most. Keep on creating! Keep on evolving!